Friday, 29 May 2009

Conclusions - For Men and Women Only!

Concluding the reviews of For Men Only and For Women Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn...

For Women Only – by Deb

I enjoyed this book, as I felt it brought a fresh look at many of the things we think we know about our husbands. It made me think more deeply about what my response should be to some of the ‘revelations’ and led to some interesting discussions with Steve. I was not surprised by many of the findings, such as a man’s need for sex or respect, or the importance he places on appearance, but it did help me get inside my husband’s mind a little more successfully! A couple of things did surprise me, such as the burden a man feels to provide. I really hadn’t appreciated this before. I was also reminded that sex fulfils an emotional as well as a physical need in men, something I believe many of us forget.

Any book which brings insight and understanding to the person to whom we are married is to be welcomed. Like all books, there are some things which will resonate deeply with you and others which won’t. It is a great book to discuss together – you may find it leads to some revealing and challenging discussions!

For Men Only – by Steve

I found this book extremely helpful in further understanding Deb. We have been married for nearly 20 years, have taught the marriage course 6 or 7 times and I have read widely on the subject of marriage, but this book gave me new insights into how my wife processes life. I was always aware that emotions were more complicated for women, but the comparison of emotional testosterone for women with male testosterone helped me understand more deeply the need Deb has for emotional connection and shared emotional lives.

The End!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Making an effort!

About men (by Deb)

“Our surface understanding is that ‘men care about appearance’. What this means in practice is that you don’t need to be a size 8, but your man does need to see you making the effort to take care of yourself – and he will take on significant cost or inconvenience in order to support you.”

During the survey, the author found that: “The effort you put into your appearance is extremely high on his priority list. Yet the chances that you know his true feelings are extremely low.”

Shaunti would go so far as to say that what she’s learnt in this area has been life changing. She is careful to try and present this information in a way that will hopefully challenge and not condemn. Nonetheless, this was the topic most men reading the book wished their wives understood (sex and respect came close behind). Men were not asking their wives to look like supermodels – many stressed that they wished their partners were not so oversensitive about their body image. What mattered was the effort made – men equated this with showing love. “When you take care of yourself, I feel loved”.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Investing in romance!

About men (by Deb)

“Our surface understanding is that ‘men are unromantic clods’. What this means in practice is that actually most men enjoy romance (sometimes in different ways) and want to be romantic – but hesitate because they doubt they can succeed.”

Shaunti’s survey revealed that in fact men ‘very much desired romance for themselves’. However, they frequently hesitate to do anything romantic because they fear that they may not do a very good job and are haunted by past failures.

Having fun together and doing “guy things” was high on the priority list for many men. Also, unsurprisingly, romance and sex are closely connected – it is an integral part of romance. It’s important that we encourage our husbands in the efforts they make – this is especially important when a man is working outside his comfort zone! We are also urged to “make ourselves the kind of lover he wants to pursue.” Men are not mind readers and the occasional hint is helpful. Finally, she suggests ensuring that our husbands know they are top of our ‘to do’ list.

About women (by Steve)

“Our surface understanding is that she wants to look attractive. What this means in practice is that inside your wife lives a girl who needs to know that you find her beautiful - and that you only have eyes for her.”

In a world which increasingly values a certain kind of beauty and presents a picture through the media that is impossible to obtain, our wives have a deep need and desire to know that we find them beautiful and desirable. The challenge of this chapter is how often we express to our wives how beautiful we find them.

It also explains why many women spend lots of money on make up and fashion. I like the comment in the chapter which suggested we see this more as an investment in our wives rather than yet another new top! The chapter finishes with an encouragement for husbands to keep their visual focus on their wives.

to be cont'd...

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Just looking and just tired?

Continuing the review of For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn...

About men (by Deb)

“Our surface understanding is that ‘men are visual’. What this means in practice is that even happily married men struggle with being pulled toward live and recollected images of other women.”

For the author, this was the revelation that radically reshaped her understanding of men. What’s more, it’s completely normal. For every man, sensual thoughts and images arrive involuntarily. But every man can make a choice to dwell on these images, or to dismiss them. The author provides some reassurances. Firstly, man’s temptation is often not primarily sexual – it is simply admiring God’s creation! Secondly, every man is different and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Most importantly, it’s not because of you and it doesn’t affect his feelings for you!

Shaunti urges us to pray for our husbands and to offer them our support and understanding. Openness and honesty are crucial. Personally, I would add something to this. Of course we should dress modestly in public, but there is nothing wrong with helping our husbands to create a mental visual catalogue of their wives in private! In this way, the visual images he faces every day can be quickly dismissed for those of his wife.

About women (by Steve)

“Our surface understanding is that she doesn’t want much sex and therefore she must not want me. What this means in practice is that physically, women tend to crave sex less often than men do, and it is usually not related to your desirability.”

This important chapter helpfully addresses the subject of sex from a woman’s perspective, providing a framework of understanding. The reason a woman tends to want to have less sex has nothing to do with the desirability of her husband. The three main reasons given were:

- I have a lower sex drive – it’s about hormones
- I’m sometimes just too tired at the end of a hard day
- the transition to wanting physical intimacy takes more effort

The key lesson is - it not that she doesn’t love her husband or even that men like to have more sex but that these 3 factors are significant in her level of desire.

The chapter finishes with 8 helpful tips on how to provide a context which allows her to be more responsive. It is a final encouragement to take courage and talk to her about your sex life – this is good advice. be cont'd...

Friday, 15 May 2009

from Developing the Leader Within You: John Maxwell - 3

Here’s another of my favourite quotes from John Maxwell…

Choose or Lose - The importance of priority setting

‘Every person is either an initiator or a reactor when it comes to planning. An example is our calendar. The question is not, “Will my calendar be full?” but “Who will fill my calendar?” If we are leaders of others, the question is not “Will I see people?” but “Who will I see?” My observation is that leaders tend to initiate and followers tend to react. Note the difference.

Lead; pick up phone and make contact

Spend time planning; anticipate problems
Invest time with people
Fill the calendar by priorities

Listen; wait for the phone to ring
Spend time living day to day; reacting to problems
Spend time with people
Fill the calendar by requests'

Which list more closely describes you?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

London Churches Update

Following the planting of 8 churches in 8 years, I am excited to announce that Roger Smith, who currently leads Downham Family Church, is moving to Richmond to plant a church there. We are currently looking at another 3 places within London where we aim to plant in the next couple of years. Across our churches I continue to hear stories of growth and breakthrough - all very encouraging!

On the back of this, on Saturday 13th June I will be hosting a morning for leaders interested in planting or leading churches in London - please contact Pete Cornford at Crown Church, Hillingdon for more information -

As the regional weekend at Butlins in January was so successful I am delighted to announce that we will be holding TWO weekends next year, so we can accommodate more people. We have booked Butlins at Bognor for 6th-8th and 22nd-24th January 2010 - further details will follow soon. Churches will be allocated to a particular weekend to make sure that 5000 people don’t all turn up on one weekend…!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Final Thoughts on Creation and Evolution

B. B. Warfield (1851 – 1921) was a great 19th century Reformed theologian, who stoutly defended the authority and inspiration of the Bible and other fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith - but when it came to evolution he was agnostic! He neither totally rejected it nor unreservedly welcomed it as an explanation. He thought that in some form the theory could be true but does not appear to have given it a final stamp of approval. His attitude of openness to science and humility before scripture is one that is appealing.

Does loyalty to scripture demand holding the view that God created the universe in six 24 days and that it is less than 20,000 years old? Not all are convinced. And yet many would hold that death as we know it came into the world through a real fall of the first two human beings and that the Sabbath principle is rooted in creation. Exactly how these relate to modern science is more of an open question. That evolutionary principles have been the basis of significant scientific breakthrough is without doubt but all that can be concluded from this fact is that evolution is a useful hypothesis - it doesn’t prove that it is ultimately true. The key is that this whole cosmos (and us included!) is not the product of chance and time but the creation of the sovereign, holy, loving God of the Bible. This means we are not alone in the universe - we have been made for a purpose which finds its fulfilment in Christ.

One final book recommendation: Creation and Evolution by Alan Hayward

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Mind the gap!

Creation and Evolution cont'd...

Those who hold the view that biblical faith and the Darwinian view of evolution are compatible believe it removes an unnecessary stumbling block to faith and honours the consensus of scientists working in widely different fields of research.

But, science is not infallible - history reveals times when scholarly opinion goes through a revolutionary revision and the church has found, to its cost, the danger of hitching its wagon too tightly to any one version of contemporary wisdom. The most serious issue with this ‘compatible’ view is the concern that it undermines key elements of biblical revelation. If death is introduced only after the fall of Adam and Eve then it appears that the earth is only a few thousand years old, not the billions claimed by current science. If chance is a key factor, does that exclude the idea of God from consideration? What happens to the theological justification of the Sabbath?

For those less confident in evolutionary science but not convinced that Genesis 1-3 should be read literally, there are numerous attempts to chart some sort of middle course. Some are more successful than others. So there is the ‘gap theory’ which argues that Genesis 1: 2 should not be translated, “Now the earth was formless and empty” but rather “…became formless…” It is then argued that after the original creation in verse 1 and before what is recorded in verse 2 there was a catastrophe in which the original creation was virtually destroyed and what we have in Genesis is really the remodelling of creation. It is then proposed that this gap between verses 1 and 2 could have lasted millions, if not billions, of years and it was in this time that dinosaurs etc roamed the earth.

Technically, it is possible to translate Genesis 1:2 as suggested but even that is highly speculative and the rest of the argument squeezes rather a lot into the silent space between the two sentences! The other of the most popular theories in this category is the ‘day/age theory’. In this, the days of creation are taken to be vast periods of time broadly equivalent to different geological ages. While very popular - and parallels can be recognised - they are not exact and so not fully convincing.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Do we have to choose?

Creation and evolution cont'd...

Genesis contains clear signs of being a carefully crafted literary work. Note the repeated patterns of the numbers of 3, 7 and 10. Ten times we are told “God says”, three times in relation to humans and seven times to the other creatures. A similar pattern can be traced with the phrase “let there be…” On three occasions the writer uses “create”. Along the same lines is the observation that the 6 days of creation can be seen as a poetic or literary framework rather than an attempt to map out the exact sequence of events. So, in the first three days God gives form to creation and then in the next three days he fills each form.

Day 1: Day and Night
Day 2: Sky & Sea
Day 3: Land
Day 4: Sun & Moon

Day 5: Birds & Fish etc
Day 6: Animals & Humans
Day 7: Sabbath

For some these considerations mean that there is no need to see any conflict between modern evolutionary science and the Bible account of creation. This is what the conservative Bible commentator Derek Kidner says in his Tyndale Commentary on Genesis - a view that John Stott is open to. And most recently, Denis Alexander has written a whole book arguing that biblical faith is “entirely compatible with the Darwinian view of evolution” (Creation or Evolution: Do we have to Choose? – Denis Alexander)