>> Friday, December 2, 2016
I loved the first half of this book. I was so inspired to become a better student of the Word.
By and large, we North American Christians know far too little of the God we profess to worship. Bible literacy is at an all-time low. I agree with the author wholeheartedly that we need to desire to study His Word ~ not just to know God better, but also to more quickly recognize erroneous thinking, false teaching, and outright lies. So much of what we hear and read sounds good, but fits into one of those three categories nonetheless.
"Both the false teacher and the secular humanist rely on biblical ignorance for their messages to take root, and the modern church has proven fertile ground for those messages. Because we do not know our Bibles, we crumble at the most basic challenges to our worldview. Disillusionment and apathy eat away at our ranks.
"Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible." (pp45-46)
She lays out the most common mistakes in our approaches to Bible reading/study. In her experience, women tend to read God's Word from six incorrect perspectives. (I found myself in every outline ~ OUCH!) The main problem is this:
"We are like Moses," Jen says. "The Bible is our burning bush -- a faithful declaration of the presence and holiness of God. We ask it to tell us about ourselves, and all the while it is telling us about 'I AM.' We think that if it would just tell us who we are and what we should do, then our insecurities, fears, and doubts would vanish. but our insecurities, fears, and doubts can never be banished by the knowledge of who we are. They can only be banished by the knowledge of 'I AM.' We must read and study the Bible with our ears trained on hearing God's declaration of Himself." (p26, emphasis mine)
I agree with all this. I hunger to know more, to understand more, to know better how to put into words why I believe what I believe. But I struggle to passionately, patiently, purposefully, prayerfully, methodically study. Which is why I wanted to read this book and loved the first half.
And then I got to the second half of the book, where Jen describes her own strategy for study, and with every passing sentence, I found myself thinking, "When am I ever going to have the kind of time this requires??"
I wanted ideas for how to actually study my Bible during my devotional time each morning, instead of just reading a few chapters and checking them off a list. And she certainly offers a good and comprehensive system. But I really felt like her approach would only work for people who could devote hours each week to the process. To someone like myself with only about half an hour in the morning, it seemed overwhelming.
Jen says it doesn't matter how much time you have and to just use what you've got, but can you
- read and re-read a passage a handful of times
- pray over it
- research the historical context
- seek out recurring words, phrases, and themes
- write out the passage in your own words
- consult multiple commentaries
- then write out your conclusions about what God is revealing about Himself in the passage, what you've learned about yourself, and how it applies to life as a result
Even doing just one or two of these things would take me at least that long.
In that sense, I felt this book was specifically geared towards women in ministry/teaching positions, particularly those interested in developing their own lesson materials. As much as this book really is written for any and all women, the second half seemed to speak to only a select few, which I found disappointing and a little discouraging. It's not that the method or material are beyond my scope of abilities and understanding, but that I don't feel like my schedule and responsibilities allow for the necessary time I would need to actually follow her suggestions. I think most women would tend to find themselves in the same boat.
And yet, like the author says:
"We will not imitate [God] by accident. We will certainly become our mothers without so much as trying, but we will not wake up ten years from now and find we have passively taken on the character of God." (p150)
So I will try to adapt a couple of her suggestions to fit my current time frame and season of life. I want to train myself to look for what God is telling me about Himself in each passage, rather than seeking nuggets of encouragement, wisdom, and promise for ME. I believe that's essentially the whole point of this book. Maybe that one small-yet-seismic shift in perspective is really the key to becoming a better student, a stronger Woman of the Word.
I want to improve my Bible literacy. In this day and age when Christianity and the Bible are being shot down left, right, and centre, we all need a better, stronger understanding of God's Word.