Review: Boyhood and Beyond

Bob Schultz, Great Expectations Book Co., 2004, 217 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Jane Austin wrote that surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.

Even more surprising than quoting Emma in a review on masculinity is the shock I received after reading Bob Schultz’s book on raising boys. He’s a carpenter by trade, so that’s promising. But he’s also the father of three girls and no boys. Still, Boyhood and Beyond is superb. I’ve reviewed books on father’s bringing up daughters as well as raising sons. Schultz is the best I’ve read on the latter.

In past mornings I’ve read this paperback (or the sequel) at family worship to my wife and six children. It’s good for my daughters too because it teaches them traits to look for in a husband. The whole family loves it. Here are three reasons why.

First, the book is manly. You picture Schultz sitting down in his shed with rolled up flannel sleeves, writing with pencil and paper. There’s not a Macbook Air in his zip code. He’s old school. He quotes from the KJV and bolsters his points with masculine illustrations you want your sons to hear: shooting turkeys, chopping firewood, tending the orchard and fixing the chicken coop.

Second, the book is well-rounded. There are thirty-one chapters covering topics like hard work, the value of an old man, perseverance, initiative, overcoming temptation, and personal responsibility. But it’s not just a book on standard character traits. Where will you find a man encouraging your sons to make inventions, think in analogies, write thank-you letters or have a pilgrim mindset? You will here.

Finally, the book is biblical. Though I must say the illustrations and stories were the delicious appetizer and dessert of every chapter, the main course is always rooted in Scripture. On each page he teaches in a way young and old can understand. I’ve even used it as a discipleship tool with the male teens and twenty-somethings in our African village.

“Developing in manhood is a process,” Schultz writes. In a world that has lost its way regarding gender roles, Boyhood and Beyond is a great tool in helping boys become men.

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Review: She Calls Me Daddy: 7 Things You Need to Know About Building a Complete Daughter

Robert Wolgemuth, Focus on the Family, 1996, 2014, 256 pages, 3 of 5 stars

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-10-43-56-pmI had never heard of Robert Wolgemuth until I watched “Unexpected Grace”, a video directed by my friend Nathan Bollinger for Revive Our Hearts Ministry. It tells the marvelous story of Wolgemuth’s marriage to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

I found the video so intriguing that I decided to read one of his books. The first volume he ever published, She Calls Me Daddy, was also his best-seller. Since then he has written a number of other books, many of them on family. Having two daughters of my own, I figured this was a good place to start. Continue reading

Africa’s Need for Noble Men

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-10-37-42-pmThomas Watson once said, “A father is a looking glass that the child often dresses himself by. Let the glass be clear and not spotted.”

When the nobleman in John’s Gospel believed in Christ, so did his whole household (Jn. 4:53). This would have included his wife, children, and workers. He did not give faith to his family, nor force them to believe, but was the positive and pervasive instrument God used to lead that home to saving trust.

This is why Paul encourages spouses in mixed marriages to remain and not divorce. Fathers and husbands have tremendous spiritual influence in their homes because they man the gospel rudder. “The unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband (1Co. 7:14).

Father Abraham was the appointed apparatus to teach his children the righteous way (Gn. 18:19). So was Joshua (Jos. 24:15).

Sadly, in rural African culture, a child’s looking glass is often the family member or relation that happens to be around at the time. A bike rides best with two wheels—the family with two parents. The rural African home is learning this the hard way as it drags along slowly from one generation to the next.

In our village context, and a hundred others beside, the people wonder why their culture continues to be ravaged by crime, poverty, and bad education. Certainly AIDS, corruption, and distant jobs play a part, but ubuntu is the greatest culprit. Ubuntu is the African worldview that says I exist because of the whole. Or as Hillary has said, it takes a village. This supposed “togetherness” of Africa was meant to be a contrast with the individualism of the West. Instead, it has devastated the home because grandparents, uncles, aunts, and neighbors are all viewed as sufficient and often superior trainers of the children. Single moms are rampant. Women are encouraged to seek careers. What else are grandparents for?

Africa needs fathers and husbands who will lead their households to Christ. Africa needs men who act as mirrors, before which their children can see an accurate picture of themselves and the gospel. African men need to abandon the cloak of pseudo-humility used to cover their bad character and instead urge their wives and children to follow them (1Co. 11:1). What Africa needs is an army of noble men.

 

Review: Manly Dominion

Mark Chanski, Calvary Press, 2004, 247 pages, 3 of 5 stars

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 9.01.33 PMHere is a meat and potatoes manual on masculinity and the husband/father’s role in the home.

Mark Chanski is a seasoned pastor and father of five, and may have penned this while wearing a hunting knife and camo. He’s a tough guy with a soft heart. He gives the kind of wisdom your father did while chopping wood: work hard, career-plan early, don’t be a perfectionist, rear your children, think clearly, learn a trade. The teen and grandfather would equally benefit. Some chapters are only three pages long.

The best section was on “vocational laboring” but a survey of his 31 chapters shows the author’s wide swath of subjects: “Our Sinful Children”, “Evaluating Dating”, “Assertive Talking”, “Family Devotions”, “Job Hunting”. His excerpt from John Abbott’s The Mother at Home (©1833) was a gem.

Chanski shines in his section on decision-making. He blasts the subjective leading of the Holy Spirit. “Asking God for life directing impressions, is asking God for fresh special revelations. This is wrong and unbiblical.” (86) Since we all know of people who are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good, Chanski tells the humorous story of going to a wooded area to cut trees and his partner said: “Don’t you think we should first pray and ask God which tree we should cut down first?”

In sum, this book motivated me to be a better husband, father, and Christian. I learned nothing new and the well-turned phrases were few but the content was winsome, true, and masculine. I’ll give this book to my sons when they turn thirteen. I’ll read it with them, too.

Excerpts

  1. Unemployment can mentally, emotionally, and spiritually shake a man to his foundations. A man without work can become like waters without current. Standing water soon putrefies into a scummy pond. (68)
  2. Though carnal sounding, cash is the fuel that runs the kingdom machinery. Many kingdom ships that could be launched end up rotting in the harbor due to lack of funds. Were it not for generous financial supporters, the great missionary Adoniram Judson would never have set sail for Burma. (78)
  3. [Quoting John Murray] This view of the Holy Spirit’s guidance [i.e. feelings, impressions, convictions] amounts, in effect, to the same thing as to believe that the Holy Spirit gives special revelation. (88)
  4. The lives of many women have become barren wildernesses because they’ve been neglected by uncommunicative husbands; men who indulge themselves in selfish silence, men who are stingy with their words, men whose typical answer is one of no comment, men who like Adam in the snake infested garden leave it to their wives to do the talking. (179)
  5. Do you really want your children to experience everything you’ve experienced? Most of us believing parents, whose youth mirrored [promiscuous teen years] are ashamed of many of our actions, and can only marvel at God’s grace that kept us from destroying our souls. In reality, we’re just the survivors, and some very scarred survivors at that, while many of our peers passed through this cultural minefield and lost their souls. (234)

Should Parents Discipline Their Children When Angry?

I once heard a pastor say: “All displays of anger are sinful.” It’s also been said that parents should never discipline their children in anger. Is that true? When Johnny foments discord, or hits his sister, or disrespects his mother, is it ever valid for his father to show anger in voice or mannerisms? Consider this.

First, there are a number of causes for anger, some good and some bad. Some evil roots would be rejection (Gen. 4:5), a lack of love (1 Cor. 13:5) and the desire to repay evil for evil (1 Pt. 3:9). Men no doubt battle the sin of anger more than women do (1 Tim. 2:8). Some positive causes of anger would be Spirit-filling (1 Sam. 11:6) and seeing the hardheartedness of others (Ps. 7:11, Neh. 5:6-7).

Second, Christians are encouraged by precept and example to be angry but in control. In Ephesians 4:26, Paul gives an imperative: “Be angry and do not sin.” The Greek verb behind this command is used often in the LXX, both of man’s anger and God’s. The examples are laden with emotion, as when Jacob berates his father-in-law for pestering his family (Gen. 31:36) and Moses is irate at Israel’s idolatry (Ex. 32:19).

Third, we cannot say that anger is intrinsically evil, since God often expresses His fury. God is said to “burn” with wrath (Ex. 22:24) everyday (Ps. 7:11), this often toward his covenant people (Jdg. 2:14). God, however, always controls His anger—never sinning in the process.

Fourth, human anger should be emotional. Are we really to believe that Jesus internalized all of His wrath, biting His lip as wickedness abounded around Him? In Mark 3:5, Jesus is “angry”, this word followed by “grieved” to show the strong emotional aspect of Jesus’ wrath. Jesus was even aggressive in His anger (Mt. 21:12).

Fifth, and this is where we answer the question about parents, the Bible is loaded with qualifiers regarding anger. Christians should control their anger (Pr. 14:29), confront people directly (Mt. 5:21-22), avoid befriending angry people (Pr. 22:24-25), use soft words (Pr. 15:1), and learn to assuage people’s anger by de-emphasizing their own accomplishments (Jdg. 7:24-8:3). But never are people, and parents specifically, told to avoid anger altogether. It is true that Ephesians 4:31 tells us to put away “wrath”, but this is certainly an anger that is malicious in nature.

Moreover, all emotions, just like words, communicate something. When Suzie excels, we affirm with words and all the smiles and clapping motions. When our ten year-old is in a moment of rebellion, why should we feel more godly when we say with a stoic face and measured tone: “Son, sassing your mother was not the best thing to do. Please go to your room”? Jay Adams observes: “Anger in administering disciplinary codes must be thought of as within the code. Modern advice that parents should never administer discipline when angry is not biblical. Because anger is not wrong, one apologizes not for anger, but only, for instance, for losing one’s temper in the discipline of children.”

If anger should be emotionless, how are our children to tell which things angers father the most? Is it when the football team loses, when he hammers his thumb, or when his children disrespect authority? In most homes, the former two come with high emotion. Parents would do best to move that emotion to the latter, being sure to accompany this anger with all of the Scripture’s qualifiers.

Is It Ever Right to Deceive My Wife?

Some time back, a Mr. Johnson wrote a post asserting that it is always sinful for individuals to affirm in speech or action something they believe to be false (I’m using Grudem’s definition here, who believes all lying is sinful but not all deceit). Johnson took his mower to the whole field of lying and in one swath condemned any kind of untruth. My good friend Seth generally agreed with him and took his place in the passenger seat, along with John Murray and Augustine in the back. Interestingly, Johnson first quotes the genre of general principles for his dogmatism (Prov. 6:16). His final conclusion he calls “simple”.

But hold your combine just a minute. Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 3:10: “Let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit”, a direct quote from Ps. 34:13. The heading of this psalm says: “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”

So David could not have thought of his deceiving act of madness before the king of Gath in the same category as sinful deceit in v. 13. Thus, it’s not that simple. An ESV note for this chapter says David does not “deny the importance of the faithful using of wits in desperate situations.” Perhaps “does this make me look fat” questions from our wives count as desperate situations.

Which leads to Seth’s astute observation: should we be able to lie to our wives so we don’t hurt their feelings? Okay.

Suppose I’m counseling a couple who also happen to be friends with my wife. In our conversation the wife is Jezbellian in her rudeness to me. I know my shoulders are broad enough to carry this offense and that my wife, as the weaker vessel in this regard, will be tempted to retaliate Ahab-style when we meet together as couples later that month. So when the missus asks me how our time went, I say: “It went fine”.

Isn’t this wisdom, an effort to live with my wife “in an understanding way”, as the apostle says in 1 Peter 3:7 just a few verses before the deceit passage? Doesn’t this kind of withholding of truth belong in the same milieu where deceit is legitimate, such as parables, war, and the flea-flicker? Of course husbands should model truthfulness, should not consistently keep their wives in the dark, and should make grand efforts to inform them of their highs and lows.

But is this the case every time? Is this situation to be viewed as sinfully deceitful? I don’t think so.

A Parent’s Persistent Prayer

bp30The Canaanite’s daughter was wasting away, but when the Mother heard that the Healer was in town, she pounced on him like a dog on a flung stick.

Her story in Matthew 15 is full of emotional upheaval, packed tightly with passionate appeal and near embarrassing groveling. Mom cries (v. 22). Jesus flat ignores her (v. 23). Mom follows the Healer’s friends, only for the disciples to beg Jesus to “send her away” (v. 23). Mom then ignores an apparent racist comment (v. 24). Mom kneels and pleads again (v. 25).

Jesus then says he came to help another race of people. Talk about racial discrimination. But Jesus was testing her faith.

With brazen chutzpah, the Mom pleads again: “Help me” (v. 25). Jesus continues to examine her motives, and as often the case with us, the child is right in the middle of it. Finally, as Spurgeon observed, “The Lord of glory surrenders to the faith of the woman.” Presto. Daughter healed.

Parents must emulate this woman’s dogged prayer. An outsider with so little light had so great faith. John Flavel said: “What mercy was it to us to have parents that prayed for us before they had us, as well as in our infancy when we could not pray for ourselves!” When our children rebel, and suffer, and disobey, and falter, let us remember the “dog’s” tireless prayer from Matthew 15.

Let us pray with unfettered audacity: “Father, give my child a new heart.” With relentless appeals: “Lord, preserve my daughter from a life of rebellion.” With unstinting pleas: “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace” (Ps. 144:12).