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Tim Challies

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men

1 year 4 days ago

I have had to face and overcome a few great fears in life. There was the time I had to meet my [future] father-in-law to ask his permission to marry Aileen. There was the time I first stood in front of a church and attempted to preach a sermon. There was the time I first walked out onto a stage at a conference and attempted to say something intelligible. At times like these I feel the full weight of inadequacy and incomplete preparation. But nothing quite compares to parenting, and parenting girls in particular. Raising a boy sounds simple enough—I have lots of experience being a boy and growing to a man. But raising girls is a whole new world of challenge.

I guess Byron Yawn has felt some of this. He begins the book What Every Woman Wishes Her Father Had Told Her with these words: “I am not a woman” and goes on to explain that he lacks credibility when it comes to writing this very book. Because he is not a woman, he faces quite a disadvantage in writing about women, and about what young women need from their fathers. Wisely (and thankfully) he recruited his wife Robyn to help him, and together they have crafted quite a helpful book.

This is a book about that unique and uniquely amazing father-daughter relationship. And Yawn gets this relationship. He understands that remarkably powerful bond. I am the father of two girls and see it especially in the oldest (though increasingly in the youngest). The way she depends on me, the way she admires me, the way she loves me with such sweet fierceness—all of these intimidate me at times because they show me what a challenge I face in protecting her, in loving her, in leading her, in preparing her. They show me what I stand to lose if I fail.

This book is about “the frameworks of security and love a dad provides (or should) a daughter, allowing her the space of self-discovery and the freedom to grow in her femininity without fear or concern. Dad is a shelter. There are things he can say and do while he has that little girl under his care that help her take flight and stay airborne over the course of her life. It is advice a daughter needs that can only come from dear old dad. This book offers an understanding of the heart of a man, which a woman needs but can only get from the humble confession of a man. A man like dad.”

As he goes, the Yawns cover subjects like love and purity and biblical womanhood and leadership and beauty and strength and so much else. What they write is firmly grounded in biblical truth, yet also very practical in nature. There are equal parts humor and poignancy. They continually push away from cultural cliches, from Christian buzzwords, and from moralism nicely wrapped up in biblical language. In their place they talk about the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection and how it transforms everything about life and parenting and marriage and all the rest.

There is much to commend What Every Woman Wishes Her Father Had Told Her. Yet the book is, unfortunately, not as strong as Yawn’s prequel What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him, largely because at times the Yawns seem to get unmoored from their purpose, and especially so through several middle chapters. It transitions from being a book written to challenge fathers in raising their girls, to a book about women in general. It is at its strongest when it focuses narrowly on the father and his daughter. Those middle chapters are not wasted as they teach important truths in helpful ways. Still, it feels like the book drifts a little bit, almost like there are two books wrapped up between the covers.

It is still a book that is well worth reading and one that contains what it promises: a warm and poignant glimpse at the kind of love every dad can and should have for his daughter. I am thankful to have read it and am grateful for the challenges it levelled at me.

2 years 9 months ago
Byron Yawn has the ignominious distinction of being the first person to ever invite me to be a keynote speaker at a conference. That was a long time ago, and it seems like an even longer time, but he and I have stayed in touch since then and I was excited to hear of his work on a book titled What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him. I had anticipated that I would be reading a book on fatherhood, but was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is actually far more than that.

It seems notable that I am writing this review on the occasion of my son’s twelfth birthday. It is probable that he is already more than half way to striking out on his own, to marrying, to beginning a family. I’ve already used up half of my opportunities to teach him what a father ought to teach his son. This is the kind of thought that can very nearly move me to tears; rarely do I feel less up to the task and more dependent on grace than in fatherhood. In that regard this book was both a challenge and a comfort.

What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him is a book of essays more than it is a book that flows easily and logically from the first chapter to the last; the topics are much like the lessons a father will teach his son in that they meander a little bit, wandering from being a son to being a father and a man and a husband. They extend from biblical manhood to sincerity to pornography to having “the talk” with your son, to integrity. Each one is punctuated by wisdom that is sometimes biblical and sometimes, well, just plain practical (At least to my recollection the Bible doesn’t comment on why you don’t want to cut into a steak to see if it’s ready to eat). These are not lessons for me to teach my son; not first and foremost. These are first lessons I need to learn and apply to my own life. There is a proper order to these things.

The book offers value in its big picture and it offers value in individual sentences or paragraphs. Some of the best of what Yawn teaches (Go ahead and make fun of his last name—it’s all been said before!) comes in the form of pithy quotes and helpful little phrases. 

  • What the church needs are warriors of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not boys trapped in men’s bodies. Gospel ministry on the local church level begins with men. No pastor is truly leading if he is not raising them up.
  • You never move beyond the gospel to a more sophisticated or timely wisdom. There is no more intricate or relevant wisdom than the cross. God has nothing more to offer.
  • That image of Jesus, the maker of heaven and earth, on His knees like a commonplace servant washing the disciples’ feet is the most complete image of manhood known to us.
  • This is a serious gut check. We have to ask ourselves whether or not our desire for change in our spouse is ultimately motivated by a desire for personal happiness or for God’s glory.
  • We have to love Christ more than we love our spouse to actually love our spouse as we should.
  • The cross simultaneously declares two indispensable realities. First, it proclaims the unbelievable news about the grace of God. God loves sinners and sent His Son to redeem them. It is unconditional and radical love on display. Every time we behold it we rejoice. Second, the cross communicates the most brutal assessment of man’s condition we will ever face. We’re worse than we let on. We’ll never be as honest about ourselves as the cross is.

And so on.

The book levels a challenge at me, a challenge to be a better man, which is to say a man who follows the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. It levels a particular challenge as I consider that these are the kinds of lessons I want to convey to my son. Thankfully the book also brings me comfort that the Lord is stronger than I am and that he can fill up what is lacking in me. Even the best of fathers will do an incomplete job, for such is fatherhood in a sinful, distracting, distracted world. Even the best of fathers will end their days with some regret, sorry for all they didn’t teach their sons and all they didn’t accomplish. 

 

What this book offers is interesting, helpful, mature reflections on what it means to be a man, to be a husband, to be a father. These are the little pearls of wisdom that too few men bequeath to their sons. This is manhood at its best, not some pathetic Eldredge-like counterfeit, but manhood grounded in the gospel and reflecting Jesus Christ.

If you’re not convinced, perhaps you’d like to view a trailer for it first.

3 years 9 months ago
As a social experiment it could hardly have been devised better. Put 33 men 2300 feet underground and seal them in with limited supplies and with no guarantee that they will be rescued. Then leave them there for 69 days. What would happen? Would they divide into packs and begin to destroy one another a la Lord of the Flies? Would they resort to cannibalism? Would they resort to homosexuality? These are the questions people were asking when just such an accident happened at the San Jose copper-gold mine in the Atacama Desert near Copiapo, Chile. 33 men were trapped when a slab of rock the size of a skyscraper came between them and the outside world. And all the world watched to see if they could be saved from their tomb.

The last man was rescued from that mine on the 13th of October, 2010. On February 14, 2011 33 Men hit store shelves, a book detailing the disaster and response. 4 months. That hardly seems like enough time to write a book, not to mention fact-check it and edit it and print it. But I’ve got to say, this isn’t a bad book at all. It’s well-written and engaging and, as far as I can tell, quite accurate.

What I find particularly interesting is not the disaster in itself. A mine collapsed, men were trapped and a massive rescue operation was launched. It’s a good story. But what was even more interesting to me were the social, psychological and spiritual dynamics. What would happen when 33 men were trapped deep underground, completely isolated for 17 days and then then in touch with the world but still cut off for a further 52 days? What kind of society would develop? How would the men behave?

Quite well, it seems. At least, initially. The first day or two was rough as the men struggled to adapt to their new reality. “As those first hours passed, the thirty-three miners began to act like a roaming band of hungry animals, haphazardly s––g and urinating throughout their reduced world. Ignoring calls for group unity, they set up disparate caves in random corners of the tunnel. Few of the men slept that first night.”

But it did not take long for the men to begin some kind of order. They divided into 3 camps, but remained relatively peaceful. “By 6:30 am on Day 3 the men were awake and ready for prayer. Henriquez was cheerful and promised that God would respond to their prayers. Every day that passed, his sermons and prayers felt like a lifeline, a single feature to grab on to and hold tight. The rescue might or might not be coming close, but the miner’s faith was helping sustain them. They began to refer to Jesus as ‘the thirty-fourth miner.’” If there are no atheists in foxholes it seems that there are none trapped in mines either; even the least devout was driven to his knees in desperation.

There were some power struggles, but quickly the men settled into a routine. A leader stepped up. They divided the food equitably, each consuming about 100 calories a day—not nearly enough to sustain them for any time. But in their desperation they allowed themselves to be led and they carried on with some semblance of order. On day 17 a drill head popped into their world and with it a link to the outside world.

With this link to the world came trouble. Though that link was nothing more than a 3.5 inch tube, it was a conduit for a surprising number of items. Some where the very stuff of life—food and medicine. But there also came drugs—marijuana and amphetamines. Those on the ground even investigated a way of sending blow-up sex dolls down the tube, but finally settled for passing along a quantity of pornography (something you probably don’t remember seeing on CNN). Down the tube came a projector and a screen. And down another tube came a communications cable. And now the men had television. “What really screwed us up was the TV. When the TV arrived, it ruined the communications, it was a big problem… Some of the guys would just stare at it; they were hypnotized and watched it all day. … Fights and arguments erupted from the constant battle over which channel to watch. Urzua called up and complained that the TV was ‘destroying the organization’ and asked for the broadcasts to be limited to news, some soccer and the occasional movie.”

When the men began to achieve some level of celebrity, 2300 feet below the surface, even more problems began. “Divisions among the group began to surge. Luis Urzua was unhappy that some of the miners … had acquired a video camera and were filming the others. And when a copy of Ya magazine arrived with an interview in which Sepluveda bragged that he was ‘the leader’ of the pack, further squabbles erupted.” Soon the men were fighting over who would be their representative to the outside world. A public relations expert was called in to coach them on the fame that would await when they were rescued. Pacts were drawn up to promise that all money would be divided equitably and that none of them would speak of certain events that had happened far below. Those pacts wouldn’t survive the first twenty-four hours after rescue, a rescue that was watched by up to a billion people worldwide.

This event brought out the best and the worst of those above ground and those below. For every noble and selfless deed there was another ugly and self-serving one. For every good guy there was a bad guy, for every smile a tear. It’s a fascinating little study of humanity.

What did I learn from 33 Men? I learned that people crave order and authority. Though we tend to rebel against both of these, we hate their absence even more than their presence. When these men were trapped outside of society’s structures of authority, they quickly created their own. They knew that they would need them in order to survive.

And I know that there is a further lesson in what happened with the establishment of that link to the outside world. There was the draw of fame that caused the men to begin to turn on one another. That thin tube brought them life in food and medicine, but it also brought death in drugs and fame and pornography. I just can’t crystallize that lesson in my mind. Without that tube they would have died, but even with that tube some kind of death came into that mine. It was a great blessing and it was a great curse.

33 Men is just the first of what is bound to be many books on the disaster and rescue. I doubt it will prove the best. But it’s a good start and well worth a quick read.

4 years 10 months ago
I read recently of a researcher who wanted to study the effects of pornography on young adult males. He carefully built the structure for the study, determining how he would compare young men who had experienced pornography with a control group comprised of those who had never come into contact it. Tragically this researcher had to cancel his study. He found that he was unable to put together a control group; he could not find young men who had not discovered pornography. The experiment was impossible to conduct.

That is the kind of society we live in today, a society that is absolutely overwhelmed with pornography. The lure of porn is almost irresistible, particularly to young men. If the devil wanted to find a way of destroying young men, of impacting the ability for men to relate properly to women, of disrupting families and hardening hearts, he could hardly do better than this.

Much has been written in recent years about pornography. But new to store shelves is a book that is different from all the others, at least all of the other books targeted at a Christian audience. William Struthers’ Wired for Intimacy looks not primarily to the heart but to the brain. He shows how the male brain is hard-wired for intimacy and relationships and how pornography affects the male brain. He says “Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives. … When we better understand the devastating spiritual, psychological, social and biological reality of how pornography violates our unique position in God’s creation, we will be better able to minister to hose who have been wounded by it.”

What he provides is a well-rounded understanding of how pornography affects men. He looks beyond the usual—beyond the moral and ethical and legal and even spiritual. He shows that pornography is also a physical matter, “rooted in the biological intricacies of our sexual design.” Though there is value in books that look from the other angles, “calls to pray harder, move the computer to the living room and get plugged into an accountability group only go so far. They come across as hollow to many men whose brains have been altered and rewired by their experiences with pornography. They have trained their brains to respond sexually to the pornography they consume.”

Though there is value in reading this entire book, the heart of the book is the brain. In one chapter right in the middle of the book Struthers provides a primer on the brain and shows both how sexuality is hard-wired into the brain and how pornography can disrupt that God-given capacity. He shows that in many ways the male brain is built as an ideal receiver for pornography; the capacity of the brain to pursue intimacy with a wife is very easily disrupted and perverted by a desire to look at pornography. The wiring that ought to be used to pursue intimacy with one woman can easily be disrupted and used to pursue a kind of false intimacy with an endless succession of women. Men who have become consumed with pornography will have to admit with the author that “they have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image. Repeated exposure to pornography creates a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. It is hemmed in on either side by high containment walls making escape nearly impossible.”

What Struthers both claims and (at least to my mind) proves is that looking at pornography and acting out to it creates neural pathways that disrupt the “normal” pathways. As pornography use and acting out to it become habitual, the pathways become more and more pronounced and, therefore, more difficult to overcome. Soon a man has rewired his brain in such a way that true intimacy becomes a challenge. Pornography addiction and sexual compulsion is built in the brain and involves “the visual system (looking at porn), the motor system (masturbating), the sensory system (genital stimulation) and neurological effect of orgasm (sexual euphoria from opiates, addictive dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and reduced fear in the amygdale). They have now begun to store this pattern as a reinforced neurological habit.” Seeing how he gets here and seeing how the various parts of the brain work together to make a man desire sexual fulfillment is well worth the price of the book.

The author’s work in showing how the brain can be rewired (and miswired) through pornography is undoubtedly the most important contribution of the book. But I found great benefit in looking at his description of the sexual nature of the brain outside the context of pornography. Here we see how God has fearfully and wonderfully constructed human sexuality and has deeply integrated it into the inner workings of the brain. This section proves that a man’s desire to make love to his wife is not purely psychological or even mental, but something that is deeply neurological. I hardly even know how to describe it except to urge you to read this book and discover it for yourself. You will stand amazed at what God has done.

Before I close let me say that some Christians may be tempted to assume that Struthers will defend men who look at pornography claiming that “their brains made them do it.” But this is not at all the case. While the male brain does predispose men to be drawn to nudity and drawn to images of sexuality, this does not provide an excuse for indulging. To the contrary, it challenges men to be exceedingly careful about what they view and it makes them doubly responsible before God for images they’ve consumed. The implications of the neurological basis for human sexuality call men to purity before God in a whole new way.

Wired for Intimacy is a book we need. With pornography increasingly reaching epidemic proportions, this book helps us understand it at a whole new level. And it calls us to deal with human sexuality in a way that acknowledges all of its dimensions—moral, ethical, psychological, spiritual and physical. I give Wired for Intimacy my highest recommendation.

7 years 6 months ago
Years ago I found a beat-up old box that contained a stack of musty books. I suppose they must have belonged to my father or grandfather and that they had long since been forgotten. They were interesting books, clearly targeted at boys of a different age. They had stories of pirates, heroic tales of valor and suggestions for activities that would appeal to any boy. It seems that books like this were all the rage once upon a time. Children needed to entertain themselves and this type of book gave them the suggestions they needed to keep busy.

The Dangerous Book for Boys looks just like those old books I uncovered. It is hardcover and over-sized with old-school gold printing on the cover. Even the inside covers are covered with that old marbled paper that used to adorn books. It looks like a relic of days gone by and that is clearly exactly as the authors want it. Already a runaway bestseller in Britain, the book has recently been Americanized and launched to great acclaim here in North America where the publisher expects to sell several million copies.

The book is for boys. Most girls will find little to enjoy and very little to inspire them. It is dangerous only to companies like Sony and Nintendo (and perhaps the occasional rabbit) as it teaches boys to love the outdoors and to use their imaginations to see the wonder of the great outdoors. It teaches them what they need to know to be busy, energetic, adventurous boys (which is exactly what God intends for boys!). The chapters read like a list of the things I loved to do and to read as a boy: How to Play Stickball; The Greatest Paper Airplane in the World; Fishing; Table Football; Secret Inks (and no, they don’t shy away from suggesting that urine is useful in creating secret messages); Extraordinary Stories; Skipping Stones; Juggling; Insects and Spiders; Books Every Boy Should Read; and on and on through 270 pages.

The following brief excerpts will serve to provide an idea of the content. The first two come from a section entitled “Essential Gear” which describes things an adventuresome boy will need to keep in his pockets at all times:

Handkerchief - “There are many uses for a piece of cloth, from preventing smoke inhalation or helping with a nosebleed to offering one to a girl when she cries. Big ones can even be made into slings. They’re worth having.”

Needle and thread - “Again, there are a number of useful things you can do with these, from sewing up a wound on an unconscious dog to repairing a torn shirt. Make sure the thread is strong and then it can be used for fishing.”

Later in the book is a section about how to hunt, clean and cook a rabbit:

Skinning the Rabbit

This is not a difficult process, though it is a little daunting the first time. If you have a heavy-bladed cleaver, simply chop off the four paws. If you are stuck with only a penknife, break the forearm bones with a quick jerk, then cut the skin around the break in a ring. Remove the head in the same way. A serrated edge will cut through the bones, but a standard kitchen knife is likely to be damaged if used as a chopper.

 

The section discussing girls is not only filled with useful advice, but also downright hilarious. And, in fact, that quirky British humor is in evidence from the first to the last. Like most young boys, the book does not take itself too seriously.

Christian parents will want want to be aware of a couple of small concerns. When discussing ancient history and dinosaurs, the book turns, as we’d expect, to evolution as its explanation of the world’s origins. Also, while the list of suggested reading is really quite good, it does offer a handful of titles, especially for older boys, that may not be entirely appropriate (such as books by Stephen King). There are a few titles that wouldn’t top my list of recommendations. Finally, one of the suggested activities involves role playing games (with Dungeons & Dragons heading the list) and this may make some parents uncomfortable. There is no great cause for concern, though, as the book has far more positives than potential negatives.

Books like The Dangerous Book for Boys may be just the antidote we need to see boys begin to break the inactivity that seems to plague so many of them these days. There is something delightfully politically incorrect about a book with instructions on how to kill, skin and cook a rabbit. And for a boy, there is something delightfully challenging about trying it. Bound to be a popular gift item this Christmas (and probably this summer as well), I gladly recommend this book and trust it will drag many boys outside to enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature and to just enjoy being boys. Those childhood years don’t last long enough. This book is sure to create many great memories of those years.

10 years 11 months ago

After reviewing the deeply flawed “Every Man’s Battle I mentioned that I would read another book with the same theme of sexual purity. To that end I purchased “When Good Men Are Tempted” by Bill Perkins. It is an honest and often disturbing look at the subject. The book claims that “Bill Perkins details a plan for sexual integrity – one that works. He shows men how to achieve a purity that will preserve the sanctity of their marriages, the security of their families, the vitality of their walks with God, and the strength of their relationships with their brothers in Christ.”

The book begins with an attempt to understand the struggle men face. Perkins shows why naked women look so good and why other naked women look even better than our wives. He speaks of the addictive cycle of trying to repeat “young love” or our first sexual experiences. We want to be able to relive the original excitement we felt during those often illicit experiences. He illustrates these concepts with the example of Samson.

The author’s solution to this problem surrounding lust is simply to raise the white flag. We need to surrender to God and admit the problem rather than run from it or try to hide it. Lust, he says, cannot be overpowered, reformed or starved. It needs to be dealt with and dealt with now! To be dealt with it needs to be dragged into the light so we can deal with the shame and guilt. We need to admit specific sins to God and ask Him for His forgiveness.

The close of this section contains a chapter regarding families of origin. This chapter is confusing and often left me confused as the author discussed the codependent roles we assumed as part of our families and how this leads to problems with purity later in life.

Having admitted the struggle, we are now able to find freedom. To do this we must choose our master and count the cost of the one we will choose. To cease a lifestyle of lust the cost of continuing needs to be higher than the cost of quitting. We need to see that continuing in a lifestyle will have consequences in our relationships with our families, our spouses and most importantly, with God. We need to realize that God can fix us and that He wants to fix us. As He fixes us He will help us discover the new men we are through Him. Through Him we have a new perspective, new presence and new power. With these we can now begin to break the addictive cycle that continually leads us to sin. The practical suggestions the author provides are: memorize Scripture, call on God and find what rituals lead us to sin and learn to break those rituals.

The final section focuses mostly on building accountability relationships with other men. Every man needs ally himself with a small group of men who can help him win the battle against lust by holding him accountable. There is a small section about sex and ideas for spicing up a sex life, followed by a chapter detailing some “tools for tight corners” that can be used in a moment of weakness.

The book is written in a personable way that leaves the reader feeling like he has had a personal chat with the author. Perkins admits his own weaknesses, leaving the reader comfortable admitting his own. Perhaps the greatest strength in this book is the emphasis on the “why” of sexual temptation. Having an understanding of the reasons behind temptation gives a solid perspective on how to deal with it. The author does not attempt to blame our lust on Satan, but emphasizes that our sin is ultimately our own and we need to deal with it. If the emphasis on the “why” is the strong point of the book, I would suggest that the “how” is the weak point. It may be, though, that I am looking for a magical key to stopping sinful behavior. Still, as with Every Man’s Battle I am left hoping that God truly can remove this sin, rather than just masking it and helping us deal with it time and time again.

In the end, this book does a far better job of dealing with the subject than “Every Man’s Battle” and it receives my recommendation.

Title: When Good Men Are Tempted
Author: Bill Perkins
Published: 1997