Interview with Jani Ortlund :: Dwelling Richly

Dwelling Richly Series

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund, Executive Vice President of Renewal Ministries,
loves spending her energies connecting women with the Word of God.
Serving Jesus Christ through writing, speaking and discipling are her chief passions in life.
Jani and Ray, Pastor of Immanuel Church, have four married children and twelve grandchildren,
and minister in Nashville, Tennessee.

What's your regular routine for Bible study-

I need to meet with God for personal, intimate time together first thing in the morning, or else my daily duties deplete my time and energy for real, heart-felt communion later in the day.  For the past twenty-eight years I have loved reading through the Bible each year, 3-5 chapters a day, often using Walk Thru the Bible’s guide called “Daily Walk.”  The benefit of reading God’s book cover to cover, year by year, has been a growing confidence in the One who breathed out these very words to complete and equip me (I Timothy 3:16-17).

In these early morning visits with God I try to ask myself the same two questions that Saul did when he first met with the living Christ—“Who are you, Lord?” and/or “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:8,10).  These questions help focus my mind and heart.  Who is this God in Leviticus who demands a blood covering for every kind of sin?  What shall I do in light of the glorious and eternal provisions for me in the second part of Isaiah?  Who is this God who became man in the Gospels?  What should my response be as I read God’s messages to the early church? etc.

After my reading, I review the verse(s) I am meditating on or memorizing during that season.  I try to choose three passages a year—one for fall, winter, and spring.  Summer is a good time for me to review.  Then I go to prayer, praying God’s Word into my life and the lives of those I love and care for.

This is my personal devotion time with the Lord.  I try not to use it for ministry responsibilities.  For then it might become, “What do they need? rather than, “Here am I, Lord Jesus, speak to me.  Show me your way for me and create in me a clean heart.”  I am involved in various Bible studies and in leading Renewal Ministries with my pastor husband, and I take an hour or two during the day—on my lunch break, or after things have slowed down a bit in the evening—to go deeper into a specific book of the Bible, or a topic.  Sometimes I am preparing to teach a Bible study or teach at a conference. Right now I am working on developing five lessons for our grandchildren’s cousins camp this summer.  But I consider this a separate time with my King from my morning devotions.


Are there any non-essentials that you love to have during your study time

Yes!  A hot cup of English Breakfast tea with real cream, my notebook, a good pen for marking up my Bible or taking notes, index cards for my memory work, and a sticky note for all those distractions and details that come flying in under the radar as I’m trying to meet with the King of the Universe.


What resources have influenced you the most in giving you a desire and tools for dwelling in the Word-

I love the English Standard Version Study Bible for my personal devotional time when a question comes up in my reading.  When I am studying to teach or just go very deep into a passage that intrigues me, I find Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible and Grudem’s Systematic Theology invaluable.


Do you-have you ever used accountability in the area of time in the Word-

YES!  I disciple a group of 6-8 women each year and we commit to read the Bible through together.  Each week we share how it’s going and try to encourage each other.  We need each other!


Have you ever taken time for a personal spiritual retreat-

I try to take time out for an extended time with the Lord four times a year.  I block off a 2-3 hour time slot and gather up my Bible and notebook and hymnbook, find a place to meet with Him either along a nature trail here in Tennessee or in the lobby of one of our beautiful hotels in Nashville, and just sit with Him.  Sometimes I catch up with my Bible reading.  Sometimes I write out my prayers or work on Bible memory.  I try not to read what others have written about the Bible, but rather just meet with God and let Him have my full attention.  It gives me time to go deeper with Him, set things right again, confess and repent of new sins or repeated sin patterns.  On occasion, my husband and I have gone away for a day, just to meet with God and pray together.


Is there a favorite Bible study method you use-

One Prof Hendricks (at Dallas Theological Seminary) taught us way back in 1972:
Observe:  what is it saying?  or gather the ingredients
Interpret:  what does it mean?  or mix up the recipe and put it in the oven
Apply:  so what?  what does it mean to me?  or eat it!


What has been your driest time spiritually and how did you overcome that period-

With many young children all needing me!  A friend and I exchanged kids for two hours on Tuesday mornings with the commitment that we would take that time to be in the Word—no errands, etc.  So I knew that I would have two mornings per month, at the bare minimum, to meet with God.  We did this for two years and it really helped get me through those hard, exhausting times.

How did you encourage a love for God's Word in your children- Did you have a method for helping them learn how to study for themselves-

The Bible was very visible in our home— on our kitchen table, at my desk, near my bedside.  They saw me reading it.  It had a place of respect and prominence.  I continue to have it all over the walls of our home, in each room—verses that are framed or stenciled onto the wall.  We talked about the Word whenever we had opportunity—at breakfast, in car line, during homework time, at bedtime, on vacation, at wedding and funerals.  We had family devotions and prayer time after dinner most nights.  We memorized Scripture together as a family, with fun prizes for all!  When problems arose with hurt feelings or stealing or lying or not enough money, etc., we would see what God had to say to “light our path.”

Children most likely will love and prize what they see their parents love and prize.  We treated His Word as “sweeter than honey” and it became sweet to them, too.

Thank you so much, Jani!
Guys, isn’t there a lot of gold in that interview?? I love the idea of trading childcare with another Mom for the express purpose of spending time alone with God. For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking Jani’s two questions (“Who are you, Lord?” and/or “What shall I do, Lord?”) and using them in my own Bible study time. Profitable indeed!

Plus, the practical tips on encouraging God’s love in our children are incredibly helpful. Memorizing Scripture as a family – with prizes for all? What fun!!

I trust this interview has been an encouragement to your heart as you continue to pursue God and His Word with passion!

Find Jani:

Fearlessly Feminine: Boldly Living God’s Plan for Womanhood
His Loving Law, Our Lasting Legacy: Living the Ten Commandments and Giving Them to Our Children

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