Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Dannah Gresh: Author and pastor’s wife, Kristie Anyabwile, finds that the more she runs, the more her physical capacity and endurance increases. 

Kristie Anyabwile: I think that same analogy works here. The more we spend time in God’s Word, the more we run according to and in the way of His commands, He gives us capacity for more.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemut, author of A Thirty-Day Walk with God in the Psalms, for January 13, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, Dannah, here we are in a new year, a fresh start, turning over a new leaf. Some people see it that way. The old is behind us, the new is ahead of us. One of the things we like to do here on Revive Our Hearts is kind of a reset at the beginning of each year.

Dannah: Yes.

Nancy: We’re in God’s Word all year long—that’s what we’re teaching, that’s what we’re talking about, we’re sending women to the Word. But at the beginning of the year, I always like to have some programming that just says, “If you haven’t been in the Word, now is a good time to start!”

Dannah: Yes. Last year about this time I was just feeling like my time in the Word was dry. I can’t describe it any other way. It wasn’t that I wasn’t reading it, it’s just that I didn’t have that alive feeling. It didn’t feel like God was speaking to me. I was reading the words, and they weren’t alive and active, as the Word says it is. I knew that wasn’t the Word’s fault. It was me!

So I pushed “reset” in January. And, Nancy, last year was one of the most refreshing times in my spiritual life in probably a decade-and-a-half, because I just made the choice to start fresh in January with the Word and how I approached it.

Nancy: You were already in it, so God gave you a fresh start. He revived your heart, in a way, through His Word! I know we have listeners who aren’t in the Word at all. Maybe they used to be, but they aren’t now because of busyness and schedules. It’s amazing how anything and everything can just push out our time with the Lord and our walk with Him.

I think the enemy loves that, because then we’re trying to do life on our own. It’s the Word—we keep saying to ourselves and to those who listen to this program—that we need, that changes us, transforms us, makes us, molds us, shapes us, helps us, heals us. It’s so powerful and so important!

So I’m really delighted to have with us as our guest this week my longtime friend Kristie Anyabwile. Kristie, welcome to Revive Our Hearts!

Kristie: Thank you so much! It is an honor to be here.

Nancy: I don’t know why it took us so long to get you here, but you are a kindred spirit! We both have very full lives, as does Dannah. Here we are from Pennsylvania (Dannah) and Washington, D.C. (you are) and me here in southwest Michigan, which is where we’re recording today. You both have made the trek to come and be a part of this conversation.

Kristie, as long as I’ve known you and your husband—Thabiti Anyabwile, who is a pastor—you’ve been lovers of the Word. Your husband loves preaching the Word of God expositionally; he loves taking people to the Word. He’s a faithful man of the Word. You have been involved in teaching women the Word. You love it yourself.

We’re going to talk over the next couple of days about how to get into the Word of God and get the Word of into you. But I want to launch our conversation by mentioning a book that you have edited a number of months ago; it’s a fairly new release. It’s a book on Psalm 119—reflections on Psalm 119. It’s called His Testimonies, My Heritage.That title actually comes from Psalm 119.

Kristie: Thank you. Yes, that’s right. “His testimonies, my heritage,” actually comes from verse 111 in Psalm 119, where Scripture says: “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” That’s a prayer. It’s a proclamation. 

Nancy: It’s a promise.

Kristie: It’s a promise, for sure! The Lord’s testimonies are our heritage. Over and over again in Psalm 119 there is this call for us to delight in the Lord. So it says that they are the joy of my heart. I think two things really resonated with me with regard to that particular verse. 

One is, with the book, it’s all about the Word of God and looking specifically at Psalm 119.

So they’re expositional devotions through Psalm 119.

Nancy: And that’s no small challenge itself! (I want to come back to your second thing in a minute.) If you want to look up a verse in Psalm 119, you have to leaf through several pages because it is the longest chapter in the Bible!

Kristie: It is!

Dannah: When you say the word, “testimonies,” can I ask a question about that? What is the “testimony of the Lord?” Because we hear “the testimony of Nancy,” and “the testimony of Dannah,” and “the testimony of Mary,” and “the testimony of Bob,” and all these things. But what’s the “testimony of the Lord”?

Until I read your book, I didn’t realize that word was used so much in Psalm 119! 

Kristie: Yes, and actually in Psalm 119 there are series of words that are used over and over again that refer to the Word of God in a multifaceted way. So it’s kind of like a diamond: you’re looking at the Word of God, and you’re looking at it from these different facets or angles, and so sometimes you’ll see the word “testimonies,” sometimes you’ll see “law,” sometimes you’ll see “rules,” “precepts”. . .

Nancy: . . . “commandments”

Dannah: . . . “the Word.”

Kristie: Exactly, yes. So you’ll see all of these different terms that all reflect and refer to the Word of God. So, “testimony,” for example (to answer your question, Dannah): when you think about someone giving a testimony in a court of law, that person is reporting something that they’ve seen, something that they’ve heard, something that they know to be true and factual.

So God’s testimonies are His words of truth that He’s passing on to us. As a matter of fact, one of the things that I love about Psalm 119 and all of these multifaceted terms that are used to refer to the Word of God . . . One of the things that really struck me with this psalm is that we know that there is One who is the Word! 

When we’re reading about “testimonies” and “rules” and “precepts,” they’re attached to a Person, right? They’re attached to the Person of Jesus Christ!

Nancy: The Living Word of God!

Kristie: The Living Word, the Word made flesh. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). So the Word is always attached to God Himself, but ultimately it points to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Nancy: It’s interesting to me that, in this verse that the title of your book was taken from, it says that these testimonies are “my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” Now, when you think about commandments, precepts, ordinances, laws, testimonies; I don’t think most people would put the word “joy” with the Bible.

It’s like something you’re supposed to do, something you know you should do more of. But all through this psalm you see that there is joy attached to getting into the Word, to absorbing the Word, meditating on the Word, clinging to His Word. So this is not just a have-to thing. There’s a lot of blessing promised!

Kristie: Yes. We think about rules and precepts and law as restrictions. You know, someone is boxing us in and we have these things that, maybe, there’s a caution against. There are cautions in Scripture, but in Psalm 119, it’s just beautiful.

For example, in verse 32 it says, “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” So there’s an eagerness. There’s a desire. There’s a . . .

Nancy: . . . leaning into.

Kristie: Yes. A reaching out. God’s commandments in that sense—His laws, His precepts—they’re not restrictive in the sense that they’re keeping us from something. They’re calling us to something.

Nancy: I love that!

Dannah: They’re directing.

Kristie: Yes!

Dannah: This verse is stirring my heart because, as I said, I started last year this time very dry. I just said, “Okay, Lord, I have to approach this differently because I know it’s not the Word. It’s me, somehow.” And by about May of last year, I felt myself running to get to my time with the Lord, because I did feel that joy, Nancy!

Quite honestly, I don’t wake up in the morning and feel joyful. I don’t like mornings! 

Nancy: For starters . . .

Dannah: So, let’s start there. A lot of times I’ll think about my day and I might feel overwhelmed. I’ll think about what happened the day before, and I might feel anxious about, “What’s going to happen today?” And what I found was, when I came to the Word—when I ran to it, when I ran to the commandments—He did enlarge my heart. In that enlargement, He was able to plant the joy.

For me, it’s like twenty minutes in. I have a longer time with the Lord in the morning, mostly because it takes that long to unwind me. It’s about twenty minutes in that I say, “Oh, there it is. There’s the joy; there’s the Presence; there’s the power; there’s the living, active part of His Word!”

Nancy: Well, like with any relationship, if you just have three-minute conversations with your mate or your kids or your friends, and you’re just getting snatches of conversation here and there . . . There’s nothing wrong with snatches of conversations; those are good to have, too, but if you never have more prolonged, extended, intimate conversation, then you’re not going to go very deep or very far in your relationship. 

Kristie: Yes.

Dannah: Good point.

Kristie: I love that it also talks about, “I run in the way of Your commandments” (v. 32). I had this goal that at some point I would like to run a 10K. But you’ve got to start with a 5K, right? You’ve got to start down the block!

Dannah: You’ve got to start down the block.

Nancy: You’ve got to get off the couch!

Kristie: Yes. But there was a point where I literally could not run from one end of a block to the next. As I started training and developing the habit of running every day, I found that not only could I run a block, I could run half a mile, and then a whole mile, and then I ran a 5K. If you had asked me months earlier, “Kristie, do you want to run this 5K with me?” I would have been like, “No! I cannot and I will not!” 

But just that discipline of doing it daily, what did the Lord do? He enlarged my physical heart to give me more capacity for running. I think that same analogy works here, where the more we spend time in God’s Word, the more we run according to, “run in the way of His commands.” He gives us capacity for more!

That’s why you hit that sweet spot; it’s twenty minutes for you. It’s maybe different points of time for every person. But there is a point, also in running, where you feel like you’ve hit your max. You feel like, “You know what? I just cannot go beyond this!” But something weird happens. 

If you push through that moment of, “I can’t,” and get on the other side of it, it’s like you get a second wind. You can run like another, I don’t know, another mile or two. 

Nancy: I’ve never gotten to that point, but bless you. I’m glad you do!

Kristie: You will!

Dannah: “You will!” That’s optimistic!

Kristie: But isn’t that the same with the Word of God, right?

Dannah: Yes, it’s like you build the muscle to do it. I was reading last summer about how children when they don’t maintain reading through the summer months actually will lose several months of ability to read. Their reading level, their cognition, their reading retention, their ability to interpret the story falls back several months.

If they continue reading, they start the new school year several months ahead of the students that didn’t. I was thinking, What if reading the Word of God is like that? What if we are building not just our reading and cognition muscle, but a spiritual muscle in our mind to where when we fall away from it, we really do have to start in a newness of retraining?

And yet, when we get into that training, we’re understanding and connecting to God more quickly, more effectively. We’re hearing what He is saying to us in the Word more powerfully. Do you think that’s possible?

Kristie: Yes, absolutely! I’m probably going to return to this running analogy, because I’m doing it a lot lately. I notice when you’re training, you don’t run at full capacity every running session, right? You have a long run; you have a short run . . . you kind of vary it.

I think with God’s Word, sometimes varying our diet—either in terms of method or in terms of how we’re spending time in God’s Word—it does something different in us spiritually that does give us a different kind of capacity for the Word.

Nancy: It uses different muscles; it gives us a fresh perspective.

Kristie: Yes, exactly. I remember when I was first introduced to reading the Bible chronologically. I believe it was through you, Nancy, and reading your book A Place of Quiet Rest. There’s a point in there where you talk about “varying your diet.” (I’m using the word “diet;” I don’t think you used that word.)

Nancy: Varying your approach to devotional life. 

Kristie: Yes, and one of the approaches that you mentioned, I believe, was reading the Bible chronologically. I was like, “Oh, well, that’s different.” I have a history background, so reading the Bible in that way did give me a totally different perspective. When I understood, “Oh, maybe Job was earlier in the historical narrative of Scripture than . . .”

Dannah: Or to learn that, “This was happening while this prophet was writing . . .” Then, suddenly, you understand something. 

Nancy: Or that, “This psalm was written in this context historically . . .”

Kristie: Yes, exactly. So it does kind of give you that freshness of perspective. It grows your capacity for the Word, too, because you’re learning something new. You’re adding that to what the Lord has already been teaching you in the past.

Nancy: I find that my routine just needs to be freshened up at times. My dad, from the time he came to know Jesus in his mid-twenties until the day he went to heaven, never missed a single day in giving God the first hour of his day in the Word and in prayer. He was a creature of habit, and he did it the same way all the time.

I think it was two chapters of the Old Testament, one chapter of the New, five psalms, and one Proverb. That’s a great routine, but he never varied that. He just loved that. Well, I need more variety than that. I’ve done that approach. I’ve done many other approaches.

I just think, sometimes, to take and put a passage of Scripture “under a microscope” and live with it for a good long while can be very energizing to our relationship with the Lord. Then I have these friends who will occasionally read through the whole Bible in ninety days. That’s like the opposite approach, but it’s looking at it from much more of an overview. 

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong about that, as long as we’re getting spiritual nutrition and feeding. You don’t eat the same . . . Well, if you’re my husband, you could eat the same thing every day! But most of us, we like to have some variety. Anything that freshens up the Word in our own heart and our response to it, I think, is a good thing!

Dannah: Even think about this: the different styles of writing throughout the Scripture is a variety for our devotions.

Nancy: Different genres—poetry and history and prophecy.

Dannah: Yes. God wrote it with that in mind, that we needed that differentiation in our diet.

Nancy: I’m really intrigued, Kristie, as to how you chose Psalm 119 or how the idea came about to compile a book of reflections on Psalm 119.

Kristie: That kind of gets to the other half of what struck me in Psalm 119 as I meditated on the particular verse, verse 111. 

Nancy: Just read that verse again. 

Kristie: It says, “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” And so, a couple of things were happening at the same time. I was reading through Psalm 119 myself, just devotionally. I was journaling through it, writing down insights that the Lord was giving me from the Word. 

Around the same time, I was hearing from women—women of color, in particular—asking, “Hey, I want to do a devotional or a Bible study next year. I really would love to learn from a woman of color.” It was varied. Sometimes it would be a woman of color saying it. Sometimes it would be one of my white sisters saying, “Hey, I just really feel like this is an area where I need to learn from people not like me. Can you recommend something for me to study?” I just did not have a lot of resources to recommend to them.

And then the third thing that was happening was, women were asking, “Who should I listen to? Who should I learn from? Who should I follow?” So one day after I had had my quiet time, the Lord just impressed on my heart: “Just make a list! People keep asking you the same question. Why don’t you just make a list of people that you learned from, whose ministries you benefit from?” 

So I did that, and before I knew it, I had a list of like twenty-some women that are just important to my life personally, in terms of their teaching. You know how people talk about the Lord dropping something in your spirit? 

That’s what it felt like. It was like the worlds just came together. And so, this idea of “Your testimonies are my heritage” and being able to partner with women of color—whose heritage is oftentimes not seen in a lot of popular literature, Christian literature—was just a joy!

And then, to know that, “Yes. I have a heritage. I have a culture that was given to me as a gift from the Lord. But I’m partnering with all these sisters, and together we’re holding up God’s Word as the ultimate source of our heritage.” So, yes, we have cultural heritage, but our common heritage that we have in Christ surpasses even that.

Nancy: Regardless of background or culture or ethnicity. 

Kristie: So we don’t want to hide from that; we want to highlight it. But most of all we want to highlight the commonality that we have as sisters and brothers in the body of Christ and let His testimonies be the heritage that we most honor and seek after and want to rally around, even while we want to celebrate and honor our backgrounds and cultural heritage.

We pray that the body of Christ would be blessed by that, not just women of color, but collectively the entire body of Christ will be blessed by learning from people who are not necessarily like them.

Nancy: And, Kristie, I agree. There’s such great value for us to learn from and listen to people who come from different backgrounds than we do, people who have had different experiences than we have (you highlight some of those in this book) and to benefit together, to grow together from how God is bringing our different streams and backgrounds together.

So the book is called His Testimonies, My Heritage. You’ve edited it, you’ve written a few chapters in it. The subtitle is: Women of Color on the Word of God. You’re coming together to say, “The Word of God is what we treasure, what we value.” 

Now, I’m not a woman of color; Dannah’s not a woman of color. So people may think, Well then, maybe this isn’t for me. You wrote this with all of us in mind and put it together saying, “This is the Word of God!”

The people who wrote this psalm (and by the way, we don’t actually know who wrote this psalm for sure), they were from a different culture and background than any of us seated around this table. But they brought to their experience the beauty of the Word of God, the beauty of a relationship with God!

I have always loved this psalm. In fact, this morning just in preparation for this conversation, while I was doing my hair, I pulled up a Bible app on my phone and put the audio on so I could listen to Psalm 119. It takes about fifteen minutes, by the way. It seems like it goes on forever, but fifteen minutes isn’t very long. You can read it aloud; you can listen to it.

I think it actually played through like four times on “repeat” while I was getting ready. I may or may not have dropped one of my airpods in the sink under running water while I was listening to Psalm 119 this morning! I think it still works! So I was very “immersed” in this psalm! (laughter)

But as I listen to it, there is such a richness, a sweetness, a fullness. We’re going to talk about some of that when we pick up with this conversation tomorrow because, interestingly, there’s the concept of the word “joy” we just talked about, but there’s also a lot in there about affliction and sorrow and heartache.

When we come back to this conversation, we want to talk about how those two—the joy and the affliction—can be found in one and the same place . . . in the Word of God. 

I want to encourage you, if you’d like to take a deeper dive into Psalm 119 and be blessed by it—we’re blessed by the reading of God’s Word—this is a book filled with reflections on God’s Word from Psalm 119.

When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts this week, we want to say “thank you” by sending you a copy of Kristie’s book on Psalm 119. (Don’t try and spell her last name, because it’s a little bit challenging! I think I have it down, finally!)

Dannah: You might not even want to try to say it without some practice!

Nancy: Kristie has edited this book on Psalm 119, and there’s a lot of treasure in it, because it’s about God’s Word. So contact us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959. And when you make a donation to help this ministry get the Word of God into the hearts of women around the world, if you’d like to have a copy of Kristie’s book, make sure and let us know that and we would be glad to send it as our way of saying “thank you.”

You want to be sure and join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts as we continue talking about how joy and affliction can come together in one life as we get into God’s Word. We’re going to see how His Word makes a difference in our affliction. So be sure and join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth calls you to greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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