By Caitlin Anderson
As the True Story Project started coming to an end, I spent the final few days reflecting on how God has changed me over this past year of reading through the Bible as a church.
While I have been a regular Bible reader for many years, this was the first time that I had read through my Bible from beginning to end so quickly. I have learned so much this year through this experience and wanted to share the things that have stuck out to me the most.
So here are 10 things I learned from reading through my Bible in a year:
1) God’s story is beautiful. There are few things I love in this world more than a good story. And the true story of the Bible is the most beautiful story I have ever read, and it’s true!
2) Context matters. There are many verses in the Bible that people have read isolated from context, assumed it to mean one thing, and then formed major beliefs or life decisions based on that assumption. But, as I read those same verses in the context in which they were written and in light of the whole story of the Bible, they took on a much different meaning. Reading your Bible in the context in which it was written and within the whole story of the Bible is wildly important.
3) God cares deeply about the poor, widows, orphans, and refugees. As I read through the Old Testament, I couldn’t help but see that the sins of Israel that are repeated over and over are their lack of care for the marginalized and vulnerable in their society. Often, their sin was that they had forgotten them (Ezek. 16:49). They weren’t pursuing them. They weren’t seeking out ways to care for the poor, widows, orphans and refugees in their society and that was deeply painful to God.
4) In order to love God, we must love those whom he created. Jesus said (Mat. 22:36–40) the greatest commandment is to love God (Deut. 6:5), and the second is to love your neighbor (Lev. 19:18 ). In Genesis, we see that God created humankind in his own image (Gen 1:27). When we reject and hurt others, we are hurting those whom God created and loves.
5) Women play important and critical roles in God’s story. Women prophesied, housed and financed churches, taught the Scriptures to the younger generations, were important servants in the church, and much more. Women matter to God and they matter to his story. (Judg. 4; Acts 9:36; Acts 21:29; 2 Timothy 1:5)
6) The Old Testament and the New Testament are linked. You cannot understand one without understanding the other. The Old Testament points to the cross and the New Covenant over and over. The New Covenant and gift of the Holy Spirit are best understood in light of the animal sacrifices, struggle of the Israelites, and words of the Old Testament prophets.
7) God loves His church. The church, as a whole body of believers, is the body of Christ, and Christ will forever empower his church to spread the message of the gospel. (1 Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22–23; Eph 5:25)
8) The spiritual forces in this world are active. In a cynical world, it is often hard for me to believe that there are spiritual forces at battle around us. But I can’t read passages like Daniel 10 or the book of Job and deny it. The spiritual forces in this world are real.
9) God answers prayers. Jesus prayed…often. One of Jesus’ most often preached about topics was that of prayer. Jesus also tells us regularly that prayer matters, God hears us, and God desires to answer our prayers. (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:1–13; Mark 11:24)
10) I will never fully understand God or his word. While I have learned so much this year, I also have more unanswered questions than I did before the year started. There are many passages that I would love to dive into deeper and study further so I can grasp their meaning better. But I also understand that scholars have been studying the Scriptures for years and years, and there are still many things that we don’t know and probably won’t ever know. And that’s okay. I once heard a pastor say, “A God that I can understand with my finite human brain, is not a God that is worth serving.”