Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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An Exciting Treasure Hunt

Dannah Gresh: When you read the Bible, where do you start? Here’s Kelly Needham.

Kelly Needham: The Bible was written in books. It was not written in verses. I think that’s a basic place to start. I love to encourage people to read books of the Bible, not verses.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of Seeking Him, for January 12, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Well, Nancy, we have a great challenge for our friends as we’re still at the beginning of a new year. The challenge is this: We want to push reset on getting ourselves into God’s Word.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Today we’re going to talk about how to do that, and we’re offering a list of resources on our website. These are tools to help you in your journey of getting into God’s Word every day. You can find those on ReviveOurHearts.com. Look for the transcript of today’s program.

I hope you’ll spend the year 2021 feasting on God’s Word. I can guarantee it will change your life.

Dannah: And here to help us talk about how the Word of God can change our lives is our friend Kelly Needham. She is married to a singer and songwriter. His name is Jimmy Needham.

I believe your ministry started out of you ministering to those women that you met on the road when you were traveling with him in a tour bus, and you wanted to help women find a love for God’s Word.

Kelly, we’re so glad to have you today so that you can help us reignite our passion and love for God’s Word.

Kelly: Thanks, Dannah and Nancy. It’s great to be here.

Dannah: Well, you know Psalm 119 really does give us some basics about the Word of God. Right? What it does for us, how it works, and in many ways we’re going back to the basics. So, let’s do that. Let’s talk about what the Bible is and what kind of tools we use to dig into and understand it. Can we start there today?

Nancy: I think this is important because the Bible is a big Book. I mean, those of us who’ve been living in it all our lives feel comfortable with it. But even for those of us who have been in it a long time, it’s a lot of content. It can be intimidating or daunting, if you’re not really familiar with it, to say there are 1189 chapters in this Book. There are 1327 pages in the one I’m using currently.

Dannah: How do you know those things? 

Nancy: (laughter) I don’t know. I’ve been living with this Book a long time. But I know it’s a big Book, and it can be confusing.

My dad said that when he became a believer in his mid-twenties, he thought the epistles were the wives of the apostles. (laughte.) I mean, he just didn’t have any background in this picture. And there’s no sin in that. But sometimes it helps to just get some orientation.

If I were going to pick up some great, huge classic work, I would want somebody to help me. Like, how do you go about reading it? Somebody gave me a huge set of “Lord of the Rings.” These are big, heavy copies of this, and it felt so daunting to me until I had some friends kind of introduce me to the story, the plotline, and how to start into it.

So, Kelly, as you think about the Bible, just give us . . . Pretend like we’re all newcomers to the Bible. Just give us an overview of what it looks like and what we should expect.

Kelly: Well, I hope there are some newcomers listening because it’s a wonderful thing to start from scratch and learn about this great living and active Word of God. It can be really intimidating, like you’re saying, to jump into Christian circles. Everybody seems to know what they’re talking about, and you’re scared, going, “I don’t know what . . . Philemon? What is that?”

If that’s where you are, then you should just feel really welcome here. That’s why we think that these things are important.

One of the first things I tell my kids, that I tell women in my own church who are just growing: What is this Book called the Bible?

I like to describe it to them as a library of books, that within this one Book we call the Bible, there are sixty-six different books written by different people and are organized kind of like a library. It is mainly in order chronologically, but you have whole sections of history. You have sections of poetry. You have sections of letters. You have sections of all of Jesus’ life—four different accounts of His life.

I think even knowing that just helps us to know what we are doing when we flip open the pages and we see these different book titles at the top.

Nancy: And, by the way, if you’re not familiar with those books, there’s a Table of Contents at the beginning. So when you hear somebody refer to the gospel of Mark, or the book of Habakkuk, or whatever, there is a Contents at the beginning. And it’s fine to open that up and look and find out where that book is.

But as you get more familiar with the Scripture, one of the things I think is so helpful is to learn the books of the Bible in order. Some of us had to do that when we were children, and we’re so glad we did.

But if you’re not familiar with that, you can learn those. Get to know there are thirty-nine books in the Old Testament, twenty-seven books in the New Testament. And really, the more you study it, the more you handle it, the more you look into it, the more familiar that will become to you.

Kelly: Can I just jump and say, too, if you’re there and going, “I don’t know those things.” Think about the other people in your life that you can pull into that learning process with you. If you have children or grandchildren, that’s great to learn those things together. It will make it more fun. You’ll also be passing on a rich treasure of information and familiarity with the Bible.

Dannah: And the fun thing about becoming familiar with it is then, as you read it, pieces start to fit together like a puzzle. You start to understand, even though it’s sixty-six separate books that have been canonized into the Bible, that it’s one big message—one big story. It does fit together perfectly when you find that because of familiarity. It’s like being on a treasure hunt, and you find new treasures every time you open it.

But, as you’ve just said so beautifully, Kelly and Nancy, it’s okay to start at the beginning and not be that far into your collection of the treasures. That’s okay. Just keep looking.

Nancy: One of the things that I think is so important to remember as we open God’s Word is that it’s not just any book. It’s not just a book. It’s not just a great book. It is supernatural, and that makes it unique among all other books in the history of the world. Talk about that, Kelly.

Kelly: Yes. This is such a unique Book. It’s been written by so many different men, in so many different generations, in so many different walks of life. And yet, you can see such consistency throughout the whole thing.

I don’t remember what pastor it was who said, “If you got ten people together from the same generation and the same country and just asked them to talk about the most important things in life, who God is, how we’re saved, all these things, you would not have unity. You’d have a lot of disunity of opinions.”

But yet, here we have a Book that has been written by God through His Spirit. Through the words of men, yes, but by the Holy Spirit. The writing has been overseen by God.

The preservation of our texts from the original autograph of each book translated accurately up until now has been overseen by God.

The compilation of this book, Dannah, as you mentioned, the canonization, what books are in here, God has overseen this process and has given us a rich treasure.

He’s not left us in the dark about who He is. He has taken such care to give us access to Himself through the pages of this book. We see that men and women over centuries have believed in that so much that they have put their lives at stake. There are men and women who have died to get the Scriptures into languages that common men and women like ourselves can understand.

It is a rich treasure that we have. I think even just knowing that and being reminded of that, I just open my Bible differently in the morning when I remember that.

Nancy: Hebrews chapter 4, verse 12, tells us that the Word of God is alive, and it is powerful. It is living, and it is active.

I’ve loved to read ever since I could read. I’m a voracious reader. I’ve read a lot of wonderful books—books that stirred me, books that educated me or informed me, books that enraged me or activated me. But there is nothing like the Word of God. It is alive.

Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

As you’re taking the Word of God not just your head, but your heart and your life, it is life-changing. It is transforming. It is the very Word of God. When the Bible speaks, God speaks.

So the fact that God wants to speak to me as I read His Word, it makes it really an incredible privilege to hold in our hands a copy of the Scripture and to read it.

And yet, sometimes, when we go to read it, we think, How do I make sense of this? This is not something I’m familiar with. This is not something . . .” Maybe you’re a new believer, or you just haven’t had a habit of reading God’s Word, and it seems so big and so heavy and so deep.

So for somebody getting started or wanting to refresh their love for reading God’s Word, Kelly, how do you go about it?

Kelly: Well, for many of us, I think there are some bad habits to unlearn that we may have cultivated or we may have been taught or maybe we just didn’t know any better.

I think one of those bad habits is we have gotten used to reading verses of the Bible and not books of the Bible.

And we hear in context, even like this. You’re listening to us now, and we’re quoting different verses from different books. That doesn’t diminish those things, but we are taking it from a context, from the book. And though we’re taking these verses maybe out of their context to share them with you right now, they do exist in a narrative, in a passage. And the Bible was written in books. It was not written in verses.

I think that’s a basic place to start. I love to encourage people to read books of the Bible, not verses.

So when you think, I want to dig into the Word of God, ask yourself: “What book of the Bible am I going to read?” Start in chapter 1 of that book and read from the beginning to the end.

We don’t treat any other book on our bookshelf like we treat the Bible. You would never pick up, The Fellowship of the Ring, from the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy and start in chapter 4. You wouldn’t flip to the very last page and go, “I want to know how it ends. And then I want to flip back to . . .” You wouldn’t get the richness of what was put into that book for you to experience.

We intuitively do that with other books, but for some reason, we just aren’t used to doing that with the Bible. If we will start reading books of the Bible from chapter 1 to the end, immediately we get a lot more out of it, and things make more sense and feel a little bit clearer.

Dannah: That’s a little bit of a soapbox for me, Kelly, because I feel so many times I see Pinterest verses or Instagram verses, and they don’t mean what they say they are meaning. One of the big ones is, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And we always make that sound like big, great things are going to happen.

Well, Paul wrote that verse while he was in prison. He was enduring a terrible hardship. And he was saying, “Even here, in this hard place, while I’m not doing everything I’d dreamed and hoped, I can be content. I can find joy in the Lord. What can I do? What things can I do? I can be present with God. I can rejoice in the Lord. I can have faith in the Lord.”

Nancy: “I can be content,” is what he’s talking about there.

Dannah: “I can be content. That is enough. It’s enough.” So that really just resonates with me.

My husband just recently read through the whole Bible in two months. He’s never done it before. He said, “I just feel like I need the whole story in a great big fat dose.” And he said, “I’m seeing things I never saw before because I’m not just picking and choosing. I’m reading it through verse by verse very quickly and getting the broad picture.”

Nancy: Sometimes we camp on those books of the Bible that are more familiar or that are kind of like comfort food. You run to them. Every Word of God is inspired. Every book of the sixty-six is important. But as you get to know the Word of God, don’t assume that some of those less-familiar books are unimportant.

So, yes, you may want to camp in Psalms or in the epistles or in the gospels, or whatever you feel particularly encouraged by. But sooner or later, you also want to get to . . .

Dannah: Zephaniah.

Nancy: And Leviticus.

Dannah: (laughter) And Leviticus. Yes.

Nancy: Because, in the context of the whole of Scripture, they’re all magnificent.

When it comes to the food we eat, not every single meal is a feast. And not every single kind of food that is good for you is, like, your favorite thing ever to eat. But when you get that balanced diet of all those different food groups and different kinds of food, you’ll find that you’re healthier.

And we need the whole of God’s Word.

It saddens me to think how many Christians have known the Lord for years and years, but have never read through the whole Bible.

Now, you may not be ready to start that tomorrow—you might be—but sooner or later, you want to take in the whole length and breadth and height of Scripture. It is magnificent—every, every part of it.

Kelly: That’s right. I have told someone once that, “Reading the first chapter of the famous novel, “Moby Dick,” will not make you an expert on the book, even if you just every day read chapter 1.”

We do need to read the whole thing, and that should be our goal—even if it takes you a long time. My first full read-through of the Bible took me seven years because I decided, “I don’t want to move on until I at least have a basic understanding of what’s happening.” Now, I’ll be honest. I would finish chapters and go, “I’m really confused.” But I would have one little basic nugget I can take away, and I would let myself move on. But that’s how long it took me.

So I want to give other women just the freedom and go, “Take as long as you need. But keep a checklist.”

I’ll look at my Table of Contents in my Bible, and when I finish one book, I’ll put a little dot or a checkmark and try to make sure that I’ve read every one of the books before I move on to my next read-through if possible so that you get that well-rounded diet of the Scriptures.

One of my favorite things that Jesus says for Bible reading is, after He’s risen, He runs into two disciples and says in Luke 24:27, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Jesus gives us permission to read the Old Testament, to read all of the books of Moses, the prophets, the Psalms, and look for Him. Where do I see foreshadowings of Jesus? Where do I see pictures of what Jesus is going to do as we read Leviticus and all of the blood that has to be shed for sin? Just the appreciation the book of Leviticus gave to me for the cross, it cannot be overstated.

And what Jesus says there gives us permission, like Dannah said, to go on that treasure hunt. To pick up books, like Numbers, and go, “All right, Jesus, I’m reading this with You in mind, Show me where You are.” And that makes it so fun for me to do it that way.

Nancy: You’re not going to see all the treasures in any one of those books the first time you read it, or the second time, or the third time. I probably have read through the Bible, maybe fifty times or more. I don’t actually know. It’s been a lot.

Robert said to me the other day as I was working on my journaling Bible, which we’ll talk more about that this week, I’ve been so enjoying that. He said to me after my quiet time one morning, “So, are you still getting fresh things from what you’re reading? Are you getting fresh insight?”

And I said, “Oh, yes! Let me tell you about Luke, chapter 9, this thing I saw.”

Robert is not a night person because he’s up so early in the morning, but I’m a night person. He was going to sleep, and I was lying there next to him, and I said, “Honey, I’ve just got to tell you about what I read in Luke chapter 9, this morning.” I could see I was losing him—not because he isn’t super interested—but if it had been 4 o’clock in the morning, it would have been easier for him.

But I love that. No matter how many times you’ve read a passage or read a book of the Bible, it’s fresh. God shows you new things. It’s an inexhaustible treasure source each time. So, I love that!

So, Kelly, let me go back to this thing about reading through a book of the Bible. Say somebody says, “I want to read”—take maybe the gospel of Mark. It’s not the shortest book in the Bible. It’s not the longest—sixteen chapters. If you were going to start reading the gospel of Mark, give us a sense of how you would read it. Do you have a pen in your hand?

And, let me be quick to say it, there’s no one right way to do this. All three of us would have different ways we go about it. But just give us some practical tips. If you’re going to read the gospel of Mark, what are you looking for? What are you doing as you read? Give us a sense of what that would look like for you.

Kelly: Sure. I will say I read almost every chapter two to three times because that’s about how much it takes for me to really understand and get the feel of it. And, just to give people permission, if you read through one chapter and go, “Oh, I don’t know what I read.” Hey, that’s me, too!

So, I will read with a pen in hand. I love writing things out. And for me personally, that helps me remember it. I’ve been that way since I was a girl in school—rewriting notes got it into me. So when I’m reading my Bible, I mark it up a lot. I underline things. I write prayers to God on the sides. Sometimes I write dates if God used that to answer a specific prayer.

And I also keep a journal open. I like to write down my questions and things I don’t understand. So when I come to a chapter, and especially in some of the gospels, Jesus would respond to people in ways that can feel really confusing. I’ll just rewrite the verse out, and then write a question to God, like, “Lord, I don’t understand why You said that.” or “That seems really harsh. I don’t know how to feel about that.”

I like to read the Bible very relationally, too. So I will add that in. I read with a pen, and I read relationally. And what I mean by that is that as I read, I try to remember that the Author of this Book is right next to me. I can talk to Him and to not feel the pressure to figure it all out on my own. I read each chapter and converse with Him through it and praise Him through it, mourn through it, be confused through it, and bring all of those questions to Him.

So I read chapter by chapter, and I read it a couple of times. I make some notes. I write all my questions to Him. And a lot of times I close my Bible and journal and those questions are still lingering. I don’t always have answers to them.

But what that does for my heart and my mind later in the day when I have down time doing dishes, what I’m mulling over in my head is not my latest conversation with a friend I ran into, and, “Oh, did I say something weird? And what do they think of me? And I thought my hair looked bad.”

Instead, I’m thinking, Oh man, I’m still chewing on that question I had. God, I’m going to think about it from a new angle. And bringing all those things to God and letting them linger in my mind, without every “I” dotted and “T” crossed, creates a mental space where I’m mulling those things over through the day. A lot of times God will answer my questions later on, through a person, through a circumstance, or through just rethinking about it. I’ll go, “Oh, I missed this!” I’ll go back and reread it.

Reading relationally and thinking that way has been a huge gift and given me permission to not have every question answered at the end.

Nancy: There’s a biblical word for what you’ve just been talking about—mulling it over, taking it with you into the day. It’s another word that starts with an “M”—meditate on the Word of God.

I’m thinking of Psalm 1. The opening of the Jewish psalm book, hymnbook, talks about the blessings of the man, or the woman, “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (vv. 1–2).

You can read that and think, How do you meditate on God’s Word all the time? Well, what you just described is exactly that.

And it says, the person who does this is not going to be having an infusion of worldly thinking, or ungodly thinking, going into his mind, into his heart, but his heart is going to be renewed. His mind is going to be renewed because he’s delighting in the Word of God and meditating on it day and night.

And it goes on to say about how the person who does that is going to be stable, steady, secure, fruitful—just all kinds of good fruit that’s going to come out of this meditation on God’s Word.

In fact, God said to Joshua, “You meditate on God’s Word day and night, and you will be successful in everything you do.”

That’s pretty amazing when you think about the connection between soaking in God’s Word, taking it with me into the day, and how that gives me the ability to be successful—as God views success—in everything I’m doing that day.

Dannah: Yes. I’ve spent a lot of my life teaching teenage girls and younger girls to love God’s Word. I talk to them about meditation. It’s a big, weird word, and it’s been misused in a lot of ways. And I tell them this—it’s so simple: Meditation is what happens when studying the Bible and praying crash into each other.

We study the Bible in the morning, generally. We have our few minutes where, Kelly, you’re saying, “Take some notes, write some thoughts down.” But we pray all day long. Right? We pray without ceasing. We pray when we’re in our study session, but, hopefully, as the day goes on, we continue to pray.

I love what you just said, that you know the Author. The Author is sitting there, right there with you!

In the last year I have started a practice. I have my daily morning quiet time in a red chair. Well, there are two red chairs. I’m sitting in one of them, but I have been more imagining that Jesus is sitting right there in that other one. As I’m having questions, I’m saying to myself, or to Him, “Well, Lord, this is confusing to me. I don’t understand. Help me to understand it throughout the day.”

As I go throughout the day, I’m driving, “I still don’t totally understand that, Lord.” And it’s interesting how, as I mull that over in my mind throughout the day, sometimes someone else will actually use the same verse. I think that’s not a coincidence. I think that’s God’s sovereign design of answering my prayer.

Somebody else will say, “God spoke to me through this verse this morning, and this is what He said”—and it’s the answer to the question I’ve been asking all day!

Sometimes the answers are a little more subtle, but it needs to be an ongoing friendship where you just take that conversation with God throughout your day.

Nancy: Well, we’re going to continue this conversation tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. If you already have a habit of reading God’s Word, ask the Lord how you could increase your love for His Word, your connection to it, your relationship with Him through His Word.

Dannah: You can find some resources to help you begin the habit of reading God’s Word onReviveOurHearts.com.

I’m actually excited to tell you about a specific resource that digs deep into one book of the Bible, and that’s our new study called Ruth: Experiencing a Life Restored. It’s part of our Women of the Bible series.

And through it, you’ll examine Ruth’s life over the course of six weeks. You might be familiar with her story, or maybe you’ll be reading it for the first time. Either way, you’ll take a deep dive into the Word of God through this study. You’re going to see this poverty-stricken widow and her widowed mother-in-law and the desperation they faced with no hope for the future. But you’ll also see how God brought restoration for them, and what that means for your life today.

You can get a copy of this book when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any amount. We want you to have it as our way of saying, “Thank you for your gift.” Your gifts help us share the Word of God with women everywhere.

Just head on over to ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959 to make that gift. And be sure to ask for your copy of Ruth.

Nancy: Now, maybe as you’ve been listening to this conversation today, you’ve been thinking, I don’t have all those warm, fuzzy feelings about my time in the Word. Maybe you find yourself being confused about what you’re reading, or you have questions about some of the stories in the Bible, or the things you read, and you think, I can’t imagine why God would say that!

Well, I want you to know that God can handle your questions and your concerns. We’re going to talk a little bit about that tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages you to meditate on God’s Word. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Speakers

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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Kelly Needham

Kelly Needham

Kelly Needham is married to singer/songwriter and speaker Jimmy Needham. She first began writing and speaking to his fan base in 2008 as they traveled together and has since garnered …

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