After a little over a year, I finished reading the Bible this morning. I am in awe of the beauty and power of the message that is in this holy book, and I’d like to share with you some of what I found to be profoundly meaningful, as well as the journey that I experienced in this time. Please try to make it through the end, where I express my personal story in the context of what I have learned while doing this reading.
***I’d like to start by saying that there is a lot in the Bible that I didn’t understand. I’m no theologian (although I am the son of one), and there are passages about which there is a lot of disagreement as to how it should be interpreted. So, I’m going to stick to what I know.
For me, I found there to be two particularly poignant aspects of the Bible. The first is Jesus’ story, the biography about the Son of God who demonstrated what it means to have deep love for humanity that is rooted in God’s righteousness. This love is a transformative power that we can receive through the Holy Spirit—a power that has completely changed the lives of those who have experienced Him. It changed the disciples from a group of argumentative, blundering group of guys who abandoned Jesus when facing persecution, to the apostles who fearlessly proclaimed their faith in the Resurrection, who performed miraculous things in the name of God, who willingly accepted martyrdom as a consequence for their conviction in the Truth. Paul went from being a murderer of Christians to perhaps the greatest evangelist the Church has ever known. Jesus transformed the lives of the “worst” sinners—those who were desperately lost—and gave them forgiveness and a new opportunity to live a life that is symbiotic with God, a forgiveness and a life that is still available two millennium later to all of us, as can be evidenced by the 2.18 BILLION people today who identify as Christians.
Jesus lived a life that exemplified profound compassion for society’s lowest; He showed us how to live a life that is righteous and be in communion with God and His will. He willingly sacrificed Himself—despite being blameless in all ways—to carry out God’s plan, which has an eternal redemptive power for each of us. Simply put, the New Testament is about Jesus, about true love, and it provides a handbook for how to live a Christian life that is characterized by inner peace, profound meaning, and effusive joy, all of which is rooted in God’s Truth.
The second part that has me absolutely amazed is the execution of God’s plan—something that I’ll discuss below in relation to my journey in this time of reading. With very few exceptions, pretty much every person in the Bible failed to uphold the Law of the Old Testament and were flawed individuals. Yet, God used them despite their imperfections to carry out His plan. In reading the Old Testament, it was amazing to see how God upholds his promises on both a micro and macro level. On a micro level, He carries through on promises made to individuals, such as promising Abraham a son despite the very advanced age of he and his wife. On a macro level, God promised a Messiah to all, and He sent Jesus—descendant of Abraham—as the fulfillment of prophecy in a way that I find to be extraordinarily poetic on the grand stage of human history. God started all of existence and set forth into motion this unfathomably complex plan that began with the gift of free will, which resulted in sin, which is codified by the Law, which culminated in the possibility of salvation through Jesus, and will end with the defeat of sin and evil at the end of times. God has a plan that transcends our understanding, yet He uses us all as a small part of that grand plan. It’s amazing to me that God’s plan encompasses the entirety of human history, yet also is carried out in our individual existence.
This idea of God’s plan made me reflect on my own life, particularly in the face of a turbulent year. In this last year while reading the Bible, I have gone through some extraordinary life events. Shortly after starting this reading plan, I released my album Devotion—a jazz album based off the Bible—which was the culmination of a year and a half of hard work. I was on a spiritual high as I combined my joy of music with a deep faith. It was truly an amazing experience and process.
And then divorce hit.
In the months that followed, I experienced life lessons that I don’t think I would have learned if I had not gone through such a challenging time. I learned what it means to be empathetic and compassionate, as I came to appreciate the extraordinary value of having people to lean on—or even be carried by—when faced with tribulation. Family and friends came to my support in a tangible way that taught me what it means to truly help someone in need.
As that turbulence subsided, I vowed to be a source of compassion for those around me. This has particularly led to a greater interest in the lives of my students and to the plight of those who are in poverty. I’ve been volunteering weekly at a homeless shelter in St. Paul, and I’ve received as much love and meaning out of the experience as what I have contributed. This lesson of compassion—one that I learned the hard way—is one that I will truly never forget.
I also learned what it means to be completely dependent on God. For the longest time, I relied on my own strength and abilities, as I had never really found myself in a situation where I couldn’t handle things on my own. Going through that experience made me realize how I can be complete through God; He is the source of true peace, strength, and joy. My new favorite passage is Isaiah 40:31:
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Now I can honestly say that through God, I have never been better. My faith and conviction in God’s Truth is deeper than I knew was possible. I feel as though I’m starting to make the impact in the lives of those around me that God wants me to accomplish. I’m in a new—and amazing—relationship with a Godly woman with whom I have found an incredible connection. I’m in the best shape of my life (so far!). I’m just a few weeks away from completing my coursework for my Ph.D. I’ve begun work on my dissertation—a Christmas album that will be the culmination of my faith and musical training, and 100% of the sales of the album will go to charity. I’m reconnecting with my family in a way that is long overdue.
It’s been quite the eventful year, and I see God’s fingerprint on it all. This journey of reading God’s word and the life events that coincided has been an absolutely beautiful experience. There has been much learning, joy, pain, hope, healing, faith, conviction, action, and peace. It’s been a wild roller coaster ride at times, but I wouldn’t go back and change any of it.
The completion of this reading closes a chapter in my life, and I cannot express how excited I am for what God has in store for me next. His plan for me is far greater than one I can create for myself, and I trust that He will lead me where I am meant to go.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I hope that you have found some meaning here. I pray that you find the strength and joy that is available through Jesus and His story in the Bible.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.