God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

400th Post and Wrap-Up

In this, the 400th post on Random Thoughts from Graham, I want to give a wrap-up of the Bible in a Year project with a few thoughts on what I learned while blogging through the Bible.

Words of Thanks

First, I have to thank my wife, Jessica, for putting up with me during the previous year. She had to endure many nights where I stayed up late to write. I also "conveniently" could not do household tasks. Maybe I won't miss everything about this project.

I also need to thank the congregation at the Sonoma Mountain Parkway Church of Christ (Petaluma Church) for reading with me and enduring at 50-lesson series on God is setting all things right. Thanks to Sharla Brechbill for sharing most of the posts on Facebook and to the members who encouraged me throughout the past year. I look forward to 2014 where we will go on to maturity while we look at how the Gospel is relevant to others.

What I Learned from the Process

From Scripture

The most important thing I realized from Scripture this year is that we stress religious obedience more than heart obedience. Almost everyone that had an issue with what I wrote objected to how I characterized religious obedience. To be honest, I was amazed at how often God told Israel to get their hearts right while minimizing religious rightness. To God, the heart is what matters. Religious obedience must come from the heart. When we preach baptism, church attendance, Bible study, and other church-y things, we get the cart before the horse. This also explains why churches struggle with obedience. While we stress religious obedience we miss what is important—setting things right. We preach Jesus' Blood, but not the two greatest commands. Members walk away thinking that as long as they go to the building and get dunked under the water God is happy. I do not think this is intentional but because of the limited resource of time. We only have so many lessons every year. We spend so many on religion that we have little time to help each other set things right. I think Jesus would challenge us with, "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13, English Standard Version). We also forget the scribe's answer—which Jesus greatly complimented,
You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Mark 12:32-33)
God wants His Chosen People to be religious but all religion must be from a holy heart and with the goal of improving our relationship with God. If the only thing I have written that strikes you is that baptism is not essential for the entire world to set their relationship right with God, you are stressing works not heart and have missed the entire purpose of this project.
The other thing I learned last year was that Scripture, when read correctly, does not let go. As I traversed through the Prophets I saw myself in their crosshairs. It was unnerving and exposing. When I reached the Gospels I thought it would settle down. They were worse than the Prophets! At the end of the Gospels I hoped Paul and the other Epistles would let me ease out the year. It never happened. When we read the Bible, we must feel exposed and vulnerable before God or we will miss Him.

From the Writing Process

I knew this would be a daunting project. I began back in November 2012 to have enough of a backlog to prevent burnout. On January 1, 2013, I had 35 posts ready. By the end of May I had used up all the extra days and never got more than three ahead the rest of the year. I had to write every day, many times until after midnight. That wears on you. By mid-November I had enough. I was burned out. I was exhausted. I wanted to quit. What spurred me one was only having a month and a half remaining. I know if I had started the project January 1 or only a week early, I never would have finished. Starting early gave me the ability to finish.

The Future of Reading Through the Bible in a Year

Yesterday was not the end for this project. I have a few ideas that I am kicking around. I believe this project is something many churches should go through. Bible students must do a project such as this—though not to this scale! I cannot describe how important this has been for my growth as a Chosen Person of God. I want to create a place for groups to schedule, converse, and write their thoughts as they go through the Bible in a year. How this will look is in the air, but I will be working on these tools in the next year. The blog will go silent for a few days/weeks/months while I spend time with family and work on finishing my Master's Degree. I do not want to stop writing, but I may not post here what I write.

As for a book, I will be looking for a publisher to print a version of this project. Considering the small numbers that read each day's post I doubt it will be very well received, but I will be shopping. If you wish for a copy, contact me via email or Facebook.

I would love to do this with a congregation again. I believe it is very important for churches to reframe both the Gospel and their role in the world.

Thanks to you all for visiting and reading along with me. The post will stay up and you can always read them by typing: http://grahambates.blogspot.com/2013/mm/dd.html into your browser to get that days' reading.

May you see God setting things right in the next year.