Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: When you read the whole Bible you can start to see answers to certain questions. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: What is God up to in this world? What is He doing? And what does my life have to do with it? Where do I fit into God’s plan? If you want to understand that, be sure that you aren’t overlooking or bypassing certain portions of the Word of God.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 8.

We all need well-balanced diets, and a lot of women have resolved to eat healthier in 2009. Well, you also need well-balanced reading, and I hope you’ll approach the Bible in a healthy way this year.

Nancy will offer a plan for well-balanced reading as she continues the series Getting into the Word and Getting the Word into You.

Nancy: I want you to imagine that you were to open your refrigerator at home, close your eyes, and then reach out your hand and just grab whatever items your hand happened to reach. You would take those items out, three or four of them, and that would be your meal.

You might grab a jar of mayonnaise, a pickle jar and a peach, or whatever happens to be in your refrigerator right now. You’d say, “That’s an awful way to put a menu together.”

Well I agree. But it’s a picture of the way a lot of people approach the Word of God. They just blindly grab whatever passage they come to first. Open the Bible and just pick a passage here, pick a passage there, no particular sequence, no particular order, and that’s how they read the Scripture.

We know that our bodies require, physically we require nutritionally balanced meals and diets to stay healthy. If you just live on a certain kind of food and don’t have a balanced diet, your body is going to feel that sooner or later.

In the same way our spirits need the balance that comes from taking in the whole Word of God, the whole counsel of God, not just limiting ourselves to those particular passages that seem especially appetizing or just whatever passages we blindly grab as we’re racing through the Scripture.

I believe that the spiritual growth of a lot of believers is stunted because of their spiritual diet. Now I’ll be the first to admit that not all parts of the Bible are equally easy to digest. The thought does cross my mind, “What is the value of this? Is this really important to read?”

Well the answer is, yes, absolutely. It’s important to read for reasons that we may not be able to fully understand. But here’s what we do know. According to 2 Timothy chapter 3 (verse 16), we know that “All Scripture is God-breathed” (NIV). It’s inspired by God. And it’s all useful, even 2 Chronicles chapters 1–9. It’s all useful.

What’s it useful for? It’s “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (NIV). There is something in every portion of God’s Word that I need in order to have a spiritually balanced diet. We need a diet that includes all of God’s Word.

Now one of the problems in modern day evangelicalism is that we’ve become so accustomed to having our senses stimulated by visual and audible thrills that we’re easily bored with anything that doesn’t give us immediate excitement and rewards.

We’re so stimulated by computers and computer games and television and movies and advertising in this world that when it comes to spiritual things, even in the church, we want things that will immediately stimulate and thrill us.

It’s hard for us, having been raised on this diet of fast-moving media. It’s hard for us to get excited about reading because we’re easily bored. And if you don’t think you are, look at your children. You’ll see in children today how easily bored they are.

Today we want the sensational, the spectacular, the thrilling, the exciting. Oswald Chambers reminds us, “The Bible does not thrill. The Bible nourishes. Give time to the reading of the Bible and the recreating effect is as real as that of fresh air physically.”

You see, we need the Psalms and we need the Epistles, but we also need the Old Testament books of the Law. We need the historical books. We need the Prophets. We need the Gospels. We need the whole of God’s Word. We need to read God’s Word in such a way that we get a sense of the flow of God’s Word.

When you pick up a book other than the Bible you don’t usually start in the middle. Now I know some people do. But typically, especially if the book has a plot, you’re not going to just start in the middle or just jump around haphazardly from chapter to chapter. Yet that’s the way that many of us read the Bible.

We don’t realize that the Bible has a plot. It’s a story. It’s the grand story of redemption—a story that has a beginning and a middle and an end, a story of a God who created man for fellowship with Himself and then watched as man rejected Him. As God put into place a plan that He had devised in eternity past to restore man to fellowship with Himself, God sent Jesus to bring that plan about through His death on the cross.

So we see the story of God. You can’t get the whole of that story if you’re just picking pieces here and there and not getting a sense of the whole, which is why I want to encourage you to read the Bible not only prayerfully as we’ve talked about, and thoughtfully as we’ve talked about, but also systematically, to read the Bible systematically.

Now that doesn’t mean that the Bible can only be read straight through from Genesis to Revelation, although many people have found great blessing in reading the Scripture that way on a regular basis.

But systematic reading means that we understand that context and flow are important. Individual verses need to be read in the context of the paragraph and the chapter in which they appear. Chapters of the Bible need to be read in the context of the book in which they’re found. And books of the Bible need to be read in the context of other books in the Bible so we see how they fit into the scheme and the flow and the plot of Scripture and of God’s eternal redemptive plan.

So if you want a balanced spiritual diet, you want an understanding of the whole plan of God.

  • What is God up to in this world?
  • What is He doing?
  • What does my life have to do with it?
  • Where do I fit into God’s plan?
  • If you want to understand that, be sure that you aren’t overlooking or bypassing certain portions of the Word of God.

I think, actually, it’s going to be a sad thing perhaps when we get to heaven and find out how many Christians have never once read through the entire Bible, that there are portions of God’s Word that many Christians have never read.

God loved us so much He gave us this book to show us His heart, to teach us His ways, to teach us His plan. It’s His story. It’s a great story. It’s an incredible book. Yes, parts of it are hard to understand.

But the sadness of facing the Lord and saying, “I was too busy, I was too preoccupied, or I didn’t have enough diligence or discipline. I just never got through those books of Moses. I just never got through those Old Testament prophetic books.” And look what we missed. I think that will be the sadness.

Now there are different ways to read the Bible systematically. Over the next few days, I want to give some insight and instruction in how we can do that. There’s not one right plan, not one right approach.

Some people just like starting in Genesis and reading straight through to Revelation. Although I will say, if you’ve never read the Bible through before, that’s a challenging way to start because chances are by the time you get to Leviticus, you’re going to be ready to drop out as many people have done.

But there are some different plans and approaches that can help you read the Bible systematically but in a way that doesn’t get you bogged down in some of the harder portions.

Now let me just start out by saying, if you don’t already have a Bible-reading habit, start slowly. Don’t make it a goal to read the whole Bible in the next 30 days or the next six months or maybe even in the next year if you’ve never read the Bible regularly and systematically.

There are a lot of different ways you can read the Bible systematically, and they’re based on what pace you want to read at. There are a lot of different Bible reading plans available. And we’ve put together a collection of several of those different Bible reading plans. At the end of the program we’ll tell you how you can get hold of those.

But let me just say that personally I like to always be reading in the Old and New Testaments at the same time. I have found that so helpful over now 40 years of reading the Scripture. And there are various reasons for this.

One is that the Old Testament shines light on the New Testament and vice versa. You can understand each better in the light of the other. It’s easier to see the connections between the two when you’re reading both at the same time.

Furthermore, I don’t like to go for long periods of time without reading in the gospels. That’s where in the Bible we get the clearest picture of Jesus. Now, He’s everywhere in the Bible, but that’s where we get the most focused picture.

When you’re reading in both Testaments at once you’ll find that those more difficult Old Testament passages are balanced out with other portions that are a little easier to digest.

My dad had a habit from which he rarely deviated over the 28 years of his Christian life until he went to heaven. Every day he would read five Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs. And that would get him through the books of Psalms and Proverbs every month, every 30 days.

Then he would read two chapters from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, read those consecutively. I think that gets you through the Old Testament once a year and the New Testament twice a year, something about like that. That’s one way to do it.

I’ve shared in my book A Place of Quiet Rest, which we’re offering this week through the broadcast, some ways that I read the Scripture by breaking it down even into different portions and reading consecutively in those portions.

I want to say it doesn’t matter so much which plan you use as that you find something that works for you and do it just so you are reading consecutively and thoughtfully through different portions of the Scripture and in time getting through the whole of the Scripture.

I’d encourage you to vary the plan that you use from time to time. I’ve found that if I will vary the plan that I use for reading the Scripture occasionally, that my reading in the Word will be more fresh. And you’ll find that if you’ve grown stale in your time in the Word that maybe one thing you need to do is do a different plan.

Whatever you do, find a plan, stick with it, and commit yourself over the next 30 days as you take this 30-Day Challenge. But then I hope through the rest of this year and the rest of your life that you will begin this habit—this pattern—of reading the Word of God and reading it systematically.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back for the second half of today’s program. During her current series Getting into the Word and Getting the Word into You she’s described the value of reading God’s Word prayerfully, thoughtfully, and just now, systematically.

In her book A Place of Quiet Rest, Nancy goes into detail about all these approaches to the Bible. When you read her book, you’ll understand why Bible reading is crucial to a healthy life. You’ll learn how to read it effectively and how to fight through distractions that keep you from the Bible.

When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts we’ll say thanks by sending this helpful book. Again, it’s called A Place of Quiet Rest. It’s our way of saying thanks when you donate at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com, or when you call 1-800-569-5959.

Now let’s get back to Nancy and the series Getting into the Word and Getting the Word into You.

Nancy: There are different ways to look at the Scripture. One would be under a microscope and the other extreme would be through a telescope, if I could use those word pictures.

How do we look at the Word of God under a microscope? This is where we choose to read a small portion of Scripture each day, meditating carefully on each word and each phrase, dissecting it, digesting it carefully.

Now we should always be meditating on the Word of God. But there are times when I like to just slow down the pace of my typical reading with a passage as I’ve been doing somewhat with Psalm 119 through this series. I’ve been reading the Psalm, studying it, meditating on it, going to sleep at night with a tape playing Psalm 119—and that’s a great thing to do—trying to put that passage under a microscope.

Charles Spurgeon really believed in this approach to reading the Scripture. He said,

So many people like to read so many chapters every day. I would not dissuade them from the practice, but I would rather lay my soul asoak in half a dozen verses all day than rinse my hand in several chapters.

Oh to be bathed in a text of Scripture, and to let it be sucked up into your very soul, till it saturates your heart! Set your heart upon God’s Word! Let your whole nature be plunged into it as a cloth into dye!

I like that word picture that when you’re in a part of the Scripture that you’re just soaking in as you put a piece of material or fabric into a dye and you let it just soak, plunge yourself into it.

Now one way to do that, and you may want to do this in your Bible reading at times, to take a particular book of the Bible. I was just talking with someone during one of the breaks. I encouraged her to take the book of Philippians, as there’s an issue she’s dealing with in her life.

And I said, “Take that book and for the next few weeks just saturate yourself in those four chapters. Put it under a microscope. Soak yourself in it.” Read, as some have suggested, a book, a smaller book like that, every day for several weeks, perhaps for 30 days.

Over this challenge you may want to take that challenge and take Colossians or Ephesians or Philippians, one of the shorter books of the Bible and read it every day for 30 days, asking God to give you deeper insight into the heart and the message of that particular book or that portion of Scripture. That’s putting it under a microscope.

Now at the other extreme of that—and then there’s everything in between—is taking the Word of God and looking at it through a telescope. Actually, this is the way that I enjoy reading a lot, though we need both.

This way you are covering more ground more quickly. But what you’re doing is looking for broad overarching themes to see the threads that run from Genesis to Revelation. At times I’ve done it at even a bit faster pace.

I learned years ago that George Mueller read the Bible several times a year. He was one busy man. But he took time to read the Scripture. And he’s a man who really had a grasp of the whole of God’s Word.

I was challenged by that to gain an understanding and an appreciation for the whole of God’s Word. What it does when you’re reading the Scripture at a more rapid rate, whether it’s one time a year or at whatever rate. But you’re reading through it more rapidly. You’re getting a bird’s eye view of the panoramic plan of God.

You’ll see that these themes that run through the Scripture are like threads in a tapestry that are woven together to form a great story of redemption.

Now, occasionally I’ll take a break from reading either of those ways—microscopically or telescopically—and from reading consecutively, and I’ll instead focus on a particular word or a topic or a Bible character and for a bit of time just focus on studying that word or that theme or that person. However, I would just say personally I would not recommend that for any long period of time you neglect reading the Bible in a systematic consecutive way.

Now as you read with whatever means you’re using, don’t get discouraged. Remember as we’ve said multiple times that not every day will be a spiritual feast any more than every meal that you eat is a scrumptious banquet.

Some passages will taste more like cardboard than honey. And some passages will be real tough sledding. But the value and the impact of God’s Word in our lives cannot be seen in what you read in just one day or one week.

The value of a balanced nutritious diet physically is not generally experienced in one week or one day. it’s rather the cumulative effects and benefits of eating right that are experienced over an extended period of time.

So when you come across portions of Scripture that don’t seem to make sense or don’t have any apparent value, don’t give up. And don’t conclude that those portions are worthless. We need every portion of the Scripture for our spiritual growth, our spiritually balanced diet.

Remember that whether we understand it or not, whether it’s easy reading or not, the Word of God is still profitable. It’s all profitable. And even those passages that are the most difficult to grasp or seem to be of relatively little value, I believe those passages have a sanctifying, cleansing, maturing effect as they enter into our system.

I don’t know how that works. But I believe that when I’m reading those genealogies with my heart prayerful in tune toward God that the Spirit is even using those passages in some way to cleanse and sanctify my spirit.

Now whatever approach you take to reading the Bible—and again let me say we have some possible different Bible reading plans and we’re making those available to you through this series and on our website. And I hope that you’ll pick one and use it this year.

But don’t let yourself become a slave to the method. Don’t get so caught up in the mechanics of how you’re reading the Scripture that you miss the point. Remember the goal is not how fast you can get through the Bible.

The goal is to meet with God in your quiet time each day. It’s to get the Word—the living Word and the written Word—into you and to cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus the living Word.

I want to remind you that it’s possible to know the Word of God intellectually from cover to cover and yet fail to get to know God. I’m just reminded of what Jesus said to those Pharisees in His day. They were the theological experts. They knew the Word of God—every part of it.

But Jesus said to them, “You have never heard the Father’s voice and His Word does not dwell in you” (John 5:37–38, paraphrased).

Can you imagine what those guys thought? “The nerve of him! He’s a blue collar worker! He’s never been to seminary! He’s telling us that we don’t know God and that God’s Word doesn’t dwell in us?”

Jesus went on to tell them why. This is in John chapter 5. He says, “You diligently study the Scriptures. But the Scriptures are telling you about me and you won’t come to me to find life” (verses 39–40, paraphrased). In other words, “You’ve missed me! You’ve missed the point. You’ve filled your head with knowledge but you have missed the relationship with me.”

Don’t miss the point of Bible study. Don’t miss the point of Bible reading. Don’t just consider it as something to check off your to-do list. Now I will say it’s still good to check off your to-do list. There’s value in reading the Word even when our hearts aren’t where they should be. It’s a good habit to be in.

But you don’t want just a habit. You want a relationship with God. The purpose of getting into the Word is to meet Jesus. He’s the object of your pursuit. So don’t miss the point. Let your Bible reading point you to Jesus.

As you’re reading always be asking, “How can this passage help me to know God? Lord, make this truth real in my life. Quicken the Word to my life. Make it come alive inside of me.”

The Word of God is alive. It’s powerful. And ask the Lord to make His Word alive in you.

As you ask Him to do that, as you read it prayerfully and thoughtfully and systematically, then you’ll find that He really is changing you through His Word.

Leslie: So often I just open the Bible and start reading. But Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us all God’s Word has to offer when we read systematically, prayerfully, thoughtfully, and carefully.

That’s been our focus over the last few days in a series called Getting into the Word and Getting the Word into You. She’s written about this topic beautifully in a book called A Place of Quiet Rest.

Nancy, this was your first book. Why did you want to tackle this topic?

Nancy: You know, we talk about a lot of topics on Revive Our Hearts. We address a lot of practical issues. But I know that if women will get into God’s Word and get God’s Word into them that sooner or later every other issue and area of their life that needs to be addressed, well, it’s going to come up in the course of their getting into God’s Word.

Over the years as I would speak on this subject—I would do workshops and conferences—women would flock to this conference. They wanted to know how to have a meaningful daily devotional life. I started looking for a book that I could recommend to these women.

What I found is that there were a lot of devotional books, books that had daily devotions in them, but I couldn’t find one that actually showed women how to have a meaningful devotional time with the Lord. I wasn’t a writer at the time. I didn’t aspire particularly to be one.

But I just felt this would be such a helpful tool for God’s people. And that’s why I set out to write this book, A Place of Quiet Rest. The subtitle is Finding Intimacy with God Through a Daily Devotional Life.

Well, I’ve written many books since that time. But I still feel that if you had to pick one this one is the most foundational.

You know, the start of a new year is a great time to start up new habits. So if you’re wanting to develop a habit of spending time with God in His Word, or you just want to freshen up your devotional life, then I want to encourage you here at the start of the year to read A Place of Quiet Rest and to set your heart throughout this year to grow in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

When you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts we’ll say thanks by sending you this book. Ask for A Place of Quiet Rest when you donate by phone. The number is 1-800-569-5959. Or donate online at ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com.

Leslie: Well, tomorrow hear about one of the best Bible study tools available. You probably have drawers full of this tool already. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

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 for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.