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How to be a Christian man

How to be a Christian man

The Masculine Mandate: how to be a Christian manI recently reviewed the book Manliness. It was a good book, but it left me wanting more. It left me wanting a sequel that would explain how to be a Christian man, how to be manly in the ordinary day-to-day of being a husband and daddy, a friend, employee, or employer. I said I wanted a book that would explain “the manliness required to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.”

The Masculine Mandate is exactly the book I was looking for.

Understanding your mandate as a Christian man

Pastor Richard Phillips spends the first five chapters explaining the masculine mandate, God’s calling to men. He begins with God’s creation of man in the garden, before the fall, explaining the command to work and keep. In doing so, he faces a best-selling fallacy head on.

The problem is that the basic approach to masculinity presented in Wild at Heart is almost precisely opposite from what is really taught in the Bible.

Many Christian men have read Wild at Heart and been led to believe that they were meant for the wild and not the garden, but Genesis says that God made man for the garden, not the wilderness.

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. [Genesis 2:15]

Phillips makes the argument that the garden, as the setting for this mandate, is a “world of covenantal relationships and duties” in which the Christian man operates.

The mandate defined

And here is The Masculine Mandate, God’s calling to men: work and keep. He spends the rest of the book seeking to,

specify, clarify, elaborate, and apply these to verbs to the glorious, God-given, lifelong project of masculine living. [p. 8]

He starts by defining each of these verbs.

Work. To work is to labor to make things grow.

Keep. To keep is to protect and to sustain progress already achieved. [p. 8]

Over the next several chapters Phillips goes on to explain what this means. The Christian man is called to work and tend those things placed in his charge, his wife, children, friendships, church family, vocation, etc. We are to work and tend these so that they grow, and then to keep them safe.

Work is a good thing. God intended it before the fall, to be a joy. Since the fall, work has become a burden. In the new heaven and new earth, we will still work, but it will then be a joy again.

During the course of these five chapters, Phillips explains what it means for a Christian man to live a godly life. The first order of business is tending your own heart and mind as a Christian man.

Few things will more powerfully impact any man than a life of serious devotion to the Bible, through which God’s life-giving Word enlightens our minds and hearts. [P. 39]

And,

The most necessary competence of any leader is a knowledge of God’s truth in the Bible. How is a father and husband, for example, to guide his family without a knowledge of the Bible’s teaching on marriage, raising children, handling money, serving in the church, and more? [p. 48]

Living your mandate as a Christian man

Part two of the book begins with chapter six. Here, Phillips begins to apply The Masculine Mandate, in very practical ways, to the covenantal relationships Christian men are called to work and keep. Three chapters are given to the relationship of marriage. Two chapters are dedicated to parenting. One chapter discusses friendships. One chapter deals with the church. And the last chapter serves as a conclusion.

The mandate and marriage

One of the most important things Phillips says about marriage is that it isn’t supposed to be easy. Too often, Christian men find marriage to be difficult and look for a solution that will make it easy.

God intends for a man’s love to his wife to be costly. Simply put, it is not easy for man to love his wife, and God does not intend it to be easy. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be valuable. [p. 63]

Instead of giving you tips on how to make your marriage easier, Phillips calls us to man up, make sacrifices, and love our wives especially when it’s hard. That’s not to say that he believes our marriages should be miserable. In fact, he points us toward joy and contentment in marriage, he just acknowledges that it takes some effort to get there. The difficulty in our marriages come from attempting to find joy apart from submission to God’s authority and design.

God’s curses on the relationship were the poison for which God alone was the antidote. This is why marriage is practically hopeless part from the grace of Christ, and why divorce is so rampant. The struggles that men and women experience in marriage are intended by God to drive us to our knees and to our Bibles, that we would restore God to the center of our lives. [p. 74]

But how does the mandate to work and keep apply to our marriages?

The Christian man is to work, or tend, his wife for her spiritual growth and maturity. We do this by living together in rhythm with our wife, by paying attention to her heart, by showing her that she is valued, and by ministering the Word to her in encouragement.

The mandate to keep is applied as the Christian husband keeps his wife safe. And we must never forget that,

…the main threat against which a man must protect his wife is his own sin. [p. 87]

In addition to that, the husband is to keep his wife by sacrificing himself for her sake.

The mandate and children

When it comes to our children, the two parts of the mandate (work and keep) take the form of discipling and disciplining.

Work = discipling

The work of discipling your children is essentially the work of winning their heart for the Lord. Phillips argues that we must begin by giving our heart to our children. He then suggests four ways to give your heart to your children and win theirs.

  1. Read the Bible to them
  2. Pray with them and for them
  3. Join them in their work, and have them join in yours
  4. Play with them

This was a great chapter with some very practical advice. Some of this I was already doing, and this chapter encouraged me to continue. I also picked up some great ideas I’ve been trying to put into practice.

Keeping = discipline

The keeping of our children is the practice of discipline. This isn’t a popular subject these days, but Phillips handles it well. He presents biblical examples of what happens when a father doesn’t discipline his children. He then outlines the goals of discipline, which I think is important. Without keeping the goals in mind, our discipline can easily go off-track.

The goal of fatherly discipline is to protect your child’s heart “from seeking to satisfy its own sinful cravings.” To put that positively, it means working toward obedience and self-control.

…if we do not rule our children, sin certainly will. [p. 110]

Discipline takes two forms, physical reproof (spanking) and verbal reproof (correcting). Both forms require self-control. And he offers some good practical advice on how best to go about each. If you are not one to spank and the idea bothers you, consider the biblical data in favor.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. [Prov 13:14]

Spanking is a biblically mandated for of parental discipline that works for our children’s good, withholding it is selfish and lazy.

The mandate and friendship

The next chapter addresses the issue of friendship. We need this sorely in today’s Christian world. Too many Christian men don’t have any good friends. A good friend being one who works to build up the faith of his friend and help protect against unbelief and fear.

Here Phillips draws heavily on the biblical example of David and Jonathan, but also tells a compelling story about General Ulysses S. Grant and Major General John Rawlins, who served as the famous General’s friend, helping him become the great man that he was.

The main takeaway here is that true friendship doesn’t just happen and it’s not always easy, but it’s worth it, it’s part of our calling as men, and it’s something we all need and most of us lack.

The mandate and the church

The calling for the Christian man to work and keep applies in the church as well. Here the work is primarily the work of growing in your knowledge of the Word of God, so as to make yourself available and qualified to lead. Beyond that, the mandate to keep means that men must protect the church’s practice and doctrine. Of course, you can’t safeguard right doctrine if you don’t know it. You must do the work up front before the keeping can happen!

The Christian man as servant

In the final chapter, Phillips covers three key principles that greatly aid Christian men seeking to fulfillThe Masculine Mandate, contentment, joy, and humility. He closes the book by directing the reader’s attention to our ultimate goal, that of hearing our Master say,

Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master. [Matt 25:21]

Conclusion

The Masculine Mandate is a book I highly recommend to all men, especially husbands and fathers, or those who want to be such. The book is great for individual reading but comes with discussion questions for each chapter which makes it easy to use the book for a small group. I look forward to reading it again in the future with a group of men, where we can encourage each other and hold each other accountable to living as godly men, men who work and keep with contentment, joy, and humility.

2016 Reading Challenge July Update

2016 Reading Challenge July Update

This year I have been participating in Tim Challies’ 2016 Reading Challenge. It’s been fun so far. It has pushed me outside my comfort zone to read things I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, yet it’s flexible enough that I have been able to find a way to fit in books I really wanted to read.

I set my goal at 42 books. I’m one month past the halfway mark and I’ve finished 24 so far. I decided not to follow the list straight through, but to pick from all over as things interested me and I was able to find a category for them.

So far, 15 of my 24 books have been non-fiction, all but 2 of them theological works. 9 of the books I’ve read so far are novels, several (the Narnia books) are one’s I’ve read aloud to the girls. I’m happy with that balance, especially considering several of the theology books I’ve read so far are large works.

What follows are the books I completed in July and the reading challenge category they fulfill. I’ve listed them in the order in which I completed them. Following that is the complete list of categories, with completed categories marked and the book for that category in parenthesis.

#18 Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (A classic novel). An excellent classic novel that I recommend strongly, especially for men. Read my review at the link. [link to my review]

#19 The Puritan Family by Edmund S. Morgan (A book written in the twentieth century). [link to Amazon.com]

#20 The Rover Boys At College by Edward Stratemeyer (A mystery or detective novel). A novel from the early 20th century. My copy belonged to my Grandfather. It’s not a great novel, but it’s an easy read and kind of fun. [link to Amazon.com]

#21 The Masculine Mandate by Richard D. Phillips (A book by a Presbyterian). I highly recommend this book to all men. It explores God’s calling on men to “work and keep”, applying these two tasks to marriage, parenting, friendships, and the church. [link to my review]

#22 The Life of Adoniram Judson by Edward Judson (A book by or about a missionary). A biography of my favorite missionary. It long, and not easy to find in print (I read an original, first edition printing from 1883), but worth the effort. Though maybe not the first book I would recommend about this amazing man, who was the first American missionary.

#23 The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (A novel longer than 400 pages). Not a bad novel, but not a great one either. Most of the plot elements are lifted from Lord of the Rings, but the names have been changed, it’s a sword made by the good guys, not a ring made by the bad guys, Other than that, it’s pretty much a rehash of the Lord of the Rings, but it was fun and quick. [link to Amazon.com]

#24 Church History 101 by Sinclaire Ferguson, Joel Beeke, and Michael Haykin (A book about church history). This small book is a very easy and enjoyable read. Each short chapter covers one century of church history beginning with the 1st and ending with the 20th. The book is small, physically and in terms of content, and that’s a good thing. It will easily fit in your pocket or lunch box so you can take with you anywhere. Brance’s rule #7 is “Never go anywhere without a book”, and this book makes that easy. I’ll be giving this book away to those who ask for a primer on church history. [link to Amazon.com]

The Light Reader (13 Books)

  • ☐ A book about Christian living
  • ☒ A biography (The Confessions of Saint Augustine)
  • ☒ A classic novel (Northanger Abbey)
  • ☐ A book someone tells you “changed my life”
  • ☐ A commentary on a book of the Bible
  • ☒ A book about theology (Roman Catholic Theology & Practice: an evangelical assessment)
  • ☒ A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle (What Is The Gospel?)
  • ☐ A book your pastor recommends
  • ☒ A book more than 100 years old (Truth Made Simple)
  • ☒ A book for children (The Silver Chair)
  • ☒ A mystery or detective novel (The Rover Boys At College)
  • ☒ A book published in 2016 (Evenmere)
  • ☒ A book about a current issue (The Biology of Desire: why addiction is not a disease)

The Avid Reader (26 Books)

  • ☒ A book written by a Puritan (The Travels of True Godliness)
  • ☒ A book recommended by a family member (A Chance To Die – The Amy Carmichael Story)
  • ☒ A book by or about a missionary (The Life of Adoniram Judson)
  • ☐ A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize
  • ☐ A book written by an Anglican
  • ☒ A book with at least 400 pages (Confessing the Impassible God)
  • ☒ A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien (The Horse and His Boy)
  • ☐ A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title
  • ☐ A book with a great cover
  • ☐ A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
  • ☒ A book about church history (Church History 101)
  • ☐ A graphic novel
  • ☐ A book of poetry

The Committed Reader (52 Books)

  • ☒ A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with (Fresh Power)
  • ☒ A book written by an author with initials in their name (The Magician’s Nephew)
  • ☐ A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award
  • ☐ A book about worldview
  • ☐ A play by William Shakespeare
  • ☐ A humorous book
  • ☐ A book based on a true story
  • ☐ A book written by Jane Austen
  • ☐ A book by or about Martin Luther
  • ☐ A book with 100 pages or less
  • ☒ A book with a one-word title (Manliness)
  • ☐ A book about money or finance
  • ☐ A novel set in a country that is not your own
  • ☐ A book about music
  • ☐ A memoir
  • ☐ A book about joy or happiness
  • ☐ A book by a female author
  • ☐ A book whose title comes from a Bible verse
  • ☐ A book you have started but never finished
  • ☐ A self-improvement book
  • ☐ A book by David McCullough
  • ☐ A book you own but have never read
  • ☐ A book about abortion
  • ☐ A book targeted at the other gender
  • ☐ A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended
  • ☐ A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you

The Obsessed Reader (104 Books)

  • ☐ A book published by The Banner of Truth
  • ☐ A book about the Reformation
  • ☐ A book written by a first-time author
  • ☐ A biography of a world leader
  • ☐ A book used as a seminary textbook
  • ☐ A book about food
  • ☐ A book about productivity
  • ☐ A book about or relationships or friendship
  • ☐ A book about parenting
  • ☐ A book about philosophy
  • ☐ A book about art
  • ☒ A book with magic (The Tombs of Atuan)
  • ☐ A book about prayer
  • ☒ A book about marriage (This Momentary Marriage)
  • ☐ A book about a hobby
  • ☐ A book of comics
  • ☐ A book about the Second World War
  • ☐ A book about sports
  • ☐ A book by or about a pastor’s wife
  • ☐ A book about suffering
  • ☐ A book by your favorite author
  • ☐ A book you have read before
  • ☐ A book about homosexuality
  • ☐ A Christian novel
  • ☐ A book about psychology
  • ☐ A book about the natural world
  • ☐ A book by or about Charles Dickens
  • ☒ A novel longer than 400 pages (The Sword of Shannara)
  • ☐ A historical book
  • ☐ A book about the Bible
  • ☐ A book about a country or city
  • ☐ A book about astronomy
  • ☐ A book with an ugly cover
  • ☐ A book by or about a martyr
  • ☐ A book by a woman conference speaker
  • ☐ A book by or about the church fathers
  • ☐ A book about language
  • ☐ A book by or about a Russian
  • ☐ A book about leadership
  • ☐ A book about public speaking
  • ☐ A book by Francis Schaeffer
  • ☒ A book by a Presbyterian (The Masculine Mandate)
  • ☐ A book about science
  • ☐ A book about revival
  • ☐ A book about writing
  • ☐ A book about evangelism
  • ☐ A book about ancient history
  • ☐ A book about preaching
  • ☒ A book about the church (The Glory of a True Church)
  • ☐ A book about adoption
  • ☐ A photo essay book
  • ☒ A book written in the twentieth century (The Puritan Family)

Bonus (109 Books)

  • ☐ A book from a library
  • ☐ A book about business
  • ☐ A book by an author less than 30
  • ☐ A book published by a UK-based publisher
  • ☐ A book you borrow
Custom Fountain Pen

Custom Fountain Pen

Turkish Walnut Custom Fountain PenThose of you who know me, know that I’m a bit old school. I still prefer paper books and I enjoy writing with a fountain pen. It will be no surprise that I’m now using a custom fountain pen as my main writing instrument.

For a couple of years now I’ve written with a Sheaffer Intensity. It’s a good pen, slender, but a bit heavy, especially if you cap it when writing (which I don’t because of the weight).

This year, as my birthday and Father’s Day present, I got a new pen. This one is custom-made from Turkish Walnut with an extra-fine iridium nib.

The pen was made by a former band mate of mine. Being made of wood, it’s much lighter than my Sheaffer, which is a good thing. The lighter weight of the wood allows your hand to relax when writing, which improves penmanship and reduces muscle strain. Speaking of wood, the Turkish Walnut is beautiful, as you can see. It has a nice deep color in the marbled grain, along with a few highlights.

This pen has a magnetic cap, rather than the standard screw on cap you normally find on fountain pens. It’s unique and fun, but not as secure as the screw on type cap. I’d be reluctant to carry this pen in my bag on a daily basis, but since I plan to use it at my desk, that’s not a problem.

After a tune-up at my favorite pen shop, the pen writes smoothly with just the right amount of ink flow, and produces a beautiful line. The nib has just the right amount of flex to produce a beautiful script, at least as beautiful as my handwriting can be.

Mark has set up an Etsy store where you can pick up one of his pens or contact him to have one custom-made from the material of your choice.

If you’re already a fountain pen user and looking to add a custom fountain pen to your collection, then I suggest you check out Mark’s work.

If you’re not a yet a fountain pen user, I urge you to do yourself, and your penmanship, a favor and pick up the ultimate writing instrument. What better place to start than with a custom fountain pen?

 

Northanger Abbey
a surprisingly good read

Northanger Abbey
a surprisingly good read

Northanger Abbey was my first Jane Austen novel. It won’t be my last. My previous experience with Jane Austen was limited to having once watched Pride and Prejudice while on our honeymoon.

Like most men, I always assumed that Jane Austen novels were simpering, sappy, romance novels of the victorian era. Sadly, the movie I watched did little to dispel that assessment. But this year I have been engaged in a reading challenge that has forced me out of my comfort zone a bit when selecting books. I’ll explain more of the particulars in a future post, but I had several categories that lent themselves to reading a Jane Austen novel, not the least of which was, A book written by Jane Austen.

Lauren had a large volume containing seven of Austen’s novels. I looked it over and chose Northanger Abbey for two reasons. First, I had never seen or heard anything about it. Second, it was the shortest novel in the anthology.

I fully expected to toil through it and be glad when it was over so I could move on to reading something more to my liking. How wrong my expectations were!

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Is manliness obsolete in the gender-neutral society?

Is manliness obsolete in the gender-neutral society?

Harvard University Professor Harvey C. Mansfield doesn’t think so. In Manliness he asserts (a very manly thing, asserting something) that manliness is not only not obsolete, but very much needed, in our modern, gender-neutral society.

Despite the title, “Manliness“, and the assertion that manliness is needed, Mansfield isn’t opposed to our gender-neutral society, though he does prefer to use the word sex rather than gender when talking about men and women. In fact, he says that a gender-neutral public society is “long overdue”. He then asserts that manliness is required to maintain it. Of course, this requires defining manliness, not an easy thing to do, and then proving his assertion. To do so, Mansfield takes the reader on a tour of philosophy and literature from Plato and Homer to feminist authors of our modern age.

Interestingly, he didn’t write the book to teach men how to be manly. You can’t teach manliness. Rather, the book was written for a surprising audience and purpose.

Manliness, the quality mostly of one sex, gets in the way of an equal or reasonable distribution of tasks and rewards; it seems to promote a bias in favor of men over women. In this book I begin from manliness as the irrational obstacle to a rational project that seeks to remove this bias. By the end I hope to convince skeptical readers–above all, educated women–of the reverse: that irrational manliness deserves to be endorsed by reason. [p.ix]

The problem of manliness

As any good thinker does, Mansfield begins by examining the problem. In this case, the problem is that changes are being made to our society, moving it toward “a practice of equality between the sexes that has never been known before in all human history.” Yet, in spite of these changes, manliness refuses to quietly fade away.

The capacities and inclinations of the sexes do not differ exactly or universally, but they do seem to differ. These differences are, one could say, all the more impressive now that they are no longer supported, indeed now that they are denied or opposed, by society’s ruling conventions. The old Adam is still effective and still visible despite all that Hollywood and the media (when they want to be serious) do to instruct us in gender neutrality. [p.12]

So the questions are, Why do these differences still exist? The answer is because Manliness still exists. But should it? Are we done with manliness? Or do we still need it? And if so, for what purpose?

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