Monthly Archives: May 2024


In Hoffa’s Shadow details the riveting story of Jimmy Hoffa’s mysterious disappearance. It is amply supplied with roller-coaster drama and elegant writing.

The author is the stepson of Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, the loyal and longtime assistant to Jimmy Hoffa. (I should add that the author is a professor at Harvard law school and a wonderful mentor to our youngest son.)

I well remember the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. My young assessment was that his Teamster job was really a front to make lots of money from his mobster connections. The reality, like many true things, is more complicated and compelling than the simple narrative I believed in high school.

Goldsmith artfully tells the story of his stepfather’s quest to gain his innocence. I am convinced that Chuckie had nothing to do with the disappearance and death of Hoffa. The story is told with judicious detail and an appropriate pathos that one would expect from a loving stepson.

But don’t be mistaken. This is not a hagiographical account. Goldsmith is quick to admit the many faults and foibles of his stepfather. Perhaps you noticed that Goldsmith did not keep his stepfather’s surname. I won’t go into why, but it underscores that this book is not some cheap, laudatory account. On the other end of the spectrum, it is equally not remotely in the Mommie Dearest genre.

If you are looking for an engaging book full of twists and turns, I highly recommend In Hoffa’s Shadow. I should add the subtitle: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth.


I could describe and defend the following seven statements at length but will hold off.

Various polls confirm the following observations. I am happy to know several Christians who have chosen a better way.

Many American Evangelicals are more concerned, even consumed, with being politically or culturally literate than knowing the Bible, the church’s history, and theology.

Discipleship, as Dallas Willard regularly declared, is almost non-existent.

We love resurrection power but have forgotten what it means to be crucified with Christ.

Too many churches tolerate unqualified leaders. 

J.I. Packer said the greatest need of the church is Christian education (he used the word catechesis), but few have heeded his counsel.

Many of us are confused by what the gospel entails, and fewer still share it with others.

We are gladly stuck in our tribes and echo chambers.



It may seem odd to write a book about the value of not just reading, but also the importance of hearing the contents of a book. And not just any book, but the Bible.

Most people in the early church could not read. How did they grow in their understanding of God’s Word? How did they grow as disciples to ask the question that theologian Brad East recently posed? Answer: By hearing gifted readers.

These readers worked hard to emphasize the right places, pause at the right moments, and supply energy throughout. Their “performance” in the best sense of that word gave people understanding. Hearing the word read not only familiarized them with the material. It helped shape how they “felt” about the material. Quoting a wonderful line from Quintilian, Sandy reminds us that it is good to “add force to facts.” Even when people could read, the hearing of God’s Word created new levels of understanding.

If your church has been blessed with great readers of Scripture, then you know the power of hearing well-executed words. If you have not heard such readers, you are missing out on a considerable blessing and benefit.

Many of us know what it is like to hear a familiar passage from the Word of God read in such a way that it engenders all kinds of new insights. This deeper and more beautiful understanding is something that Sandy does a terrific job of explaining.

Each year, I get to read a lot of terrific books. Sandy’s book is one of the most edifying ones I have read in a long time. I will be recommending it with great enthusiasm.