You better strap your boots on.
Brad does not bring it weak.
You will need your intellect, will, and spirit as Brad Gray teaches through his first book Make Your Mark: Getting Right What Samson Got Wrong (Faith Words, 2014).
Brad communicates incisive insights and Spirit-driven conviction. You will be ready both to buy more books for others to read at the same time repenting of your sin.
Brad’s writing style is arresting, staccato, boxing jabs landing relentless reading ‘blows.’ At other times Brad’s words run us straight into force-fields, stopping us in our tracks to pause and consider. Make Your Mark is a unique, unusual book. Brad’s strength is showing us Samson’s strengths and his failures, then setting up a mirror where we can see ours.
We are surprised as Brad reminds us Samson is in Hebrews 11, the ‘hall of heroes.’ But then we see, we are a messed up bunch just like our heroes. We bookend our spiritual successes with sinful escapades; exactly the lessons of Samson (170-72). I have told my students for years I am so thankful The Bible is not being written now. I would hate to be included in a book read by millions for hundreds of years.
The reader is introduced to parallel tracks: exposition of The Text and application to life. Brad’s commitment to Scripture and his brand of relevance, rivet the reader. Brad’s exposure of the reader to biblical culture and history is mesmerizing. He easily offers pivotal insights into Scripture’s meaning. Brad makes the audacious—but I believe proper—claim that Samson was to have used his strength for evangelistic purposes (149). Similar connections are easily made to the life of Solomon, for instance, as he ‘holds court’ before world leaders (1 Kings 9-10), displaying his wisdom with the clarion call that there is only one God (Ecclesiastes’ use of ‘God’ includes the direct article before almost every occurrence indicating “the one and only”).
My copy of Make Your Mark is pockmarked with exclamation points. Hebrew words are used throughout the book—be ready. Many of language references lead to stunning observations such as the importance of the word “see” in the Samson narrative (120-28). Peppered in the text we find Brad’s fascinating stories and hilarious one-liners (“Nothing like being called a cow at your wedding reception by your husband,” 16). Brad makes clear corollary connections to other Bible passages (40), he eliminates invalid interpretations (42), and introduces rabbinic teaching tactics (52). We learn the importance of names in Samson’s world (72), what it meant to be a Nazarite (112-14), the origin of the Philistine nation (139ff), not to mention why the color blue is so important to the Hebrews (135-36).
Cultural connections are immediately tied to today’s standards. If we don’t think The Text applies to us, Brad immediately breaks us of that idea (48). Among other things, all Samson curriculum being taught in Sunday schools and Christian schools must now be rewritten because of Make Your Mark.
There are any number of famous young pastors producing book-after-book. Brad’s book is built not on sermonic materials repurposed for resale: Brad is a pastor-scholar who has literally lived in the places he explains to readers, spending three years writing this volume. Brad’s work entails detailed analysis with a sometimes uncanny ability to bring the reader to a theatre seat as he explains, in pictorial detail on the page before us, exactly what is happening in Judges 13-16.
It is an honor for me to have taught his Christian Life and World Studies’ high school classes. It is a privilege now to tell the world about the next generation of Christian teachers, starting with Brad Gray.
Buy Make Your Mark and a good pair of boots.
Dr. Mark Eckel is professor of Leadership, Education & Discipleship at Capital Seminary & Graduate School.