A CONFESSION

I’m a pastor. This means that, in some sense, I get paid to read my Bible. I’m a Christian. That means I’m supposed to read the Bible. You can see how being a pastor has its advantages. I get paid to do what I’m supposed to be doing! Since this is the case, you would assume it wouldn’t be a struggle to read my Bible. Right?

I had to include this introduction so that you don’t think more highly of me than you should. The last thing I want to do is post this in order for you to be impressed by my iron will or steadfast determination. The reality is, I don’t have either of those and that’s exactly the reason I had to do something this radical.

Here’s how it went down…

We have a team teaching model at our church. So, although I’m a “Teaching Pastor,” I don’t preach every week. I share the pulpit with two other phenomenal preachers. This past summer, I started my doctorate and really needed to do well in the first seminary classes I’ve taken in three years, so I asked the guys if I could take the summer off from preaching to focus on my work at the church and my work at school. They graciously agreed, and I started grinding away in June and July.

Towards the end of July, I realized something that was disheartening. I hadn’t read my Bible with any consistency the whole summer! Because I didn’t have to preach, I found that the Bible became dispensable to me. Don’t get me wrong, I still believed all of it was true and inspired and inerrant and God’s Word, etc. etc.; I just never really felt a huge need or a burden to pick it up and read it.

I knew this was a HUGE problem on so many levels. Not just for the church that I was leading and the position I’m in as a pastor, but for my own relationship with Jesus. I found myself becoming so busy that this relationship took a back seat. It was at this point I knew I had to do something drastic to reorient my life. So, I decided that I needed to read the Bible from cover to cover.

I didn’t want to prolong the time that it was done in, because I knew my tendency to fall off the wagon once I started seeing a little “progress” in my spiritual health. I looked through a six-month plan, a 90-day plan and even a 60-day plan, but I felt like I needed something that would really stretch and challenge me.

So, I made the commitment to read the entire Bible in the month of August in between my summer classes and fall courses. It basically amounted to about 40 chapters per day. It took me 2 ½ hours on a good day and somewhere in between 3 ½ – 4 hours on the longest days. It was LIFE-CHANGING, and I kept track of lessons that I learned from taking in such large doses of Scripture.

LESSONS LEARNED

1. GOD IS THE GREAT PRESERVER/PREPARER OF HIS PEOPLE.

Throughout the story of the Bible, God is proactive about protecting, avenging and serving His people. No one has to stir Him up to action. He’s always aware and already has a plan in motion long before we ever realize there’s a problem. I walked away with a strong sense that God has things under control.

Without fail, God is using situations from birth to prepare His people for His work long before they even have a burden to accomplish a task. So, relax and understand that God has already been shaping you, long before you came to the realization that you need to be shaped.

2. DEATH IS WELCOMED BY HIS FOLLOWERS.

I was floored by how the deaths of God’s people were described. I was hard pressed to find examples of people going to their deaths kicking and screaming. Rather, there was a peaceful sense in which death was recorded. The people who really knew God’s character and understood that He was a preserver and protector also knew that if death was on the horizon, it wasn’t because God had failed to act on their behalf. They knew it was because He had determined that their role in this story was coming to an end.

3. GOD IS THE MAIN CHARACTER.

This sounds simple, but if you’re anything like I was, you don’t read the Bible this way. Case in point, say that you were going to study the book of Joshua for a month. You would probably spend a lot of time studying the way that Joshua leads and the way he relates to God and others (his highlights, pitfalls, etc.). What we end up doing is placing Joshua as the main character of the book of Joshua, and God is there in the background teaching me things about Joshua.

However, by reading the Bible at this pace, I realized that after the third day was done and Joshua died…he wasn’t coming back. I’m never going to read about Joshua again. It then occurred to me that God is not in the background to teach me about Joshua. Joshua is in the background to teach me about God. So are Moses, Abraham, Issac, Paul, David, Peter, and (insert your favorite Bible character here).

When the Bible is read this way and we focus on God, we end up seeing the most familiar stories with new insight into the character God. What better way to know somebody than to see how he interacts with all different types of people and personalities. God’s character is crystal clear in the Bible when we understand that He’s the main character.

4.  DOCTRINE LEADS TO DOXOLOGY.

Very early on, something else occurred to me. The Bible is filled with people thanking God. Wherever God’s character is seen and revealed, His people explode with a kind of spontaneous and robust praise—they can’t help it! It just comes out as the natural response to God revealing Himself. The only people who don’t respond with praise when God reveals Himself are people who have a hard heart and are frustrated with Him (i.e. the Pharisees in the gospels).

It exposed how hard my heart was and just how little I was appreciative that God would choose to enter into relationship with me and show me things about Him that are beautiful. I’ve begun to take special notice of the things I’ve learned about God and respond with thanksgiving in return.

5.  GOD’S PROMISED PRESENCE IS THE COMFORT OF THE ANXIOUS HEART AND MOTIVATION TOWARDS RADICAL OBEDIENCE.

When stuff goes wrong and people start to stress, the great comfort for God’s people isn’t in Him changing their circumstances. God offers His presence, and His people are content with that. More than a situation switch, God says, “I’m with you; don’t worry,” and people who trust, believe and love Him are good with that. It puts them at great ease. People who don’t trust Him are constantly clamoring after something else or something more (as if there were something better).

Not only does it provide comfort, but it always infuses people who have a strong sense that God is “with them” with great courage. Obedience in the face of the most adverse conditions is made to seem so simple when people grasp the fact that God is “with them.” It’s amazing the great feats that are done by the hands of people who understand one thing about God…He is “with them.”

What would you do if you really had a sense that God was with you?

6.   I CONSTANTLY THINK ABOUT THE BIBLE.

Simple—I think about the Bible and Jesus a lot. It’s no longer peripheral but it’s central to my mind and my thinking. It’s the first thing I think of waking up; throughout the day, I have so much of it to read that I constantly think about it, and it’s the last thing I think about before I go to bed.

When I talk to people, I can’t help but talk about Jesus and what I’m learning about Him. It just flows out. I can’t stop it. Imagine that.

7.   I MISS A LOT, BUT I END UP RETAINING MORE THAN HAVING NOT READ THE BIBLE AT ALL.

Honestly, I don’t understand what Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel were talking about most of the time. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. Daniel’s visions confused me, and there were plenty of other places where I was lost. I missed a TON OF INFORMATION.

But the reality is, I gained a lot more than I would have if I never read the Bible at all. I saw things from a 30,000 ft view that I never would have seen if I was up-close trying to unpack every sentence that was a little confusing to me. I saw that God is good. I’m not. He loves me. He keeps His promises…ALWAYS. And He treats me better than I deserve.

8.  SOLOMON’S LIFE ILLUSTRATES OUR REAL PROBLEM (AND IT’S NOT A LACK OF WISDOM).

This was by far the one that was most pivotal for me. If you don’t pay attention to any other point, please follow this one.

I Kings Chapters 10 and 11 lay out this point beautifully. In 1 Kings 10, we see a chapter that focuses on Solomon’s wisdom. The Queen of Sheba is impressed with him because he’s so smart. The chapter goes on and talks about all the money and possessions he had as a result of his wisdom. It looks like an upward swing.

However, 1 Kings 11:1 starts off with a sad verse: “Now Solomon loved many foreign women…” Solomon’s heart went after things that God told Him to stay away from. His head was in the right place, and he was the wisest man to ever live, but that didn’t stop his heart from wandering. Solomon’s real problem wasn’t a lack of wisdom. It was lavish whoredom.

Throughout the whole Bible, this point is reaffirmed over and over. People don’t disobey God because they misunderstand Him; they disobey God because they don’t trust Him. Rarely is it a cognitive issue. It’s ALWAYS a heart issue.

Wisdom is a great benefit, but a terrible savior.

9.   I CAN’T BE CONCERNED ABOUT GETTING “DONE”.  I HAVE TO FIND ENJOYMENT IN IT—AND I DID.

Early on in this process, it would take me about 2 ½ to 3 hours each day to finish…especially when I was reading larger portions of Scripture. The way that I would approach each section of Scripture was flipping to the end of the amount I had to read and counting down the pages until I was finished. I just wanted to get done.

Then it hit me…I’m going to be here for a few hours whether I count the pages or not. Rather than just trying to get done, I have to find enjoyment in what I’m currently doing (which is the message of Ecclesiastes). Somewhere in that process, it clicked for me, and I once again enjoyed reading my Bible. It became a place of rest and comfort for me and it was then that I started to gain the most out of my time.

Since then, this has been the case for me, and I enjoy getting away and reading and hearing from my Father. He’s so good to me, and I love communicating with Him.

10.   THERE IS GREAT RELIEF IN NOT PUTTING OUR STOCK IN EARTHLY LEADERSHIP.

Throughout the duration of the Bible (especially reading through 1 Samuel-2 Chronicles), one thing I noticed was that even God’s chosen people had terrible ungodly leadership. That means for most of history, the highest level of earthly leadership has been godless and wicked. And you know what? God has still invaded the world with the gospel and lives are being transformed!

Don’t get me wrong, godly leadership in government is a blessing, but it by no means is a necessity for God’s will to thrive in this world. So pray for your leaders, put your hope in God and lead the life that God has given you to lead.

11.   I HAVE TIME!!!

Do you know how I found out that I had the time to read the Bible in a month?  Because I did it. I saw just how worthless my past excuses were and how lazy I was. Do you know what? A lot of the excuses you give for not being able to spend time reading the Bible are pretty pathetic as well. You have time to read (maybe not the whole Bible in a month, but you have time).

For the month of August, I was pretty much absent from Twitter and Facebook because every time I picked up my phone in my spare time it was either to read from the YouVersion app (which was a huge help) or to play Words With Friends (come on…give me that one). You have the Bible on the device that you’re reading this blog post. So read it!

You have the time.

12.   GOD IS NOT AN INTROVERT.

God is not self-conscious. No one in the Bible has to guess God’s plan or wonder if He’s pleased or not. He’s a masterful communicator who readily expresses Himself. Where He’s pleased, He says it. Where He’s displeased, He says it. When He wants someone to do something, He lets them know. God isn’t introverted.

You want to hear God speak more. Read the Bible more. He speaks through His Word.

13.   REVELATION IS A FULL DISPLAY OF THE TRUE COLORS OF EVERYONE IN THIS STORY.

Revelation, the one book of the Bible that confuses everyone, finally made sense to me! To be honest, at the end of this 30-day journey, I can honestly say that this was the first fruitful reading of Revelation that I’ve ever had. Primarily because I stumbled upon the above truth.

Revelation is a book of the Bible, just like the rest of the books of the Bible, which means the PRIMARY point of the book is to reveal the character of God. We get so lost in all the sequences and events and bowls and trumpets and four-headed monsters with bear claws and ostrich necks that we miss the fact that this a book about God. At the end of the story (the Bible), everyone’s character is revealed for what it is.

God is holy, and He’s setting everything in order. His anger and wrath against sin are brutally unleashed and by the end of the book, He makes everything right. Creation is restored and there is paradise thanks to Him. What an amazing and gracious God.

God’s people thank HIM. The craziest thing I realized is that Revelation is a book of thanksgiving. In almost every chapter, God’s people are praising Him for what He’s doing (Rev. 4:8-11; 5:9-10; 6:10; 7:9-12; 11:16-18; 12:10-12; 15:3-4; 16:5-7; 19:1-8). No one is apologizing for God’s wrath. While there is a lot that I don’t understand right now, it’s comforting to know that one day I won’t be trying to work through in my head how to apologize for God’s wrath, but I’ll be thanking Him that He’s restoring everything. When God reveals Himself, His people praise.

God’s enemies curse him. Did you know in the entire book of Revelation no one on the receiving end of God’s wrath repents or asks Him for help? Nobody asks for God’s help. “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues,” according to Revelation 16:9. They did not repent and give Him glory.

Verse 11 makes the same point again. Throughout Revelation, people who are God’s enemies prove that they are His enemies by cursing Him instead of pleading to Him—showing that God’s judgment is just.

God makes everything right. His people thank Him. His enemies curse Him. He destroys evil once and for all and brings us back into perfect relationship with Him. What an amazing God. I’m thankful I get to know Him.

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