Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bible Studies for Women -- InScribed Collection

I'm always on the lookout for good Bible studies -- either for individuals or small groups.  So I was definitely interested when I had the opportunity to review these first four books in a larger, ongoing collection.  Thanks to the BookLook Bloggers program for providing these books in exchange for my honest review.

The format for this review is as follows:  I'm first sharing the publisher's description of each book.  After each description, I'll share a few thoughts of my own about the study.

Leaving Ordinary by Donna Gaines

The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and be known by God. God longs for an intimate relationship with us as well. But how do we develop that kind of relationship with a holy God? It is one thing to long for such a relationship, but quite another to experience intimacy with Him. In Leaving Ordinary, Donna Gaines shares from her personal experience how prayer can become the channel that links the believer’s heart to the heart of God.

God gave the pattern of the tabernacle to the Israelites. It was a temporary and portable dwelling for His glory. Through it God taught them how to approach and worship Him before He led them to their reward—the promised land. Using the tabernacle and its articles as a guide, Donna teaches readers how to interact with God in that secret place of true intimacy that leads to worship. Your ordinary daily practice of prayer can become an extraordinary encounter with the living Lord. Leaving Ordinary is essential reading for anyone who desires to enter into and experience the reality of God’s presence.

My thoughts:  Donna Gaines leads a study of the tabernacle as a model for our prayer and worship relationship with God.  This book has little room for written interaction but provides a great deal of practical application of this Old Testament picture to our current-day experience.  She concludes the book with suggested scriptures to pray over our husbands, children and grandchildren.

Living "So That" by Wendy Blight

In today’s world, it’s tough to make everyday decisions, let alone decisions that honor God. Our culture is increasingly driven by selfish desires. However, as Christians, our lives should not be self-centered and static; they should be others-centered and active, making a difference for the Kingdom of God.

Living "So That" is a fresh approach to understanding God's Word, focusing on many of the powerful "so that" verses in Scripture, including Jesus Came So That. . .; God Spoke So That. . .; Pray So That. . .; Trials Come So That. . . . Through her approachable style, personal examples, and biblical teaching, Wendy equips readers to take what they study in the Word of God and practically live it out in order to impact the world around them. The result is a renewed appreciation for the power and applicability of Scripture. Through practical examples and biblical truths, Wendy helps readers gain a new perspective on daily living, equipping them to apply these biblical truths to present-day decision-making.

My thoughts:  Wendy Blight uses a variety of scriptures to share some truths from God's Word with very practical applications.  The lessons are structured in a way to allow different readers to choose their own level of study.  Some of the questions worked into the various chapters simply involve gathering of facts, while others lead to more of an application level of the truths.  There are applications, concluding thoughts, and many segments include an "If you want to go deeper" section for those willing to put a little more effort into the study.  And Wendy encourages memorization of some key passages of scripture throughout the study.

Amazed and Confused by Heather Zempel

Most people have prayed for something or someone in earnest, seeking God’s will, only to be left confused by God’s response. Sometimes we ask, “Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?” In Amazed and Confused, Heather Zempel tackles this question head-on by exploring the book of Habakkuk.

When the prophet Habakkuk prayed that God would bring change to the backsliding nation of Israel, this issue came to the forefront. Habakkuk begged God for revival and that He would turn the hearts of faithless people back to Him.

God’s answer to Habakkuk was, “Take a look at the nations and watch what happens! You will be shocked and amazed” (1:5, The Voice). The vision God gave Habakkuk was one of warfare and exile. How do you respond when God answers your prayers in a way that seems out of line with his character and promises?

Amazed and Confused proceeds systematically through the book of Habakkuk, exploring the prophet’s prayer, God’s response, and the prophet’s journey from confusion to worship. This interactive Bible study is the perfect choice for those who are hurting and confused about God’s responses to their prayers.

My thoughts:  "If you get seated next to Habakkuk at the marriage supper of the lamb, you won't have to say, 'I'm sorry I never read your book.'"  This statement comes from the author's comment on the front jacket cover and fits in with the conversational tone she uses in sharing honest, gut-level truths from this little-known minor prophet.  Heather Zempel interweaves truths from Habakkuk with other scripture and a real-life look at how even though God's responses to our requests don't always make sense in our limited understanding, we can still understand enough about Him to trust and worship Him for Who He is.  Each of the ten chapters in this book ends with some reflection questions and a place to record notes and thoughts from your study.

Dive Deeper by Jenifer Jernigan

Equip yourself to fall deeply in love with God's Word through this unique, interactive Bible study. Delving into the book of Ephesians, Dive Deeper is a tool for women—those who might be satisfied and content with their Bible study and for those who find themselves fearful or numb—to dive deeper into the living and active Word of God.

Dive Deeper comes from Jenifer Jernigan's heart. As a preacher’s daughter, she grew up with some pretty heavy expectations to live up to. Jenifer found herself becoming numb to the things of God because the Bible stories were all too familiar. She longed to break through the serene surface of her safe place and dive deeper into scripture. She wanted to fall in love with the stories she knew so well. Over time, Jenifer learned to do just that. Her unique methods are shared in this one-of-a-kind study. Dive Deeper takes readers by the hand and jumps with them into the exhilarating waters of Bible study.

My thoughts:  Jennifer Jernigan leads women into a deep study of the book of Ephesians through a method she labels d.i.v.e.:  define. investigate. visualize. embrace.  She uses an interactive style, with lots of places to answer questions and reflect on readings, to lead readers to dive deep into the truths about Jesus in Paul's letter.  One huge benefit of this book is learning a format that can be carried into a study of any part of the Word.  Anyone interested in "finding deep faith beyond shallow religion" could certainly benefit from this study.

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