Once upon a time …
just four months ago, actually,
in this living room where I’m now sitting
there began ….
not a fairy tale.
But a story of promises fulfilled,
faith foundations fortified.
December 2013. I was searching for the “perfect” study for our newly-formed small group to use in the coming months. With no idea what to suggest, I prayed for brilliant ideas.
Sometime during that week, I stumbled across a website by a man who does yearly Bible read-thrus. Every January, he issues a challenge to readers to join him reading through the Bible – in four months!
I read his challenge and could not forget it. I wanted to do it.
But such an intense reading schedule seemed like a daunting task to present to very busy people. Sometimes we even had trouble finding times to meet.
So I gave my group the information and the website link along with three other possible studies and asked them to consider which of the four they would like to do.
The next week, the vote was unanimous: Bible Read-Thru in four months!
That astonished me. I was flabbergasted when they said, “We want to do it.” I thought we’d all be too busy to commit to such a thing. But, like me, they had been grabbed by the excitement of what could happen.
We were going to do it! Yippee!
And so we began on January 1.
Now, what word conveys “Yippee!” times ten … or times one hundred?
I have yet to think of a word to fully describe what the last three months have been for us as we’ve read through God’s Word together.
But I want to tell you about this intense experience because it’s a blessing we would wish for every child of God. (And it’s also why you haven’t seen many posts from me recently.)
Keith Ferrin schedules these read-thru challenges each year from January to April. You may not want to wait until January 2015 to do this, because I will guarantee you that you can start this right now and it will be every bit as powerful as joining his BRT in 2015.
Here are the three guidelines for Keith’s BRT challenge:
Commit to read the Bible through in four months. Seems like a big bite to chew, doesn’t it? But about 45 minutes a day will get you there.
Read and note. Record thoughts and inspirations in a journal (paper or digital) or highlight as you read.
Talk about it. That is, make the commitment with others. Read. Then get together once a week and simply talk about how God’s Word has spoken to each of you in that week’s reading. You’ll be amazed, inspired, and energized by this sharing.
May I add two more things that have meant so much to me? —
Each day, ask the Spirit for new eyes and ears as you read. Do you wonder how the old, familiar passages could possibly have new things for you to hear and see? Try it ….
Read the Bible chronologically. Some things make more sense (and have more meaning ) when you read them in chronological order.
What will happen if you plunge into a Bible read-thru?
I cannot predict exact details of what will happen in your group. God will have for you exactly what you need. I am certain of that.
I can tell you some of the things that have happened to me.
* I’m walkin’ around these days, overwhelmed by the hugeness of what God’s Word says to us. And since I am a writer by mission, my thoughts now are, How can I ever capture this, write the wonder and excitement and hope of it all? I will spend the rest of my life trying …
* Familiar Scriptures open up in new dimensions, and, believe it or not, even in books like Leviticus and Obadiah, we saw new things, hearing words of God that breathed into our lives today.
* In this season of Lent, I want more of the one relationship that is life to me. The One I call Lord is showing Himself to me in a new way. I see Him now as He walked into our history to say, “I’ve come to tell you what God is doing.” (And by the way, you do realize He is alive today, right?)
* I am in awe of God’s persistent call, generation after generation, for people to come back to Him and find LIFE. A history of nations that is God’s plan to draw the world to Himself also becomes incredibly personal.
One example. And then I will try to close this post, I promise.
You’ve read the story of Simeon, the elderly, devout Jew who, in spite of God’s silence for 400 years, was holding on to the promises that God would send a Messiah. (Luke says he was “eagerly” waiting… I had to wonder if that word would apply to me when things looked rather hopeless…after 400 years.)
Simeon is not a great king David or a powerful prophet Elijah. He seems an ordinary man who knew the promises of God and made up his mind to wait and believe and hope … And somehow the Spirit of God gave him assurance that he would see the promises fulfilled; he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Wow. What a promise to keep one going!
So Simeon kept hoping and waiting… and living.
Until one day, “the Spirit led him to the Temple.” And that was the very day that Joseph and Mary appeared at the Temple to present their baby to the Lord as the traditional law required. God orchestrated the time so Simeon was there and could see his hope finally fulfilled.
This may sound like a nice little story – but it brought tears when I read it.
We’d just spent three months reading about God dealing with nations, wars, kings, and the entire history of the world. Now, after all that turbulence, we see God so tenderly and lovingly moving in one man’s life to reassure and comfort him. Simeon was an ordinary man who had tenaciously clung to God’s promises for many long years–and now God gives him a privileged preview of His Big Move. God tenderly rewarded the devotion and hope in one ordinary man’s heart!
Within God’s great love for all of His creation, He comes into every minute of each of our lives to draw us home to Himself.
This story we are reading becomes our story as we are included in all the covenant promises of God.
With all my heart, I believe I did not “stumble” on Keith’s challenge to a Bible read-thru. I believe, like Simeon being led to the Temple on one day at a one particular time, I was led through everything else on the internet to one website on one particular day because it was exactly what our small group—and each one of us individually—needed right now. (Yes, God uses the internet. And Facebook and Twitter.)
If you’re young, reading through the Bible in this way will give you God’s perspective on everything that is happening in the world around you, will give you a peek into what God is thinking and doing with nations, history, and the life of His world—and what He is doing in your own life! You’ll have solid ground on which to plant your feet as you go forward to meet whatever waits ahead. It will give you God’s gift of hope.
If you’re old, a four-month BRT shared with friends will surprise and delight and satisfy and comfort you. Scriptures you have read and treasured all of your life hold still more to be discovered! We have confirmation, again and again from our faithful God, that we have built on solid rock… and our hope is sure.
And if you are somewhere in between, juggling many things in the busiest and perhaps the most grueling part of your lives—then a BRT will shore up defenses against despair, give you new energy, and keep hope alive and shining.
To you, fellow pilgrim, child of the Lord God, I recommend a four-month read-thru of His Words.
Keith runs his BRT program from January to April. But don’t wait for him to do another. Do your own. Now. Get two or three friends to join you and get started. I can guarantee the journey will be just as powerful in May or August or October.
And I know, I know, that in ways far beyond anything you expect or hope for, God will bless the reading of His Word.
Keith offers a free chronological reading outline and gives us permission to share it. I’ll be happy to forward it to you.
If you do a read-thru, let me know some of the wonderful things that come of it!
Here’s the post that began it all for our group:
The 4-Month Challenge That Could Change Everything
And a p.s. promise–
Next month I’ll be back to a more normal routine in posting here — after Revelation!