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Michael Holmes and I are connected, and not only on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook, but also in Jesus the Christ as brother and sister, and as fellow teachers of God’s Divine Truths! Therefore, anyone who reads our online group discussions, comments, news feeds, status updates, and/or blog entries will agree that our love for our Lord is evident in what we post (see Michael’s blog).

Because of our Christian connection, I was honored when Michael asked me to read and review his I Shall Raise Thee Up: Ancient Principles For Lasting Greatness. The fact that he provided me with a free copy of this book speaks volumes not only about his generous spirit but also about what he teaches and practices, which in this case is one of those “timely, timeless, inflexible” principles that he mentions in his book—the extra mile principle.

Where I Shall Raise Thee Up: Ancient Principles For Lasting Greatness is concerned, it is evident that God has anointed Michael to communicate biblical principles and life-changing lessons. Moreover, it is obvious that God also has anointed Michael to deal with human nature, because it is natural for people to wonder what greatness really is and how they can achieve that greatness, and this doubt about “greatness” is exactly what Michael addresses in his book.

His anointing is perhaps the impetus behind why he organizes his book the way he does. The first half of Michael’s book is devoted to definitions and the necessary characteristics, attributes, and passions people who wish to be great must have, while the second half of his book is devoted to those time-honored principles that are essential for developing lasting greatness.

To make sure that his readers understand what greatness means to him, early in his book, Michael gives his definition of greatness. For Michael, greatness is self-sacrificing, self-effacing service. In other words, Michael believes that God raises up (elevates people to their highest potential level) mainly so that they will use their greatness to benefit others. Michael writes: “True greatness is not becoming great at the expense of others but rather at the expense of self; finding ways to serve the needs of people and make them better” (p. 20).

It is golden nuggets like Michael’s definition of greatness that not only make his book inspirational but also a must read. For sure, from beginning to end, I Shall Raise Thee Up is packed full of priceless nuggets of information, which makes it evident that Michael has done his research. However, for me, I learn just as much from Michael’s own valuable expressions of faith and wisdom as I learn from the Christian and non-Christian sources he quotes, or from the succinct narratives pertaining to those individuals Michael believes have mastered one or more of God’s ancient principles.

Here are some of Michael’s expressions of faith and wisdom written in his book that I also like:

  • “We were all meant to be great because we were all meant to serve.” p.20
  • “The talents you have, the tests you’ve been through, and the resources you’ve been given were never meant just for you.” p. 23
  • Principles are natural laws that govern the world. They’re timely, timeless, inflexible and will always produce a certain outcome.” p.32
  • “Outlined are three criteria to determine whether something is a practice or a principle:

a) Principles are immutable

b) Principles are consequential

c) Principles are universal….” pp. 35-36

  • “People who do great things tend not to fit in. …They stand out in some form or another (often to their despair).” p.40

This nugget of information registered the most with me, because it crystallized the many situations I have faced from 2006-2009—made it clear to me that my most recent experiences with isolation have been God’s intended Way of showing me that He predestined me to be a loner (someone who wouldn’t fit in, someone who would NOT think, talk, write, or have the same interests as the masses).

  • God cultivates those He isolates.” p. 41
  • “You can’t have the glory of influence without the weight of responsibility. To have one is to live with the other—the two can’t be severed. To escape the weight is to refuse the glory, and to seek the glory is to find the weight.” p.59

Additionally, what I like about Michael’s book is that it is jam-packed with sound teaching (healthy words that produce godly qualities, attributes, and passions). I like, as well, that Michael communicates this sound teaching with humor, grace, zeal, and simplicity.

Something else that I like about Michael’s book is that it has a definite hook (a point in the book when Michael says something that grabs the readers’ attention). For me, that point is when Michael makes it clear how his readers can get the most out of his book, which is by applying its lessons and then teaching those lessons to others (cf. pp. 15-16).

Now, some people might not think so, but Michael’s book does have a central theme. In most books, the central theme is usually implied rather than explicitly stated. Thus, in Michael’s book, his implied central theme is:  It is necessary for every person, whether Christian or non-Christian, to tap into God’s ancient principles before He can raise him or her up to the level of greatness that God’s seeds in that individual were meant to produce. Additionally, Michael extends the scope of this implied theme, by declaring that in order for anyone to attain lasting greatness this person must come to KNOW God—must become His genuine salt and light.

Now, the problem with implied themes is that many readers will find it more difficult to see how Michael is connecting the dots between the concepts, principles, quotations, biographies, and lessons that are mentioned in his book. However, whether the theme is explicitly stated or just implied, every author’s main job is to convey information in a clear and concise manner. One way Michael could have ensured that his readers could connect the dots (can understand how all of the provided information relates), or one way Michael could have ensured that his readers would convert to his way of thinking, is through the use of smoother transitions.

Smooth transitions (words, phrases, or techniques that help bring two ideas together) tell readers what to do with the information an author has presented to them. Since smooth transitions provide readers with directions for how to piece together an author’s theme, ideas, and information so that they (the readers) end up thinking or acting the way the author intends for them (the readers) to think or act, then by using smooth transitions every author will be able to keep most readers, if not every reader, from making these comments: How does this relate? Or, this book has a choppy flow; or, it is hard following your train of thought.

Unfortunately, there are poor transitions in Michael’s book. That is why I must admit that at times it was difficult following Michael’s train of thought. For example, in chapter 11, beginning with the paragraphs under the heading Servants Empty Themselves, I personally made marginal notes about how Jesus the Christ’s act of “emptying” Himself does not relate to Michael’s definition of being “empty.” Michael defines someone who is “empty” as a person who has removed “all preconceptions, pride, arrogance, brilliance, and even past information” (p.116).

The problem here is that it is not clear how Michael’s definition of “empty” fits God’s meaning for what Jesus the Christ does, which is to give up everything—all of His privileges (godly rights). Indeed, according to the Amplified Bible’s translation of Philippians 2:7, to “empty” Himself means that Jesus the Christ “…stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave)….”

Furthermore, nowhere in the Holy Bible is it written that Jesus the Christ empties Himself of past information or intelligence (if brilliance for Michael means intelligence). Then too, since Jesus the Christ is just as holy as God is holy, the Lord definitely did NOT have any preconceptions, pride, or arrogance to remove! Lastly, Jesus the Christ didn’t remove His godly attributes of supernatural power and glory so that He could find “better ways to serve.” He strips Himself of ALL of His heavenly privileges and godly attributes so that He could experience human rights, human attributes, and human conditions. Thus, the effect of His humble existence—becoming mankind’s servant—was so that He could show humanity how God wants people to serve each other!

For these above-mentioned reasons, Michael’s analogy is faulty. Furthermore,  this faulty analogy makes it impossible for me to see any feasible connection between how the greatest servant who ever lived “empties” Himself and how servants such as salespersons, doctors, companies, ministries, organizations, or even students “empty” themselves (cf. pp. 116-117). Therefore, I would have preferred to see smoother transitions—those words, phrases, or techniques that help to continue an idea, or indicate a shift of thought or contrast, or sum up a conclusion—that effortlessly bridge the gap between ideas. In other words, smoother transitions create coherence (stick togetherness), which is lacking in more than one section of Michael’s book.

I also would have preferred to see those long quotations (the ones that take up more than three lines of Michael’s text) blocked off and cited in text. Even though I am familiar with the Scriptures Michael quotes, I still would like to have seen their book, chapter, and verse(s) cited immediately after Michael quotes them, instead of having to turn to the Bibliography to find the listed sources.

Additionally, I would have preferred to read about more Christians in the ministry who have achieved entrepreneurial greatness. Surely there are many Christians in ministry who, by the aid of God’s Holy Spirit, have taken control of their lives and accepted responsibility for whatever they do with their lives (cf. Michael’s definition of a Christian entrepreneur in Brad Harmon’s “Going Deeper with Author Michael Holmes” interview).

Nevertheless, whatever objections I take to Michael’s style and content, the bottom line is this: in I Shall Raise Thee Up both the central message and the applicable lessons to learn are clear. The message is that every person can become great, because God not only has put the seeds of greatness inside of each individual, but also He has established time-honored natural principles that when “worked” will help in the maturation of those seeds. The lessons are those preparing/plowing, fertilizing, and nurturing steps every individual must go through in order to reap the kind of service-oriented greatness that ONLY can be sustained by a person’s character.

In I Shall Raise Thee Up, Michael teaches that the main reason why a person does not become as great as he or she could be is because this person does not own up to the responsibility he or she has to cultivate the seeds of greatness God put in him or her. Additionally, Michael teaches that the main reason why any of the lessons in his book would not be beneficial or profitable to his readers is possibly because the reader is more interested in instant-gratification (getting the fruit from the seeds without going through the plowing, fertilizing, and nurturing steps) than he or she is interested in tending to (growing up) that which God has put in every person (greatness seeds) so that he or she can produce the expected crop, which is service-oriented good works.

Finally, I Shall Raise Thee Up: Ancient Principles For Lasting Greatness is a good book to read, a good one to keep, and a good one to share.  Moreover, Michael’s book not only is a relevant work but also it is one that counters this century’s New Age spirituality, which encourages the spiritually unhealthy self-interest, self-gratification, self-love, and self-importance attitudes. Thus, if for no other reason than it is true that the New Age’s spiritually unhealthy attitudes have helped to create a “me-first” and an instant-gratification generation, then this truth should be the one that motivates Michael’s readers to learn and then teach to others the life-changing lessons found in his book!