Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Art of Scripture Meditation

Dannah Gresh: Have you ever felt spiritually bogged down? Kristie Anyabwile has discovered a secret.

Kristie Anyabwile: Meditating on God’s Word takes me out of my circumstance and just places me in the throne room, where there is life and there is light. And the Lord is just so good! He really does give us what we need when we need it.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of The Quiet Place, for January 15, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’re so glad to have you joining us for Revive Our Hearts today! I’m here with my friend and co-host Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: Hello. 

Nancy: And we’re here with our friend Kristie Anyabwile.

Kristie: Hi.

Nancy: This threesome here, we’re having so much fun and conversation. We love the Lord; we love His Word; we love each other. I’m just enjoying this conversation so much and wishing it could go a lot longer. I want to encourage you as you’re listening today (whether it’s podcast, broadcast, or you’re reading the transcript), just pull up a chair at our table, here.

We saved a space for you and we want you to join this conversation as we’re diving into Psalm 119. It’s kind of a launching place for our conversation about the Word of God. And let me just by way of introducing Kristie, because she is new to Revive Our Hearts . . . Well, you’re not new as a friend, but new on the broadcast.

Kristie’s a wife, a mom, a homemaker, an amazing cook. She loves leading Bible studies and discipling women. She loves hospitality; she loves reading. She speaks; she writes about marriage, motherhood, ministry. You do a lot! 

Kristie: As we all do!

Nancy: She’s got three kids, two who are pretty much out of the nest ,and then a son, Titus, at home. She and her husband, Thabiti, live in Washington D.C. where Thabiti is the pastor at Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington D.C.

When I first met you, Kristie, you and Thabiti were serving at a church in the Cayman Islands, where you for many years. Then the Lord called you to plant a church in a hard area in Washington, D.C. I’ve loved following you on Instagram and seeing what the Lord is doing in raising up Christ-lovers and Christ-followers there in that community.

You and your husband have been sweet friends and encouragers to me. I think the first time we ever actually met, I had asked if I could meet with you and your husband. I actually spent the hour or ninety minutes, or whatever it was, kind of bawling the whole time. 

I had just been through a rough season and thought maybe you guys could give some counsel and encouragement. And you did, mostly by listening and mopping up the tears and being patient. And then I remember your husband saying, “Is there anything I could do for you?”

You and Thabiti have servant hearts. You love people well. I came out of that meeting saying, “That man showed me a pastor’s heart!”—which was what I needed at that moment. You were there right by his side, encouraging. Where we have connected, it’s been sweet, and we’re overdue to get you on the broadcast, talking about a subject that we all love.

Kristie, the reason that we finally got you here to be with us on Revive Our Hearts is that you recently edited a book on Psalm 119. It’s readings, reflections on Psalm 119. Some people are rolling their eyes inside and going, “Seriously?!” Seriously! This is a rich, powerful, life-giving psalm!

You and many other women of color who may not have had a voice or a place to speak or may not be well known, most of them are not well known, but they’re women who love the Lord, love His Word. You pulled them together. You took sections of Psalm 119 and unpacked what this passage means. 

The book is called His Testimonies, My Heritage, and at the end of the program today we’ll tell you how you can get a copy of that, if you’d like to explore more deeply into Psalm 119. Now, Dannah, you’re sitting here very quietly. I didn’t mean to leave you out of our introductions, but you’re no stranger to Revive Our Hearts.

Dannah: And I love God’s Word!

Nancy: And you love the Word. All of us love sharing the Word with others. But before we can share it with others, we have to get it into us! I think that’s a mistake that’s easy to make as a Bible teacher. You prepare, and you stand up, and you teach it to others in a discipleship group or a small group or a Sunday school class or a radio broadcast . . . but you haven’t let it speak to you first.

I know that many of our Revive Our Hearts listeners know that God’s Word is important. They know it’s powerful. They know it gives life. But they’re saying, “You guys love the Word so much, and you just act like it’s so easy!” and “I wish I could find those things in the Scripture the way you do!” 

We’re sitting here at this table with four open Bibles between the three of us. They’re marked up, and they’re loved. But I want to kind of demystify getting into the Word and studying God’s Word. I don’t have a seminary education. Do you, Dannah?

Dannah: No. Oh my, no! 

Nancy: Do you, Kristie?

Kristie: No, I do not.

Dannah: I “drive without a license” when I open my Bible. (laughter)

Nancy: So you don’t have to have a seminary education. If you do, that’s great. 

Dannah: Very few of the disciples had formal theological training. Paul did. He was trained as a Pharisee and had some great religious training. He was trained by Gamaliel (see Acts 22:3). But as far as I know, the twelve disciples didn’t have that kind of schooling and education. They just spent time with Jesus, and they just heard what He said.

Nancy: Actually, the education that the Pharisees got, in some cases, didn’t really help them. It filled their heads with knowledge, but they were proud, in many cases, and lifeless.

Dannah: It didn’t touch their hearts. 

Nancy: So, Kristie, as you became a believer early in your married life, you started to get into God’s Word, and now you can’t get enough of it. Get us started. If we’re going to open God’s Word here at the start of a new year, we want to become women of the Word. Where do we start?

Kristie: We start with prayer, asking God to give us a hunger and a desire for His Word. Then we have what the early disciples, and every other Christian throughout history, has had. We have the Holy Scriptures. They had Christ with them, teaching them. But we all have a Bible; we all have a brain. That’s all we need.

Nancy: And we have the Holy Spirit in us to help us understand. He’s supposed to teach us, right? 

Kristie: Yes, we have the Holy Spirit. He’s our Teacher, right!

Nancy: So as we pray, we’re saying, “Lord, I need You to help me understand this, to open my heart, open my eyes, open my ears.”

Kristie: Yes. And in prayer, you’re asking for the help of the Spirit to illumine the Word of God. Then you just open the Book. I think sometimes, I know I’m like this, I open the Scriptures and I’ve prayed in preparation for my time in the Word. Then somehow it’s like: “Prayer is done; now it’s time to study.”

Nancy: Like it’s two separate activities. 

Kristie: But they work in tandem, and they should be working in tandem throughout my Bible reading, right? So I don’t put prayer over here, like, “Okay, I prayed, now let me study.” It’s like, “Oh, I’m studying, man!” If get to a part where I’m kind of stuck or I don’t understand then it’s, “Okay, well I need to ask for help to understand this!”

Prayer should be infused into our Bible reading and Bible study time, not just the thing that we do before or the thing that we do after. It’s not a “thing,” you know. It’s a relationship. It’s a part of how we communicate with God. We communicate with Him through His Word, but we’re communicating with Him through prayer. 

Dannah: It’s a conversation.

Kristie: It’s a conversation, yes!

Dannah: Lately I’ve been trying a new thing when I’m doing my prayer and Bible reading. And that is, when my mind wanders . . . which, I don’t know if that happens to you. 

Kristie: Not me! I don’t know what you’re talking about! (laughter)

Nancy: I’m the queen of distraction! 

Dannah: I don’t think about cleaning all day long, and then I sit down to read my Bible and, suddenly, I want to clean a closet!

Nancy: You, too?! Oh, my goodness, yes!

Kristie: Or you have to go put the laundry in right now!

Dannah: Exactly! A friend advised me, “Take God with you to that place.” Like, “Lord, I feel really burdened about the laundry right now. I am being distracted by that. Will You help me be faithful at the right time today to do that?” Don’t avoid it; go there [in prayer].

And then, the other thing that this friend encouraged me to do is, when you get to the place where, “Lord, my mind is wandering and the Word is not alive to me,” say, “Have you noticed that I’m not paying very good attention, Jesus? Have you noticed, Holy Spirit, that I’m not understanding this? Can you help me?”

Or when you get to a place where you’re like, “I feel like He’s trying to tell me something here; I feel that sense that there’s a special nugget of truth here, but I don’t really see it,” you just say, “I’m confused, Holy Spirit! Can you tell me what You’re trying to teach me? Do I need to open a concordance? Do I need to journal about this? Do I just need to read it out loud?”

And you just converse with Him as you’re in that time.

Nancy: “In school with Jesus.”

Kristie: Yes. This isn’t mysticism. This is the third Person of the Trinity residing in us and working in us and through us to help to illuminate God’s Word to us. The Holy Spirit is real!

Dannah: He’s a teacher.

Kristie: He is our Teacher! It’s just like if you’re in school and you’re stuck on a math problem, right? You raise your hand and you ask the teacher. 

Dannah: You say, “Help!” (I’m going to show that I’m not theologically trained right now), but the verse that’s coming to my mind is one of the last words Jesus says, “I have to go, because if I go, I’m going to send my Comforter, and He’s going to explain everything to you.” (That’s obviously Dannah’s paraphrase.) (see John 14:25–30).

But God’s Spirit is here to teach us. Even in the book of Titus it says God’s grace teaches us to say “no” to worldly passions and to live godly, self-controlled, upright lives (Titus 2:11–12). He is our Teacher. Let’s talk to Him while we’re in the classroom!

Nancy: And as He’s teaching us, we’re responding. This is one of the things I think it’s helpful to pray at the beginning of our time. It’s not only, “Lord, would you show me, teach me, help me?” But it’s, “Whatever You show to me, I’m going to obey! I’m going to say, ‘Yes, Lord!’” 

I think if I start with that disposition of heart: “If this Word speaks something that runs across the grain of my life, I’m going to trust You and do what You say instead of what I feel.” And then when I come to that “something,” I’m repenting; I’m confessing; I’m praising. I’m seeing, “Lord, Your Word says You are great; You are great, Lord. And I’ve seen Your greatness in these ways.”

Or if God brings someone to mind that I want to pray this Scripture for maybe a family member, maybe a friend. So there is this conversation going on as we’re reading the Word and responding from our hearts to the Lord.

Kristie: Yes, and you know, it kind of gets into some of the various approaches that we have for Bible reading, right? And I think one that’s kind of a straight-forward type of approach, “Okay, God, what are you teaching me about Yourself?” “What are You showing me about myself?” And then, “How do I respond to what You’re teaching me?”

Nancy: And you can really ask those questions about any part of the Scripture. 

Dannah: If I could break that down for an eight-year-old mind . . . (Is it okay if I do that? Because I have a passion, as Nancy knows,for the eight- to twelve-year-old girls. We have a Bible study online for them about once a year.) I define “meditation” for them. I say, “Meditation is when reading the Bible and prayer crash into each other.” 

Isn’t that a good visual for us all, no matter how old we are, that you can’t separate these two things? It’s the reading of the Word and asking God to teach us through it, through conversation. Read it, talk to God. Read it, talk to God. Let those things literally crash into each other, and that’s when you’re going to start to be taught by God’s Spirit.

Nancy: And as we’re reading, we’re seeking to know. The Bible is God telling us about Himself; it’s His revelation. The Bible is not first and foremost about me; it’s first and foremost about God. So, “What am I learning about God here?” And this is so crucial! Because what we believe about God affects what we believe ourselves, what we believe about life, about relationships, about family.

So, “Lord, what are You trying to show me about Yourself?” 

I’ve been reading in the book of Jeremiah this week. That’s a heavy book. It’s a long book. But I’m asking, “What am I learning about God while I’m reading?” God says to His people: “You have been faithless! You have prostituted yourselves (it’s very strong language), you have forsaken Me, you have rebelled against Me. But I am faithful! I am compassionate. Return to me, and I will return to you.” (see Jer. 3:6–14)

I’m saying, “Wow! That wasn’t just for those Old Testament rebellious Jews, the people of Judah in that day. That’s for me, today, and what is this showing me about my heart? What is it showing me about God’s heart, and what does it mean for me to return to the Lord, today?” So I praise Him for His compassion; I confess things that He reveals to me as I’m opening the Word. 

That, to me, is how meditation really takes place. It’s not just reading it—although reading it is a really important starting place, because if you don’t read it, you’re not going to meditate on it. 

Kristie: Yes, I think too, with meditation . . . This has been a growing practice that I’ve had the past few years. And that is, meditation for memorization. I remember, you’ve had several programs where you’ve had guests come on who have memorized long portions of Scripture. 

Nancy: Right.

Dannah: Well, Nancy’s memorized long portions of Scripture and recited those on the stage at the True Woman event. 

Kristie: That’s right! Yes!

Dannah: How many verses did you memorize that time, Nancy?

Nancy: It was a lot of verses.

Dannah: Chapters!

Nancy: But what you’re saying, Kristie, is right. As you’re memorizing . . . just talk about what happens.

Kristie: For me, it’s, “Okay, I’m meditating on the Word.” So I kind of have a verse-by-verse, or, actually, I have more of a thought-by-thought approach when I’m meditating and memorizing Scripture. And the Lord really does help you hide His Word in your heart. 

I’ve just found, as I’ve developed the discipline of memorizing books of the Bible and things of that sort, it just comes to mind so quickly when I’m talking to a friend who’s having a difficult time, when I need to share the gospel with someone.

And I might think, Oh, man, I don’t know how I’m going to . . . If I memorize Colossians, is that really going to give me enough of what I need to minister to someone else or to share the gospel? And it’s all there, right? All the Scriptures point to Christ. So, yes! You should be able to get to the gospel in any passage of Scripture. And it’s true! I’ve tested it; I’ve seen it; I’ve known it to be true.

And then, also, just in mundane moments, painful moments, difficult moments, because I’ve developed the practice and habit of memorizing, the Lord ministers to me through that. I have literally “hidden His Word in my heart.” 

If you ask me what Colossians 3:12 is, I might not be able to tell you what it is, but I’ve had times when the Lord has taken me there and has brought particular Scriptures back to mind when I needed them. He’s given me what I need. I’ll just tell a quick story about that. 

My sister, who is a year and three days older than me, passed away in 2015. We knew that it was coming, that the Lord was taking her home, and we were by her bedside in the hospital.

As she took her last breath, the Lord just put a verse of Scripture in my heart, on my lips, and I just prayed that over her as she was transitioning from this life to the next. And if you had asked me beforehand . . . I didn’t even know that I knew that particular passage. And if I try to recite it now, I might mess it up, but at that point, the Lord just gave it to me. It was there.

I was just able to see my sister transition from this life to the next and also have me reciting the Word of God over her. The verse that the Lord brought to mind was from Psalm 91, verse 1: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” 

It’s just interesting, a week before, my last conversation I had with her, she was asking me, “How do you know if the things that you’ve been praying for and hoping for, how do you know if God is going to actually answer that prayer?” And so we had a sweet conversation about trusting the Lord and knowing that He’s sovereign. And I just feel like the Lord used that verse. 

He used it in my life, and I trust that He used it to minister to her as well. That’s just one example. There are many others.

Nancy: I bet both of you as mothers find the power of Scripture in parenting.

Dannah: Yes, I’m constantly finding that it comforts me. It gives me wisdom when I get that feeling of being a “comatose mom,” you know? Maybe my children are having problems with friends, or maybe problems with their purpose or problems with their careers, or academic things when they were younger.

A lot of times, I got “comatose.” “I don’t know how to solve this, Lord, and if I do try to say what I think I need to say, will I mess my kids up forever!?” I would just go to God in my heart and say, “Lord, help me to know what to say,” and so many times He just brought up Scripture for me. In fact, for each of my children, I have one specific Scripture verse that I prayed over them their whole life.

I didn’t go looking for it, but early in my parenting of them—because two of them are children by birth; one is a child by adoption that we didn’t get until she was fourteen—the Lord would, at the right time, say, “This is the Scripture I want you to pray over their lives.” 

And to see that verse just come to life in them, through the years—sometimes against all odds—has been one of the greatest treasures of parenting!

Kristie: Yes! Parenting, marriage, ministry. I just have found that meditating on God’s Word takes me out of my circumstance and just places me in the throne room, where there is life and there is light. And sometimes I might be in a situation where I don’t have the Scriptures in front of me, but if I have it memorized, if I’ve been meditating on it—even if don’t have all the words memorized exactly—but I’ve meditated on it enough that I have the sense of it, it’s in my heart, it’s there. 

So with children sometimes it’s simple things. Sometimes it’s them having a hardship with a friend or with a class or with a teacher. And the Lord is just so good! He really does give us what we need when we need it.

Dannah: And when we’re confused and when we don’t have answers and when we have problems, more than anything we need God’s Word! I was just sitting here thinking about: Right after Jesus died and was resurrected, the disciples were depressed, lonely, afraid, hiding. They may have been concerned about their own safety and well-being (I’m sure they were!).

The Bible says, “Jesus came . . . among them and said . . . ‘Peace [to] you’” (John 20:19). And the thing that really sticks out to me in that passage is, you think He would have said, “Hey, let me show you My hands and feet.” And He did. And you think He would have said, “It’s going to be okay!” And He did.

But Scripture very clearly says right there in Luke 24:45, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” There was no darker time for them in their story of the gospel and Jesus, and it says He opened the Scriptures to them!

We need the Scriptures, we need the truth, when we’re struggling with how to parent, when we’re struggling with how to do marriage, when we’re struggling with our purpose. We need the Word! 

Kristie: Amen!

Nancy: And as we start out this new year, I want to encourage you to ask God to give you a deeper, more rich and real relationship with His Word in the year ahead. I know I want that for myself. Dannah and Kristie, you want that. And this book that Kristie has edited may be helpful to you in that process. It’s called His Testimonies, My Heritage. It’s writings, reflections on Psalm 119.

Kristie, you told us earlier that the women were writing these different chapters based on the different sections of Psalm 119 that, in God’s providence, turned out to be exactly the passage, that part of the Scripture that they needed!

Kristie: Yes. So, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It’s an acrostic; there are twenty-two sections based upon the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. So each contributor chose an eight-verse section to write on. It was just so interesting and providential, in the Lord’s kindness. 

I had several of them write me and say, “You know, the verses that I chose to write on, the Lord really used them to minister to my heart!” I mean, we chose them months ahead, probably before they were going through whatever it was they were going through. But the Lord knew, and so He gave the contributors what they needed for their own personal lives. 

Then, I trust it will give those who read it what they will need in their lives as they dive into the book. It’s Psalm 119, which is all about the Word of God, and so it’s going to meet us where we are. And it meets us in our personal struggles, but it also speaks to the things that are happening around us in society. 

So what you’ll also find in this book is these women writing about the Word of God from their cultural perspective, in a lot of cases, and also speaking to the things that concern us in society today. The Word is not silent on the things that we see in our world that we struggle to navigate our way through.

I pray that one of the benefits of the book, as well, would be to give us a handle on how we approach God’s Word and apply God’s Word to our personal lives, but also to the things that are happening out there in the world that we’re concerned with.

Nancy: And only God knows what is going to happen in our lives and in our world in this year ahead.

Kristie: Amen.

Nancy: There is a lot of turmoil and tumult in our world on so many different fronts, but Christ speaks peace to His people and through His people to speak peace to our world. And that will happen if we are people of the Word! And, particularly through Revive Our Hearts, we want to challenge you to be a woman of the Word.

If you’re a woman, we want you to be a woman of the Word, and in a greater way than ever, in this year ahead. If you’d like to get a copy of the book that Kristie has edited, we’d be glad to send that to you as our way of saying “thank you” when you make a donation of any amount to help Revive Our Hearts minister the Word to women this year.

You can make that donation by visiting us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959. When you do make your donation, be sure and let us know that you’d like a copy of the book that Kristie has compiled with different contributors on Psalm 119—the greatest passage on the Word of God!

As we close this conversation this week, Kristie, I wonder if I could ask you to pray for our listeners, that this would be a year when we would put our roots down deep into the soil of God’s Word and Christ, the Living Word,and then that our lives would tell His Word to others as we meditate on it and then share it.

Kristie: Father, we do give You praise that You are our God, that You’re good, that Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Your Word is life, Lord. Your Word gives life, brings life. Your Word is true. Your Word is our delight and our joy! Your Word is what we need for life and godliness, and Lord, You’ve given it to us! The Word tells us that You’ve given us everything we need for life and godliness. We know, Father, that we can go to Your Word and find what we need. 

So, Father, I pray as we enter into this new year, as we make resolutions and plans for spending time in Your Word, Lord, that You would give us a place where we can go and meet with You. That You would give us a time, Lord, that we can spend interrupted in Your Word. I pray that You, Lord, would speak to us and that we as Your servants would listen, Father. I pray that Your Word would be hidden in our hearts and that, as we meditate on it Lord, You would bring it to mind when we need it in our everyday circumstances.

Father, we ask that we would be women of the Word and women who love the Word and women who are committed to the Word! We thank You that the Word is Christ and that in Him we live and move and have our being. So, Father, we just pray that Christ would be the center of our joy; that Christ would be our comfort; that Christ would be with us. And by Your Spirit in us, Father, help us as we seek to be women who live lives that are according to Your words.

We trust You for this, Lord, and we’re eager to spend time with You. So Father, just work out Your will in us as we spend time with You, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Nancy: Amen.

Dannah: Amen! I want to thank my friends, Kristie Anyabwile and, of course, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. And thank you for joining us today. I hope you’ll be able to listen tomorrow. We’re going to hear a powerful story of death and life, and how God moved a woman named Jeannie from one to the other! Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Calling women to learn from the Master Teacher, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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