Manliness in Marriage: The How-to Guide to Preparing for Marriage

No one will mistake me for the classic manly man — I currently have no beard, I’ve never really hunted or killed anything (on purpose at least), and I’m only a fan in theory of camping.

When I was a single guy, I knew that one day I’d need some “manly” skills — and not necessarily the gun-toting, camo-wearing kind. More like the “I-just-need-this-in-life” kind.

A band of brothers.

A band of brothers.

It started with a group of young guys I went to college with. We identified a man we respected and asked him to “teach us his ways.” We all realized that there were so many basic masculine skills we were missing from our “toolbox.”

Then and there we started our weekly gathering called the “Band of Brothers.” Over the course of a few months, we learned how to be men. Here’s what we learned and how you can recreate the same thing (including but not limited to how to roof a house, fire a gun, sharpen a knife, change a tire, change the oil, dress like a man, cook meat, and use tools).

The Syllabus 

Before we began the process, a syllabus was created to guide us. It opened with this course description:

It has been rightly said that higher education grooms the mind, but neglects the body.  It could be added that the social construct of men is designed to be developed outside of the classroom by accomplishing difficult tasks amidst hard work.  Many times this takes the form of sports.  However, we need to equip men in their masculinity who will in turn lead other men and develop a culture of expressed masculinity.  This is an essential component of theological education and equipping for ministry – regardless of what that ministry might look like.

The syllabus continued and emphasized the danger in having only mental knowledge with no knowledge of several basic masculine skills:

Many men leave college uniquely equipped to handle and apply the specific knowledge needing in their respective fields.  However, the student’s ability to impact culture can sometimes be undermined by a lack of knowledge about more masculine areas of interest.  In their churches and workplaces they will gain credibility, broaden their impact, and increase their leadership profile if they properly learn several basic masculine skills.

The syllabus also included a brief schedule, some recommended reading, and contact information.

What We Learned 

I can’t emphasize enough how formative and helpful this was to me and the other men who took time each Tuesday to learn a new skill.

Every week for a semester we would gather together to learn a new skill, often times being taught by a subject-matter expert — a police officer, a Navy SEAL, or a school president for example. These lessons included (but we not limited to):

  1. Roofing a house
  2. Firing, disassembling, and cleaning guns
  3. Building fires without matches
  4. Learning the basic components of an engine
  5. Changing tires, oil, and spark plugs in a car
  6. Learning and using basic tools
  7. Sharpening and using knives
  8. Backing up a trailer
  9. Driving a tractor
  10. Stringing a barbed wire fence
  11. Dressing for corporate functions (a.k.a, “dressing to kill”)
  12. Administering battlefield first aid
  13. Camping without a tent
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Old blue, the truck I applied much of my learning to a few years later.

In each and every category we learned as much as possible and did as much hands-on training and learning that time would allow. On some occasions, one of those in the group would be tasked with researching and teaching the next week. It gave us an opportunity to both learn something new and to learn how to teach and lead other men.

Recommendations 

This is by no means an exhaustive description of how to do this. We met once a week. You could gather a group of young guys together once a month to learn a new skill. The bottom line is this: I think this type of “class” is needed. I can’t emphasize enough how formative and helpful this was to me and the other men who took time each Tuesday to learn a new skill.

In summary, here’s what you need to do:

  • Identify a man who “knows” it all and ask him to teach you or a group of men
  • Put together a plan (syllabus if you need to) and write the plan down
  • Meet no matter what
  • Use subject matter experts where you’re lacking

Looking forward to reading your comments and answering any questions you may have.

Reformational Manhood: A Book Review

On my shelf at home is a big blue book filled with letters. When I turned thirteen, my Dad enlisted all of the influential men in my life at that time to write me letters as I entered “mahood.” He put them all in this wonderful blue book. His letter along with all of those men’s words of wisdom and specific insight into my life as a young teenager continues to be influential. That book is one of my most prized possessions, something I reference on a regular basis. Directly beside that book is a red and ratty notebook that I filled during my college years. It contains notes upon notes specifically about manhood, leadership, marriage, ministry, and wisdom I collected from professors, pastors, and mentors. I look to that book again and again as well.

Recently I received a copy of Reformational Manhood by Greg Gibson, who I consider a friend. Greg is a man whose life reflects everything he teaches, and his new book is no exception. I couldn’t help but think about my big blue book full of letters and my ratty red notebook as I read through Reformational Manhood. Greg’s journey into understanding and practicing manhood according to Scripture has been similar to my own. Reformational Manhood was just like sitting down with one of my pastors or mentors and having them “teach me their ways.” It’s an experience that is both refreshing and convicting all at once.

One could argue that I say that only because I’m a friend to Greg, but I say it with all sincerity and honesty. I’ll speak clearly: this is a book worth putting on your shelf. I have very few hesitations in handing this book to a young man. My complaints are few and far from condemning this book. My concerns are two-fold: the book should be more concise and the layout is distracting.

When I picked up Reformational Manhood, I tried to read like (I think) the target audience of young men whom I might pass this book on to. I know many who are avid readers and can tear through any amount of pages, and anyone can argue that 121 pages is not difficult to read. I felt incredibly comfortable when Greg opted to short and concise lists – but when he talked extensively about statistics and had other extended portions of the book without much breaks it became difficult to read. That is tied to the second issue: perhaps a reformatting of the book might solve some of those issues. It’s more of an aesthetic complaint, but I felt that the font and formatting made the book unnecessarily hard to read.

I would have liked something formatted in the style of Don’t Waste Your Life or another book similar in length and content. All of that said, the strengths of this book are overwhelming. Few books dive deep into both Scripture on manhood and have such an extensive amount of practical advice. Greg strikes the balance well: I felt like I was sitting across from him as he opened up the Scriptures and offered specific advice to me. His chapters on being protector and provider were timely and convicting to me.

I learned how to honor my wife even better because of Greg. However, most importantly this book does not lose sight of the gospel and the example of Jesus Christ. Too often books like this can stray from the foundation of manhood and make it all about wearing camo hats and shooting guns. Greg consistently brings out the eternal, biblical and lasting definitions and shoots down cultural stereotypes. Get this book for the young men in your life.

They will thank you one day as they put it beside their often referenced blue books and red notebooks.

// Purchase Reformational Manhood on Amazon //

Men Without Chests

Perhaps it’s because I’m married and have a daughter, or perhaps it’s because I’m feeling a little older lately — but I’ve become increasingly more aware of what can only be called small bursts of anarchy. It’s not the bloody guillotine or living-homeless-outside-Wall Street anarchy, but rather the small moments of the day to day that I see the tiny eruptions. Andrew Walker pointed out an excellent piece by Mark Steyn entitled “Knockouts High and Low” in the National Review Online. In this article, he highlights for us C.S. Lewis’ book The Abolition Of Man: 

In his book The Abolition of Man, he writes of “men without chests” — the chest being “the indispensable liaison” between the head and the gut, between “cerebral man” and “visceral man.” In the chest beat what Lewis calls “the trained emotions.” Without them there is no honor or virtue, but only “intellect” and/or “appetite.”

Steyn describes the newest despicable “game” teens are calling “Knockout,” where a white (or Asian or Hispanic) victim is chosen on a street. A large group will roam the street looking for the victim, identify them, and attempt to knock him or her to the ground in one punch.

There’s a virtually limitless supply of targets: In New York, a 78-year-old woman was selected, and went down nice and easy, as near-octogenarian biddies tend to when sucker-punched. But, when you’re really rockin’, you can not only floor the unsuspecting sucker but kill him: That’s what happened to 46-year-old Ralph Santiago of Hoboken, N.J., whose head was slammed into an iron fence, whereupon he slumped to the sidewalk with his neck broken. And anyway the one-punch rule is flexible: In upstate New York, a 13-year-old boy socked 51-year-old Michael Daniels but with insufficient juice to down him. So his buddy threw a bonus punch, and the guy died from cerebral bleeding. Widely available video exists of almost all Knockout incidents, since the really cool thing is to have your buddies film it and upload it to YouTube. And it’s so simple to do in an age when every moronic savage has his own “smart phone.”

From here, Steyn leads us to Lewis’ brilliant comment that “No justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous” and also to Walter Williams statement that “A society’s first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions, and moral values. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. Policemen and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct.” The reality is, as Steyn says, “Restraint is an unfashionable concept these day.” This is not a new thing. But in our specific culture, I do believe it continues to be a increasing reality. The daily run-ins I have with seeming barbarism and anarchy seems to increase on a daily basis, as if the front-page news is trying to break into my daily life experiences. It happens in the grocery store check-out line tantrums (by adults), the fast-food drive-thru line (ask a fast-food worker), the movie theater (is it just me, or do more people think they can drink beer and talk during movies than ever before?), and the general disrespect for authority. I’m really not trying to sound like a stuffed shirt who is shocked that people act like people. I am saying that it’s more prevalent than before. Destroyed by What We Love Another individual that Steyn highlights in his article but for a moment is Aldous Huxley. Huxley, C.S. Lewis, and John F. Kennedy all died on the same day. Huxley’s Brave New World hit on the themes of the destruction of civilization. In contrast to George Orwell’s 1984, in which humanity was destroyed by what it hated and controlled by pain, Huxley’s World was one in which humanity was destroyed by what it loved. As Christians, we ought not be surprised to find truth in both Lewis’ understanding that without “men with chests” we find ourselves drawn into and destroyed by what we love — that is, ourselves. Whether it be unrestrained “visceral man” or “cerebral man,” the root of it all is a giving over to either “appetite” or “intellect”   (see “Theology of ‘No Church in the Wild‘” for recent cultural and musical example of both sides of this coin). Paul spoke about all of these realities in Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

What Do We Do?  I think anyone can decry the decay of society, and point out the root and heart at the debasement of our culture. Anyone with eyes can see the depths of our depravity and can identify both major incidents and small sparks of barbarism and anarchy. The real question is what do we do with what we see? We don’t despair. We don’t hate. We don’t walk away. Instead, we stand today as a prophetic minority in our culture. As Christians, we know the end of the story, and it’s not a doom and gloom story we’re told to be preaching. It’s one of victory over the very things we’re seeing in our culture today. As Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has said, “We were never promised the culture would embrace us.” Instead, we have been called to be salt and light in a dark world, standing as defenders of an increasingly unpopular faith and moral system.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

 

Four Lies About Faithfulness

So often we buy into the lies of not only the world around us, but also our own “Christian” culture about faithfulness. Normal, nameless ministry is no longer acceptable. Small churches, although frankly the norm, are not considered something to pursue. For many of us who are young, we want to really change the culture around us any way that we can. The common belief is that those at “the top” are the game changers, the trendsetters, and the culture shifters. I don’t believe it for a second. And so I present to you four lies that we often buy about faithfulness.

Lie #1: My present actions hold no consequences This is completely false. If you spent time with any man or woman over 65, they would all tell you that their teen and early formative years proved to be extremely influential on who they are and who they became. What you do right now, the seeds you plant, will one day come forth and produce some kind of fruit. You will receive the consequences, whether good or bad, from the way you live right now. Don’t waste your time right now. Prepare yourself for the future by being faithful with what you have right now.

Never forget that humble, quiet faithfulness is truly great.

Lie #2: Big always equals great Faithfulness and true greatness usually happen in private. Being “big” or “famous” does not mean that you are “great.” True greatness is often found, and usually found, in the small and humble who are faithfully serving day in and day out. I could probably argue that the President of the United States is great – but what about his mother, or his teachers, or any number of people who have influences and affected him and helped him be the man he is today? Never forget that humble, quiet faithfulness is truly great.

Lie #3: Fame always means effectiveness Faithfulness doesn’t need praise or immediate results. It realizes that although it may seem that those who are famous seem effective, those who are faithfully plodding with have fruit that lasts for eternity. That’s not to say that fame doesn’t mean effectiveness. That’s not it at all. God uses people and places them in special situations to have influence. But it does not negate the fact that those who are faithfully with where they are and with what they have can have just as much effectiveness for the Kingdom of God as those who are effective as “famous” people.

Lie #4: Small people don’t make a difference in the world There are hundreds of stories that could expose this lie. I’ve told the story of my great-grandmother time and time again. She was a “nobody” in the general sense, yet I know hundreds of people have been changed through the ministry that she and my great-grandfather had with them. I am certain there are untold stories of faithful saints who have served in relative obscurity – yet they will be given the greatest seat when we enter heaven. Do not despair if you find yourself in a small place. Be faithful to the end.

Smallness

“This recognition of smallness is like finding childhood again. Stars are more dazzling this way, sleep feels more peaceful, and the breezes are sweeter. I am small; yes, small enough to see that my continued humming along in this vast expanse is a miracle.” — Hannah Farver

Christian Values Are the Problem

From Dr. Albert Mohler: 

A recent letter to columnist Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post seemed straightforward enough. “I am a stay-at-home mother of four who has tried to raise my family under the same strong Christian values that I grew up with,” the woman writes. “Therefore I was shocked when my oldest daughter, ‘Emily,’ suddenly announced she had ‘given up believing in God’ and decided to ‘come out’ as an atheist.” The idea of a 16-year-old atheist in the house would be enough to alarm any Christian parent, and rightly so. The thought that a secular advice columnist for The Washington Post might be the source of help seems very odd, but desperation can surely lead a parent to seek help almost anywhere. You usually get what you expect from an advice columnist like this — therapeutic counsel based in a secular worldview and a deep commitment to personal autonomy. Carolyn Hax responds to this mother with an admonition to respect the integrity of her daughter’s declaration of non-belief. She adds, “Parents can and should teach their beliefs and values, but when a would-be disciple stops believing, it’s not a ‘decision’ or ‘choice’ to ‘reject’ church or family or tradition or virtue or whatever else has hitched a cultural ride with faith.

Read the rest here.