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Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Man Enough" (Nate Pyle)

TITLE: Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood
AUTHOR: Nate Pyle
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (208 pages).

What is the true measure of a man? If we watch enough action movies, it would probably look like a brawn looking macho man like Indiana Jones or secret agent 007 who cannot be easily bullied. If we are into superhero movies, the ideal man could be Captain America, Superman, or the Flash. If we read the popular romance books, the ideal man appears to be those who are not only good looking on the outside but immensely passionate and gentle on the inside. That is the trouble of our age, that many of us have become educated on the whims and fancies of what masculinity means to the world. Does the Bible have anything to say about manhood? What about Jesus as the model of true manhood? What is biblical masculinity? These are questions that Nate Pyle, a pastor at Christ's Community Church based in Fishers, Indiana, has attempted to answer. Writing with sensitivity to the many wild expectations of what the man should be, Pyle shows us that the way forward is not toward the ballooning expectations placed by the world. In fact, it is the way backward to the original plan God has for all men.

The eleven chapters of this book are written to counter the fallacies of the worldly expectations; to consider the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus; and to set forth a path forward toward cultivating the spiritual man. It begins with the need to be vulnerable, to be real and open to receive Jesus-shaped masculinity. This starting point is crucial because foundations are extremely important. Do we begin with our own strengths or skills, or our looks and muscles? Definitely not. We need to begin as forgiven people. we are man enough not because of how we see ourselves or how others view us. We are man according to how God sees us. Here is the good news. In God's eye, we do not need to do more to prove our worth. God already loved us. The world shows us many shifting images of what a man should be. The Bible calls us to be loving husbands, caring fathers, responsible men, and free men to pursue after God's standards for us. Along the path toward biblical manhood, readers are urged to drop the image of the "All-American" hyper-masculine athlete figure, that misshapes the true meaning of manhood. We must avoid the "Fight Club masculinity" that gives a twisted image of what man ought to behave. We must look to Jesus who embodies the fullness of manhood by being the humble servant; one with inner strength and faith in God. Being human essentially means imitating Christ.

Gradually, after dispensing with the various worldly definitions of masculinity, Pyle reminds us about our Fall condition, of the imperfections due to sin. The story of Adam and Eve is a fall from grace. Pursuing Jesus is a climb toward the God of grace. Learning to admit our weaknesses and limits are powerful signs of climbing toward grace. Being open to learn is another trait of true masculinity. We learn how important it is to seek more for God's approval than all others. In Jesus, we become fully human, not according to how the world wants, but all according to how God wants. Pyle challenges us to list down all the masculine images of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He shows us the beauty of sharing. He believes that we are more gardeners than fighters. This distinction is important because of the different mindsets needed. Most importantly, being a gardener learns to put the interests of others above oneself, while being a fighter than to be self-preservation. Only when we seek to become more like Jesus, can we be the gardener that we are called to be.

This book is a necessary resource to counter the rapidly deteriorating and distorted images of masculinity, thanks to Hollywood and tabloid depictions of what a man should be. If a man tries to be all things to all people, he is not doing anybody a favour. He fails to distinguish what is the right thing to do. With that, he also fails to discern his true personhood. I recommend this book in particular for Men's study groups for three reasons.

First, this book is written by a man for men. As the saying goes, it takes one to know one. Nate Pyle is both a husband and a father to a little boy named Luke. He knows what it means to try to be a good male role model to his wife and son. The struggles are hard but out of these struggles come lessons from the school of hard experience. Second, Pyle focuses on the person of Jesus Christ. For Christians, there is no better role model than the Son of God who loved us and gave his life for us. With biblical foundations on the Rock of Christ, we will grow with firmness and with intentionality to become the men we are called to be. Third, Pyle does not just tell us, he shows us with his own experience and examples. I like the way the shift to the things and perspective of God becomes strong gradually instead of suddenly. Changing mindsets are not easy. People are creatures of habit and archaic beliefs. In order to challenge people to change, do not just tell them. Show them. This is what Pyle has done, to show us what it means to be a man, to be man enough.

Each chapter begins with a quotation which essentially summarizes what the chapter is about. If only there are discussion questions to accompany the end of each chapter. That would really benefit small groups and Men's Fellowship groups.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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