One chapter at a time.
This is a common question I get when it comes to reading the entire Bible. I know a lot of people have read bits and pieces. Some people have specific scriptures memorized. John 3:16 is a popular one. But actually sitting down and reading the Bible cover to cover…to be honest, when I first did it, I never thought of it was some big accomplishment.
At First, I Hated Religion
Just to give you a little background about who I am. I’m a black 34-year-old Christian Conservative born and raised here in the States. I’ve never been to any Christian College or Theocratic School.
From the age of 12-17, I was raised in a religion that I found extremely oppressive, Jehovah’s Witness. That’s not to knock the religion. All Witnesses aren’t the same, just like all Catholics or Baptist aren’t the same. You’ll never find a nicer group of people…but my parents were new to the religion. And while they may very well have been doing their best, it took a toll. Everything I loved about my childhood was taken away when they joined that religion (like holidays and martial arts). And if I didn’t believe the way they believed, I was hit with guilt trips. They used the False Dilemma fallacy where, if you didn’t believe like a Jehovah’s Witness, then you were wrong and against God.
I want to make it clear that my parents aren’t like that now. They are very kind and loving people and I sometimes study with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, attending their Memorial every year. But back when I was teen, I saw my parents as controlling tyrants. Their common saying was, “We’re the parents, you’re the child. So when you grow up and get out of our house, you can do whatever you want. But as long as you’re under our roof, you’re going to go to our meetings and learn about Jehovah.”
I’m mentioning this, not to just vent about my parents or the Witnesses, but to explain why I was so reluctant to pick up the Bible after I left home.
I tried to forgive and forget but it was difficult. I brimmed with resentment and nursed my grudges, feeding off of it as my main source of motivation to get out in the world and make something of myself.
Needless to say, I hated all organized religions. But oddly enough, I couldn’t say I hated God. Deep down, I always knew my quarrel wasn’t with God, but with how people used religion to get others to “do” and “think” the way they wanted them to. Until I picked up the Bible to read it for myself, I assumed that’s how religion was “supposed” to be used. I was wrong.
From the age of 23-27, I threw myself into the pursuit of becoming a published author. Part of this endeavor required soaking up as much knowledge and information as I could. I did so much research on subjects ranging from history to philosophy to trivia…from romance to revenge. My mind was open to everything. Except religion.
At the age of 23, I dabbled in Scientology. And depending on who you’re talking to, some would claim that it’s not a religion. I think it is. It was then that I started to theorize that people use religion as a tool by which to live their lives. Even if you don’t believe in God, I suspect that whatever code or collection of principles you abide by when it comes to your direction in life…I theorized that this is your religion. Even if it’s your code to be flexible and open to everything. Thus, the concept of “religion” isn’t exclusive to a God or deity. It’s about who or what you worship. Even if you worship yourself. Or celebrities. Or your passion. Or the opposite sex.
What Changed My Mind?
I was so stupid. So stubborn. I refused to pick up the Bible because it reminded me of the past and that’s one place I never wanted to go back to again. But gradually, after I turned 27, things started to peck at my resolve.
First off, the world wasn’t making sense. I saw too many contradictions in popular opinions. Too much hypocrisy. SJW and Political Correctness was starting to become a religion in of itself. I saw similarities of the same oppression I felt when I was a teen. According to Christians, if you do what’s good in God’s eyes, you will be blessed. According to the world, if you do what’s good in the eyes of popular opinion, again, you will be blessed.
Back before 2013, I was very much a liberal. I supported gay marriage, saw myself as a Feminist, supported pro-choice and all things leftists supported. But…lol, I think the first time I started to question any of this was when I heard of people getting fired for simply saying a word that someone deemed offensive. This bothered me because I didn’t feel it was justice. Fine him, sure. But to ruin his career and livelihood over a word or opinion?
Who gets to decide what’s offensive or not? Just because something’s offensive to you, doesn’t mean it’s offensive to me. And if you say something offensive to me, does that mean I should ask for your resignation? And did they live by the same standards by which they demanded of you?
The world was advocating for tolerance and acceptance. But the same ones didn’t tolerate or accept anyone who disagreed with them. Not only did they not tolerate them…they set out to destroy them. And personally, I experienced this when several women tried to get me in trouble by their interpretation of my actions. When I saw how others treated them worse and they just laughed it off, I came to the conclusion that many were just using “Social Justice” as a weapon to attack those they don’t like.
If it’s someone you like saying something controversial, you’re cool with it. But if you hate the person, then you’re ready to jump on their first joke or outburst and call it “offensive” in an attempt to take them down.
In 2012, during the Romney-Obama election, they were saying that if you voted for Romney then you were a sexist and you hated black people. Romney was in a “war against women,” they said. But just because that’s what people think of you, it doesn’t make it true. Otherwise, we’re all slaves to the concept of opinion and public image. The problem with that, is it gives all power and control of your life to the whim and interpretations others have of you.
This was disturbing. In 2011, I was falsely accused of sexual harassment and one girl claimed “it felt like I was stalking her”…all which were untrue (especially back then, I was way too conceited and obsessed with writing to be stalking anyone). But the fact that we now give such gravity to the mere accusation, a person’s malicious or misguided interpretation of the facts, it’s like throwing logic and reason out the window. And replacing its throne of power were emotions and feelings. The problem with Emotions and Feelings is that they’re impulsive. And more than half the time, they struggle to see the long-term ramifications of their actions.
Losing their job over having the wrong opinion instilled fear in people to silence them. And it’s ten times worse when you silence them from speaking the truth.
I’m an author. I am an artist. Artists have no limits when it comes to their works. Never do I ever want to start a project and have to ask myself… “Am I allowed to say this?”
So yeah. This was what I witnessed, and just like in my teen years, I started to resent the world and want nothing to do with it. I learned about J.D. Salinger and started to think, “yeah, he had the right idea by becoming a recluse from society.”…but at least he was married for a time and had children. I had no one.
Suddenly, I started praying. I’m sorry, but I honestly can’t remember what prompted me to start praying again after so many years of silence. I know it was around the age of 27. I remember I still didn’t want to pick up the Bible…but at least I was talking to God. I had faith that he could hear me. Relying on what little I knew from my Christian upbringing, I believed that if I asked for forgiveness, I would be forgiven. And every day, every single day…without fail I asked for strength, wisdom, and patience to get me through the day. And God blessed me with all three.
Sometimes that wisdom came in the form of people providing counsel. Like my older brother, a dedicated Jehovah Witness. He told me, “Rock, it’s good that you’re talking to God. But wouldn’t you like it if he talked to you? The Bible is God’s word. You can read what he has to say.”
Then…at the age of 28, one day I was editing one of books while I had Netflix up on the TV and just for kicks, I took a chance and played the History Channel’s miniseries, “The Bible”.
And that’s what did it. That’s what prompted me to pick up the Bible and read it for myself.
Because something remarkable happened. I think a lot of times, people get so turned off by the Bible because we think of it as this strict and rigid rule book, telling us what we can and can’t do. But I have forgotten…it’s also a history book!
There are SOOOO many amazing stories in the Bible. Remember David and Goliah? Samson killing the lion with his bare hands. Remember when Moses parted the Red friggin Sea!? That’s awesome!
“In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
That’s the very first scripture of the Bible. See? Nothing oppressive there. He’s not telling you “OBEY!” off the get-go. It’s history. Yes, we’ve heard about the Big Bang and Evolution, but in its simplest terms, the answer to what happened in the beginning of all existence is summed up in that single scripture.
I was intrigued. I knew Adam and Eve was coming. Then giants. Then Noah and the Great Flood…All in the very first book of the Bible. All in Genesis. I was already doing so much research on all kinds of things…so if I really were to embody the pursuit of truth, why not go directly to the source?
That night, I found my old Bible. The same black book I’ve kept during all those oppressive years. I even started laughing because it’s been so long since I opened it. I found my old high school senior photo still nestled in it. In pristine condition.
When I started reading…I know some people require silence and no distractions and they even remain dressed in their best attire. But I think…subconsciously I knew that reading the Bible from cover to cover would be a timely undertaking. Just like when I lost 168lbs over the course of four years. The best thing for me personally, was to establish a routine.
My routine went like this. Every night, after working out, I’d come home, put dinner in the oven, take a shower, and then sit down on my living room couch with a soft snack like a bowl of popcorn and Sprite Zero. I’d have the TV on in front of me with music playing from my PS3. The music I played was the same kind of music I’d listen to when I wrote anything deep, mostly instrumentals. Like the soundtrack of Samurai Champloo, Ghost in the Shell, and Cowboy Bebop. But also, classical music like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.
The point of this routine was to get comfortable. To not let hunger drive you to get through reading faster. To not let boredom get in the way. To not let uncomfortable and itchy clothing distract you. But just relax. Be easy. Sometimes, I’d even have a blanket on me. And then I’d open the good book and start reading.
I wasn’t reading the Bible to cover as much as I could in a single night. There was no time limit for me. It wasn’t a race. When I was a kid, I did that. My eyes would gloss over the words and I’d hear them in my head, but I wasn’t really absorbing the content.
Genesis 1:1-3 – “1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
Can you imagine it? This is why I say my knowledge of God is indeed a blessing. I dare say, I did not have this blessing when I was younger. But at the age of 28, Jehovah, our heavenly father was opening my eyes to his Word. It was glorious. When I started reading the Bibles, I didn’t just read the words, I saw the visions, I saw what God was telling me.
In the beginning, there was darkness. I saw darkness. God said, “let there be light.” And there was light. I saw the heavens and earth that God created. I imagined a spirit hovering over an entire world where the ocean covered everything. I saw an endless sky of shimmering stars and galaxies, glittering stardust of nebula and supernovas. This was the beginning.
My eyes filled with wonder by those three scriptures alone, I kept reading.
Every night it was all about how much I can absorb before my eyes got too tired, my mind too exhausted to comprehend. If I found myself reading the same scripture more than twice because I caught myself just reading but couldn’t understand it…I’d stop there for the night and pick it up from there the next day.
Usually…I could read two to three chapters a night. But it was all based on the content. The Book of Genesis was easy to absorb. It was mostly history, the beginning of mankind, the beginning of sin, Noah and the flood, Abraham trusting in God to venture out into the land of Canaan, God’s covenant with Abraham, and ending with Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt.
However, some Bible Books were tougher than others. Leviticus was especially difficult. The first five books of the Bible were written by Moses after the Israelites were delivered from Egypt and now spent forty years in the Wilderness. During this time, Moses penned Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Because Leviticus is mostly a Book about how the Israelites were supposed to worship God, practices that no longer apply to Christians after the New Covenant of Christ, a lot of Leviticus was difficult to comprehend or even imagine. It discusses the building of temples and objects using types of measurement we no longer use today, like cubits, which is apparently 18 inches long, approximately the length of a man’s elbow to his fingertips.
For chapters like that, it’d take a bit longer. And I confess, there were times where I did start to get frustrated because I felt like reading those scriptures were a waste of time. But the cool thing about reading the Bible the night before going to bed, is that it stayed with me the next day.
The next day, I’d be thinking about what I read the night before, still trying to make sense of it. And thanks to the internet, I’d do my own research to help paint the picture for where my imagination lacked. Such as the grandeur and magnificence of Solomon’s Temple. Or the landscape of Israel, the height of Mt. Zion compared to the land around it.
And even still…when there were instances where I struggled to understand, I’d pray for help. I wasn’t too proud to seek out others to help grasp the meaning and comprehend what the Bible was saying. Because I’m sure you’ve heard common gripes, right? Like how one scripture might contradict another scripture. Or how God is supposed to be all merciful and loving, and yet he commanded genocide from Saul when it came to the Amalekites.
This is why I strongly urge everyone not to just cherry-pick scriptures. Don’t skip over chapters or books of the Bible. Read it. I can’t commend God enough for his infinite wisdom, inspiring those who put the Bible together in the order that it’s in now. If you read it from beginning to end, start to finish, and believe that God is real that Jesus is our Lord and Savior…everything will make sense.
For instance, there’s a lot of reiteration in the scriptures. If you “glossed over” one scripture where it talks about how God feels about adultery, divorce, or homosexuality, more upcoming scriptures will touch base on those subjects and with greater insight and explanation. It’s brilliant really. It’s God’s loving way of not dumping all the teachings into you at one time. It’s gradual.
That’s how I did it. I stuck to the routine, reading just a few chapters every night. It took two years for me to finish reading the entire Bible, it was in my 30th year of life. There’s 365 days in a year, I think there were probably less than five nights in which I was too tired and came home way too late to read.
And here’s the thing…because we all use that excuse, right? Oh, I’m too tired. I want to wait until my head is 100% right to digest and absorb the message, right.
Reading the Bible wasn’t a chore for me. It wasn’t “practice” or something I felt I “had to do” to do what’s good in God’s eyes. It’s something I WANTED to do.
COOL THINGS ABOUT READING THE BIBLE
One of the coolest things about reading the Bible every night is that there’s no perfection. There’s always room for improvement. As long as you’re alive, you’re given an opportunity to level up, to get stronger in faith, wisdom and knowledge of God.
Immediately after I finished reading the Bible once, I started in on a Study Bible my cousin was kind enough to gift me with. That Bible, if you click on the link, is so cool and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re studying it on your own. It provides more historical context for each scripture for a greater understanding.
Even after having read the entire Bible, I’m always finding out something new that I missed the first time around. More than that, the Bible is so vast in its subject topics and history. If you spend a whole month on 1st Kings, the feeling of being so wise that Proverbs gives you begins to wear off.
Thus, there’s no end to reading the Bible. Even when someone gives me another book to read, I find it difficult to finish it if it’s too long and I haven’t been able to read the Bible in a while.
Because more than anything, the Bible really does have a calming effect on my soul. I have to live in this world that’s dominated and influenced by Satan. I see injustices and the wicked prospering while the good people suffer. All of it, enraging.
Reading the Bible every night reminds me that all is going according to God’s will. And if you have trust and faith, then you know everything is happening for a reason and for God’s purpose. As smart as I think I am, it doesn’t even compare to the infinite wisdom of God.
If I see bad things happening, I have to know it’s for a reason for explanations I’ll probably never know. Job never knew why he was inflicted with boils, his family destroyed in a windstorm with his fortune and flock decimated. God never sat down and explained why he had to go through that. But still, Job had faith.
I certainly hope none of that happens to me. But if it does…I pray for the strength to pass the test and keep the faith. I think I will. After everything that’s happened this year, I’m still smiling. The ability to look on the bright side, knowing God’s will is being done…let’s just say you’ve yet to catch me saying, “2020 has been an awful year.”
Thanks for reading.