Book Review: The Exemplary Husband

51by7g1xbjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_“The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective” by Stuart Scott

2017 Reading Challenge — Book 5: A Book Targeted at Your Gender

In a crowded market of books targeted at Christian men, a particular book really needs to stand out in some way to be worthy of the time it takes to read it. So what is it that makes this book—written by Dr. Stuart Scott, associate professor of biblical counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and former pastor of family ministries and counseling at Grace Community Church (John MacArthur’s church)—deserving of a spot on your bookshelf? There are several good reasons:

Sound Biblical Counsel

This should go without saying, but sadly, it doesn’t. So many books in the “men’s ministry” section of most Christian bookstores seem loosely connected to vague spiritual principles, but otherwise are mostly filled with the advice and wisdom of men. Some of those books can be very helpful—I’ve benefited from quite a few myself—but it is refreshing, and far more useful, to read books saturated with Scripture. Scott grounds every aspect of his manual for biblical husbanding firmly in God’s Word.

It’s a Book That Knows Its Audience

There are books on marriage that I’ve enjoyed more. There are books that have dug much deeper into particular aspects of marriage. At 365 pages, there are certainly books that are quicker reads. But if I were looking to lead the men of a church through an accessible, comprehensive book on how to be a better husband, this would be high on my list. The reality is that there are a great many struggling marriages in our churches today, and I appreciate that Scott assumes nothing about his readers. He correctly asserts that “if a husband does not have a biblical understanding of God, man, relationships, marriage and his role, it will not benefit him much to work at his marriage.” (p. 13)

How many marriages could be saved if the men in our churches could only grow in their biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity? And so the first quarter of the book is essentially an overview of systematic theology, with application drawn at each point of doctrine to the role of a husband. Scott is very careful throughout to communicate with clearly defined terms and repetition of key principles. To experienced readers of books on doctrine and marriage, this may seem tedious at times, but most men don’t fit in this category. We need books like this for our churches, which in the span of a single book study can both raise both the theological acumen and marital fidelity of our men. The available study guide may help with this endeavor.

Resource-Rich Appendices

To be honest, for me the appendices may have been the best part of the book. That’s not to take anything away from the text; but I’m much more likely to pull this book back off my shelf in the future to reference the sections in the back. Of particular interest are some worksheets designed to help facilitate “leadership” meetings (recommended to take place monthly or bi-weekly) in which a husband leads his wife through a discussion assessing the strength and health of their marriage. I’m always on the lookout for tools that I think will help me to better lead my wife, and this looks like one that will fit the bill (we intend to go through it on an upcoming date night).

Summary

To be “exemplary” is to be a model for others to follow. Scripture asserts over and over again that marriages exist to point people to Christ, and that Christian men are expected to lead by example. We do this by following the perfect example set by Jesus Christ. If you’re looking for a book to help you and the men of your church to become more like Christ, resulting in stronger marriages that demonstrate the love of God to the world, grab a copy of The Exemplary Husband.

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:1

Why Guys Love Porn and Video Games

A book that released this week by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan (The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It) investigates, among other things, the effects of video games and online pornography on guys. You can read a synopsis of their discoveries in an article the two psychologists wrote for CNN entitled “The Demise of Guys: How Video Games and Porn Are Ruining a Generation”. I also recommend taking five minutes to watch this speech on the subject by Dr. Zimbardo, which I first saw when it was posted on the always fascinating TED Talks webpage last fall:

As a guy who probably wasted months of his life on video games — though probably not the 10,000 hours (over a year… yipes!) he says is “average” — I can vouch firsthand for the allure of the “new”.  But while I think the statistical analysis of this study & book are likely quite accurate, they miss out on the deeper root of what drives men to these pursuits.

This is why I so appreciate Russell Moore’s article, “Fake Love, Fake War:  Why So Many Men Are Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games”. He reminds us that these are spiritual battles for our affections.

Pornography promises orgasm without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.

Satan isn’t a creator but a plagiarist. His power is parasitic, latching on to good impulses and directing them toward his own purpose. God intends a man to feel the wildness of sexuality in the self-giving union with his wife. And a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.

The drive to the ecstasy of just love and to the valor of just war are gospel matters. The sexual union pictures the cosmic mystery of the union of Christ and his church. The call to fight is grounded in a God who protects his people, a Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves.

The whole thing is great. I hope you’ll take the time to read the rest.

Book Review: Saint George and the Dragon

“Saint George and the Dragon” by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman (Illustrator)

Of the many hundreds of children’s books at his disposal, this is one of my son’s most requested. That is just as well, because it’s certainly my favorite book to read to him (besides the Jesus Storybook Bible, of course)!

Based on Edmund Spenser’s classic epic poem The Faerie Queen, this book tells the story of the Red Cross Knight and his battle against a dragon that has been terrorizing the English countryside. While there are no surprises in the plot — boy meets girl, boy travels a long way to take care of girl’s dragon problem, boy slays dragon, boy marries girl and inherits her father’s kingdom — the real fun is in the telling! Oh, and the illustrations, of course.

Hyman’s depictions of people, fairies, dwarves, and landscapes are simply beautiful. Saint George and the Dragon is presented as an illuminated manuscript, with paintings surrounding the text on every page. It’s some of the best fantasy artwork I’ve seen!

Hodges’ adaptation retains enough of Spenser’s writing style to be recognizable, but her prose is easily accessible for modern readers. In reading aloud, I am particularly fond of her generous use of alliteration. This gives the reader lots of opportunities to really “get into the story”… phrases like “fairy folk” and “dreadful dragon” roll off the tongue and help build the drama.

There are several elements that make this much more (but no less) than a book for children. While it is obviously much shorter than Edmund Spenser’s masterpiece, Saint George and the Dragon is about as “epic” as a kids’ book can be. Long sections of narrative are interspersed with short similes reminiscent of Homer, in that they don’t necessarily seem to relate to the surrounding text. Still, they are beautiful, and manage to add a sense of depth to the tale, as if there’s a whole world to be explored in the further adventures of the Red Cross Knight.

One complaint I’ve seen about this book is its length. Many parents seem to think that this is simply too wordy for young children. I couldn’t disagree more!

It’s true that this book is longer than most children’s stories. It typically takes me about 10-12 minutes to read it to my kids, but my little boy — who is not yet 3 — nearly always stays entranced to the very end! A lot probably depends on how the story is read. We tend to have a lot of fun with our story time; inserting dramatic pauses in the reading, pointing out details in the artwork as things are described, using different accents and voices, etc. (Occasionally we do have to interrupt our reading to engage in a quick sword fight, but we always return to finish it!)

I see this book as a tremendous opportunity to teach my children. There is a lot of value in epic poetry and fairy stories, but appreciation of this type of literature must be learned. If investing some extra time now showing my toddlers how to listen to and love a story that takes a while to tell helps prepare them for enjoyment later of things like The Iliad and The Lord of the Rings, then that will be time well spent! I want to cultivate in my kids a love of learning, of reading, and of story-telling… not to mention an attention span longer than what is typical in today’s media-saturated culture. I can’t think of a better time to start than when they are very young, and there are few books better suited to aiding me in this pursuit than Saint George and the Dragon.

I hope you’ll get a copy for your kids (or for yourself!). You can buy it here.

Nate’s Catechism Chart

A few weeks ago I put a video up on Facebook of Nate reciting the first few questions and answers from the catechism we are using to teach him about our faith. Today I wanted to share an update on our progress, as well as some resources that you are free to use if you’d like.

When we decided that we’d like to begin catechizing our kids at a very young age, I made a chart to keep track of our progress. I began with the Catechism for Young Children as a template, but have modified the questions and answers in such a way as to be more accessible for our two-year-old. For now I’ve only charted out the first 45 questions (the Catechism for Young Children has 145), and I can re-evaluate how in-depth he’s able to answer the rest of the questions once we get there… we’re only on #9 so far, so it  may be a while! Here’s the chart:

Nate’s Catechism Chart

And here’s Nate’s progress (we’re still working on getting some consistency with question #9!):

The Awful Responsibility of a Parent

From Mr. Joseph P. Engles’ 1840 introduction to the Shorter Catechism:

“You have an awfully responsible office in being entrusted with the training of immortal spirits for the service of God on earth and for glory in heaven. The temporal welfare and the eternal salvation not only of your own children, but of future generations, may depend upon your faithfulness in the discharge of this duty.”

Discerning the Conversion of a Child

Several months ago, I began an intensive study of baptism. I hope to write soon on what God has been teaching me, but today wanted to point out an excellent article that gets to the root of one of the main reasons behind my baptism study. How can parents and pastors tell when a child is truly converted?

Brian Croft lists five evidences of a regenerate heart in children and teens:

  1. A growing affection and need for Jesus and the gospel.
  2. A heightened understanding of the truths of Scripture.
  3. An increased kindness and selflessness toward siblings.
  4. A greater awareness and distaste for sin.
  5. A noticeable desire to obey parents.

His article is very short, but immensely helpful for baptists and paedobaptists alike. Read it here.

Music and the Undisciplined Mind

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I’ve nearly finished the book Future Men by Douglas Wilson. It is a helpful book on raising sons, and I have really enjoyed it.

This morning I’d like to share a quote from the book, where Pastor Wilson is discussing the importance of cultivating discernment in boys and young men with regard to the type of music, movies, and art they choose to consume. In this instance, the same could be said for daughters as well:

Of course production in pop culture can frequently be quite demanding but the consumption of it rarely is. Take a series of examples in several different areas. The music of Bach is of course demanding to perform, but it also makes demands on the listener. This is why the undisciplined mind avoids such music; it invites thought, contemplation, discipline, lots of icky things. More than one rock guitarist is an impressive virtuoso, but the fingerboard display makes no real demands on the hearer, other than a willingness to be blown over. The listener to classical music is impressively engaged; the devotee of such rock music is left, with a ringing in his ears, right where he started.

P.S. – The picture at the top is Pastor Wilson, who is obviously not opposed to playing the guitar!