2023. The year I read the Bible chronologically, straight through in one year.
Welcome to my blog project for 2024! My goal is to increase my Bible knowledge, and maybe in doing so, you’ll want to come along for the ride. But first: what is this project all about?
As a life-long Christian, I’ve always believed in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. While growing up, my family attended church regularly. When I was in high school, I was an active member of the Youth Group. Our youth leader challenged us to read the Bible straight through, finding out what we could learn about this God we followed. So, I did.
My chosen time was at night before I turned off the light for sleep. I’d lay in bed and for at least a half hour I’d read the Bible, using my colored markers to highlight verses that appealed to me, spoke to me, made me happy. I still have that Bible that I used “way back then” and I page through it, grinning at the sixteen-year-old me and what I had found interesting. And how much I missed!
Although I’ve always made church and worship and prayer priorities, one thing that fell to the wayside in my adulthood was my own dedicated Bible study. I would hear the Old Testament and New Testament readings each week in church, and I would see inspirational Bible verses everywhere – in the Hallmark shop on cards and on home décor, in social media memes that constantly showed up in my newsfeed – I was lacking in my own personal thirst for reading and studying God’s Word.
By 2022, I had spent ten years in my dream role as a novelist, focusing on inspirational fiction. I’d written and published over two dozen books that were all written to share the message of God’s love and redemption alongside a romance journey between two people. I loved writing those books and many people loved reading them! But after I drew the curtain closed on my fourth series, I realized I didn’t have any more fictional story ideas tapping at my brain. None! This was a new phenomenon for me, because for over a decade, as I was nearing the finish line of one novel, I knew exactly what and who I would write about next.
What would become of my writing career if I no longer wrote novels? I considered my books to be my ministry to the world; the way Jesus used my writing skills to share his message. If I no longer did that, how could he use me?
By the end of 2022, I had discovered a very inspiring and educational Women in the Word Bible Study at my church and we met weekly to read and learn about the Bible, then discuss what we’d learned in our small groups. I thoroughly enjoyed those sessions! It was amazing to me how I could read a section on my own and come away with … nothing much in the way of knowledge and inspiration, but then the instructors would illuminate those same words with knowledge that I never would’ve gained myself. They were true Bible scholars, and I began growing an immense respect for all Bible scholars.
I’d been through enough semesters of Women in the Word to get a taste of what the Bible could teach me. How about, if I weren’t writing a new novel this year, I commit to reading the Bible instead? The whole thing, not just the parts I’m already familiar with, or the “fun” parts. By reading it from the very beginning and straight through to the end, I’d get a birds’ eye view of the entire faith, beginning with Creation and God’s Chosen people, the Jews. I’d take my time and not just plow through it. I’d take notes of things I wanted to look into more, I’d research parts that confused me, and I would come out more knowledgeable about God’s Word.
Yes, that was a good plan for 2023.
I bought the Chronological Bible because I thought it would be more enlightening to learn everything from a historical perspective. I also bought a blended version of the Four Gospels, which I read in addition to the true gospels format. Along the way, I attended Bible studies on the Book of Esther and also the Acts of the Apostles. And I did a separate personal Bible study on the Book of Revelation.
The Chronological Bible separates itself into 365 readings – if you read them all you’ll complete the book in a year. I started off in early January with zest and dedication. I really immersed myself in the Bible. I was on schedule till mid-February. I missed a few days of reading, and then a few more. When I started up again, I had to read several hours, instead of twenty minutes a day, to catch up. I was back on schedule until the end of March when I was slogging my way through some of the duller books of the Old Testament. Somehow, I managed to “quit” reading for a month or more, before jumping back in. My notes and questions increased as I read. During the summer I spent a good deal of time traveling and visiting the beach, where I love to read, but not the Bible. I read contemporary fiction instead.
Finally, my husband and I were preparing for a long road trip the end of September. He would do all the driving and I usually read several books from the passenger seat. Instead, I picked up the Bible I’d been neglecting. I had at least forty pages to read before I caught up to where I was supposed to be. Well … this would be my trip reading. I put myself on task – no reading anything else on this vacation until I caught up to where I was supposed to be!
As it turned out, hours of uninterrupted time to read the later books in the Old Testament was exactly what I needed to become intrigued with it all again. I read and read, and I didn’t want to put it down. I found that when I was reading the Bible steadily, God would drop reminders into my everyday life that corresponded with my reading. The Old Testament reading at church and the pastor’s sermon would be on the exact topic I’d just been reading about! Yes! I knew that stuff! I could follow along and my new knowledge was enhanced. Or, I’d be watching TV and a reference was made to something that sounded very familiar! Yes! That’s a story from … whatever book … but one I was previously unfamiliar with.
Sometimes, my husband and I would have a philosophical discussion and he’d say, “One thing I don’t understand about Christianity is … this or that,” and I’d get a big smile on my face. “I just read that in the Bible! Hold on!” and I’d run to get my book and look up the pertinent verse and read it to him. God was blessing my challenge to read the Bible in a year by showing me how the ancient words are so very relevant to today’s world. My world – my life.
In December we were preparing for another road trip to spend Christmas with our family members, and I became inspired to finish the Bible before we left. That meant doubling up on the daily readings so I could get to the end of the book before the end of the year. With a couple weeks’ work, that’s exactly what I did. And boy, what a wonderful feeling it was, too. I had challenged myself to read the Bible in a Year, and despite the fact that I didn’t read it regularly every day, I still managed to complete the task, and God had blessed me with encouragement and knowledge all along the way. Because of how I did it, I feel like I have a much more complete picture of the entire faith than I did when all I’d do was spottily read the Bible. I of course have so much more to learn, but because I’ve accomplished this vital first step, I’m not intimidated or frightened to keep going.
So … what’s next?
The last few years I’ve gone to a Christian website, Dayspring.com and taken a quiz, answering a series of questions that leads you to one guiding word for the year. For 2023, that word was Confidence. And I know God had a part in that because it took Confidence for me to pull myself out of my established comfort zone of writing multiple inspirational romance novels a year as I had for so long. In 2023, in addition to my Bible in a Year Challenge, I’d also accomplished some other writing-related activities that were completely different than my norm.
For 2024, I went back to the website and answered the questions and waited anxiously for my word. It came back … Imagine.
I thought about it for a moment, and I was assured that it was another word from God. I could just “imagine” Him telling me – just imagine what you can do for my Kingdom. You can do more than what you’ve always done. Something different. Imagine the possibilities to spread the word about my love.
I did just that. And my imagination went wild.
What if I took those notes that I jotted down about my thoughts and questions and additional research while I was reading the Bible, and I used those as Devotional topics? I could write up each one and then publish them as a book of devotions.
Sure, that’s good. That’s in my wheelhouse, writing and publishing books. Different than the fiction I was writing, but yes, I could definitely do that. That would be my writing project for 2024.
Keep imagining …
How can I get the word out faster? To more people? Maybe to people who wouldn’t find or be interested in reading the book?
Imagine if I released these devotionals regularly in every format I can think of to reach people with these important messages from God’s word …
· Weekly blog posts
· Weekly YouTube videos
· Weekly podcasts???
· Imagine …
So that’s where I’m at with this exciting project – the very beginning of Phase 2. Phase 1 was reading the Bible, phase 2 is sharing my thoughts, learnings, questions and inspirations, in the hopes that some of you may find them and like them and find inspiration to strengthen your own faith. I no longer worry that I won’t be writing any fiction this year because I am so absolutely certain that I’m doing what God wants me to do. And maybe throughout the year I’ll imagine more ways to get the word out and reach God’s people with these messages. And maybe some of them will strike a chord with you and encourage you to open up your Bible and read.
Let’s get started!