Book Review: Women of the Word

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When was the last time your face was shining? I don’t mean oily skin problems. I mean shining from beholding God. Seeing him for who he is in all of his attributes and holiness. Moses’ face shone when he came down from Mount Sinai and received the Ten Commandment ‘s from the Lord (Exodus 34:29-35.) The light emanating from his face was so intense he needed to wear a veil. Moses spent extended periods of time with the Lord and it showed, literally.

In Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds, her goal is for women to have shining faces like Moses. She makes it clear the aim of bible study is to behold God, and in beholding him we will become like him. “We must be altered by the vision,” as she says. Before we can change upon seeing God for who he is, our heart and mind must be touched first.

Heart and Mind

The subtitle of the book, “How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds,” was what drew me in in the first place. I’m not a big fan of christian women writers who only appeal to women’s emotions, without stimulating their minds. Also, I was interested to see what a woman would have to say about a male dominated topic in the church. Most christian women writers I grew up with either wrote bad fiction or wrote non-fiction that was redundant about biblical gender issues and roles.

True beauty, Titus 2, modesty, purity, and being keepers of the home are mostly covered by women writers, while the men write about Bible doctrine, reformed theology, Bible studies, and commentaries. We shouldn’t leave behind the important Biblical truths aimed specifically at women, but it’s refreshing to start seeing women writing for women with new topics. What better way for women to truly understand and apply gender-specific Biblical truths, and more, than by learning a proper method for personal Bible study?

So, what exactly does Wilkin mean by studying with both our hearts and our minds? We must seek to know God with our minds and love him with our hearts. These are interrelated concepts. We can’t worship and adore an unknown god, (Acts 17:16-34) and seeking knowledge without growing in our love for God and others is akin to the clanging cymbal Paul takes about in 1 Corinthians 13. Love without knowledge is fluff, and knowledge without love is puffed up arrogance. As Wilkin says herself,

Our study of the Bible is only beneficial insofar as it increases our love for the God it proclaims. Bible study is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

The How of Bible Study

Not only does Wilkin tell us why we should study the Bible, but she tells us how to study it. She unleashes her five P’s of study: purpose, perspective, patience, process, and prayer. I love how she opens up the discussion in the first few chapters by sharing her story of becoming a woman of the word. She also brought my eyes back to the focus of the Bible — not me, not the characters in the Bible stories, but God. She clarifies this further by saying,

The Bible does tell us who we are and what we should do, but it does so through the lens of who God is. The knowledge of God and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand. In fact, there can be no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God.

We don’t serve an unknown god; he has made himself known in his word. Through this book I was personally encouraged to become a student again and dig deeper into Biblical literacy. All through school I was tempted to take short cuts when it came to studying. Studying the long and hard way is counter-cultural in the church and in the world. God wants us to be his students so that we might know him, love him, and serve him better. Moses’ face was transformed by his vision of God; let it be said of his people today.

Review of Wendy Alsup’s Bible Study in Ephesians

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Peace through grace. This is how Wendy Horger Alsup would summarize her bible study through Ephesians. A phrase she borrows from theologian and scholar John Stott.

According to Alsup’s Introduction in By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity,Ephesians defines my identity and security in Christ.” Alsup is one of the women forging the new path ahead for Bible doctrine books written for women by women.

She encourages women to not just pick up books on women specific topics written by women authors, but to delve deeper into a true and sound study of a book of the Bible. By bringing her feminine touch to the realm of Bible doctrine, she aims to help women apply the truth in Ephesians to their lives. She is also a wife and mother and occasionally touches on those applications as well.

Maybe you’ve been to a ladies bible “study”, where it’s really more snacking, giggling, and conversing about life than actual studying. Maybe you’ve been to some that are more emotionally driven, where women ask themselves how a particular passage makes them feel. Well, this study is not the same. Alsup takes on historical context, original intent, and examines each verse and chapter against the message of Ephesians in its entirety. Alsup sums up Ephesians by saying,

 “The Apostle Paul is intent that we understand the blessings that have been eternally secured for us by Christ despite our unworthiness, and from understanding those unconditional blessings, we then learn obedience.” 

The book is broken down into 4 sections that each cover roughly 2 chapters of Ephesians, which is then broken down by every couple verses. The actual biblical text is included prior to Alsup’s commentary, and each chapter has space for reflections. There are discussion questions in the back of the book as well.

My women’s group at church just finished using this study, and I think it facilitated great discussion. It personally affected me to seek greater humility from the Lord. Also, it challenged me to love people in my life in the way Christ loves me. Namely, to be more forbearing, tolerant, and patient in how I love my family. If it can change me, it can change you.