5 things I learned by reading the entire Bible in 2014

??????????This is the time for making New Year’s resolutions. Last year, I made two that I’m glad to say – by the grace of God – I accomplished:

1) Read through the Common English Bible in 2014 (see the plan here);

2) Wrote a daily devotional guide, Trente Minutes Avec Dieu, for speakers of French, available here. This was based on what I read in the reading plan outlined in # 1.

As I look back on the experience of reading through the Bible, at least five observations come to mind:

1. This Book contains some practical things!

It’s a tribute to a collection of 66 ancient writings that even in the year 2014 it contains what I would call  “Golden Passages” that speak to my own journey. So many could be cited, but here are just two:

“In your struggle against sin, you haven’t resisted yet to the point of shedding blood” (Hebrews 12:4).

How deadly must sin be if the writer to the Hebrews says we should resist it to the point of shedding our blood? We take sin far too lightly.

“I sought the LORD and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

I’m reminded due to stormy weather of a very turbulent landing in Johannesburg in late November, following a trip to Mozambique. It’s good to know verses like Psalm 34:4 in times like that!

2. This Book is filled with anger and blood.

There’s no avoiding the issue: the Bible is a violent book, especially large swaths of the Old Testament. The fictional character, President Jeb Barlett, admits in one episode of The West Wing: “I’m a New Testament man, myself.” Wycliffe Bible translators start by translating the New Testament for a good reason. Though there are passages in the Old Testament that present a softer, more loving God, they can be obscured by the horror of other sections. Don’t tell my Old Testament profs, but there’s a reason many preachers prefer the last 27 books to the first 39.

3. This Book is amazingly simple.

Vacation Bible School teaches young children verses like John 3:16 and 1 John 1:9. As they memorize those Scripture portions, their young minds comprehend some basic truths: God is my Creator, God loves me, God wants to forgive me, and God  wants to be part of my life. That’s the simple genius of the Bible.

4. This Book is amazingly complex.

On the other hand, men and women study for years to receive doctoral degrees in biblical literature. There is a constant stream of new commentaries being released to take into account recent findings about a myriad of questions related to the Bible and its background. (Check out the New Beacon Bible Commentary which is an excellent resource, available through the Nazarene Publishing House).

5. This Book will make you hungry for God.

Just when you’re ready to give up because of the complexity and tedious character of some parts of the Bible, all of the sudden there’s a passage that makes you want God more than anything:

“I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11, NIV).

And then you realize: This Book really needs to be read through a Jesus lens. He is what makes it all come together.

If you want to read the Bible through in 2015, I’d encourage you to do so. Was it an easy year? No. Was it a worthwhile thing to do? Absolutely. Go for it!

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Image credit: Bibledrills.com

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