Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: The best tool for reading the Bible is a pen. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you’re writing as you’re reading, you’ll find that you really will concentrate better. Then when you’re done, you’ll have there a journal of your summary of the Word of God—not only how did you get into the Word, but how the Word got into you as you do summary and application.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Friday, January 9.

Parents and teachers tell younger kids not to write in books. You need to respect property, but one way you can respectfully study the Bible is to write in it. Nancy will explain in the series, Getting into the Word, and Getting the Word into You.

Nancy: Have you ever had the experience as you’re reading in your quiet time, reading a particular portion of Scripture, maybe even several pages or chapters, and then you stop and you realize that you have absolutely no idea what you just read? I see a lot of heads nodding, and mine is nodding because I have had that happen so many times.

Maybe you just find that as you read the Scripture that it is difficult to concentrate. You’re reading with your eyes about the children of Israel in the wilderness or Jesus and His disciples in a boat, but your mind is thousands of miles away. You’re thinking about the phone call you just got from your mother-in-law, or the phone call you need to make to your mother-in-law. You’re thinking about an outfit you have to make for your child’s kindergarten program. You’re thinking about your daughter who is spending the weekend with her father and his girlfriend, and you’re in a stew over that. Or you think about a thousand other things that have nothing to do, at least on the surface, with what you’re reading.

I want to give you some practical suggestions today for making your time in the Word more meaningful and for helping you concentrate on what you’re reading. Let me just give you one heading, and then I’m going to give you several sub-points under this today and over the next few sessions. I want you to write this down, if you’re possibly able to. It’s one big key I have found to a meaningful devotional life, and that is this: Write as you read—w-r-i-t-e, that is. Write things down as you’re reading the Word of God.

I have found that, humanly speaking, this has been the greatest help in my personal devotional life, to write as I’m reading the Word of God—to read the Scripture with a paper and pen in hand so that I can record insights from the Word. So get a journal or a blank notebook of some sort, whatever you have to do to keep it all together, and, as we’re going to see here, don’t be afraid also to write in your Bible. Writing in your Bible and writing on some other type of paper as in a journal or notebook, I have found, is a huge help in my personal devotional life.

Here are some practical ideas of what to write. You say, “I’ve got my Bible; I’ve got my pen and paper—what do I write as I read?”

First, and this sounds so simple I almost hesitate to say it, but write out portions of the Scripture itself—just word for word. There’s value in taking time to copy out portions of the Word of God, word for word. There are actually several occasions in Scripture where God instructed people to do that very thing.

Remember in Exodus when Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God? God said to him in chapter 34, verse 27, “Write down these words” and the Scripture says, “He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments” (verse 28, NIV).

Then we see that 40 years later as the children of Israel were preparing to enter the Promised Land, Moses rehearsed God’s laws for the entire congregation. Then he told the people what God had told him. He said, "Write these laws down. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

This, by the way, is one of the reasons that I love to have in my house framed portions of Scripture so that I have the Scripture displayed everywhere around me. It’s in my bathroom; it’s in my study; it’s in my bedroom; it’s in my living room; it’s everywhere I can turn in my house. I try to have some portion or portions of the Scripture just because of the value of having it always before us.

But why write it down? God knows how prone we are to forget. As we write it down, we’re being helped to remember. Remember when teachers in school would write something on the blackboard, or whiteboard, as it is more recently, and make you copy it a lot of times in your notebook. Do they do that anymore in school? I don’t know if they do, but we just considered it busy work. Well, maybe the teacher knew that by writing something down repetitively, we just might get it. It might get into our system. So consider writing out portions of the Scripture by hand.

Then, as we mentioned a moment ago, write in your Bible. You say, “What should I write in my Bible?” There’s no specific reference in Scripture to writing in your Bible because remember that hardly anybody owned a copy of the Bible before the 16th century. But I find that writing in my Bible has been a very practical help and blessing in my devotional life.

I remember when I was a child, my parents encouraged us to underline verses we found to be particularly meaningful. I got a little carried away, and I underlined so much that my dad suggested at one point that maybe I should just underline the things that I didn’t find meaningful. But I started as a child in that way, just writing in the Scripture, highlighting verses and phrases for emphasis, things that really spoke to me personally. Over the years, I have read and marked up many different copies of the Bible.

Each of my Bibles, if you could put them in order in the sequence in which I’ve read them, each of those Bibles would tell something of my personal journey of faith during that time period of my life.

  • I’ll circle repeated words and phrases.
  • I’ll jot down notes about the meaning of a specific word or phrase.
  • Sometimes I’ll even write down the date, or even the place where I was when God used a specific Scripture or passage to speak to my heart in a particular way.
  • Sometimes I’ll just jot down a few words that record my personal response to what I’ve read—things like, “Yes, Lord. I agree. Thank You, Lord. Change my heart, Lord. Make this true in my life.”
  • I may jot down the name of someone I’m praying for as it relates to a particular passage.
  • Jot down just insights—the margins aren’t very wide, so I don’t write down a lot. I do write very small, and when my eyes finally go, I won’t be able to read any of those old notes.

But as I’m writing, I’m being helped to concentrate, to focus on what it is that I’m reading. That’s the value of writing as you read.

I want to share with you one practical method of writing as you read that has been very helpful to me and to many others. Someone has called it the S-A method. “S” stands for summary, and “A” stands for application—summary and application. This is so simple.

Anyone can do this, and by the way, it’s something you can challenge your children and your grandchildren to do as well. I have challenged young people 12, 13, 14 years of age to read through the Bible using this Summary-Application—S-A Method—and actually have bribed them to do so. I’m not embarrassed to tell you that. I’ve told them, “When you get through the whole Bible using this method, I will do something that is of value to you.” I helped one kid buy a computer in his early teenage years after he went through the Bible with this S-A Method.

Here’s how it works: Get a notebook, blank paper, and as you read through the Bible in whatever sequence, if you’re reading Old and New Testament at the same time, that’s fine, if you’re reading straight through, whatever pace, but as you read each chapter, write down the chapter (Genesis 1, Leviticus 11, Matthew 18, whatever it is). Write down the chapter, and then write down one or two sentences that summarize that chapter. Read the chapter first, and then write down one or two sentences—what is this chapter about? Just summarize it in your own words, one or two sentences. That’s the “S,” the summary.

Then “A,” the application, write down one or two sentences of personal application, expressing how something in this passage, something in this chapter can be applied to your life.

  • How did it speak to you personally?
  • What did it mean to you?
  • What does God want you to do about what you’ve just read?

Something that is application-oriented. Do that with every chapter in the Bible, and if you’re looking as you’re reading those chapters for a summary and an application, you’ll find it easier to concentrate on what you’re reading. You won’t have as many times when you’ll look back and say, “I’ve just read three chapters, and I have no clue what that was about.”

If you’re writing as you’re reading, or you’re reading thinking what you can write, you will find that you really will concentrate better. Then when you’re done, you’ll have there a journal of your summary of the Word of God—not only how did you get into the Word, but how the Word got into you as you do summary and application.

Anyone can do this, and if you’ve never done a Bible study method, don’t feel like you have to go buy pens of all different colors and markers and books and commentaries. Those things can be very helpful, but you can start so simply.

If you’re doing the 30-day challenge with other Revive Our Hearts’ listeners over these days and you haven’t been in the habit of reading the Bible before, this is a great place to start. Wherever you’re reading, to start chapter by chapter, summary and application, and with just that one little technique I think you’ll find the Word of God more meaningful than you ever dreamed it could be. As you do, you’ll find yourself getting to know not only the Word, but the God whose Word it is.

Can I remind you of what I’ve said other times on this program, and that is, you and I cannot become the women God made us to be apart from daily, consistent time getting to know Him through His Word. There are no shortcuts to spiritual growth, there are no shortcuts to figuring out the problems in your marriage, with your teenager, with your work environment, with your roommate.

There are no counselors or books or methods or tapes or radio programs for that matter that can be a substitute for you getting into the Word and letting God’s Word speak to you. I am passionate about this message. Can you tell? I hope to stay passionate about it because we cannot grow spiritually without the Word of God.

I’m listening all the time to women and reading their letters and their emails, women pouring out their hearts about issues in their lives, their struggles, their problems, their pressures, their burdens. Some of these are very, very hard situations, and some of them are just everyday life, which can be hard itself.

My heart goes out to these women. I sympathize. I want to help, and I pray that through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we are helping to encourage women in their walk with the Lord. But I know that when it comes down to it, if those women are not in the Word of God for themselves, they are never going to get the answers they really need. They’re never going to have the relationship with God that they want and long for and need just living life on this planet. They’re not going to grow spiritually.

You cannot have a steady diet of just getting your teaching from other radio programs, including this one. If that’s the only way you get the Word of God, you’re not going to be as spiritually mature and nourished and well fed as what you could be if you would get into the Word of God for yourself.

Having to teach the Word of God 260 times a year on Revive Our Hearts is part of what helps me grow because in between our recording sessions, I have to be in the Word, studying, listening to the Lord, opening up the Word, letting God speak to me, and I get so blessed because I’m having to be in the Word all the time in order to have something to feed you.

Well, I’m not the only one that’s supposed to be feeding people with the Word of God. You’re supposed to do that, too. You’re supposed to be feeding your children, your friends, others around you with what God has given you with His Word. You’re supposed to be feeding yourself spiritually. That’s why I’m trying during this series to give you some practical handles on how to get into the Word of God and how to get the Word of God into you.

I want to give you a little bit more sophisticated method, and again, you don’t have to go to Seminary to get this. This method, for those of you who like something fancy, is called the A-E-I-O-U Method. Think you can remember that? A-E-I-O-U, and each of those letters stands for one thing that you can do as you’re writing down what you get from the Word of God. We’ll talk about the A and the E today, and then in the next session, we’ll pick up with the I-O and then U.

First of all, “A”—ask questions. As you’re reading the Word of God, ask questions. Let me give you some ideas of what you can ask, and I’m going to give this to you faster than you can write it down if you’re trying to take notes, but you can go to our website to get this in more detail, or you can go to the book, A Place of Quiet Rest, which I wrote several years ago to help women know how to have a quiet time, a devotional life that was more meaningful. What I’m sharing in this series, much of it comes right out of that book, although in that book there’s more detail about how you can get into the Word.

What I wish we could do is sit down and all have our Bibles open and notebooks out, and have some tools around us, and actually do this together, but I realize some people are listening to Revive Our Hearts while doing housework, or at their job, or in their car, and I know you can’t stop and pull out your Bible and take notes while you’re doing this, so that’s why I would encourage you to take advantage of some of the other resources that we have available through our website and in our resource center.

“A,” ask questions. Questions like,

  • What does this passage say? Make observations about the passage. 
  • What does it mean? What is the interpretation of the passage?

Ask questions. “What does it say and what does it mean?” Use the same kinds of questions that you might use if you were trying to write a newspaper account or report of something happening.

  • Who wrote it? Who wrote this book?
  • Who said this in this passage?
  • Who were they talking about?
  • To whom were they speaking?
  • What happened?
  • What are the major events here?
  • What are the main ideas?
  • What’s the main theme of this passage?
  • When was it written?
  • When did these events take place?
  • Where did it happen?

If you see that Jesus went to Caesarea and you see in the previous chapter He was in another city, pull out a map in the back of your Bible and look at those places on the map and say, “Where did He go? How far did He go? How far did He travel on this particular day to go from Jerusalem to Bethlehem for the wise men? How far of a journey was that for them?” Ask questions.

  • Why was this written?

Sometimes the answer will be right in the text. As we read in the Gospel of John, chapter 20, verse 31, “These [things] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life through his name.” That tells you why it was written. Sometimes the answer is not clear, but as you meditate on the passage, you’ll find that God will help you understand the purpose of this passage. How did this happen? How is this done?

Just ask yourself questions. Ask questions that you don’t know the answers to and that you may not find the answers to right away, but things that you’d like to know about the passage. I’m always asking questions as I’m reading the Scripture.

  • Why is this here?
  • Why did he say that?
  • What does this mean?
  • Where is that?

I just learn a lot by asking these diagnostic questions.

Then I have in my library some tools that can help me if the answer isn’t right there in the text. Who was this Aleichem? Who was this character in the Bible? Who is he related to? When I read that Jesus is the rod of Jesse, who is Jesse? And what did Jesus have to do with that? I try to put these things together by asking questions. That’s the “A.”

Write those questions down and, as you come across answers to your questions, write those down. But realize that some of your questions will be answered later as you come to other portions of the Scripture. You’ll say, “I get it. That answers a question I asked about another portion I read months ago.” Write it down.

“A,” ask questions, then “E,” emphasize key words and phrases—A-E-I-O-U. Emphasize—look for a key verse in the chapter that captures the heart of that passage. Look for a key word in the passage. What word stands out to you in that passage? Circle it. Underline it. Write it down.

Here’s something I do all the time as I’m writing Scripture: I’m always looking for patterns, for repeated words or phrases, for things that recur in the chapter or the book or the passage that I’m reading, emphasized words and phrases. Let me give you several examples of what I’m talking about:

For example, if you’re reading the book of Leviticus, what is the word that you will find in the book of Leviticus over and over and over again? It’s the word holy or the word clean. You’ll also find the word unclean or unholy. So circle those words—holy, clean, unclean, unholy—and related words. Then after you’ve gone through the book and noted those words, summarize what the book of Leviticus teaches about the subject of holiness. It’s obviously the theme of the book, so highlight it. Emphasize that repeated word and phrase, and it will help give you understanding into the meaning of holiness.

You come to the book of 1 John and there’s a recurring phrase in those five chapters—“This is how we know that we are children of God.” The book is written to tell us how we can have assurance of salvation—“This is how we know—this is how we know—this is how we know.”

I notice that when I’m reading through 1 John. Take your pen and paper and write down how do we know. There are several evidences of genuine salvation that are given in 1 John—“This is how we know”—and then it gives an evidence. Write those down.

If you’re having doubts about your own salvation, not sure that you’re a child of God, this is an excellent exercise to do. Go through the book of 1 John and write down all the evidences of being a Christian, being a child of God, and then ask God to show you, “Are these evidences in my life? Do I have a legitimate basis for assurance for my salvation?”

I’ve been reading recently in the book of Titus, and I noticed that the word self-controlled appeared several times in the book of Titus in the translation I was reading. That phrase just jumped out at me. Older men are told to be self-controlled. Older women are told to be self-controlled. We’re all told to be self-controlled. 

I began to think that there’s something important about being self-controlled, so now I’m meditating on “Why is self-control important? What happens if we don’t have it? What are the consequences?” In the book of Titus, I was looking for these things, and I started by seeing that emphasized word.

I’ve been reading recently also through the Gospel of John, and one of the things that has really been standing out to me is how many times in different ways it says that Jesus was dependent on His Father in Heaven to tell Him what to do, what to say, and where to go.

Over and over again, chapter 5, chapter 6, chapter 8, chapter 11 (I think it is), over and over again He says, “I don’t do anything on My own. I don’t say anything on My own. I don’t go anywhere on My own. I do always the things that My Father tells Me to do. I say what He tells Me to say. I go where He tells Me to go.”

What does that say to me? If Jesus was dependent on His Father for direction because they were so one He couldn’t do anything on His own, how foolish is it of me to try to live this Christian life on my own, to speak and do things and go places and make decisions without recognizing my dependence on God, without looking to Him and saying, “Lord, what do You want me to teach? What do You want me to say? How do You want me to handle this situation? Do You want me to agree to this commitment?”

Always checking with the Lord to see, “Is this what You want me to do?” That’s come through my study of the Gospel of John.

As you’re reading, and let me encourage you even over this next weekend, as you’re reading in the Scripture, “A”—ask questions, jot down the questions, jot down the answers you can come up with. And then “E”—emphasize key words and phrases, and ask the Lord through those patterns to start to make the Scripture come alive to you.

I promise you this: If you’ll be writing these things down as you read the Word, you won’t fall asleep. If you’re not writing as you’re reading, you may fall asleep, but this will help you to concentrate and to focus on what you’re reading and to get a whole lot more out of it than if you were just reading without making those notes.

Get some paper, get a notebook, get a pen and, as you’re reading the Word, ask questions, and then emphasize key words and phrases, and see what fresh insights God will give to you.

Leslie: If you’ve ever said, “I just don’t understand the Bible,” I hope you’ll put some of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ advice into practice. She’s been offering some practical ways to get more out of God’s Word in the series, Getting into the Word, and Getting the Word into You. Nancy describes these helpful approaches to digging into the Bible in her book, A Place of Quiet Rest.

When you read it, you’ll have a fresh appreciation for the gift of time alone with God. You’ll want to get together with Him. You’ll also gain some hands-on ideas for making the time you spend with Him more meaningful and focused.

We’d like to send you the book, A Place of Quiet Rest, when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. This program is possible thanks to the gifts of our listeners. To help keep the program on in your area, just call 1-800-569-5959, and make sure to ask for the book when you call. You can also donate online at

Reading the Bible isn’t primarily an intellectual exercise. Find out why God’s Word gives you more than just head knowledge on Monday when we return for Revive Our Hearts.

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


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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.