Saturday, August 17, 2019

Women of the Word by Jen Wilken

It's Ladies Bible Study time again at my church.  I always love these studies.  It seems like it has been near an eternity since our last one which ended back in the Spring - so not really that long ago.  I enjoy getting to know the other ladies who attend our church and I enjoy the insight they all offer as we study together.  Our fall study will be different from the ones we have done in the past.  We will begin with the book Women of the Word by Jen Wilken.  Then, our Bible study leader will take us through 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus.  These study sessions will take us all the way to Christmas.

Women of the Word by Jen Wilken

 Women of the Word by Jen Wilken


The first chapter of Women of the Word has already made me rethink the way I read and study scripture.  Like most people, I read the Bible to listen for God's voice through His Word.  I'm usually searching for answers to life's many questions such as "What should I do?" or "Why is this happening?"  Sometimes I'm reading to find answers to questions in a Bible study that someone else has already written.  Jen points out that although these are good reasons to read the Bible, we should also read the Bible to learn the character of God.  In fact, the most important reason we should study the Bible is to learn the character of God - to know God more deeply.

The main theme of Jen's first chapter is that the Bible is not a book about us.  It is a book about God.  When we study the Bible to learn more about God, we will learn more about who we are through the lens of knowing who God is.

Something else I learned in the early chapters of Women of the Word is that we should study with our hearts AND our minds.  We live in a culture where there is so much emphasis on the heart that perhaps we forget that it is important to study with our minds as well.  Jen believes we should study first with our minds, then our hearts.  Jen tells us that "the heart cannot love what the mind does not know."

The heart cannot love what the mind does not know. - Jen Wilken
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We need to study the Bible with our minds and our hearts.
We come to understand who God is and we are changed - our affections detach from lesser things and attach to Him.  If we want to feel a deeper love for God, we must learn to see Him more clearly for who He is.  If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about God. - Jen Wilken
Jen summarizes several approaches to spending time in the Word.  Some of the approaches she mentioned are probably common to most of us.  Although some of these approaches are not all bad all the time, they are not approaches to Bible study that will necessarily result in Bible literacy.  She teaches her readers that a well rounded Bible study:

*challenges us to navigate all areas of Bible study.
*takes into account how any given passage fits into the bigger picture of what the Bible has to say.
*addresses a topic as it arises in scripture rather than attaching scripture to a topic.
*recognizes that books about the Bible are supplements to it, not a substitute for it.
*challenges us to learn the full counsel of God's Word.
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. - Jen Wilken
As we get deeper into the content of Women of the Word, we are told, and truthfully so, that every "little story" in the Bible is part of the "big story."  Although each little story in the Bible teaches valuable life lessons, we understand the little stories better if we know the meta-narrative of the big story.  Jen continues to reinforce what we already know - that the Bible is a book about God and every little story within it's pages from Genesis from Revelation points to the big story meta-narrative:  creation, fall, redemption, restoration.
Knowing how a particular book of the Bible relates to the big story is important, but the individual elements of the creation-fall-redemption-restoration theme can also occur in the smaller stories of the Bible, in various combinations.  Our task is to search for these themes as we study. - Jen Wilken
 
We are encouraged to dig deeper into Biblical texts as if we are archaeologists excavating ancient cultures.  Jen tells us to consider the original text written by its original author in its original culture as it was heard by its original audience.  She tells us to find the answers to five questions before reading any given book in the Bible.

1.  Who wrote it?
2.  When was it written?
3.  To whom was it written?
4.  In what style was it written?
5.  Why was it written?

Studying the Bible for Bible literacy takes time.  Jen encourages women to study with purpose, perspective, patience, process, and prayer.  In the first seven chapters, Jen goes into great detail about the 5 Ps of Bible study.
The sovereign God of the universe once dwelt with us in a perfectly ordered Garden of His own creation.  He will one day dwell with us again in a perfectly ordered city of His own creation.  But in the space between these two bookends, we are granted unique opportunities to be involved in the orderly work of creating spaces where the divine and the human can share fellowship together.  Studying the Bible with process is a means to do just that. - Jen Wilken
Prayer is a very important part of Bible study, perhaps the most important part.  We are encouraged to pray before, during, and after we study the Bible.
If the Word of God is truly living and active, it is so because of the ministrations of the Holy Spirit, through the finished work of Christ, by the loving decree of the Father.  Prayer invokes the fellowship of the Trinity in your study time, a sweet and necessary fellowship for any student of the Word. - Jen Wilken
By the way, God's Word IS, in fact, living and active.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12
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We are rightfully encouraged to study the Bible on our own, to dig deep, and deeper, and deeper still.  Jen reminds us that it is important for us to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our study first.  We should note things we don't understand.  We should read the same book several times and in different trustworthy translations (not a paraphrase like the Message just yet).  After our own efforts, then we should consult trustworthy commentaries and other sources.  If you aren't sure what Bible study supplements are trustworthy and true to scripture, ask someone you trust to give you a list.  Your pastor and other Bible study leaders at your church is a good place to start.  Studying the Bible on our own first, in prayer and under the authority of the Holy Spirit, will help us determine whether or not others are leading us astray into a false teaching.  Also, when someone is teaching a text we have already studied, we gain a deeper understanding of the passage.
Preaching and teaching take on greater dimension and accomplish far more when we come to them already saturated in the text they expound. - Jen Wilken
Jen's language and matter of speaking - or in this case, writing  - made this book an easy read.  As I read, it was almost as if she was sitting beside me, talking to me.

Some will agree 100% with everything she says about the Bible and how to study it.  Others will agree with most of what she says.  Everyone who reads Women of the Word will find sound advice about how to more effectively study the Bible.  She notes several times that not every woman will have time to implement every tool or method she suggests, but every woman who desires to study for Bible literacy can do at least something differently to move in the direction of Bible literacy, rather than just reading words on a page to check off the fact that she "spent time in the Word today."

For women who are called to teach other women, this book is a must-read for you.  In fact, her ninth chapter is devoted to you.  She offers you a lot of sound advice.  I don't see how you can read this book, especially the ninth chapter, without taking several things away to guide your studies and methods of teaching what you learn.

The purpose of this book, whether the reader is called to teach the Word or not, is to teach us all how to study the Bible for the purpose of Biblical literacy.  Jen reminds us of several points throughout this book.  We become what we behold.  Our hearts cannot love what our minds do not know.  We cannot be transformed into the likeness of Christ if we do not know Him.  The Bible is not a book about us.  It is a book about God.  We cannot love a God we do not know.  We cannot know God if we do not study His Word.

I'll end with one last quote from Women of the Word.
The Word is living and active.  It will conform you by dividing you.  And in the dividing, miracle of miracles, it will render you whole.  We become what we behold.  I don't know about you, but I have much "becoming" to do.  There is a vastness between what I am and what I ought to be, but it is a vastness able to be spanned by the mercy and grace of Him whose face it is most needful for me to behold.  In beholding God, we become like Him. - Jen Wilken
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Women of the Word by Jen Wilken

2 comments:

  1. This study looks awesome! And who doesn't need more help with studying God's Word and being students (women) of the Word?! In the spring, our ladies group at church did our first Jen Wilkin Bible study on 1 Peter, A Living Hope. And we all loved it and how God uses her writing and videos to help deepen our faith.

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    1. That's good to know, Karen. I've only recently been introduced to Jen. I look forward to going through her Bible studies in the future.

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