I’ve done it!
Several days ago, I finished reading the Bible; yes, I read it cover to cover and it took me about 14 months to do it. I have a “Life Application Study Bible” that my sister sent in (thank you Sis!) and so I also read every study note written at the bottom of the pages. If you’ve ever seen or owned one of these Bibles, then you know there is more written in the study notes than actual verse in the Bible. So, I don’t think 14 months is too bad given I read the equivalent of 2+ Bibles.
Many scholars of the Bible will tell you that it’s not necessary to read cover to cover but that instead you should seek out, through a concordance, verse that specifically applies to whatever issue, need, desire or event you’re dealing with.
But my own experience is that reading it word by word from beginning to end often brought to mind things from my past that I had never dealt with spiritually. It seemed that every book within the Bible spoke to some part of my life – past, present, and future. It also helped me to see when I’ve not lived the Christian life God intended. Reading it cover to cover also helped me to see where I struggle day to day – such as my being far too judgmental of others. As said in the Bible: remove the plank from your own eye before pointing out a sliver in another’s eye (Luke 6:42) , and, you will be judged by the same measure that you used to judge others (Matthew 7:2).
The Bible begins with two books that, when read back to back, make for a great action movie – as does the last book of the Bible; so, it begins as it ends – with creation at its heart. And between these books is a whole lot of life and wisdom. One thing I learned is that there truly is nothing new under the sun. If you’re experiencing it in your life today I guarantee you there is verse and wisdom to help you to integrate your challenges into your life AND a lifeline to cling to.
When I shared my accomplishment of finishing the Bible with a friend here in prison he asked me what the greatest lesson was that I learned. On the surface it’s easy to quote the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and,”…love your neighbor as yourself,” [Mat 22:37-39] and so I did. My friend wasn’t satisfied and he rephrased his question to, “what was your biggest personal learning about your life?” I said I didn’t know and that I not looked at that relationship in that way as it never occurred to me to do so.
I knew the answer and it’s been painful to accept the truth of it all. So, what is my truth?
I wasn’t the husband and father that God wanted me to be while conversely, my wife was, or tried to be, the woman God asked her to be.
Maybe I’m my own worst critic but the truth is when I’m called to account for my life I’ll have a lot to answer for. It’s not that I didn’t do anything right because I did but when the successes are balanced against the failures I’ll be found wanting. And when accounting for my failures I’ll have no rational explanations for my actions.
My friend also asked me if reading the Bible and applying it to my life changed my prayers. Again, I said I’d have to think on it but that my first reaction was that I now prayed more for others and less for me.
A partial lie.
The truth is that I pray fervently that my family will give me the chance to be the husband and father – the man – that God asks. I’m human. I’m a sinner. I’ll stumble, fall and fail but I will get up and try again if my family can forgive the sinner that I am I promise them I’ll make them the greatest part of my life. It’s a lot to ask but I have no choice as my family does mean everything to me here on earth so I ask them and I ask God for this chance.
Thinking through my friend’s questions caused me to become quite introspective. And, of course, I had to admit to myself that I cannot attain heaven without making significant changes within myself and ultimately without giving my life over to Jesus, my Lord and Savior. It is a universal truth.
I’m a sinner and I fail daily. I ask for forgiveness each night as I lay down and pray. I promise God to do a little better every day. And then I start this cycle, the next day, all over again.
My advice is to read the Bible cover to cover at least once and to find your truths; then pray for wisdom and guidance and forgiveness.
It’s all there in God’s Word. He gave His Son that we might have eternal life. Turn the pages and turn to Him.