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The Most Important Tool for Reading God’s Word

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Episode Synopsis

The meaning of the Bible is not some big secret that God is daring you to discover. Jani’s son, Gavin, shares how God makes His Truth accessible to all His children. We also talk about helpful ways to read the Book of Judges.

Audio Transcript

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to our discipleship series. We’ve heard from many of you, and we thank you for emailing us, letting us know how it’s going. We hope that you’ll continue to meet with a friend or two and go through this series together.

Pre-Meeting Prep

Today, I want you to download and copy off two worksheets found below.

#1 – My Weekly Schedule

Copy off enough copies for each of the members in your group to have a copy of, “My Weekly Schedule.”

Free Download: “My Weekly Schedule” (PDF)

Download and fill out your "Weekly Schedule" as a new way to pray for one another in your group!

#2 – Romans 12:9-21 Bible Memory Worksheet

Copy off the Romans 12:9-21 worksheet found there. You will need both of those in your group. So go ahead, pause the podcast, go to the website, and make enough copies of each of those worksheets.

Free Download: “Romans 12 Bible Memory Worksheet” (PDF)

Download and print out Romans 12:9-21 with prompts to assist with Bible Memory, that the word of Christ may dwell in your richly!

Then leaders, if you have a group of more than one or two, I want you to take little post it notes, or little pieces of paper, and copy off these references, hand them out to your group members, and have them look them up, so they’ll be ready to read those verses to the group. Here are the references I want you to have ready:

  1. Psalm 38:3-8
  2. James 1:15
  3. John 8:34
  4. Romans 6:16, 20-23
  5. Psalm 32:5
  6. Psalm 107:13
  7. Psalm 107:14
  8. Acts 4:11-12.

Leaders I want to speak personally to you. I hope that you find these lessons helpful, but not restrictive. I hope that you’ll see what I do in my discipleship group, and then add to it what you want to do with the ladies God has called you to disciple. There might be something you want to teach them, more that you would like to add, or something you would like to take away. Please, please, feel free to do that.

How’s it Going? (Accountability)

Now, today, I want us to start with accountability. I want us to take more time on our accountability this week, and try to make sure that no one in our group is kind of slipping through the cracks.

1. Six Quiet Times

First of all, think about your six quiet times this past week. We say six quiet times, because with the read through plan that my group is doing, there are no specific Bible passages to read on most Sundays, and we use that day for catching up, or special work on Bible memory, or special prayer time. So for your six quiet times, ask where your group is individually in their Bible reading. I wonder if you’re on a reading plan together. Ask for a volunteer to share how she is doing with this part of your assignment. Go ahead and pause the podcast now and discuss your quiet times.

2. Bible Meditation

Next, choose someone, draw a name from your little basket of names if you do as I do, by writing everyone’s name down and keeping it together in a basket. Draw a name for someone to share the verse they are meditating on, and if or how it has helped them this week. Pause the podcast and share about your verse meditation.

Now, I want to encourage you all in your Bible reading and meditating. I’d like to read from a post, one of our sons, Gavin wrote. Gavin’s a pastor in Ojai, California. The post Gavin wrote is entitled, “What Kind of a Thing Is the Bible?” I think it may encourage you in your Bible reading. I hope it will. It’s encouraged me, and not just because he’s my boy, but because the words have been so helpful and true. Here’s a small part of what Gavin writes.

“The Bible is strikingly down-to-earth and honest. It has books on sex and what we would call existentialism (Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes). It is as practical as can be imagined: “whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing” (Proverbs 27:14). It is also as honest as can be imagined: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping” (Psalm 6:6).

The primary audience is not scholars, but ordinary people without theological training. It is not first and foremost a textbook or a curiosity to be studied, but as a divine Word to be received and obeyed. This does not mean the Bible is not profound or that it should not be studied with rigor. But the overwhelming majority of people who have read the Bible across the ages have not had any kind of formal training, and the Holy Spirit seems to have inspired a kind of book that accords well with this fact. The Bible is not intimidating and opaque, like an obscure scholarly conference; but inviting and humane, like a kind neighbor.”

Gavin Ortlund, “What Kind of a Thing Is the Bible?”

Gavin says there’s a major implication, and this is it:

“Prayer and spiritual desire are just as important as scholarly tools (if not more so).”

He goes on to write,

“We should never give the impression that our brains are the primary way to get the Bible’s message. Of course, our brains play an important role, and scholarly resources can help with that part of it; but it is always ultimately the state of our hearts that determines whether we understand the Bible in the most important way it needs to be understood. Hence Jesus is always saying, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear;” not, “he who has a brain to understand, let him think.”

I like that. You see why I love this article that Gavin wrote. He goes on to say,

“My sense is that too many lay Christians get intimidated by the mass and depth of biblical scholarship available to us. Commentaries and Study Bibles, for instance, are great resources, and there are so many of them around. Compare what is available to us to what was available in the average library of a medieval monastery and it’s embarrassing and overwhelming. Sometimes it is also paralyzing, and so it is good to remember that you can usually get the main point of the Bible simply by reading the Bible thoughtfully, humbly, slowly, and carefully. People like John Bunyan got a pretty good theological education from doing just that. And it is nothing short of amazing how much scholarly treatment of the Bible ends up making obscure what the Bible intends to make clear. I would rather read the Bible with an imaginative 5th-grader who at least remembers the biblical stories and distinguishes the good from the bad than with a PhD who is over-specialized, under-curious, and asking all the wrong questions.

Don’t think of the Bible’s meaning as some esoteric secret, available to the experts. God has put his truth on the bottom shelf. His target audience is not scholars but peasants and farmers and maids. Scholarly resources can help, but the most important thing is a humble heart and a spiritual appetite.”

Gavin Ortlund, “What Kind of a Thing Is the Bible?”

Now I’d like to pray for us all right now as we seek to read our Bibles. Will you pray with me?

“Lord, thank you for making Your truth accessible to people like us. People who don’t have the time and money, and sometimes even the interest, to invest in a rigorous theological education. Help us to come to our Bible humbly. Increase our appetite for true spiritual food. Teach us what it means to read your word slowly and carefully. Oh, how we thank you for this treasure, in your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Oh, may the Lord bless your Bible reading.

3. Review or perfect Romans 12:9-21

Now, I’d like you to review, or maybe you want to take some time to perfect Romans 12:9-21. I hope you’re hiding these words in your heart, storing them up for when you need them. Either say your verses together, or pass out the Romans 12 worksheet that you can find on our website, and take time to fill it in and then correct it. Maybe you could send one of those worksheets home with the ladies if they would like to review their verses at home.

4. Reading

Next, discuss the next portion of your book that your group is reading together. Go ahead and and pause the podcast and do that now.

5. Prayer of your friend’s “Weekly Schedule”

Finally, how did praying over your friends’ weekly schedule go? I hope you found that helpful to kind of think through their schedule each day and pray for them that way.

6. Worship

Let’s head into our worship time now. As part of our own personal worship, and our group worship, we hold God’s words very dear to our hearts. I know notes that my Ray has written me or or words he speaks over me are very dear to me. He’s traveling this week as I’m working on this podcast and recording it, and text messages he sends to me are so precious.

And of course, I’m hoping you will remember some of the words I’ve shared with you. 2 Peter 1:15 is one of the verses I think about when I podcast or when I disciple. It says this,

“And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”

2 Peter 1:15

But other than a lovers words to us or a leaders words to us, God’s Word is so much more important. Colossians 3:16 says,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. To “dwell” means to settle in, to live there, to inhabit your heart richly. Bible memory will fill your hearts with wisdom, and with a song, and with thankfulness. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Or think of 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Listen, as I read these verses.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Did you hear that? All scripture is breathed out by God. It says if His words are His very breath, you’re very close to Him. When you can feel His breath, think of it. When you have His words, in your heart, and on your tongue, it’s as if you’re breathing out His very breath. His words are profitable, they’re rewarding, they’re worthwhile, they’re productive, they’re valuable. They provide teaching and correction, leading us in the right paths of life. They help us to be competent and ready for any good work the Lord might bring our way. Oh, we want to learn these words.

Or think about in John 14:26, where Jesus says,

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:26

We need the Holy Spirit, whom the Father has sent, to help us recall; to remember what we memorize.

7. Pick a NEW Verse to Memorize!

Now we’ve spent several weeks memorizing Romans 12:9-21. together. This, I think, well for my group, it’s going to be the last week. Leaders, if you need another week or two, go ahead and take it, but for my group, it’s going to be the last week we do this memory work together. And so I would like for this coming week, for all of you to choose a short passage to memorize individually, not as a group, something you would like to hide in your heart to store up, to be able to recall, to let dwell richly in you. And then take the next several weeks to memorize those verses and say them to be each other. Now, leaders, pause the podcast and spend some time in prayer, asking for guidance for which passages your group should memorize, and for God’s help in bringing to remembrance, what you’ve learned. And after your prayer, take a five minute break.

Teaching: The “Cycle of Judges”

Welcome back. Now I want to go to our teaching time. And I’m going to teach briefly on the book of Judges because that’s where we are in our Bible read-through right now. And I want you to know that some of the thoughts I’m expressing and sharing with you, I’ve taken from the notes in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible published by Crossway.

In my group, as I said, we’re in the book of Judges in our reading through the Bible. I want you to think through the cycle of Judges with me. You may have already thought about this cycle, when we were discussing our brief Old Testament survey. But keeping this cycle in mind will help you as you read through the book of Judges, or when you read it in the future.

The cycle is: Sin, Slavery, Supplication, and Salvation.

Now, what I’m going to do, leaders, is give part of the cycle, and the verses that you’re to read for that. So you’ll pause the podcast, read the verses, any questions or discussion, go ahead, and then go on to the next part of the cycle.


The first part of the cycle is sin. Pause the podcast and read Psalm 38:3-8, and James 1:15.


The next part of the cycle is slavery. John 8:34 and Romans 6:16 and 20-23. Read those verses now.


The next part of the cycle is supplication, crying out to God. Read Psalm 32:5, and Psalm 107:13. Aren’t you glad we have a God to cry out to? Supplication was that part of the cycle.


And then the final part of the cycle is salvation. Oh, our saving God. Psalm 107:14, and Acts 4:11-12.

Sin—Slavery—Supplication—Salvation. I wonder where you are, in this cycle today, in your own walk with the Lord. Think it through.

In the book of Judges, we see the people of God languishing because of the lack of godly leadership. All of this book prepares us for Jesus, our perfect leader, the final judge and King to end all earthly judges and kings. It points us to our need for him.

Themes in Judges

Think through some of the themes and judges with me.

Theme #1: Tell the Story!

First of all, here’s the theme and judges. It’s the importance of telling the story of God’s redemption to the coming generations. Listen, as I read Judges 2:10, it says this:

“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”

Judges 2:10

Oh, isn’t that sad? We must tell the story of God’s redemption to the coming generations. That is our responsibility. If not, they will cycle down into sin and slavery.

Theme #2: Idolatry & Compromise

Another theme we see is a subtlety of idolatry and compromise, and the seriousness of drifting from the Lord.

Theme #3: “Don’t you have to be perfect to be used by the Lord?”

A third theme we see in Judges is this. God’s willingness, Oh, I love this and his delight to use fallen unwilling, weak people, even as leaders to advance his kingdom. That gives me hope, doesn’t you, we see so much failure in the book of Judges both of the people and failure of their leaders. But God is king, and he will not allow his people to self destruct back then, or today. From beginning to the end of this book, we see Israel’s need for godly saviors, and the need for God to provide those saviors for them. He’s done that for us through Jesus.

Theme #4: Don’t be surprised by the Unexpected

One final theme I see is this: let’s never be surprised at how God will work. Judges recounts unexpected persons and their actions delivering God’s people in unexpected ways.

Now, leaders, I want you to pause the podcast and share your prayer requests, and then come back for your next assignment.


Here’s your assignment. Have your six quiet times and meditate on your verse throughout the week. Perhaps you need to find a new verse to meditate on. That’s great. You don’t have to keep the same verse for a whole year. I sometimes do other times I’ll choose a new verse every few months. Sometimes I’ll only have a verse for a couple of weeks and then a new need arises. But have a verse that you’re meditating on. That gives you focus for Bible memory, which we’re going to begin to work on now. Each week I want you to be women who are working on memorizing God’s Word, storing it in your heart. Try to have chosen an individual passage that you want to memorize between now and June 1.

Then discuss how much you’re going to read. We’re going to work through Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, we’re going to try to finish it, I’m not sure, we’ll be able to but leaders, you decide how much you’re going to read, and then exchange the “Weekly Schedule” papers you have, and pray for that specific person as she goes through her week.

Tip: “I forgot that was on my schedule…”

Leaders, we’ve found in our group, that it’s helpful for the person who wrote the schedule to snap a picture of it, or for me to make a copy of it, I have a printer right near where we meet, so that both the person who made this calendar and the person who’s praying for that person has exactly the same weekly schedule in front of her. Sometimes, even though I write out my weekly schedule, I’ll forget something I’ve put on there. So you might want to do that as well.

And then finally, hand each member a blank “Weekly Schedule” paper and have them fill it out for the following week to bring back to exchange.

Oh, I wish I could reach out and hug each one of you today. I know the Lord can. He connects us through this microphone, isn’t that wonderful? I pray that these discipleship podcasts are restorative to your soul. I pray that they are lifting you up. I’m asking the Lord that they would not be burdensome, but they would present you new, fun, exciting ways to love Christ and learn how to love his family. May the Lord Jesus Christ restore your souls this week.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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About The Podcast

He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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