It is finished! One of my major goals for 2012 is now complete.  It was incredible.  It was eye-opening.  It was humbling.  And it was not always comfortable.  However, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone in a heartbeat.  Back in February I publicly revealed one of my major goals for this year – my intent to read through the entire Word of God (ESV).  On December 18th, I successfully finished my last chapter of 2 Chronicles, thus compBoy Reading the holy bibleleting the M’Cheyne reading plan (13 days early, but who’s counting).  This reading plan (and there are many good ones out there) was created by the 19th century Scottish minister Robert Murray M’Cheyne (who I know nothing about) and takes a reader through the New Testament and Psalms twice and the rest of the Old Testament once in a calendar year.  My original rationale for setting this goal was two-fold:  for the sake of my own discipline and for the reduction of my own hypocrisy (please refer back to my February post for further explanation).  If the lessons I learned were only contained to those two areas, it would have been a resounding success.  But in fact, I learned so much, much more:

  • Discovering my life chapter – Listening to people’s life verses has always intrigued me.  I enjoy trying to see the connections (if any) between the person I know and the verse they have chosen as their guide.  I fully realize the entire canon is profitable to us (thank you 2 Timothy 3:16).  But I also see value in focusing on a specific section or verse that the Holy Spirit uses to speak to use at a certain place or time in our lives.  As for me, Psalm 37 is it.  I have always had an affinity for Psalm 37:5 (“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”) but as I examined the entire chapter, I desperately wanted to hear the music that would accompany this psalm.  Justice and evil.  Righteousness and envy.  Trust and fear.  Patience and anger.  Our enemies.  Our Lord.  It is a mini-master course on the Christian walk and bursts with meaning at every turn.   It will take me a while to unpack everything that is there.  As I go forth, I will memorize it and study it more (say hello 2013 goal candidate)…and enjoy every step.
  •  Some books are VERY hard – Isaiah is a challenge.  Ecclesiastics can be difficult.  Leviticus is a beast.  Romans is complex.  The Gospels can stretch you to your limits if you happen to struggle with word pictures.  And don’t get me started on the minor prophets!  But it’s God’s word to us.  It is ALL important.  It is ALL there for a purpose.  It is ALL there for a reason.  And God WANTS us to know it.  It’s funny how we never question reading passages from Crime and Punishment or Gone with the Wind more than once (and yes, of course I chose two classics as example that I have actually read.  Moby Dick…haven’t gotten there yet).  I look forward to continued study of all these difficult sections or those areas that specifically spoke to me but that I need to flesh out more.  It will be well worth it. (If you’re curious, so of the additional sections I noted were Psalms 112; Colossians and love; 2 Kings 23; James 1; the Luke 3 genealogy; Israel and Judah; why Moses was almost killed by God very early in his mission; the whole sacrificial system; etc)
  •  It is an emotional and uplifting experience – Amazing.  Awe-inspiring.  Vast.  Stunning.  The consistency.  The connectedness.  There were times when I would just shake my head with a huge smile.  There were times I would immediately go to prayer in praise and awe of Almighty God.  And there were times I would scratch my head and try again.  But through it all, I thank the Holy Spirit for guiding the entire process.
  • Time constraints?  Dedicating the time was not a problem in the slightest.  Usually about 15-20 minutes a day.  If you have time or are in a groove, do a little more.  Things get crazy or the day gets away from you?  Do a little less.  Adjust it to your schedule – fit it in whenever you have a moment.  The most I ever got behind I believe was two full days (or about 8 chapters). The most I got ahead?  Well that was 13 days when I finished.  This is where choosing the reading plan that fits you is very important.  The pacing and divisions for the M’Cheyne plan were perfect for me and my schedule.
  • I have script ideas for a lifetime!  I once read that all good stories can be boiled down to the three main concepts found in the Bible:  creation, fall, redemption.  Although I agree with that summary on many levels, from a writer’s standpoint, the Bible is a living, breathing case study in script creation.  The genres, the authors, the settings, the characters, the structure.  Wow!  So very valuable.  Seriously – how can you read Isaiah 37 or 2 Samuel 2 and not want to start outlining a spec script immediately?!?!  Wonder if I have to include those “Based on a true story” title slides?!?!

And finally, what about my two original goals?  Was the discipline worth it?  Did I reduce my own hypocrisy?  On the discipline front, it was absolutely worth it.  Doing something for almost a year straight is valuable and helpful.  Not only because of the result, but because of the process.  This is one of the hardest lessons I continue to struggle with in my life.  There is always value in the process.  Realizing my personal blind spot regarding the value of the journey (as my sole focus was always on results) has greatly changed my life. And what about that whole hypocrisy thing?  Did I reduce it?  That may need its own blog post at some point because I did…and I didn’t.  I know immeasurably more about the word of God now than I did one year ago.  I am more confident talking about some aspects of it.  BUT…I also know that I have immeasurably more yet to learn.  So discipline, value in the process and more yet to learn…hmm…does that sound like a situation where seminary would be profitable to anyone?  It does to me.  I start January 7th.

Today’s post will be a bit more personal than a normal blog topic as I feel compelled to provide a public explanation regarding one of my goals for 2012. Simply put, my goal is to read through the entire English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible in 2012. I know, I know…for most people, this is not a big deal – it is something they have done a dozen times over their lifetime (which is great!). And who knows, between personal devotions, Bible studies and over 37 years being part of local churches dedicated to following the Word of God, maybe I have already effectively read/heard every verse. But that is not the point of my goal. And let me be frank – this is an ambitious goal for me. Why? Well it’s not for my lack of joy in reading itself because I LOVE to read. On average, I read about a book a month – fiction, non-fiction, theology, spy, Francis Chan, John Grisham, Erik Larson, and Michael Lewis. For years I have being attempting to improve the quality and purpose of my reading pursuits but that is another discussion of another day. Suffice to say nothing is more enjoyable than the day I finish a book, check that off the list (and yes, I keep a list) and then get the pleasure of choosing the next title to tackle. It’s like the whole world is open to me again – the closest thing to being an early explorer I can think of. The reason reading through the Bible in one year is ambitious for me is because I am not a fast reader – in fact, some would say I am somewhat slow. So to accomplish the whole Bible in a year does place a time constraint on me which is fairly robust. However, time constraint aside, there are two reasons I committed to making this a 2012 goal: for the sake of my discipline and for the reduction of my own hypocrisy.

I would like to note very clearly from the beginning the inclusion of the word “my” in both rationales. By no means am I attempting to make a vast statement or develop a normative principle about anyone else’s lack of discipline or existence of personal hypocrisy. These are my burdens to bear alone. Regarding my own discipline, there are not many things in my life that I will voluntarily do every day for 365 days straight. I have to sleep. I have to eat. Even spiritual disciplines like devotions and prayer can vary in length and consistency. I do believe there is value in discipline and I do believe there is value in striving to do something every day regardless of circumstances. My intent is not to be legalistic about it – I already have missed a day once or twice since starting. But my goal is if I am knocked down (miss a day), I get back up (catch up) – I try never to be more than one day behind. So as of today, February 21st, I am exactly on schedule.

Now regarding my own hypocrisy, this truth was driven home by the unlikeliest of people. I stumbled upon a conversion during the Christmas season between two relatives regarding the bestseller “The Shack”. It was not a necessarily edifying conversation, nor one that cast certain people of faith in a very good light. There were many harsh things being spoken that I wanted to jump into and correct, rebuke…attack! But out of respect for the situation I just listened – and by listening, this statement came ringing to my ears from one of the participants “I wish people wouldn’t criticize a book they haven’t even read.” There is much truth in that statement. By just hearing that, it helped encourage me to keep my mouth shut at that moment as I had yet to completely finish “The Shack”. But as I thought about it more over the days, it was impressed upon my heart that I should systematically read the entire Word of God through. How am I to live out a book that I haven’t necessarily read in its entirety? How am I to teach about that book , explain that book, value that book? I came to some startling answers to each of those questions. So it is not out of self-promotion, ego or legalism I undertake this task – it is out of pure self awareness of my own failings and desire to know more, learn more, and understand more.

And this brings us to the reason I am writing about it here. I desire accountability for this goal. There will be difficult times – I can already see a summer filled with vacations, ball practices, trips, work, sun, chores and the like. However, even during those rough patches, I want to be held accountable to this goal. If anyone is curious, I am using the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan that goes through the OT once and the NT & Psalms twice (Why? Because this plan – and there are dozens – seemed the most interesting to me). In closing, I have other goals for 2012 as well – some I may announce; some I never will. But with that said…here we go!