A few years ago I served a very brief stint as a book reviewer for a particular publisher. I love to read and love to talk about books, so what could be better than being given books for FREE to review, right? But the publisher sent me six books at a time every month. They didn’t expect me to read and review all six every month, but still – I didn’t want reviewing for a publisher to take over my reading time, so I dropped out. One of the books I received for review during that time was Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst. I don’t think I had heard of Lysa before that time (since then I have read two of her other books), but this title caught my eye. I determined to read it “sometime,” and it got put in a box of unread books all awaiting the opportunity to see the light of day. I did get it out at one point and put it on a bookshelf – but still didn’t get to it. That’s one reason the TBR Challenge is good for me. At any rate, the copy I have is an advanced reader copy from 2009 (ahem…blush!), and on the back it says it is an “uncorrected proof,” so it may be a bit different in places from the version you can buy today. But the bulk of it should be the same.
When I first saw this book, I thought it was going to be about getting more from one’s Bible study. Though Lysa does discuss that in a couple of chapters, the overall purpose of the book is to move Bible study from our to-do list and just acquiring knowledge, to living out what God is teaching us, to enjoy a deeper connection with God.
Lysa says in the first chapter:
I want my life with Jesus to be fulfilling. I want my beliefs to work no matter what life throws at me. I want to be so certain of God’s presence that I never feel like I have to face anything in my own strength or rely on my own perspectives. My strength will weaken during hard times. My perspectives get skewed by my emotions.
I want total security no matter what happens. In other words, I want my relationship with Jesus to be enough to keep me sane and together and still fully devoted. Is this possible? True fulfillment no matter what?
Fulfillment means to be completely satisfied. How might our lives look if we were so filled with God’s truths we could let go of the pain of our past, not get tripped up by the troubles of today, or consumed by worries about tomorrow?…Just going through the motions [of prayer, Bible study, etc.] will not in and of themselves fill our souls. They must be done with the great expectation and heart cry for God to lead us into a deeper and more life-changing connection with Him (p. 25).
The rest of the book fleshes out that purpose, discussing being “good enough” (and how we aren’t except through Christ), not feeling like we measure up, our relationships, our thoughts, our ministries, when our “ugly comes out,” when we’re hurt or offended by God.
A few more quotes I noted:
“Why doesn’t Jesus work for me?” is never the right question. Instead, when circumstances shift and we feel like we fall short, we should ask, “How can I see Jesus even in this?” (p. 41).
Don’t we get into God’s Word so it can get into us? So that it can interrupt us, change us, satisfy us? How sad to simply settle for learning facts about the Bible when it was meant for so much more (p. 74).
Just because you…achieve what you always thought would make you feel special does not fix that deep-down internal insecurity. External achievement never equals internal acceptance (pp. 86-87).
Too many of us live with an uncontrolled thought life. It is possible to learn to identify destructive thoughts and make wiser choices. Instead of letting those thoughts rumble freely about in my mind, I make the choice to harness them and direct them toward truth (pp. 99-100).
Grace doesn’t give me a free pass to act out how I feel, with no regard to His commands. Rather, His grace gives me consolation in the moment, with a challenge to learn from this situation and become more mature in the future (p. 123).
Satan would love for us to pick ourselves apart, to obsess on the negative. When we do, we become hyper self-focused and take our eyes off of Jesus and the mission set before us. Many of us spend years trying to hide or fix what we perceive as personal flaws. Jesus would love for us to see ourselves as a package deal of unique qualities that He – the author and perfecter of our faith – saw as necessary for the life He’s calling us to live (p. 164). (She’s not talking here about not confessing sin: she discusses that in other places, but here she is referring to accepting how God made us).
Ask Jesus to help you fully understand the joys of obedience. Also, ask Him how you can be a woman fully committed to obedience without slipping into a legalistic approach to life. We must always remember our goal is pursuing revelations of Him. Our focus can’t be just following rules but following Jesus Himself (pp. 174-175).
I realized that most times it’s not the big things along my spiritual journey that tempt me to get off track. It’s a culmination of small daily aggravations I know God could fix but doesn’t. But what if instead of seeing these aggravations as inconveniences, I saw them as reminders to draw near to God? (p. 197).
How I long never to diminish God by loving lesser things. Rather, I want to make much of God by diminishing lesser things. May I make less of me, less of this world, less of the temporary…so that I may be a vessel more full of God, more full of eternal perspectives, more full of His everlasting! (p. 200).
Having a set of goals is a good thing for many people. But when a goal takes your focus off God and His daily intentions for you, it can cause trouble. Being driven by my plans can shift the focus of my heart from following God and being open to His unfolding invitations, to following only that which leads me closer to my desires. For me, I started falling into a trap of making plans each day around what I wanted to see happen. Anything that wasn’t part of my plan became a distraction and an unwelcome interruption (p. 211).
I have many more marked but should probably stop there. I particularly liked the chapters “Beyond Sunday Morning,” where she talks about looking at a verse phrase by phrase to discern its meaning, and “Unlikely Lessons From a Pineapple,” a great chapter talking about drawing lessons from the lives of people in the Bible, even familiar ones that we might feel we’ve known all there is to know since we were children.
I was especially blessed by a chapter where she talks about waiting for God’s timing in our calling and serving Him in the mundane, everyday tasks He has placed before us until then, realizing that they are our ministry unto Him, not a hindrance or interruption of our ministry. I came to that chapter the day after posting The Back Burner, which is along a similar vein, and was touched at God’s timing and confirmation of the truths He had been teaching me.
I appreciated Lysa’s personal experiences, transparency, and sense of humor throughout the book, but most of all I appreciated her high view of Scripture that was not an end in itself but a means of knowing and experiencing God.
There were just 2-3 minor places where I disagreed with her interpretation or application just a smidgen, but they’re not big enough to go into. I would just mention one place where, in communion with God, things were flooding her mind that she felt were from the Lord, she says, “Bits and pieces of Scripture were woven throughout, and it made me smile. It confirmed that this was, in fact, God speaking” (p. 197-198). Satan uses Scripture, too (Matthew 4), and just because thoughts come to our minds that contain Scripture doesn’t mean they are automatically from the Lord. A lot of cults have been founded on bits of Scripture wrongly interpreted and taken out of context. I’m not trying to diminish the experience she was telling about, and I feel sure she’d agree with what I am saying, but just the way it was phrased could, I thought, be confusing to some readers who might think that if a thought contained Scripture, that meant it was confirmation from the Lord.
Overall I thought this was a wonderful book that fulfilled its purpose to encourage women to go beyond checking the boxes in their Christian lives to deepening their relationship with God.
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)