Because of my great desire to stick with hard copies of books, I've given up reviewing quite a few review copies as publishers are (understandably) going the ebook route. This is fine with me as it also frees me up to read books that I want to get to in any order that I choose. The one downside (for me) is that Crossway also went the ebook route for reviews and I do so love Crossway Books. Again, their decision totally make sense and I completely understood even if it cramps my style. (Waaah!) But -
Right before our "pick up" trip, I received an e-mail with the upcoming releases from Crossway and the title Women of the Word caught my eye. This year it has been my goal to read the Bible through chronologically and I've been spending my morning wake up minutes focused on that.
Books, as you all know, are incredibly important to me but it has been a challenge to me to make the most important book in the entire world a top priority.This year I'm working on changing that and sticking to a daily reading plan. So far so good but I'm not going to deny that it is a struggle. I tend to pick up books about the Bible more quickly and easily than the Bible itself. I know this tendency is a weakness of mine and I'm focused on correcting it at present. That explained, I really wanted to read Women of the Word so I signed up to review the title on a screen. Despite my hesitations on the medium used to read this book, I do think it was terribly worth it.
"This book . . . intends to teach you not merely a doctrine, concept, or story line, but a study method that will allow you to open up the Bible on your own. It intends to challenge you to think and to grow, using tools accessible to all of us, whether we hold a high school diploma or a seminary degree, whether we have minutes or hours to give it each day. This book intends to change the way you think about Bible study." (Introduction, page 23)
This next statement is going to sound rather funny but bear with me and read beyond it: I think Jen Wilkin has a boring reading voice. It's not exciting in the least; it's just straight forward and to the point. And you know what? That's precisely what this book needed to be. Wilkin didn't need to fill this book about how she studies the Bible with lots of funny stories and clever little anecdotes from her own life to instruct her readership to improve their Bible reading. She needed to do exactly what she did, which was to focus on the how and the why of Bible study. She did this job remarkably well and gave me plenty of things to mull over as I continue to try to understand the Word of God, who God is, and what my life needs to look like in response to what I learn. Yes, she does tell a personal story or two but the focus of the book is definitely not on her but on developing an appropriate and useful Bible study method which will increase your Biblical literacy. So when I say she has a boring reading voice when it comes to this book, I actually mean that as a compliment. She doesn't distract from her message by telling me about herself. I appreciated that and that is the main reason why I think Women of the Word is actually quite the useful tool and worthy of a good read.
As women and mothers, we all know that it can be so easy to focus our time and attention on things other than learning more about the Bible. We think we're short on time to focus on the Bible in any sort of scholarly way and I think we have a tendency to give up before we even get started. We are pretty quick to shrug our shoulders and assume that there are so many people more qualified to read and understand these words from the Lord than we ourselves. But the thing of it is, the Bible was written for all of us - man, woman and child. It is a book for all of the people of God - not just scholars, not just men, and not just retirees. It was written for me at age 2, it is written for me at age 35, and it will be written for me at every age that I ever am. It is given to me to grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord and it is very important that I not ignore it.
"Do you believe in the importance of reclaiming Bible literacy? Let me suggest a reason why you should: Bible literacy matters because it protects us from falling into error. 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. Women, in particular, are leaving the church in unprecedented numbers.
When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environments we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel. 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." (Chapter 2, page 60)
Wilkin spends a lot of time encouraging her readers - all while giving them straight forward advice as to how they can improve their knowledge and understanding - to stick to it. Whatever time you have to spend in God's word - spend it! Glean, learn, read, re-read, pray, research, GROW! Growth in her readers' love of the Lord is definitely the main focus of Wilkin's book and I accepted that encouragement to keep on keeping on. I particularly love that she encourages readers of the Bible to make notes of the passages they do not understand, confess the limits of their understanding, and accept with joy their ignorance while praying and trusting God to reveal any mysteries to them in time. It can be overwhelming to read a difficult passage (I personally think of Ecclesiastes and Revelation) and feel yourself inadequate. Instead of feeling ashamed by my lack of understanding, Wilkin offers practical suggestions to grow in one's understanding as well as assurance that even in the weakness of ignorance, God's strength can be shown.
I really do believe that this is an extremely useful book which offers tools for anyone to use in reading, understanding and applying scripture. Although this book is written specifically for women, her tips can be applied across the board. Why? Again, because God's word is written for all people in all places. It is to be studied by each one of us, without exception. If you are struggling to read for understanding and a deeper knowledge then I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of Women of the Word. I found it to be outstanding.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNERS, as selected by Random.org, IS #6 - Sherry and #11 - Amy @ Hope is the Word
Many thanks to Crossway Books who provided a copy of this book (on the screen) in order to facilitate this review. Thanks also for their willingness to spread the joy which this book brings by offering two copies to my readers here.