Today is the last day of 2020. Since 2020 was such a spectacular year (cue the sarcasm), most of us can’t wait for tomorrow. But I don’t think things are suddenly going to be different in our world tomorrow. The only thing that will change at midnight is the date. Unless we decide to change something. Unless we take intentional steps to do something differently. I suppose that’s why we make resolutions and goals for the new year. Statistics show that most of us aren’t very successful at those “resolutions” though.
I don’t normally make resolutions because of that tendency to forget and my failure to follow through. One resolution that I have made several times though (and failed) is to read the Bible in a year. How many of you have made that resolution? And how many of you have actually accomplished it?
It’s strange isn’t it? It’s a book. I read lots of books. Why can’t I read the Bible in 365 days: Sure, it is a big book. But I read lots of big books every year. I even read War and Peace once. (On a side note: It is full of philosophy. Good story, hidden by deep thoughts. Try Anna Karenina instead. So much better.} The size of the book can’t be the issue though.
If I were to describe the Bible in an advertising blurb, it would sound good. In this best-selling book, there is murder, mystery, war, and sex. It’s a romance novel; part of it could even be a Christmas romance novel. A crime novel with justice at the end. On many of the pages the story is exciting. I mean Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat right? There is poetry. There is wisdom. (Maybe if we called it a self-help book?). There is financial instruction. (Those books sell like hot cakes!) What other kinds of books do you like? I bet the Bible has it. Yet, I always got stuck in the Psalms and never even got close to finishing the prophets.
At the end of 2019 I was challenged to read the Bible in a year. The challenge came as a “with me” statement, which didn’t happen, but that’s OK. When I looked at the pamphlet I was given, I realized there was a web page that had more info. So I checked it out. There was a podcast for each day’s reading. I shared it with my daughter and we were off! It was a chronological plan, so unlike in previous years I didn’t get stuck when I reached the Psalms; they were mixed in with the other reading. The podcast helped explain some of the trickier parts and kept me focused on the goal of why reading the Bible is important. I fell behind, and I would catch up. And repeat. But I always caught up. For a couple of days I was even ahead of the podcast.
So today I was able, by God’s grace, to do the thing I have attempted to do so many times before: READ THE BIBLE IN A YEAR!
My friend Jon Swanson wrote this the other day:
“There is tremendous value in finishing something.”Jon Swanson
He is right. Starting is usually pretty easy. It is the continuing and the finishing that takes more effort. I can start knitting projects left and right. And after they get started I get to the part where it is just knit for 10″, and I put it down. Or I finish the pieces and don’t want to sew them together. Or I make one sock and don’t want to make the second one. (One sock syndrome is a thing in the knitting world.) And I probably have at least 20 books that I have started and never finished.
But this year I didn’t just start. I finished. And that’s cause for celebration!
What did I learn?
1. Reading the Bible in a year doesn’t give you time to sit and think about specific things much. It is an overview. It gives you a familiarity with the text as a whole. Which is valuable.
2. God pursues people on almost every page. Some people think of God as a joy-killer who just wants to punish us, but that isn’t what I read this year. I read about a God who created and pursued and loved and when we messed up, continued to do all of those same things. Yes there are warnings of what happens when we don’t respond to his pursuing. Yes those sound awful. Yes there are times when people did not respond to his wooing and those awful things happened. But even then, God pursued people. The book begins with an invitation to live in a lush garden with God. And it ends with an invitation to live with God:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.Revelation 22:17
3. God reveals Himself in the Bible. The more we read and listen and study, the more God reveals about Himself to us. And the more we want to get to know Him. So we read more and listen more and study more. It’s a productive cycle.
I am so glad I finished this year. When asked what I did in 2020, I don’t have to say I wasted it. I didn’t just finish a few knitting projects that will one day be eaten by moths, or remodel the kitchen that will one day fall apart. I also did something that will last eternally. I read (or listened) to Scripture this year. The whole of it. All of the words. And I finished.
I highly recommend it. It can be the intentional change you make in 2021. Because as Tara Leigh Cobble says every day in The Bible Recap podcast, “He’s where the joy is!”