In Chapter 1, "Man in the Garden," Phillips begins with Genesis 2 as the foundational chapter in Scripture to describe four essential things about man. First, man is a spiritual creature, uniquely created with "hands-on" care. Second, man was "put in the garden, into the world of covenantal relationships and duties, in order to gain and act out his God-given identity there." Third, man was put in the garden to be a lord and servant. Fourth, man was to obey God by working and keeping. In summary, "That is the Masculine Mandate: to be spiritual men placed in real-world, God-defined relationships, as lords and servants under God to bear God's fruit by serving and leading."
Chapter 2, "The Masculine Mandate," introduces us to the masculine mandate of working and keeping. To "work" is to cultivate, build, and grow. Whereas to "keep" is to protect, stand up to, and keep safe all that the Lord has put under our care.
In Chapter 3, "Man's Sacred Calling to Work," Phillips develops a good biblical purpose of work. Since we are made for work, "we are able to enjoy work and find a significant part of our identity in it. In fact, as we keep work in proper balance, retaining our primary identity in Christ, God wants us to invest significant passion in our work and find true meaning in it." Phillips provides helpful questions and expands on them to consider regarding our work:
* Does this work glorify God?
* Does it benefit my fellow man?
* Do I consider myself called to this work, or can I at least do it well and find enjoyment in that?
* Does it provide material needs?
* Does it permit me to lead a godly and balanced life?
The author then ends the chapter on what it looks like to please the Lord in our work.
Chapter 4, "Man as the Image of God," is about what it means to bear God's image. While the image of God in our lives has been marred and damaged by sin, men who have been redeemed from sin through Jesus Christ have been freed from the bondage of self to live for the glory of God in all things. Therefore, for the Christian man, his chief end in life and his fondest desire is that others would see something of the glory of God - His mercy, His faithfulness, His power, His grace - in him.
In chapter 5, "Man as Shepherd-Lord," Phillips describes what biblical leadership for a man looks like. It is by God's design that lordship, or leadership, is intrinsic to the male calling in the world. Even though there is a leadership crisis in America today, men are still called to lead. The author writes, "If there is one image in the Bible that sums up God's model for leadership, it is that of the shepherd watching over, protecting, and leading his flock of sheep."
Chapter 6, "God's Astonishing Design for Marriage," begins by recognizing how little most men know about marriage, how it is design by God, or what its purpose is to be in our lives. Men were designed incomplete. Only a woman, our wife, can complete us, for she is good for our physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual well-being. She is the one companion who fulfills God's intention in our lives. Phillips describes the wife as a suitable helper who is equal in worth as the man, yet she is different. The author also shows us how the Bible teaches the husband how to love his wife.
In chapter 7, "Marriage Cursed and Redeemed," Phillips teaches how sin corrupted what was good. Yet, through Christ, marriages can have renewed hope and redemption. The author writes, "God has cursed the marriage relationship with a poisonous desire for control by the woman and a self-absorbed focus outside the relationship by the man." The good news is that the Christian couple who is forgiven and sanctified by God in Christ, are able to show compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience toward one another.
Chapter 8, "Marriage and the Masculine Mandate," explains how the husband nurtures and protects his wife according to the Scriptures. This chapter teaches men how to cherish their wife and making his first concern his wife's spiritual well-being. Phillips writes, "...a husband is called to build up his wife's faith and hope in Christ through his ministry of God's Word in her life." When it comes to protecting, the biggest threat to the wife is the husband's own sin. The husband "protects her so she feels safe from verbal abuse, ridicule, and scorn - especially his own - for these are darts that pierce her tender heart."
Chapter 9, "To Work: The Discipling of Children," is about how the father is called to work the hearts of his children that they might become fertile soil for the gospel and devotion to Christ and for the father to give his heart to them as well. The author writes, "All the advice and commands found in Proverbs flow from this great passion: the desire of a loving father for the heart of his child, and for that child's heart to be given to the Lord." Phillips also provides four simple categories for fathers to spend quality time with their children: read, pray, work, and play.
In chapter 10, "To Keep: The Discipline of Children," Phillips teaches us on how we are to keep our children's heart through loving discipline. He writes, "The gravest threat is spiritual - the dire threat of sin's power at work in their own hearts." As we seek our children's obedience, we need to also exercise self-control. In fact, the most common way to provoke our children to anger is by erupting in anger ourselves. The author then gives practical advice on keeping the child's heart by both physical reproof and verbal reproof. A rule he tries to follow is: "I will always be on my children's side, even if I am punishing. I will never be against them and I will never speak to them with contempt."
Chapter 11, "Men in Friendship," is about the importance of friendship for men. Phillips bases this chapter on the friendship of the biblical story of David and Jonathan. The author wisely comments, "The best friend is always one who turns our hearts to rest upon the Lord." If you want to serve Jesus well in your friendships, then "stand by your friends, speak to them the words that strengthen faith, and, in Christ's name, share in their troubles and sorrows."
Chapter 12, "The Masculine Mandate in the Church," teaches about the importance of male leadership and servanthood in the church. Men are called to build and strengthen the body of believers through their spiritual gifts. In addition, men are called to stand watch for the safekeeping of the church and its people by protecting the church's practice and doctrine.
The last chapter, "Servants of the Lord," Phillips writes about what it looks like to be a servant-disciple of Christ. The model of service to Christ is one that includes one's calling - a key principle, joy - a key attitude, and humility - a key resolution.
In conclusion, I believe Phillips does a huge service to the church by providing a thorough masculine book that is biblical, wise, readable, and needed. His themes of "work" and "keep" as the masculine mandate make it helpful and easy to apply and remember in all of life as a man. Phillips fleshes these themes out well in the key areas of manhood. All men, young and old, need to read this book. May this book counter the influences of our culture today that are prevalent: men who are characterized as brutes, wimps, lazy, neglectful, selfish, irresponsible, and/or passive. I hope this volume can be redemptive in the lives of men who are either ignorant of, or rebellious to biblical masculinity.
[I will receive a free copy of this book as compensation for doing this review.]