Bible Marathon: Seven Things I Learned In Reading the Entire Bible in (Roughly) One Year

Cover of The NRSV Daily BibleIn the summer of 2014, I began hearing about a program at Easter Lutheran Church called “Bible in a Year.” The challenge was to read the bible, cover-to-cover, over the course of a year, beginning on Oct. 1, 2014. Outside of the obvious biblical stories, history, and facts I learned, there are a few things I would like to share from the experience:

1. The Old Testament is a lot longer than I realized. Have you ever counted the pages in the bible–with all that fine print? Tried to read the Old Testament straight through?  After the first month or two I found myself positively hungering for Jesus (as did many of us!). The benefits of reading the Old Testament, however, are many. For one thing, I came to understand ancient Middle-Eastern history/culture a little bit better—and that also helped me understand the situations surrounding the life and times of Jesus and his followers.

2. The image of God in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) is much more varied than I previously thought. It’s a stereotype to say that God of the Old Testament is warring, vindictive, arbitrary, wrathful, and harsh god.  Yes, we can find lots of OT stories in which God might seem this way. But the Hebrew Scriptures also the describe God as ever-faithful to us, as “slow to anger and rich in mercy,” the God who delivers people from slavery, gives them fertile land, identifies wise leaders, offers them a better way of living, desires justice and mercy more than sacrificial offerings.

3. We are a community of believers. I am not as self-sufficient and self-disciplined as I think I am. I wanted to quit a million times and often was lazy about doing this devotional reading. It was the others in the group who kept me going.  Although we mostly communicated via Facebook (with the occasional meeting), it was the strength of knowing other people were doing this—and, like me,  struggling along at times with certain readings—that kept me going.

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4. Deepening my understanding of the role of the bible in my life.  Christians have various ways of describing the bible’s importance (“sacred text,” “inspired,” “Word of God,” “inerrant,” or “inerrant in the original language”). Reading the bible forced me to ask myself: What do I personally believe about the bible?  What place does the bible hold in my own view of reality and Christian faith? How will I use the biblical teachings in my daily life? I found myself thinking that we worship God, and we hold the bible in high esteem because it reveals something of who this God is.

5. It’s so easy to quote favorite verses and ignore the Scripture passages that challenge us. Having favorite verses can be a way to truly feed our souls and guide our lives, but what I’m talking about here is the way some people in our culture use bible verses as a weapon to sling mud and condemnation on other people. In the morning, I would read about Jesus being full of mercy, kindness, healing power, and compassion—but then I would turn on the news and hear about people promoting the opposite values while purporting to follow Christ. I don’t know what to think about this—and I haven’t any answers. I’m just saying: I don’t get it.

2901744981_45c6284906_z--Red Letter bible by J Mark Bertrand with sig6. For Christians, the gospels are the four “aces” in the deck. Do you remember the old bibles that had the words of Jesus printed in red? My thought is  that although all parts of the bible are important, Christians actually worship Jesus Christ—and that gives the gospels special priority. It’s why Christian lectionaries have a gospel reading assigned every Sunday. It’s also why many mainline Christians stand when the gospel is read on Sunday, out of special respect (humans stand when kings, judges, or leaders enter the room, and we stand when excited during a rock concert). The gospel deserves special attention from Christ-followers.

7. We are never done pondering the mysteries of God and the wonder of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Reading the bible in a year was like a quick plane trip, flying around the entire globe in less than 24 hours. Once done, there are so many more places to land and explore in greater depth, and I plan to go back and do just that. As one person in the group pointed out, reading a bible passage leads one to specific questions and once those questions are answered, that leads to still more questions.  One is never done pondering the wonders, compassion, creativity, and mercy of God.

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For discussion/reflection: 

What do you believe about the bible?  How does the bible fit into your own faith journey? Do you have a biblical story or passage that has special meaning for your life? How so?

Easter Lutheran member Julie McCarty is a writer, spiritual director, and budding artist who is the volunteer coordinator of Easter Prays / Easter Praise! blog. She also offers spiritual reflections at Spiritual Drawing Board blog and on Facebook’s Spiritual Drawing Board page. 

Invitation: Read the Bible in a Year with Pastor Kris

An invitation from Pastor Kris:

I’ve always wanted to read the Bible from cover to cover. You might think that as a Pastor I have done this several times over. It’s true–I’ve read the whole Bible — but never cover to cover. SO — this year I am going to do it!  And  —  I thought I would invite all of you along on the journey!

Cover of The NRSV Daily BibleGod’s Word is filled with adventure. From floods and plagues to whole countries being overthrown and babies being born. And this adventure is really about how God’s love intersects with real people in real lives just like yours and mine. Why not spend a year reading the whole thing and see how God’s love intersects with your life in new ways? Why not open the pages of scripture every day and ask God to speak into your life?

We will be reading from The NRSV Daily Bible which includes special prayers and devotions for each day of the year. We will embrace the digital age with a Facebook Group and an online forum on Easter’s soon-to-be-released NEW website where you can interact with others who are on the same adventure. Finally, there will be a once a month touchpoint —  the first Tuesday of the month where we can meet face to face and discuss the big questions and revelations that come before us as we read each day.

DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS:

  • Start reading Day 1 on October 1
  • First in-person meeting will be Tuesday, November 4, 7-8:30 p.m., Easter by the Lake
  • Join us at 5:30 p.m. for a Community meal before the class gathering
  • Meet 1st Tuesday of each month in the new Lakeside Room at Easter by the Lake
  • Share online with Facebook Group –OR– new online forum on Easter’s website in fall
  • The in-person meeting is optional, as are the Facebook Group and Online Forum

We want you to study along with us in whatever format works best for you and your schedule.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ATTEND EASTER LUTHERAN CHURCH TO PARTICIPATE. All welcome.

Back cover NRSV Daily BibleWe hope to have a limited number of discounted The NRSV Daily Bibles available for purchase in the church office soon. There are many places to buy the book online.  The Kindle version of the book is available at smile.amazon.com for $12.47.  Call the church office at 651-452-3680 with any questions.

Join others in this amazing journey! 

Pastor Kris Capel is lead pastor at Easter Lutheran Church in Eagan, Minnesota, www.easter.org .