Thursday, October 24, 2019

Book Review: Stop Calling Me Beautiful

Stop Calling Me Beautiful: Finding Soul-Deep Strength in a Skin-Deep World. Phylicia Masonheimer. 2020. [February] Harvest House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I attended my first Bible study when I was 16 years old. I came into the house clutching my copy of Beth Moore’s Believing God and spent the next sixteen weeknights glued to my pastor’s TV screen.

I have a confession to make. I may do a decent job of not judging a book by its cover. Most of the time. But. When it comes to christian books--especially nonfiction books--I tend to judge a book by its publisher. Stop Calling Me Beautiful is published by Harvest House. Yet the description of this one sounded GREAT. Like the author and I would get along well. For she too opposes "pink fluff" theology written by women, for women, that consists of little real substance.

She addresses three problems that she sees in typical women's ministries: 1) Christian women are being taught a message that is theologically deficient. Modern women’s ministry’s framework for presenting and understanding God contains pieces of truth, but these pieces do not present an accurate picture of God and the gospel. 2) The message we’re hearing is self-focused. Flawed theology always turns attention away from God and onto ourselves, and that’s exactly what has happened with women’s ministry today. 3) The message is superficial, watered-down.

She concludes, "Theological education—learning about God, the Bible, and how these truths apply to life—is not just for men or for those called to ministry. Women must be spiritually equipped with the knowledge of God through His Word so they can minister to the people around them...The true gospel is available to all of us through God’s Word. We must learn to study it. We must know it well enough to rightly divide the truth and check teachings against the Word of God as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). In other words, we must cultivate a holy curiosity." I couldn't agree with her more!

The book doesn't focus, however, on how everyone else is doing it wrong. Far from it. Most of the book serves either as a first introduction or a refresher course on the Christian faith, on how to live the life and walk the walk daily.

I found myself highlighting passage after passage. I guess you could say I was nodding my head and going, YES.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Desire and delight become an endless circle in the presence of the living God. 
  • Our self-discovery is not God’s goal. We are meant to know God and make Him known. This is the great adventure for which our hearts long!
  • We don’t go deeper with God by reflecting more on ourselves, or even by reading God’s Word to look for insight about ourselves. Roots of spiritual growth develop as we seek God for who He is and allow Him to do the transforming work in our hearts that we can never do on our own. He is the one who plants the desire to seek Him. He is the one who meets us when we apply diligence in faith.
  • Bible study is as simple as actually reading the Bible. You don’t need to know everything up front to learn and appreciate what God says in His Word. But you do have to be willing to start. From that heart of willingness, you can add resources for deeper study. These will add depth to the places, people, and terms you read in the Bible, transforming what used to be drab and gray into the living color of God’s redemption story.
  • We need the full gospel—the gospel that began in Genesis and runs to Revelation like a “scarlet thread”, a continual story written in blood—in order to find a deeper spiritual life in this shallow world. Finding this life is not easy. It takes diligence. But diligence is what a student of any kind must cultivate in order to gain knowledge. And that’s what we, as believers, need to do.
  • God insists on our involvement in Christian community. We are called to vulnerability, transparency, and the sharing of our burdens. Without this, we cannot grow as believers.
  • We can’t draw near if we don’t open our Bibles and read them ourselves, if we don’t put ourselves into godly community, and if we don’t receive discipleship and accountability. We live abundantly when we regularly expose ourselves to the work and Spirit of God. When we do, the things that used to bore us take on the color of abundant life.
  • Your brokenness is real, but it is not your identity. It is not an excuse, and it is not your future.
  • The goal of time with God is worship of God.
  • God is the most valuable, worthy person we will ever know. Yet we often attribute more worth and value to sleep, social media, and friends than we do to Him. Our worship is naturally revealed through our daily habits and behaviors. The things we think, say, read, watch, and do reveal what we’re worshipping.
  • There is no quick fix for a soul-deep struggle. Though it’s not easy and certainly not quick, Jesus never makes a promise He won’t bring to fruition. 
  • Overcoming anxiety is the daily choice to come. When we feel weary, burdened, and overwhelmed, changing our schedules and habits will help, but these will not bring us lasting victory. Being present and letting go of perfectionism will help us make great strides, but these actions will not cut to the spiritual root of anxiety. Anxiety is overcome when we make the choice to trust God more than we trust our emotions.
  • Victory is not defined by never feeling anxious. 
  • You don’t have to like your circumstances to depend on God in the midst of them. 
  • Our grief is known and carried. Our loss is not pointless. 
  • You can’t love someone and condemn them at the same time! 
  • In one of life’s great dichotomies, we fear losing what we value most—even when the thing we value is destroying us.
  • Repentance does not entail rehearsing our unworthiness (to ourselves and others) over and over again for the purpose of glorifying God. We glorify God best when we turn from our sinful ways, embrace the worthiness He has given us in Christ, and live out that worthiness by the Holy Spirit’s power.
  • Without grounding ourselves in the Word of God we can’t live by the truth of God. Without living by the truth of God we can’t live out the freedom of God. An overcoming life is the product of consistent exposure to God through His Word. This isn’t another reminder to do your devotions. This is war! Abundant life doesn’t happen apart from God, and God has revealed Himself in Scripture.
  • We think in terms of the big picture, but our lives are actually lived in the mundane moments, and our legacy is less about the world at large and more about our immediate communities. But here’s the kicker: We can’t impact our communities if we’re constantly playing whack-a-mole with our sinfulness. And we can’t overcome our sinfulness—or the difficulties of this world—apart from Jesus. To truly make a difference in the world, we have to know the Creator and Redeemer of the world on an intimate level. We have to be women of spiritual depth.
  • We change our communities by letting Jesus change our lives in front of, alongside, and within our communities. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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