Bible in 90: 2018 Edition

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Yes, this is how I did it! Reading the assigned chapters as I walked, ate, insomniad, and drove (by using the Dwell App). But it is done! I was behind more times than any other time that I have done this and yet I kept at it. It was wonderful to have my Facebook Bible in 90 group to be accountable to it. We were all from different places, and represented different seasons in my pastoral life. Even as this post goes live many are still at it, because from the very beginning we said that what mattered was that we engaged with the text, that we ask God to speak to us through the text, and that the goal of finishing in 90 days was only the hook to get us to the text. Some will finish in a week or two, others will finish in 180, and yet others in 360 days in the end they would have read through the entire Bible and maybe for the first time get a sense of the narrative arc of the story of our faith.

This is my 5th time reading the bible in 90 days. I have attempted it a total of 10 times but have only been successful 50% of the time. Every successful attempt had one thing in common: community. We should read the bible in community more often, if we did I truly believe we would read it more often and more deeply. A few of those times I became so discouraged that I stopped reading all together. Yet every time that I do this and do so in 90 days I am thankful that I did. It speaks deeply to me about why I follow Jesus, why I love scripture, and why I believe scripture shapes my heart and life.

Reading it in 90 days helps me remember how difficult, complex, intriguing, diverse, scary, and beautiful the text is. Though we so often speak about the bible, refer to the bible, and even study the bible it is not often that we read it and ask God to speak through it. Reading it and doing so in 90 days is one of the best ways to get a sense of the narrative arch of the story of our faith. We begin with creation and end with recreation, we begin with chaos, and end in chaos that births a new heaven and a new earth, we begin with a chosen people and end with people of every culture, language, and nation. In between we find inspiring stories and scary stories, poetry and prose, historical narratives and mythical narratives, letters and biographies. All together we have a library that reminds us of our identity as God’s people and  as people called to follow the Word named Jesus.

Before I read I ask God to show me something, to reveal something, to allow for a word or phrase to jump out at me as I read. Each time I’ve read in 90 Days I have found a different set of themes that seem to jump out at me as I read through the Bible. This year was no different so there were two themes that kept emerging, in the Old Testament – Idolatry, in the New Testament – No Judgement. I am amazed at how different things get your attention every time you read with an open heart. This time these two themes kept on coming to the surface and so my question became: How am I idolatrous? How am I judgemental? Since I am a pastor a similar yet distinct set of questions came to the surface: How are we as a people idolatrous? How are we as a people judgemental?

These are not easy questions . . .

Over and over again, day to day as I read the Old Testament I was faced with the question: What gods am I worshipping? What captivates my imagination? Where’s my treasure? A few things quickly came to mind: success, money, stuff (especially books and religious trinkets), popularity, and pride. There were others that took a bit but were as powerful: resentment, anger, pity party, legacy building, and works righteousness. Shiny, controllable, and culturally accepted making them the perfect idols for a pastor.

As shame continued to deepen I entered into the New Testament. The good news, no judgement, for yourself nor for others for judgement never redeems. Instead judgement keeps us captive, it forces us to focus on the sins of others, and on ways that we can save ourselves. We are a sinful people, a people who often miss the mark from God’s intention towards peace, completeness, and healing. In the end only God can judge us and we know that grace is available. This does not mean that we cannot watch over one another in love. It means that true growth in the way of Jesus requires us to live life together with others and to companion one another through our sin and death.

In the end it was a beautiful 90 Days of reconnecting with the story of our faith. I will do it again but not any time soon. In the next 30 Days I’ll be digging into the Gospel according to Matthew, and starting January 1 I will be doing a Gospel in 90 read. So I invite you to find a reading plan that works for you so that you can reflect on the story of our faith every day. It will transform you, it will challenge you, and it will help you see God in the everyday of your life.