Book Plunge: Loving Him Well

What do I think of Gary Thomas’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sometimes when you read marriage books, it’s good to read books written for the opposite sex. You can actually learn about yourself by doing that. Gary Thomas’s book in this category is not an exception, though I would encourage men also to read Cherish, which I have reviewed here, to learn about cherishing wives, and wives can learn how to cherish husbands.

Thomas writes starting off that marriage does not define a woman. The image of God does. Marriage is great and you should want to be loved by your husband and have a great marriage, but if you’re not, that doesn’t change your worth and value as a human being. That’s a really good message to those of us who are husbands who don’t always do the best as well!

He also tells women that if they want to influence their husbands (You can’t change him. You can only influence him.), they must be connected to God first. The relationship with Him is always primary. If a husband puts a wife above God or a wife puts her husband above God, it will only damage the marriage.

Thomas also shares in the book the main saying behind his Sacred Marriage. What if God didn’t create marriage to make us happy, but to make us holy? It’s too easy to look at the relationship and say you’re not happy anymore so it’s time to get out. Thomas encourages women to fill their heads with Scripture and be just as eager to be supportive wives of their husbands as they were on day one.

Thomas also shares a statistic that should surprise many wives. In a survey done, husbands said they love their wives more than their wives love them. While we can consider many men might exaggerate in a survey and how the question was asked, many men I know could say the same kind of thing. Husbands can often feel like we don’t matter.

Thomas encourages wives to realize as James 3 says, that we all stumble in many ways. No husband is perfect, and I fully confess that that includes me. Have grace for him. You are not going to find a husband who is perfect in every way. He’s going to make mistakes.

It could be tempting to look at his weaknesses and compare them to someone else’s strengths. This would be unfair to him. It undermines your husband’s strengths and the other man’s weaknesses. Let your husband be himself and have grace when he falls.

Also, we want you to be happy when you see us, as Thomas says. Thomas tells about a bus driver who the people are so happy when he shows up and they can finally get to their destination. The driver says in his account that he wishes his wife would look at him with such joy when he got home.

This gets us to Thomas’s first rule. Stop taking your husband for granted. Yes. We husbands can do this too. Marry the girl and then sit on the couch watching TV and don’t romance them. Yes. And you know what many husbands also say? Their wives could hardly keep their hands off of them when they were dating and they were fully excited about them, but after that ring comes on, they lose interest. Keep in mind, neither side is right in treating the other like that. Both of them changed. Thomas encourages women to love, accept, and honor their imperfect husband.

Btw, a little caveat here. In all of this, Thomas says he is assuming you are married to a good man who is really trying hard to please you. He is not talking about someone who is abusive to you or someone who is watching pornography and being unrepentant.

Thomas also says guys rise to praise. You build a man up by praising him. You tear him down by criticizing him. This isn’t just husbands and wives. This is also mothers and sons and other relationships between males and females.

Wives can also often stew privately with themselves asking why their men don’t do XYZ. Why don’t we? Simple. We don’t know what to do. Romance does not come naturally to a man and too many women have the Disney Princess or fairy tale fantasy of their guy being perfect. He’s not. We men just don’t know what do and we honestly hate that. Women. Please stop trying to hint to us what you want. Just tell us directly.

Sheila Wray Gregoire has written as an example on ten ways to indicate to your husband he’s going to be getting lucky this evening. The tenth way is to just say it. This way works the best. As an example of how hints don’t work, my own wife has told me about times when she’s been in the mood and I missed it and….

*Steps away from writing to go and mourn*

Okay. Where was I? Oh. Yeah. Don’t hint.

Thomas does say it’s a myth that the more your husband loves you, the more he’ll be able to read your mind. It’s a very sweet myth. It’s also total nonsense. It just doesn’t work.

Thomas also says husbands work hard to please their wives because we respond to praise and our wives adore us. Be disappointed around us and let down and we lose motivation. If we think we’re not impressing you, it kills our motivation to try. Should we try anyway? Yes. Still, women can make it far easier on their husbands.

He also tells about Laura Doyle who wrote The Surrendered Wife. Doyle went and asked husbands what they wanted from their wives. She figured her husband wanted the same things then. What did she do? Stopped nagging, cut out complaints and criticisms, let him lead in major decisions, and here comes the really controversial one, sex whenever he wanted it. Believe it or not, she got a fabulous husband out of the deal! Does it always work that way? No. Is it more likely that things will work that way? Yes.

Thomas also encourages women to not talk to their husbands the way they talk to their mother, sisters, girl friends, etc. If you want him to turn off the TV and just talk, good luck. At the end of the day, men can often want to turn their minds off. (Not an ironclad rule. I can do some great work at night, but usually if I’m watching TV, I don’t want serious discussion then.)

Bottom line here. Your husband won’t think or act like a woman. Don’t expect him to. Ironically, I also think we husbands tend to expect our wives to think and act like men. (Hey. Sex is free fun and bonding and we both like it, so why wouldn’t she want to? She doesn’t? Well, I guess she doesn’t really care about me. It really is amazing to read advice for wives and realize we husbands have our own counterparts.)

Thomas also says men don’t like to talk about painful feelings and emotions. Women like to work them out. Men don’t because the discussion themselves actually hurts them. They need time to process things. If you see your husband in pain over an emotion, just listen for the time being and give him a few hours to process things. Push and he will just react negatively. Why do men stonewall and such then? It’s self-defense. We avoid the talk because it is painful.

It’s also said that men when asked what they want, after sex and affirmation, said they want to have fun without feeling guilty. If a man asks for excessive time out, that’s one thing, but if he just wants one night a week to go hang out with the guys or just wants to watch a football game or play a video game some, let him. Don’t guilt him. I have actually said something I like is when my wife watches me plays video games and is supportive.

Sometime ago we had a friend over and he was working on my wife’s bass so I decided to play some Mega Man 11. Unfortunately, I kept having a hard time on a level and my wife loved to point it out. She asked why I was getting upset and my friend, a single guy, said, “Because you’re hurting his manhood.” Does that sound silly? Perhaps, but it’s also true. The message a man gets is “You’re incapable.” Men hate that message.

Thomas also has some sections on common concerns. The first is a husband who is angry. Now every husband has some anger and not all anger is wrong. Insult my wife on Facebook and watch that anger come out of me. When we do get angry with our wives, including me, we regret it. We’re ashamed. Help us out of that and you do a tremendous service.

One situation described is one my wife and I dealt with. My wife likes to go out to eat. I don’t care for it. Then sometime recently, my wife said “I like to do that because it’s something we do together.” That changes it. For me, I am not a food person and it’s kind of a necessary evil. My Princess had thought I saw this the same way. I don’t. Now that gives us something to work on. The example given in the book is shopping. A guy will normally not want to just go shopping, especially if he likes to make sure the money is secure. Instead, tell him you want to go out just because you want to be with him and you don’t have to buy anything. He’ll be much more open.

Thomas also says to properly challenge. Stand up to your husband not in disrespect, but in respect. “Honey. You’re better than this.  You’re hurting yourself and us. Be the man I want you to be here.” That will work so much better.

What about helping your husband become more involved at home? How many guys seem married to their work. Here’s one tip that comes to my mind immediately. Men tend to go where the respect is. If he thinks work gives him more respect than you, well guess where he will more often go. Again, that doesn’t make it right, but it does explain it. The same happens with hobbies. If a man feels a greater sense of accomplishment beating a boss on Final Fantasy than he gets with his wife, guess where he will more likely go to.

In this case, the wife changed herself and learned to be supportive and asked the husband what he wanted. One simple request was to prepare meals the kids like. Why? He wanted to come home to a peaceful home. The wife would just insist the kids eat what she gave them and that caused friction. A husband wants to come home to peace and not to more friction.

The wife also worked on being in a good mood around her husband. He also wanted her to be more fun. Go on fishing and hunting trips with him. I remember one story being told elsewhere about a guy who wanted his wife to join him on a hunting trip. They sat all day in one spot waiting for ducks to come. Nothing happened. Nothing. The wife considered it a waste. On the way back, the husband remarked how awesome it was. Why? They were doing something together he enjoyed and she wasn’t complaining. And no wives, they weren’t there having sex when the ducks weren’t coming. You can do things with your husband he will enjoy and appreciate besides sex.

All of this also came from a new commitment to Christ by the wife. What happened? Her husband wanted to come home. A husband will also change for a wife who shows commitment to him. If he thinks her commitment is growing lax, his tendency is to change his as well. Men want to know their wives will be with them in everything. If they don’t think that, it’s like a betrayal to them.

Also, if a man loves a woman and he realizes his actions hurt her, it causes him pain. Recently, a therapist told me that Allie and I weren’t emotionally connecting. It was hurting Allie. Allie told me the same thing when I asked her. I can assure you there was deep repentance for me. The last thing a good husband wants to do is to hurt his wife.

The third scenario is about pornography. Many men out there do not have this struggle, such as myself, but most all husband struggle with sex in some way. One simple statement made at the start is we are hooked and helpless in the face of female beauty. If I’m sitting on the couch minding my own business reading a book or watching TV, my wife can say “I’m going to get a shower” and my ears perk up immediately. If there is any beauty I will do most anything to pursue, it is my wife’s.

If you are a wife who has a husband who takes sexual integrity seriously, strives to avoid porn and compromising situations, and is faithful, be grateful. Don’t take him for granted. He really is trying and he may seem like a sex pervert still, but that part of his brain is really larger than yours and so it comes to his mind much much more often.

He also stresses that if a wife wants more of an emotional connection, she MUST supply the sexual. This is not an option. A man finds it hard to focus in many other areas if his sexual needs aren’t being met. It’s like cutting him off from his energy source and expecting him to perform still.

There are other benefits. Sex is a number one time that men release that oxytocin in their bodies, which is the bonding chemical. It will also make him see you more attractive and other women less attractive. Sexual coasting in a relationship and ignoring this part will ALWAYS damage the relationship. Shut a man down sexually and he will have a hard time being emotionally close to you.

Also, this is not just a physical need for a man. It may feel that way to a wife, but to him, it’s emotional and even spiritual. A man being told no to sex is not being told no to sex in his mind, but no to him as a person. He is rejected as a person every time. In our minds, our wives are irresistible and we would jump at most any chance to have sex. When we are told no, our minds tell us we’re not seen the same way. Wives. If you want your husbands to treat you differently, and they should want that on your own, do your part. Make sex a priority. For your husband, if sex is not a priority, HE is not a priority.

Also with this, do this with joy. A man doesn’t want pity sex. His pride can work in your favor. If you can work and enjoy the act, your husband will be delighted to see your pleasure and think to himself, “I did that.” If you’re exhausted and smiling, that is a huge boost to our honor. Just try and see if this makes a difference. A husband wants to be sexually satisfied, but he also wants to sexually satisfy his wife.

To go back to Sheila Wray Gregoire, she actually says that sex wards off many illnesses, including mental illnesses and cancers, can help relieve stress, and can help women sleep better. The question is not, “Do I owe my husband sex?” It’s “If God created something this great, why would I want to miss out on it?”

Thomas asks a question of wives. “How much are you helping your husband walk in sexual holiness?” If you are shutting him down regularly and blocking him off and not enjoying him, it is a battle for him. Do otherwise, and you will reap great rewards.

Pornography interferes with this and should never be an option. A wife needs to be graceful but firm. Realize that this is a struggle for your husband, but make it clear he can’t have both. This could be a rare case where sexual abstinence could be good. If your husband is watching porn, you fear he will be thinking of that actress instead of you and you won’t have it. You want to be the only woman on his mind.

And husbands, please understand this. Wives are devastated when they find out that you’ve been watching porn. They start questioning their sexual desirability and ability and then their own identities as women. If you are watching this stuff, please stop now. Even if you are single, please stop now. If you marry, it will be that much harder on her. If you are not, porn is still a dishonorable activity that dishonors all women.

Remember this can be a battle for men because we are visually oriented and just the sight of our wives’ bodies and we’re ready to go. If I walk into the bedroom sometime and my wife is changing and I didn’t realize it, I just stand transfixed for some time normally. I can totally forget why I came in there to begin with. It’s just like that. I am in awe of the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

Thomas also says that if you are married, part of your responsibilities as a wife is regular sex. You don’t get married and then say you’re going to choose celibacy. That would be like your husband marrying you and then saying “I’m going to cut out all this romance stuff. I don’t need it and it doesn’t do anything for me.”

The next problem dealt with is an internet affair. The solution to this is similar to the porn situation. Take interest in what your husband is taking interest in and be there for him. People go after other relationships because they’re not getting what they want elsewhere. It’s not justified still, but we can make it easier. Never put your spouse on the shelf and leave them feeling ignored. Wives can make their husbands feel sexually ignored and husbands can make their wives feel emotionally ignored. Growint together is by degrees. So is growing apart.

The final scenario is a husband who is an unbeliever. In this case, the wife realized she was often needed and many husbands just aren’t emotionally expressive. The wife had to be patient and couldn’t do what I call Mission Impossible Christianity where she had to get her husband to Jesus then and there. Give him time. Amusingly, she once hated his obsession with fly-fishing until she went with him one time. Now she thoroughly enjoys it. Also, your husband can never meet all your needs, just like no wife can meet all of her husband’s needs. Go to God first.

This is an excellent book, but I do wish one thing had been added. That would be a message to wives about female beauty. So many wives can beat themselves up so much over how they look and we men are just standing there thinking “What are you talking about?” Wives. Please do not criticize your appearance. We adore how you look regardless of what you think. Just trust us with that. Try the risk. See if you share yourselves with us regularly what happens.

I do encourage wives to get this to learn about loving their husbands, but husbands like myself can benefit from it too. I found out many things about the way that I think. It seems that a good rule is most anything that Gary Thomas writes about marriage is good and this is no exception.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Crazy Busy

What do I think of Kevin DeYoung’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

CrazyBusy

My pastor is wanting to do a series on this book so he gave me a copy so I could write out some lessons on it. Fortunately, it was Super Bowl Sunday and since I don’t give a rip about sports, that left me with plenty of time to watch while my wife and another couple we were with were all watching the game. Because, you see, had it been any other time, it might have taken longer to go through.

Because I am Crazy Busy.

It’s true. As an apologist with my own ministry and one who works closely with two other ministries, my to-do list never seems to end. I have people coming to me constantly with questions. I am asked numerous times to help out in debates on Facebook and other places. I have a to-read list from publishers that keeps growing and growing. I have a Master’s degree that I am working on. I have a podcast that I produce every Saturday that is two hours long. I have numerous places to go around here and most of them at least 20 minutes away. I am trying to be a good husband all the while and still make time for some down time so I can recharge. I try to help take care of the house around here. I have to drive my wife to many places since she can’t drive. (Not complaining about it. Just stating it.) I also try to get in a good prayer life and then when that’s all done, try to sleep and think about the next day.

Yes. We are all Crazy Busy.

In fact, most of us had this idea that technology would help make things easier for us. In fact, it has made things even busier in many ways. Many of us have a hard time unplugging from the world around us, including our phones and tablets. DeYoung in the book says for some of us, one of the times we’re happiest is when we unplug from things and just get away. The last time I did this seriously (And I mean as an intentional desire to put things away seeing as the last time I spent away from technology was when I had the flu and was too sick to do anything and no, that was not a nice technology break) was when I went on my honeymoon in 2010. The only book I brought with me was my Bible and I had my phone as a GPS and to find places to go for us together and such, but I did not check any emails. I did not do any Facebook. I did not do any debating or answering questions. It was me and my new bride and that was where my focus was. I even especially told my parents and hers to not contact us that week unless it was an emergency. For the time being, it was the two of us. Some of you will think it was a really happy time for obvious reasons, but i would say a large part was it was just good to get away for a bit. For awhile, I did not need to do anything at all.

Of course, we can’t stay that way. We’d love it if we could be on an endless honeymoon, but we know that there is real work to do and as soon as we return, we find that that work is there for us.

So what are some of DeYoung’s recommendations?

First, watch for pride. Many times, we don’t say no to someone because of pride. We don’t want to look bad or some other reason like that. When we are given a chance to serve, it is okay to say no, but if we say yes, let us examine to see why it is that we say yes.

Second is that we cannot do everything. Each of us in ministry really tends to stress the importance of what we do. I’m no exception. I do apologetics and I find this extremely important and neglected in the church today. Yet it is not the only field (Though it does touch on others), Some people have a great passion for missions. Some have it for youth ministry. Some have it for music ministry. There are many such fields out there.

In fact, DeYoung also says we don’t have to be greatly moved for all these fields. We can care about the persecuted church or people who don’t know Jesus overseas, but not all of us will be going to our prayer closets weeping for them. Note that we all care does not mean we all have to do something specifically in each field. None of us could. We would just wear ourselves out. I found this to be important seeing as we need to learn to rely on each other in ministry and use each other’s gifts well. I’m thankful I’m at a church where while my pastor is not gung-ho for apologetics like I am, he realizes my gift and great focus in my life and has chosen to find a way to let me serve to be best of my ability in the church.

Third is priorities. We just need to keep first things first. One aspect of this I’ve always stressed is that whatever I do in ministry, my wife comes first. Paul tells us that a good church leader must be able to manage his own household. There are many people out there who can do apologetics ministry successfully. There is only one person who can be a husband to my wife and that is me. If I fail at the task of being a husband, it really doesn’t matter how I do in apologetics. I’ve failed to love my wife as Christ loves the church. If ministry gets in the way of family, something is wrong.

I thought the fourth chapter on children would not be really relevant to me. After all, my wife and I don’t have any yet. Instead, I found it quite relevant. It really brought a lot to the nature/nurture debate and gave me some thoughts for if that time does come, particularly that the greatest influence can often be what is thought about politics and what is thought about religion.

I also found it great when DeYoung said that our society doesn’t really care what you do as an adult, but if you’re a kid, they’ll count the number of calories in your school lunch. Maybe if we were often as serious about what our children do with their sex lives as we are about what it is that they’re eating we’d be better off. You could also say the same about if we taught them good thinking as much as we try to teach healthy living.

The next chapter is about our internet struggles. I was pleased to see some discussion about how Google is affecting the way we think and DeYoung is open that it could be making us dumber. Sometimes, we might actually need to do something like get a book to get an answer to a question instead of thinking a few seconds on Google will do it. DeYoung is not saying remove technology altogether, but make sure it is a tool and not a master.

The following chapter is about rest. This is a principle I try to apply in my own life. It is why on Sunday, I make it a point to not do any debate on Facebook or anywhere else. I need a day to break and recharge. When we miss sleep, we are simply borrowing time, We will have to take that time later and it could be that in the meanwhile, we are more prone to have a car accident or snap at a loved one.

Finally, the last danger he mentions is that we should expect some busyness. We will be busy and we should be busy and it is not a foreign state. Even in the Garden of Eden, there was work to be done. What needs to be done then is just to follow the previous steps to make sure we don’t get overwhelmed. Jesus was a busy guy in His ministry after all, and still He did everything God had for Him to do.

But what is the one thing we must do? That’s the last chapter and that’s setting aside time for God. We need to have a prayer time and DeYoung also recommends a devotional time. So having said all that, let me get into some things I think could be improvements.

I would like to see some more on time management instead of saying we need to manage our time. Is it proper for me while busy to take that down time to do something fun and entertaining just for me? How about those date nights with my spouse? I find it concerning that Christians emphasize so much on the work we are to do for God, but we rarely seem to take time to realize the importance of play.

In fact, let’s consider 1 Cor. 7 in this regard. Paul says to not deprive one another of the gift of sexual relations except for an agreed time and then come quickly together. It looks like Paul is saying it’s important for husbands and wives to have intimate time together and while sex is the way of making babies, I have a suspicion that he has more in mind than simply making babies. He knows husbands and wives need to have this intimate time together in order to build up their marriages.

Second, I understand the importance of prayer, but this can be difficult for a lot of us. I have a mentor who helps with me, but that extended time can be difficult and I really think it difficult when people talk about hearing the voice of God since I don’t see this as normative in Scripture anywhere. At this point, a small section of recommended reading would have helped. I do have Tim Keller’s book on prayer though I have not got to it yet. Why?

Because I’m Crazy Busy of course.

With devotions, I have to say I don’t really do this one either. I don’t because so many devotionals I come across are just so fluffy and light. I really have a hard time focusing on the supposed lesson because I realize that the text that is being used is being ripped totally out of its context. I have not found a devotional yet that works for someone of my kind of mindset.

Still, DeYoung’s book is a good one and it is short so that those of you who are Crazy Busy can indeed find the time to read it. I think this could be a good one for discussion in the church.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Rest of Life

therestoflife

What do I think of Witherington’s work on life in the kingdom? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Ben Witherington certainly is one of the greatest biblical minds out there and in looking through his books, I was intrigued to find one called “The Rest of Life.” In it, Witherington deals with issues not normally talked about explicitly in sermons and how they relate to the Kingdom. We are often told that we are to work hard at what we do, but are we told that we need to play? Witherington says we do. We are told we need to sleep, but what about rest, which Witherington says is different? How is it that we are to study? What about eating and drinking? And of course, we are told about sexual ethics at times, but do we have anything on the role of sex in the kingdom?

(Okay. Now with that last one I know I got the attention of every guy reading this blog.)

It is amazing we have so little on these when they so much dominate our time. Americans live a life where we can easily get enough food to satisfy us. How ought we to live in response? We have several entertainment options before us. Is it wrong for us to take the time to play when we could spend that time “serving the Lord” or “Doing Bible study”? What role does sex play in the kingdom of God, especially if there will be no need of it in eternity?

Witherington takes us through each of these kinds of areas and in the end of each writing, I definitely had a greater sense of how I wanted to live my life in response and take them more seriously. It is amazing that for so many of us in years of theological study, we never really take the time to consider the concepts of activities that we like to do every day.

For instance, let’s consider play. I have been a regular gamer all my life and is there any place for that in being a devout Christian? Absolutely. Play gives us a chance to unwind and release a lot of tensions. Of course, like anything else, done excessively it is a problem, but play is also pointing to the full realization of the Kingdom. It is pointing to a time where we do not have to worry about the world. We can enjoy something in the moment itself.

What about sex? Witherington certainly deals with the myth that many people have bought into about Christianity (Including people like Carrier) that for Christians, sex is only about procreation. Witherington tells us that it is also for the purposes of unity and pleasure, but any sexual relations for a Christian will be in a relationship that all things being equal, would be capable of reproducing were everything in full working order. He also shows us that this is in the context of marriage and that sex is not simply a physical act but an act meant to unify persons together in a bond of unity.

People who read The Rest of Life will be blessed for it. It will enable your life activities to be seen in a whole new perspective. Also, the chapters will work great if you want to read them in a small group setting or a church setting and have them be open for discussion.

And I have no doubt our churches would be blessed if we read more of Ben Witherington and others like him and far less of people like Joel O’Steen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters