Welcome to our first Wycliffe Women of the Word roundtable! In these discussions, we’re bringing together women from different backgrounds and experiences to share their thoughts on important spiritual topics. We hope these conversations feel like sitting around with friends and chatting over coffee or a good meal.
And because Wycliffe Women of the Word is focused on equipping women with the truth of Scripture, we’re kicking off our roundtable series with a discussion about why Scripture matters. The women who’ve joined us for the inaugural roundtable have a variety of backgrounds and experiences, but they are united by their love for God’s Word.
Kelly Chesnut coordinates Wycliffe USA’s Deeply Rooted initiative, an effort focused on encouraging spiritual health in staff around the world. She and her husband John, Wycliffe USA’s president/CEO, served for many years in the Philippines with their seven children.
In addition to being a wife and busy mom of four, Amanda Bible Williams is the co-founder and chief content officer of She Reads Truth, a worldwide community of women committed to engaging with God’s Word every day through curated reading plans and quality online and printed resources.
Although she is known for her work as Wycliffe’s Contact Center manager, Jannah Welcome is just as well known around Wycliffe USA’s headquarters for her heart for prayer, spiritual leadership and compassion for people.
Beth Matheson served with her husband and their two kids in youth ministry at the JAARS center in North Carolina and in Papua New Guinea before she stepped into her current role as the writer for Wycliffe Women of the Word.
We hope you enjoy the conversation below as these women collectively dive deep into the rich truths of Scripture!
How did you first fall in love with the Bible?
Kelly: I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t have access to the Bible. It’s always been a part of my life. But I first fell in love with God’s Word when I was 16, going through a difficult time medically. God met me in ways I hadn’t experienced prior to that season. Since then, his Word has been the joy of my life!
Amanda: I first grew to love Scripture in high school — in youth group Bible studies and at home, watching my mom read her Bible faithfully, year after year. But it was through the start and growth of the She Reads Truth community that the Lord truly captured my heart with an unquenchable affection for his Word. Watching up close as thousands of women, myself included, were changed by opening their Bibles together daily, I knew once and for all that God’s Word is true.
Jannah: I first fell in love with the Bible after having what I would call a supernatural experience of God’s love at 17 years old. From that moment on, when I opened the Bible, the Scriptures started to make sense. I couldn’t and still can’t get enough.
Beth: As someone who grew up in a missionary home and became a missionary myself, I’ve always valued and studied the Bible. But it wasn’t until I had a difficult experience while my husband, daughters and I were overseas that Scripture went from being important to me to being my daily oxygen. I can’t function without it!
What makes the Bible different than other ancient literature? Why does it still matter today?
Kelly: The Bible is filled with applicable truth. Reading about people who struggled with the same issues we still struggle with today — oh, they may take on different forms, but issues of the heart and mind are the same across the millenia. The Bible matters because it is the love of God in written form — the expression of his love and grace to the world. It matters because it’s incredibly personal in nature. The God of the universe connects with his creation with words and truth that is timeless.
Amanda: The Bible still matters because God has not changed — his heart for his people has not changed. I was an English major in college because I absolutely love words and sentences and books. But even my favorite works of literature, no matter how beautifully and masterfully written, are still just words on a page. Scripture is so much more than that. The author is our Creator, and all his stories point to our Savior. The Bible does not merely reflect truth; it is truth, and it is unchanging.
Jannah: The Bible doesn’t just cover one aspect of how to live and be on this earth, but covers all subject matters that we are sure to encounter. The importance of love, sacrifice, giving, being kind, meditation, staying positive, pain and suffering, loss, speaking life and not death, faith, raising children and the list goes on and on. All the major themes of most pieces of literature that point to higher living can be found in the Bible. And yet, they are not the point of the Bible. The Bible is the only book where we can be assured of our eternal resting place. Not because of how well we’ve mastered any of the items I mentioned above but because of what was done at Calvary. The Bible is alive with God’s Spirit and is still changing humanity in profound ways because of this.
Beth: These three ladies have great answers! Like Jannah said, the Bible is alive. Other ancient literature includes stories — some of them good and beautiful — but the Bible is the story. It’s God’s ongoing, current epic of redemption and restoration. Like Amanda said, it’s unchanging truth, a solid anchor when everything around us is in motion. And like Kelly said, it’s personal. It’s an invitation to the most private places in each of our hearts to come into the light and be loved into wholeness by him.
In what ways has Scripture changed you?
Kelly: I think most people allow their perspectives to be shaped by their feelings or circumstances of the moment. And all too often, we respond based on our own perspective. But when I stop and see people and situations through the truth, love and grace of God’s Word, my perspective shifts, effectively changing my response too. As I realign my perspective with the truth of Scripture, my thoughts become reflective of God’s heart. This, in turn, changes my interactions with people and circumstances.
Amanda: Scripture has opened my eyes to the reality of the kingdom of God. It teaches me who God is and who I am in him. It shows me that Jesus is King and that my citizenship and my inheritance of hope are in heaven. It calls out my sin and calls me to repentance and restoration. It is my comfort in suffering and the foundation of my joy. It allows me to sit at the feet of the Savior and learn from him. In a world where lies are loudest, Scripture keeps me tethered to truth; in a land of darkness, it pulls me back into the light.
Jannah: Scripture changed everything about me. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHANG! It’s changed the way I see humanity. I look around and I see the beauty of God in the faces of strangers. It’s overwhelming to know that we are made in the image of God and that his intentions toward us are good to give us a future and a hope. The Bible now Informs all of my decisions and has allowed me to maintain a peace that’s beyond this universe in the midst of challenges. Scripture has also impacted how I show up in life. Instead of fearing what lies ahead or feeling the need to control outcomes, I rest in the truth that the Word provides.
Beth: This sounds really basic, but Scripture has taught me — and keeps teaching me — that I’m not God. I like to be in control. I’d like to decide what should be right and wrong, force things to turn out the way I’d prefer and shape my own future and the destiny of those I love. But I’ve failed every time I’ve tried because I’m not big enough. The Bible is a reality check that God’s wisdom and compassion are so beyond what my human mind can understand that the best thing I can do is surrender to him. That may sound scary, but as I’ve surrendered to God’s Spirit changing me through his Word, I’ve found wider freedom, joy and rest than I knew was possible. I didn’t know how deeply I was chained to anxiety and destructive thought patterns until I began to let go of control and trust that God loves me and he’s already in the process of making everything whole. He writes a much better, more beautiful story than I can.
What passage(s) are you clinging to in this season of your life?
Kelly: So many! Mark 12:30-31 is helping me focus on what it means to really love God and love people. 2 Peter 1:3-8 reminds me that no matter what I face, God has given me everything I need for living a godly life. 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Philippians 4:8 are helping to shape my thoughts and perspective each day. And John 15 is a constant reminder that I’m to abide in Christ, which is part of the fruit that comes from being in the Word.
Amanda: The past year has been a difficult one for our family, and I’ve found myself feeling completely wrung out most days. God’s promise to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 has taken on new meaning for me: Christ’s power really is held high and made perfect when I am weak. I have long loved Colossians 1:15-20, but lately it’s verse 17 that I can’t shake: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (ESV). (Andrew Peterson sings a beautiful version of this in his song “All Things Together.”) In short, I’m clinging to passages that remind me of God’s grandness and Jesus’s faithfulness.
Jannah: Loads of them! The Lord has really been encouraging me to be present with him. The one that I’m meditating on at the moment is Isaiah 43:18-19: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (ESV).
Beth: The Psalms. Always the Psalms. Trying to choose my favorite psalm feels like picking my favorite breath, but right now I’m loving the imagery in Psalm 42:1-2 of thirsting for God like a deer pants for water. I want to long for my Creator with that intensity. I also keep circling back to Matthew 5:4-6: “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” (NLT). God’s way of thinking is so opposite from my reflex to avoid discomfort.
Why is it important that all people have access to God’s Word in a language and format they can clearly understand?
Kelly: This world needs hope, and the only place I have found lasting hope is in Jesus Christ and his Word. Scripture has taught me so much — about God, about myself and others, and how to cope with the things this world throws at me. In a constantly changing world, we need to constancy of Scripture. Millions of people around the world don’t have access to Scripture in a language and form they understand best, so how do they cope with the challenges and struggles they face? How do they experience hope? Where do they get inner strength from? Being able to experience God’s Word is life-changing! It grows and matures us in the truth, grace and love that is ours in Christ. People need the message Scripture brings in a language and form they can best understand. Every person matters to God. And they need his Word in their language in order to understand their value.
Amanda: Truth be told, it overwhelms me to read the current statistics regarding the number of people groups worldwide who don’t have access to even a single verse of Scripture in their own language. What must it be like to live without God’s Word, without the ability to read or hear Jesus’ message of love, hope and forgiveness? Having grown up in a home where there was always a Bible on the shelf, and now having a job where I read and help others read Scripture, I truly can’t imagine. There are so many worthwhile efforts taking place in the global church, but we must not lose sight of this one: to fight for people of every nation and tongue to have access to truth.
Jannah: When I think of the importance of having access to Scripture, three words come to my mind; a mirror, lamp and light. When we behold Scripture, the eternal value that the Lord has imparted into us and created us with is mightily expressed. It’s like looking into the mirror for the first time and seeing what you’re really made of — and all of it is glorious! People all over the world deserve to relish in this truth. Psalm 119:105 informs us that God’s word is a lamp to see our feet and a light to see our way. To have the Word available in a language that you best understand means access to the knowledge that you can use what you have to get where God’s planned for you to be. How? With our feet! And where? In the direction that Scripture illuminates. A person without Scripture may never recognize that they are fully equipped to live out God’s perfect plan for their lives. They need the Word to daily walk by faith and silence the voice that says that they don’t have the tools to be who God called them to be.
Beth: Everyone needs to know that the God who created the universe sees and loves them enough to speak to them in words that sink into their deepest parts. I’ve seen people come alive when they hear Scripture in their own language, even if they’ve heard it before in a language they learned for school or trade. They realize that God understands the way they think and that Jesus came specifically for them, not just for the majority language groups.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kelly: Oh my goodness! Seriously? You bet there is! But we don’t have time for it all! The Bible is my favorite book of all time — it’s one that I read daily and it never gets old. I learn new things all the time! I love that about Scripture: I can read a passage and learn something one day and the next day gain something entirely new and different from the very same passage because God’s Word is living and active. It breathes life into everything I am.
Amanda: You can read the Bible — whoever you are, wherever you are. Your past doesn’t disqualify you, you don’t have to wait until small group or Sunday morning and it’s okay if you aren’t a morning person. Ask God to meet you, open your Bible and read. If you want some company, grab a friend to read with you! Inquire about a Bible-reading group at your local church, or follow along with an online Bible reading plan (She Reads Truth is just one of several options). Listen to an audio Bible when you’re on the go! Whatever you do, don’t let your Bible stay closed. God’s Word is true, whether we read it or not. And page after page, it reveals his love for us. Don’t miss that.
Jannah: Having the Word of God in a language that we can understand best affords us to live the outrageous and abundant life that God has promised us. Although that will differ for each of us, I do believe that we long for more because we were made for more! More love, more peace, more joy, more hope and purposeful living! God’s Word heals and revives, and I am grateful I found this out. But it was only because I had access to it in a way that I could best understand.
Beth: Reading the Bible is worth your time! If you’re not used to the rhythm of daily Scripture reading, it can be a bit like wading into the ocean. It takes some effort to push past waves of distraction at first, but if you keep going forward you’ll find yourself bouyed up and carried along. And you don’t have to tackle long passages all at once. It’s better to read a handful of verses and spend a while thinking about them, asking God’s Spirit to show you what he wants you to know, than to read a whole chapter and forget what it said.
There are some great resources that can help you focus on Scripture in manageable, understandable portions, including the fascinating, beautiful studies created by Amanda and the She Reads Truth team. If you dig into the Bible, I believe you’ll find treasure!