29 June 2014

Book Review: Water From a Deep Well

Water From a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality From Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries (2007, IVP) by Gerald Sittser was an excellent book, but perhaps a bit difficult to classify.  It is part church history, part Christian spirituality, and part practical living. In engaging prose, Sittser explores the history of Christianity, stopping along the way to reflect on what lessons we have learned from those who have gone before. He effectively shows different movements over the history of the church: the witness of the early Christian martyrs, the belonging of early Christian community, the struggle of the desert saints, the rhythm of the monastics, the holy heroes celebrated in the eastern church through biography and iconagraphy, the importance of the sacraments during the Gothic period, the importance of ordinariness among medieval lay people, the importance of the Word to the reformers, the centrality of conversion to evangelicals, and the essence of risk to pioneer missionaries. As you can imagine this book is sweeping and ecumenical in its scope.  Though Sittser highlights components that featured centrally in different movements of the church, there is no doubt overlap. 

Sittser wisely not only identifies the positives that modern Christians can learn from each of these periods or modes of spirituality, but also points to their potential risks and abuses. For example, during certain movements of the church, it was considered more spiritual to abstain from sexual relations, and some couples would make vows of chastity within their marriages.  Broadly, it seems that any of these approaches, taken to the extreme, lead to rather significant legalism, which Sittser explicitly shows.

There is material here to challenge all. There are things here that will resonate deeply with most Christians and things that may unsettle them.  Regardless, there is much for all to learn. 

On the second to last page, Sittser wrote, "The church as a community, however, is capable of advancing the cause of the kingdom, if only just a little. Through sheer numbers alone that 'little' can amount to 'much.' There are well over 150 million Christians in America (out of some two billion in the world), though of course not all are serious about their faith. What if just one third of those--50 million--began in modest ways to live more earnestly and deliberately for the kingdom? What if these believers consecrated their lives to God, began to practice spiritual discipline and committed themselves to serve God's kingdom? Just one hundred extra dollars a year would provide 5 billion dollars to help fight AIDS in Africa and battle sex trafficking in Asia. Just one hundred extra hours a year (only two a week!) would provide 5 billion volunteer hours to man soup kitchens in cities and pound nails for Habitat for Humanity. Just ten letters a year would send five hundred million pieces of mail to Washington to lobby for worthy causes. What if ordinary Christians used a little less water every day, consumed less energy and ate healthier food, recycled more conscientiously, purchased fair trade products, rode buses more often, and invested in just one cause outside their normal routine? Churches move slowly, just like glaciers, which is why activists become so impatient. But when they do change, they can become as powerful as an advancing glacier that sweeps away everything in its path. In the end, slow, incremental, concrete change might be the most effective kind" (page 294). 

Read this book. I promise you won't agree with everything, but you will benefit.

24 June 2014

Book Review: The Marriage Builder

Originally published in 1982, Larry Crabb's The Marriage Builder: Creating True Oneness to Transform Your Marriage (2013) remains an important book for understanding and transforming marriages. As he writes of oneness, he mentions spirit oneness, soul oneness, and body oneness. As is common with Dr Crabb, he argues that we often believe our needs should be met by others whereas in truth, our primary needs are met in Christ.  He does admit, however, that we often lose sight of Christ's filling us. He then moves on to soul oneness, which deals with how spouses are committed to loving the other in an other focused approach. Finally, he spends some time writing about body oneness, or how partners meet one another's physical desires. Having established these facets of true oneness, he discusses a foundation built on grace, commitment, and acceptance. 

On the whole, this was a very practical book, grounded in the gospel. I believe that Dr Crabb rightly identifies that our primary identity and needs are met in Christ, but that we can also minister and serve through the marriage.  His differentiation between goals and desires, and our level of control over them, is an important one. The discussion of the 3 building blocks--grace, acceptance, and commitment--are also worth the price of the book.  This would be a very useful book not only for those who are just starting out, but also for those who have been married for a long time.

Book Review: NIV Teen Study Bible

The NIV Teen Study Bible was first published by Zondervan in 1993 and most recently in 2011 providing a resource for teen Bible readers. On the back cover appear these words, "As an on-the-go teen, you're moving fast. God is moving faster! The Teen Study Bible will help you keep in step with all he has done, is doing, and will do in the world--and in your life. This bestselling Bible will help you discover the eternal truths of God's word and apply them to the issues you face today." In light of the title and that blurb, the reader understands Zondervan's intended focus with this Bible.

Hardware
Weighing in at just over 1600 pages, this Bible is in line with many study Bibles but larger than other Bibles. The hardback edition that I received has a sturdy cover, tight bindings, and lays flat.  The pages are a crisp white with a reasonable font size so that even those with older than teenage eyes should be able to read them. The pages feature both black ink for the main text, but also green for headings, chapters, and study notes.  The Bible concludes with 8 full color maps, though why these particular maps were chosen, I was unsure.

Operating System
http://www.amazon.com/Teen-Study-Bible-Lawrence-Richards/dp/0310745683/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403635385&sr=8-1&keywords=teen+study+bibleThe Teen Study Bible makes use of the 2011 NIV translation.  The NIV remains one of the most popular Bible translations available today and utilizes a thought for thought (rather than a word for word) translation philosophy. Interested teens can read the preface from the translation committee, which discusses how they arrived at this translation.  It is beyond the scope of this review, but if you get the chance, explore the evolution of the NIV.  The original 1984 version of the NIV is the one that many Bible readers are familiar with, though in 2005, the editors released a short-lived TNIV (Today's New International Version), which met with significant pushback. The 2005 NIV is an attempted remedy, though in my opinion, the 1984 version remains the best.

Software
In addition to the NIV text, the Teen Study Bible provides a number of additional resources written by Larry and Sue Richards. These features include:
  • We Believe--Through the Bible, there are a number of sections exploring what Christians believe, based largely upon the Apostle's Creed. I commend the authors for including this feature because it helps keep the big picture in focus and introduces young readers to one of the classic creeds of the church, which are all too often missing today. They used a modern rendering of the Creed that I didn't quite like, but I think the basic truths expressed are important to reflect upon.
  • Panorama--Together with the "we believe" sections, the brief panoramas help to keep the big picture in focus. 
  • Book Introductions--Each of the 66 books of the Bible begins with a short introduction to key events in the chapter and how it relates to life.  One of the things I found unique was the inclusion of the "news ticker", which tracked other world events going on at the time. 
  • Q & A--In lieu of standard study notes, this Bible provides brief questions and answers related to what was taking place and as a way to test oneself in knowledge of the scripture.
There were several of the features that attempted to stitch the truth of scripture to daily life.
  • To The Point--On a general level, the "To the Point" sections address common moral, ethical, and lifestyle issues that teens may face. They tend to take a conservative approach. For example, on page 142, there is a section addressing "alternative lifestyles", and the authors take a clear biblical line.  They write, "The impression is that any choice is all right. It's just a matter of preference. When it comes to sex, don't kid yourself about some of those choices being morally all right" and then go on to explore what the Bible does say.
  • Dear Jordan--The practical questions were also evident in the "Dear Jordan" sections, which come across as a biblical "Dear Abby".  Short questions are presented and "Jordan" answers them in a few paragraphs. 
  • Instant Access--There are several short paragraphs that also ask questions such as "what if a friend asks for the answer to a test question?" and gives biblical guidance as to how to proceed.
  • Key Indexes--Biblical truths are indexed at the end of the Bible under the headings "Bible Truth Index" and "Teen Life Index".  These Indices provide a concise reference to common issues teens may encounter such as abortion, chat rooms and sexual purity. 
Finally, there is a feature "what do I read today?", which provides checkboxes for each of the biblical chapters. The auhtors encourage new readers to start with the gospels of Mark or John and then moving on to Acts or Romans.  The advice given is basic and concise but appropriate.

On the whole, the NIV Teen Study Bible is a useful resource. It may not fit the traditional notion of a study Bible, yet it performs the goal of shedding light on scriptures, in this case in a very practical way.  The balance of practical wisdom stitched to the current lives of teenagers with a persistent focus on the overarching understanding of what we believe was appreciated because it is easy to overbalance in one direction or the other. 

On the whole, I would recommend this Bible. 

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

22 June 2014

Book Review: The Deep Things of God

In my quest to understand the Trinity better, I came across Fred Sanders's book The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (2010, Crossway). Sanders took a different approach than other recent authors I read in that he specifically focused on the centrality of the Trinity in evangelicalism. He intentionally drew upon less commonly cited Trinitarian authors because of their ties to the evangelical movement. For example, one of the first authors he discusses in some detail is Nicky Cruz, author of The Magnificent Three, and former "warlord of a violent street gang" (page 28). Though he would references some of the more well-known Trinitarian authors (e.g., Thomas Torrance), it was his attempt to explore the Trinitarian thinking of people like Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer, and DL Moody that made this a particularly unique and beneficial book. 

However, I think what most pleased me about Sanders's book was his sustained focus on showing how the Trinity is necessary for the good news of the gospel. The Trinity is not merely some theological conundrum to be solved, or some mystical relationship only of interest to 2000 year old men, but it is a central belief of the broadly Christian and narrowly evangelical church.

On the whole, The Deep Things of God provides a useful addition to books like Robert Letham's The Holy Trinity, Michael Reeves's Delighting in the Trinity, and Darrell Johnson's Experiencing the Trinity.  It tends to be bookish at times, but worth the hard work if you are willing to dig in.

21 June 2014

Book Review: 66 Love Letters

I know several people who have been influenced by this book, 66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God that Invites you into His Story (2009). I would add myself to that list.  66 Love Letters is essentially a series of "conversations" between God and Larry Crabb about what God is saying in each book of the Bible. In preparing this book, Crabb spent 5 years writing, which is a long time in the publishing world. For each book, he wrestled through what it seemed God was trying to say. He would spend time in commentaries, time in prayer, and time in the Word. The end product was a unique commentary of sorts on what Crabb believes God is trying to tell us.  Each book tells a story that is a part of a larger story of God and how He loves His people. 

Dr Crabb has said that he would prefer that people not try to master what he writes, to gain intellectual knowledge, but that they would ponder what he writes. In truth, I have moved much faster through his other books than I did through this one, which probably took me three months to complete.  Even at that, there is so much here, I feel like I would gain just as much by reading it again and I may do so. 

66 Love Letters would be a good book for anyone who wants to try to understand what God is saying more deeply. Certainly, this is not on par with Scripture and Crabb would never imply that it is, but it may allow you to see with fresh eyes. 

19 June 2014

Book Review: Finding God

In 1993, Larry Crabb published Finding God, a book in which he explores our journey toward God and His journey toward us. Crabb opens by exploring his personal journey and his necessity of experiencing God and how it is important for each of us.  In the part 2, he examines obstacles to finding him and how they are often driven by wrong thinking and wrong desires. In the final section, he points us to the pathway of of finding God.

Dr Crabb has always struck me as an honest writer, but it seems that in this book, his writing is even rawer than typical.  He openly shares some of his wrestlings with God and with others.  This type of honesty and self-revelation is a necessary thing for our communities. 

One of the messages that routinely finds its way into the pages of this book is that we often place a higher priority on problem solving than on pursuing God (p. 38). Our self-focused culture leads us to believe that our comfort, our satisfaction, and our self-esteem are the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, this message has worked its way into many of our churches as well.  Channeling John Piper and CS Lewis, Crabb suggests that our ultimate need is God and any other passions are too weak.  He encourages us to seek Christ rather than these other things. In classic Crabb style, he also spends a fair amount of time on relating well to others. 

At the end of the book, he talks about how we can be story tellers. One of my favorite things in this book was this statement: "We in the Christian community need to tell our stories, risking shame and rebuke, because we want to find God. We must keep reading our Bibles and listening to good Bible teachers; we must worship and serve together; we must discipline ourselves to give generously to the Lord's work; we must make Christ known to an unbelieving world. But we must also learn to tell our stories to one another." (page 200). 

Like many of Dr Crabb's other books, Finding God provides a God-centered, relationally focused book that will help us to understand ourselves and others better.

17 June 2014

Mutual Humility

Peter said to him, "you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." -John 13:8

In the final hours of his life, Jesus shared a meal and fellowship with his closest disciples. After they ate, he rose from dinner, tied a towel around his waist, filled a basin with water, and proceeded to wash the feet of his twelve dinner companions. When he came to Peter, he resisted Jesus. He was not about to allow his Lord to do something as disgusting as washing his feet.  That was a job for servants, not saviors.

In response, Jesus said, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."  He could have honored Peter's request and skipped over him, but he did not. There was a lesson his disciples needed to hear. Theirs was to be a life of service to one another regardless of their station in life.

We often hear the words "mutual submission" as a model for how to relate to one another. That is a useful term, but as I was meditating on this story today, the words that stirred in me were "mutual humility."  Jesus' incarnation was the ultimate act of God humbling himself for the benefit of mankind, yet his earthly life was also one of humble servanthood. He was eager to meet the needs of the hopeless and the downtrodden.

In this story, I was struck by the interaction between Jesus and Peter. The incarnate Lord was serving, just as he always did, but Peter did not want to be served and so he resisted. In response, Jesus firmly told Peter that humbling himself and allowing himself to be served was a part of the Christian life and that would require humility.

I think it is much easier for Christians to accept the call to serve others (though we often fail at that too) than it is to be served. Allowing others to meet our needs feels weak, perhaps even humiliating. Yet what Christ is calling his people to is not just that we serve, but also a humble willingness to be served by one another.

The Christian life is not an individualistic life; it requires mutual humility.

15 June 2014

Book Review: NIV Life Journey Bible

The NIV Life Journey Bible (2012) combines the popular NIV translation with thoughts, reflections, and notes from Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Interspersed throughout the Bible are hundreds of short, half-page insights, over 30 character profiles, and 20 longer essays focused on emotional health, spiritual insight, and Christian growth.  These thoughtful insights are cataloged at the back of the Bible in addition to recommended places to look in the Bible regarding various issues such as addiction, bitterness, or pride.

The NIV Life Journey Bible is one amongst a growing niche market for Bibles.  On the positive side, Cloud and Townsend are respected for their insights into our emotional and relational lives. Many Christians have benefited from their combined wisdom. The short essays in this book will also benefit their readers. I particularly liked the character profiles, in part because we are all living in the midst of a story. Understanding how the stories of other people played out I believe helps us to grow in wisdom.

There were drawbacks too.  First, I admit a struggle when pictures of the note-writers are featured on the dust jacket of a Bible. By its nature, the Bible differs from other books.  It remains a book by God and about God. It is not a book by Cloud or Townsend, even if they did write some useful notes.  In a related fashion, one of the dangers of niche Bibles like this, or even more carefully constructed study Bibles, is for people to equate the notes with Scripture. Cloud and Townsend would no doubt agree that their notes do not carry the same weight as scripture, but I wonder if for some people, keeping those things separate is difficult.  As an example, I am always curious how people present the biblical character of Noah. The authors note, "While Noah is the character in the story who earned God's approval..." (page 9). I wonder how many struggling people will read this and wonder what they need to do to "earn God's approval."  Isn't that the opposite of the gospel?  We are made righteous by God, the only righteous one.

Overall, this is a good Bible, when the appropriate cautions are kept in mind.  Cloud and Townsend are wise teachers and we should seek to learn from them.

 I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review--Relationships: A Mess Worth Making

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making (2006), by Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp was a required book for a class I am taking through the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. I had previously read Tripp and Lane's How People Change, which was a very good book, so I was looking forward to this one as well.  This one surpassed my expectations.  As the title would suggest, this book explores the mess of relationships and why we should pursue them anyway.

They rightly demonstrate that relationships are often difficult and, given enough time, all relationships will likely show strain. However, they suggest that "God keeps us in messy relationships for His redemptive purpose" (page 11). In the midst of struggle, it is often difficult to see God's work at hand, but it is. 

Exploring topics such as sin, forgiveness, and mercy, the authors provide examples of moving in the rhythms of life with one another. In many ways, this book was reminiscent of the things that I have been reading from Dr Larry Crabb.  The idea of "relational sin" would not be foreign to these authors and this book would serve as an excellent addition to the libraries of those who believe that relationships are a mess worth making.

14 June 2014

Fighting for One Another's Marriages

In our churches, we tell married couples about the importance of fighting for their marriages.  We offer parenting seminars, talk about the importance of staying married, and discuss biblically-defined roles of manhood and womanhood.  All of these are good things.

But lately, I have been wondering how well we fight for one another's marriages and relationships. I think its easier for us to offer people principles, prayers, and verses than it is to go to battle for them and with them. It is easier to say to people, "you should really read Ephesians 5" or to say, "This must be tough. I'll be praying for you guys." Maybe we even get a little edgy and suggest some new sexual technique.

But we don't fight for them. We don't move into their lives and invite them into ours. We don't roll up our cuffs and enter the mess of life with them. We keep their messy marriages at a safe, clean distance, just as we keep them from our own messy lives.  We spiritualize marriage and how it is a reflection of Christ and the church and meanwhile, lots of people are hopelessly wondering, "What are we doing wrong?  Why isn't being married what everyone promised it would be?"  And so they suffer.  Alone. 

We need to enter the fight for one another.  Yes, we need to offer to pray for and with them, we need to point them to Scripture, we maybe even need to offer practical suggestions, but it seems to me that we need to put our arms around one another's shoulders and walk together.  We need to enter the mess. 

James 2:15-16 (NIV84) says, "Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?'" This applies to our married lives as well. If we see a brother or sister who is struggling in their marriage and we say, "go, I wish you well; keep happy in your marriage," but we do nothing about helping them to fight for their marriage, what good is it? 

Let's make an effort to go to war for one another in our relationships.  Let's wipe one another's tears. Let's bind one another's wounds. Let's journey together.

12 June 2014

Book Review: Why Sin Matters

I'm facing a conundrum. A friend of mine loaned me Why Sin Matters (2004) by Mark McMinn. I had forgotten it on my shelf for a while, but then I heard Larry Crabb mention it during a lecture he was giving and I took it down to read it.  The conundrum is that even though this is a borrowed book, it was so good I am going to have to buy my own copy and I wonder if that is a good use of resources.

McMinn is a board certified clinical psychologist who is currently on faculty at George Fox University, though in this book he worked to integrate psychology, theology, and spirituality and in my opinion, he did so admirably.

From the front cover, one might imagine this is a book about sin. It is that, but to me, it was much more a book about grace. Through the book, McMinn explores the relationship between sin and grace. He (I believe rightly) made the point that "understanding grace cannot be done without understanding sin."  Through real life examples as well as biblical reflections, particularly related to the story of the prodigal son, he helps the reader to see that we cannot minimize sin, nor can we minimize the awe of grace. 

One concept that he explored is that humans are "noble ruins".  We are God's image bearers, but we are infected by our sin. I suspect this is an idea that will continue to influence my thinking about personhood for some time to come. This is just one example of many wonderful things in this book. 

It is not too much for me to say that I loved this book.  I look forward to getting my own copy so that I can mark it up and think through sin and grace in more depth.  If you are a fan of Brennan Manning, Larry Crabb, John Piper, or Tim Keller, this may be a good book for you. If you are a pastor, a counselor, or a psychologist, this may be a good book for you.  If you are weary and downtrodden, this may be a great book for you too.  Buy it now before I purchase my copy!

10 June 2014

Elyse Fitzpatrick: I'm not antinomian

Elyse Fitzpatrick apparently has been called a heretic for how she teaches about grace. She recently responded (beautifully) to this charge.  Consider this snippet:

What I am guilty of doing, and over and over again, and what I pray I will never stop doing, is to seek to comfort guilty Christians (primarily women) who know that they sin, who hate their sin, and who are struggling against it. I have told them that Christ’s perfect forgiveness and record of obedience is theirs, by faith alone, in Christ alone, even (and especially) when they fail.

Read the rest here

09 June 2014

Relationship Mondays: Dads and Kids

This morning, I was blessed to be on the radio with my friend Mark Halvorsen talking about fatherhood for what I hope is the first of a monthly series on relationships. We talked about masculinity. According to Dr Larry Crabb, men are called to remember and move.  If you wonder what we mean by that, feel free to give it a listen and let me know what you think. 

You can find the link here

08 June 2014

Book Review: Evil and the Justice of God

Evil and the Justice of God (2006) is a concise treatment of the problem of evil and why the Christian response makes sense. Through five relatively long chapters, Wright explores why evil acts seem so extreme to our postmodern sensibilities, and why the biblical story anticipates and expects evil. He walks through the Old Testament and New Testament and explains how kingdom Christians can respond to evil. He concludes by looking at the necessity of forgiveness as the response to evil, both societally and in one on one circumstances.

This book would be a nice addition to John Stott's The Cross of Christ and Randy Alcorn's If God is Good.  He acknowledges the reality of evil, the necessity of the cross, and the importance of ongoing forgiveness. 

Wright also reminds me why I like many British authors. They tend to write very well, and possess a humility that seems absent from many Americans.

If you want to explore the topic of evil, Wright's book is a fine place to start.

05 June 2014

Book Review: Know the Heretics

Do you think you would recognize a heretic? Does that phrase even have any contemporary relevance in our pluralistic society? Justin Holcomb's Know the Heretics (2014) likely will be a useful resource for the church to help us to understand these questions. Weighing in at a short and very accessible 156 pages, Know the Heretics presents the basics of a dozen well-known heretics through the history of the church. In each case, he explores the background, heretical teaching, orthodox response, and contemporary relevance.

Taking the opening questions out of order, we must ask does heresy have any relevance today? I know many people who would argue that heresy is not only an irrelevant, but a frankly intolerant, term. To refer to someone as a heretic is to say that they are wrong about some foundational biblical truth and to say someone is wrong is to be judgmental. In modern society, intolerance is the unforgivable sin, but in the early church, believers painstakingly committed themselves to proclaiming, clarifying, and defending the truth, which Holcomb shows us along the way in this book. Holcomb is right to clarify that heresy does not mean "everyone who disagrees with me" but has to do with foundational beliefs of the faith. I wish the church today would take a stronger stand for these foundational biblical truths rather than being blown around by every wind of doctrine.

My initial question was, "do you think you would recognize a heretic?" Unfortunately, I believe the answer would be "no" for many people in the church today. I would imagine that the majority of church goers today would be unable to differentiate between modalist, a Mormon, and a Trinitarian Christian.

Holcomb opened the concluding chapter by quoting GK Chesterton, who wrote "the disadvantage of men not knowing the past is that they do not know the present." How many Christians would recognize that the ever popular image of the Trinity as being like water (ice, water, steam) is reminiscent of Sabellianism, which is one of the most well known forms of modalist heresy (p. 84). In fact, how many Christians know what modalism is and why it is important? How many people would recognize that the theology of Michael and Debi Pearl, authors of the surprisingly popular To Train Up a Child, appears to be Pelagian? Pelagius was a heretic who said many things, but one of them was his rejection of original sin. How many of us would recognize the roots of these ancient heresies in contemporary thinking, or even that they are something worth fighting for?

I am grateful for godly men and women throughout the history of the church who were willing to fight long and hard for orthodox biblical teaching. I am also grateful for those like Justin Holcomb who believe these issues are important enough for "common" (i.e., not the academic type) believers to continue to think through.

Truth matters. We need more books like this one to help the church see that it does.

 I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

02 June 2014

Book Review: Men and Women--Enjoying the Difference

http://www.amazon.com/Men-Women-Difference-Larry-Crabb/dp/0310336880/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1401744455&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=ment+and+women+crabbMen and Women: Enjoying the Difference (1991/2013) by Larry Crabb sets out to explore gender differences, particularly within the marital relationship. Having said that, I believe that a substantial part of this book would be useful to anyone, married or not.

Men and Women is a practical exploration of the notion of relational sin, and particularly our tendency to be self-centered. Crabb argues that when things go wrong in relationships, the primary reason is that people are committed first of all to themselves. On page 23, he wrote "it is the act of putting ourselves at the center of the universe, where God belongs, that is unqualified sin."  That thesis drives the remainder of the book. 

Having done his homework, Crabb explores the two typical "camps" of understanding biblical marriage, what he terms the egalitarian and the traditionalist. He believes that problems ultimately emerge from both of these traditional understandings, on the one hand suffocating legalism and on the other self-expressing freedom. the problem with both of them is that they are self-, rather than other-, centered. In typical Crabb fashion, he describes things in a fresh way that others don't always grasp while remaining firmly committed to Scripture.

Men and Women is a great book for the health of marriages, but I would say that it is also an excellent book for relationships in general. I am committed to the notion of self-denial as essential Christian teaching and this book gets right to that heart.