What I Learned from Reading the Bible

This year marks my second year reading through the Bible. Last year I started in the Matthew and read to Revelation and then made my way to Genesis through Malachi. I didn’t follow a reading plan but read at my own pace. This year I read from Genesis to Revelation and used The Bible Project Reading Plan. I read the ESV version this year compared to the NIV that I read last year.

Below are a few things I learned from reading the entire Bible again.

The connection between the Old and New Testaments. This was probably the biggest thing that I noticed this year. The passage that really helped me grasp the intensity of this connection was Matthew 27:46,  “that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In the past I would have glanced over this passage but with further study and reading I learned that these words are the exact first words of Psalm 22. The next time you have a moment I encourage you to read Psalm 22 in context with Matthew 27:46. Jesus knew this Psalm was about him and was quoting it with his very last breaths. It seriously gives me chills because I have to wonder if those standing by the cross knew what passage he was quoting.

Psalm 22 begins, “Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The passage is so precise in the description of the events of Jesus and his death, in verse 16 of the psalm, “They have pierced my hands and feet.” And in verse 18, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

The psalm begins as cry of agony but ends in a proclamation of triumph proclaiming the Lords righteousness and that all the ends of the earth shall worship before him. Seriously read Psalm 22 in the context of Matthew 27:46 and the death of Jesus on the cross.

Reading passages of scripture that are hard to understand and the long list of genealogies are worth it. When I came across passages of scripture I didn’t understand, instead of glossing over them, I decided to use them as an opportunity to deepen my own growth and understanding. Let me preface by saying, I didn’t do this with every passage of scripture I didn’t understand. If I had I would have never read past Leviticus this year, but when something piqued my interest I asked questions, looked for guidance from other believers who are more spiritually mature/knowledgable, and in the process discovered that grace goes a long way in these types of discussions. I am so appreciative of those who took time out of their schedule to meet with me this year and encourage me.

I also challenged myself to not gloss over the long lists of genealogies and names that are throughout scripture. It was tough sometimes to get through all those lists of names but when I did I was surprised to find that I recognized names and could remember how those people fit into the overarching storyline in the Bible.

Last year I discovered that I really enjoyed the Old Testament. And this year I geeked out on Revelation, a book I would have stayed away from in the past because what I thought I knew about it freaked me out. What I discovered was not a book that holds a secret code that allows believers to decipher the timeline of Jesus’s return but instead offers the promise that one day Jesus will return and permanently remove evil and make all things new.

God used my kids to show me how much I don’t know and to encourage my learning. My five year old asked me during our family devotion one morning who the 12 disciples were. I quickly got out a piece of paper and started to make my list. And you guys, it was so off. I had Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Judas. That was my list, only six, and one of them wasn’t even part of the 12.

On the same piece of paper I quickly jotted down the names of Santa’s reindeer and the all the seven dwarfs but could not name the 12 disciples. And the reality of the situation struck me. My knowledge was shaped by what I had been taught but also what I had chosen to spend my time learning.

Upon pulling out my ESV Study Bible I quickly discovered that Luke was in fact not one of the 12 disciples. I found in the gospels where the disciples are listed and read the names to my kids (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13-14) . While I still cannot list all the disciples names on a piece of paper from memory my list is now much more complete. Lesson learned. Don’t assume you know what you obviously don’t know and be humble in admitting this to others, even your children.

God’s word is slowly imbedding itself into every crevice of my life and at times this can be painful. Reading the Bible points out my own failures and causes me to once again kneel before God and surrender my own desires. The beautiful thing that is happening through reading scripture and knowing God and discovering his character is that God’s desires are becoming my own desires. And that is the beauty of scripture.

Gods word is active and alive and I want it to wreck me. To permeate every part of me so that I can know God and his character. The Bible shows over and over again that God is good and we are not.

Reading the Bible requires discipline. That is it. There is no magic plan just commitment and self-discipline to spend time in God’s word. If you are wanting to start reading the Bible check out The Bible Project or start in the New Testament. I have recently started Reading God’s Story: A Daily Chronological Bible which uses a six day a week reading plan to read through the entire Bible in 365 days. Whatever plan you decide to use just stick with it, I promise it is worth the time and effort.


Thankful Everyday

Each morning I wake up grateful for this life I have. I don’t type this as some cliché but as my true heartfelt sentiment. I am so thankful each morning when my eyes open and I can feel the bedsheets touching my skin and the way my socks feel on my feet. My husband thinks it is weird that I sleep in super thick socks. Even in the summer I sleep in them. When I was sick I couldn’t feel my legs so my socks remind me that I can feel. I can move. I can breathe.

With the Thanksgiving weekend slowly creeping away I always get a tad sentimental this time of year. My mind spins at 100 miles a minute thinking about how thankful I am for this life I have. My life is messy at times, I have three little kids, my bathrooms aren’t always clean, and my kitchen floor usually has several sticky spots on it. But in spite of the mess, when the sunlight starts to creep into our home in the morning and I see our kids awake, running around, playing, laughing, and how the light dances around their head casting an angelic glow against their hair and on their skin I am thankful. Thankful for life and for this moment in time that I wasn’t sure I would have years ago.

As crazy as Josh may make me at times he is the only person in the world who deliberately chose to do life with me. For this reason and many others I want to cherish each and every moment I have with him. None of us are guaranteed a certain numbers of days.

Life can get complicated at times and feel overwhelming, almost suffocating. It is at these moments when I know I can not rely on my own self and when I grateful for Jesus. Grateful for the moments when life hits me so hard I can’t bear the weight of it on my own. Our sufferings, shame, and sadness can either push us away from Jesus or bring us to our knees at the foot of the cross.

This life is the only hell believers will ever know. But for those who die in their sins, this is their only heaven.” Ray Comfort

The weight of this statement is huge. Read it again if you need. This life will be some people’s only heaven. And this is why I am grateful for each and everyday I have. Time is short and precious. We have to make the most of the moments we have. 

While I long for heaven, I am thankful to teach and raise my kids to know about the Lord, to read them the Bible, pray over them, and to be a present loving parent in their lives. I can think of no greater blessing then to see my children in heaven one day.

When life starts to feel like a wave crashing down I remind myself of all that I have experienced and where I am going. My thoughts anchor back to my Lord and Savior. And slowly the worries drift away like the wave going back to sea. I never thought I would see a day when I would have the family I do. So I am thankful each day I rise and feel the sunlight on my skin.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17


In Sickness and Health

“I, Josh, take you, Tamara, for my wife,to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”

The older I become the more I feel the amazing blessing of being loved this way. When Josh and I said our marriage vows to each other on November 10th, 2007 I was in the midst of battling a neurological disorder. There were many unknowns about what our life would look like moving forward.

I became sick several months into our engagement. The save the dates had already been sent when we learned that the muscle weakness and paralyzation I was experiencing weren’t symptoms that would be quickly fixed or even had the potential to get better. Josh was under no obligation to stay with me. Walking was a struggle, driving a car wasn’t happening, and just being able to get out of bed in the morning was hard.

The reality is that most 23 year olds don’t get to start off a marriage the way I did. Our plans for the wedding and honeymoon changed to accommodate my illness. And never once did I feel like I was a burden to Josh. He piggybacked me around the streets of Monterey, California on our honeymoon gladly, carrying me when I couldn’t walk.

During our engagement when I became ill I never once questioned Josh’s love for me. He took time off work to come to my many doctors appointments, held me when I cried out in pain and frustration over my circumstances, and loved me in spite of what was happening.

The way Josh loved me during this time still takes my breath away. There was no guarantee that my health would improve or that we would even be able to have a family together. Although if you ask Josh he will tell you that he knew I was going to get better.

In this beautiful way Josh has sacrificially demonstrated God’s love for me over and over again. God loves me when I am sick and when I am healthy. My circumstances will change but the love God has for me never does.

Yet in the sickness it was harder for me to feel God’s presence and easier to gravitate to Josh. Josh was tangible. I could see, talk with, touch, and feel Josh’s presence even if he was in a different room. I knew he was there. But at times as I struggled with “feeling” somewhat forgotten about by God. What was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life quickly became a dark and shadowy valley. Where was God in the midst of my pain and suffering? My illness taught me that I have to continually depend on God in sickness and in health.

The reality is God didn’t change. My feelings had.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:35

The word of the Lord abides forever. 1 Peter 1:25

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

These verses tell me that everything in life may change, but God’s Word remains and His truth never changes. My feelings may be strong and the situations in my life can rapidly fluctuate but God’s Word is so much more than anything I can ever feel, experience, or face. His Word is true yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

While my marriage vows are a lasting covenant on earth with Josh until death do us part, God has promised to have and to hold me, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, from now into eternity. Even death cannot separate me from God’s love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

We have a choice to either be controlled by our thoughts, feelings, and circumstances or we can utilize the self-control that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit to abide in God’s Word regardless of our feelings or what is happening in life. God’s Word is always truer than our feelings.

What I learned about my marriage and ultimately about God based on the phrase “in sickness and health” is that relationships require commitment. Living out our commitments can be difficult at times especially if our circumstances are challenging. We all have the choice of who or what we will cling to when times get hard.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

The majority of people say their I dos under the most ideal circumstances, not when they are battling their toughest struggle. Marriage is a day to day commitment and continues to remind me of how God loved us and Christ died for us when we were least lovable and when the situation was the least ideal. These difficult times allow us to trust God even in the challenges while building a marriage that lasts. I am grateful for this lesson that I learned early on in my marriage.