Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Experience: Reading Through the Bible in 90 Days

What a gift it is to have the Word of God at our fingertips.  It is a gift I have taken for granted.

Over the years, I have made many attempts to read through the Bible.  As a professing Christian, it's something I thought I should do.  It's something I wanted to do. I mean, this is my holy book, the book of my faith, the revelation of my God- His revealing Himself to us.

I read books.  I've read a lot of books- cookbooks, devotional books, non-fiction, fiction, zillions of picture books, parenting books, homeschool books, gardening books, beekeeping books, school books- not to mention pages and pages of blogs and websites that would add up to books if I counted them.  I've even read some books more than once.

What did God think about that?  That I had read all these other books in their entirety- countless books over my 38 years- but not His?  What message was I sending Him?

My past attempts at reading through the Bible either on my own or with the help of a one-year study Bible always failed.  Somewhere, early to mid Old Testament, I stopped.  I could list all the excuses as to why- that I got busy or that the Bible is sometimes hard to understand.  I could blame it on the violence or say that the Old Testament isn't as important because Jesus came and it's the New Testament that really matters and I've read that...although in many pieces...over a long period of time.

I could list many more excuses but that's all they are- excuses.  The real reason is that it wasn't important enough to me and admitting that makes me feel very ashamed.  Yes, Christ has redeemed us and made us free.  We are no longer to live in shame but I don't believe a shame like this is all bad. I'm so very thankful for the Spirit that lives in me and calls me out on stuff.  That pang of guilt or shame can wake us up to that which is true and point us down the right path- the path we were made for and long to take.

Trying to explain what these past three months (December, January and February) of reading through the scriptures has been like feels impossible.  It's been life altering and the exciting part is that I sense many of the changes have yet to unfold.  Below is a humble offering of just some of my thoughts and reflections- some practical and some spiritual. I strongly encourage each of you to consider doing this- not out of guilt or shame but out of thanksgiving and a yearning to know God better. 

* The 90-day time period turned out to be so much better for me than attempting to read though the Bible in a year.  It meant about 45 minutes to an hour of reading each day.  This was daunting at first, but surprise! I discovered that if I made it a true priority, I found time!  Not only that but on a handful of super-busy days when I honestly couldn't imagine finding the time, little pockets of time opened up.  I had to choose to use that time to read and not do something else, of course.  Those pockets felt like true gifts from God. Built into most schedules (you can find many by doing a quick search online) are a couple "grace days" for times when it really does become impossible.

Reading that much each day means that I made visual progress in short order.  By the end of December, I could look at the bookmark in my Bible and see that I was a third of the way through already!  This was extremely encouraging.  Hitting the halfway mark at Psalms propelled me forward with gusto.  Starting the New Testament made me want to get up and dance (Christ was coming!!) and starting Revelation last week gave me the chills- I had done it.

Another plug for a 90-day schedule is that it gives you an overarching view of the Bible in a brief period of time.  The Old Testament was fresh in mind which made the coming of Christ that much more sweet.  I highly recommend this time frame for reading through the scriptures.

* Reading it with others helped immensely.  I wasn't inspired to do this on my own.  A Sunday school class elective was offered at our church using a book like this one- The Bible in 90 Days.  We met almost every Sunday to share how the experience was going for us and what stood out to us or spoke to us from the previous week's readings.  Sometimes we used the discussion questions from the guide or read the added background/history but sometimes we just shared- including our struggles with finding time and staying focused.  We were in it together and it was such an encouragement.

Not only did I have their support, but Jamey had decided to read through the Bible, too.  Knowing that he had gotten up early to read before going to work or had read (or listened) on the treadmill that day, spurred me on to get my reading done as well.  We had fun teasing each other about who was ahead (it went back and forth).  We talked over some difficult passages at times but also went weeks not really discussing it other than checking in to see if the other had done their reading that day.

* I realized that I have been taking some verses out of context- thinking they meant one thing (a.k.a. were all about me) and then discovering that their true context reveals something even more beautiful- a clearer picture of who God is.  It happened time and again.  I'd be reading some obscure (to me) prophet- thinking I never remembered reading anything from- when all of a sudden a familiar verse popped out.  The verse was very familiar to me but the context was not.  In it's context, it took on new (original) meaning- meaning that pointed to God and not to me and the ways I had been applying it.  Instead of this being unnerving, it was reassuring to be discovering the verse's original context/intention. This didn't mean I could no longer apply it to my life- instead I could use what I learned about God through it in my own life.  It means it might be a more accurate help than I initially thought!  Oh, goodness, I hope I am not coming off as befuddled as I feel!

* This process was a lesson in discipline for me.  One of the reasons I was (very) hesitant to commit to it was because I was afraid of failing...again.  I set goals for myself that I am often unable to keep.  Carving out the time to do this each day helped me realize that I really can set time apart for God every day.  It's a habit formed and celebrated.

* Reading through the Bible doesn't mean I now understand everything or know where every verse can be found (or remember all the kings or the lineage of Jesus!).  What it does mean is that now I am more familiar and comfortable with it.  My prayer is that this will help me when I want to share a certain message or passage with an unbelieving friend.  Websites like BibleGateway are always there to lend a hand, but there is something about a person's sincerity shining through when they appear at least somewhat familiar with the book they profess to believe in.  I love it when I am with a more seasoned sister who, while talking, can flip to the verse or passage that comes to her mind.  How much she must love the Word! I am so far from this, but I am getting better- and that will remain my goal.

In a similar vein, how many devout Muslims have not read the Qu'ran?  From what I understand, not only have they read it (at a very early age) but most have memorized very large portions if not all of it!  Whether they are memorizing a language they understand or not, it is clearly a major feat, showing time, dedication and priority.

* Lastly, life looks different when fueled and fed by scripture.  I wish I could elaborate on this more, but I'm saying it as best I can- life looks different when fueled and fed by scripture.  Reading God's word intentionally everyday changed my view of life and taught me more of God.

I am so very grateful for the whole experience.

Through it all, something else has surprised me. I honestly (initially) thought of this like a task that I would simply check off my to-do list once I was through. I am a lover of lists and finished projects! But be fore-warned! Instead, it has given me a hunger for more- a desire to read through the Bible again. What did I miss?  What will be revealed to me next time?  Now that I have the whole scope in my sights, what portions will be even more meaningful the next time around?

So much for my to-do list.  It's my hope that this will become a yearly pilgrimage for me.  It's so worth the trip.
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  1. I share your enthusiasm, having just completed the one year through the Bible in 2013! All your observations in bold type were true of my somewhat longer experience. Can't believe it took me 58 years to get around to this!

  2. Thanks for sharing. I've hesitated to commit to that short of a time frame for various reasons, not the least of which is that I wasn't sure how much I would get for my soul when my focus is just trying to get through the Bible quickly. Some of those chapters are a slog! Your perspective causes me to reconsider. Thanks! :)

  3. I was wondering which program your Sunday school class used. I checked out the Bible In 90 Days, but it looks like there is no study guide or added information and that would be very helpful. Thank you!

    1. I tried to link to the book we used. We only had one copy of the book and one person from our group read a little from it when we were together- we didn't use it during the week. Within our group, we used different 90-day schedules- some from the book, some from online, others from apps (some listened more than read). The important part was sharing with and supporting each other. The book wasn't crucial. I hope this is helpful:-).

  4. Thank you that was helpful. I think I'll try to find a schedule online. :-)

  5. I was almost hesitant to comment or say anything, especially once I read your comment, "the Old Testament isn't as important because Jesus came and it's the New Testament that really matters." As a fellow Christian and old testament scholar this comment hits a sore spot because of my experience of learning that the story of God's redemption has a beginning, middle, and end. The OT is the beginning, the NT is the middle and the end has yet to come. But in the rest of your post you reveal how reading through all of Scripture has enriched your view of God and what he's doing in the world. Normally, I would encourage you to read my own blog where I delve into Old Testament passages, but really it's better to read the Bible itself, than books or blogs about the Bible. So you're doing the best thing there is! Congrats on making it through! I will admit that there are some pretty daunting parts in God's word, but even those parts can help us to begin to grasp who God is. I hope you keep up the reading!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Megan. My point about the OT being not as important was facetious in nature. I do not believe it is less important- I was trying to capture an excuse some of us make for not having to read through the whole Old Testament. I completely agree with you and apologize if I came off believing in my proposed excuse. Thank you for caring enough to check in with me on this:-).

  6. "there is something about a person's sincerity shining through when they appear at least somewhat familiar with the book they profess to believe in" This hits me right between the eyes. I've read huge chunks of the Bible, but about a year ago I was challenged to read it through from cover to cover. Reading a little each evening just before bed, I made it to Job and then I stopped. I've really been dragging my heels about reading this particular book (again) mostly because it doesn't make sense to me. I get so caught up in Job's (seemingly unnecessary) suffering it's palpable and almost too painful. Anyway, thanks to your prompting I will plow through. Does it sound like I'm holding my nose to swallow my medicine? Hoping the Spirit will open my eyes to see something new. Thanks for posting this.

  7. I just read this post and it really struck a chord! Thank you for sharing, your joy in it is contagious ;)

  8. thank you for this. when i read your post i related to everything you said but i thought i couldn't do it, but i am on day 25!

    1. Way to go! You're almost a third of the way through!! :-)


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