Monday, August 30, 2010

Solid Bible Study

I just finished reading By His Wounds You Are Healed by Wendy Horger Alsup.  It is a Bible study about the book of Ephesians for women.  I have been challenged to think about many things as I've gone through this study.  

Before I talk about the rabbit trails I wandered along, I want to share what I think about this study.  It's a really good Bible study.  It's laid out a little differently than other studies I've done, though.  There are 35 lessons that would take about 15-25 minutes each.  It depends on how much time you spend in prayer or reflecting after the lesson.  The length of the lessons vary from 2-5 pages.  I am not a good at reading recipes all the way through before I begin them and I'm the same way with books.  With this book, make sure you look through it first. There's an introduction, then the lessons with space for reflection after them.  After the 35 lessons, there is a section with 1-3 questions for each lesson--which are worth doing.  Some Bible studies are primarily a commentary with a few personal questions.  This is that kind of study.  There are other studies like Cynthia Heald's and Tim Keller's studies that are less commentary and are primarily questions.  Both kinds of studies have their strengths.  

The greatest strength of this study is also something that may not make it easy for a lot of women to connect with the author and this study.  Let me explain...most women's books are written by feelers for feelers.  A good example of what I think of as a feeler's book is Let Go by Sheila Walsh.  Many women see life through an emotional lens rather than a logical lens.  Men tend to be more logical in how they see things.  But, there are many women who see things in between or more on through more of a logical than emotional lens.  If you happen to be a more logical woman, I believe it is often difficult to connect with books written by women.  That is where this Bible study is a perfect fit.  

This Bible study tends to be more logical rather than emotional.  That doesn't mean that someone who is a feeler won't grow by going through it or enjoy it, but I want to give this warning.  This study is about pointing women to God and not to themselves or the stories of other women.  Rather than seeing this as a weakness of this book, it is a strength.  So often women's books get distracted, I think, from pointing women to God.  As women we can engage so much in the stories of one another, me included, that it is the stories that keep us reading rather than digging deeper in the Word.

For most of this study, I couldn't tell a great difference between a study written by a woman or a man because it is a more logical study.  The author makes this statement in the introduction that commentaries are "written by men and aimed at a mostly male audience.  My experience is that many women skip these books and focus instead on books on women's topics by women authors."  p. 9.   (1 Please see post script below.)  Because of this statement I was looking for how this study would be different.  I didn't find a lot of differences except when it came to addressing the issue of submission.   I appreciated Ms. Alsup's perspective and discussion.  I've read many books and chapters in books about submission during my marriage.  I thought her 4 pages about it were wonderful.  One of the things that I have come to believe over the past 9 years is that there are many things that I cannot speak into my husband's life.  I must leave them to prayer and to the Lord.  I haven't known the scriptural support for this, but Ms. Alsup gives this in her explanation and really explains this principle that I've come to believe.

I would definitely recommend this Bible study to you if think you might be more of a thinker than a feeler.  I'd also recommend it to you if you are a feeler and are looking for a study that's going to point you to the Lord and encourage you to think about Him and your relationship with the Lord rather than about other women's life experiences and lessons.

Please note that I did receive a complimentary copy of this book for review from Ms. Alsup.  If you are interested in this study, I don't believe it is available in bookstores, but it can be ordered on Amazon.

Post Script Note...  I think that the reason most commentaries seem to be written for men is that primarily pastors use commentaries and the biblical support is for men to be church pastors and elders, not women (I Tim. 3:2 and other scriptures).  I don't believe they were intentionally writing to a male only audience, though.  I also think that much of the reason that many women pass up such books is that they don't desire to read deep theology.  But, I also think it has a great deal to do with being a thinker or a feeler.  I am a huge feeler.  When I read a book, I want to know that the author really understands and that I can identify with him or her.  I've had a handful of friends over the years that read deep, scholarly books on a regular basis by choice.  I find myself in both camps.  I read a wide variety of books, but I have to be honest, I get overwhelmed if I read too many deep books in a row!  I can understand both why as women we choose to read challenging books and at other times why we don't.

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