The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: How A Nearly Blank Page in the Bible Spoke Volumes

Margaret —  March 25, 2013 — 18 Comments

The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: How A Nearly Blank Page in the Bible Spoke Volumes

We began a breathtaking journey together of reading the entire Bible during Lent. The 40-Day Bible Challenge has been incredible. We never expected more than 5000 people  (and growing!) to download the Free 40-day Reading Guide. You can grab your copy by clicking here.

We’ve heard from people around the world—pastors, leaders, moms and dads, grandmas and grandchildren. One dad wrote this week to share:

“Just want to say thank you for your vision and encouragement on the 40-day reading. As a husband and dad of 4 with two jobs, finding time to read is a challenge, and my wife has almost become a Bible reading widow.

“Still, this exercise has reawakened (really, resurrected) my hunger for Scripture, and even made Christian music my sole choice (just lost my taste for others). And best of all, I feel a greater clarity of scripture and closeness to God than I had before. Ah simple faith, my old friend. How I've missed you!” 

Now let me be honest. Reading the Bible in 40 days isn’t easy. It demands intentionality. It requires us to reach for the Bible instead of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or the latest episode of Duck Dynasty (love that show!).

But what a way to prepare our hearts and lives for the celebration of the Resurrection—Easter—just around the corner!

During this last week’s reading, the first few days were spent in the minor prophets including Joel, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah and more.

I chuckled as I read Jonah’s story—I have a hunch there’s a bit of Jonah tucked deep down inside all of us. I smiled as I read my old friend Amos. While researching for Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey, I developed a deeper appreciation for this farmer-shepherd-turned-prophet and His earthy expressions of God’s heart.

Then the moment I’d been holding my breath for arrived—The New Testament. Oh, Matthew, Mark, and Luke —your words wrapped around my heart anew.

Jesus, the fulfillment of all God’s promises, busts in on the scene, and takes our breath away—leaving us wonderstruck! [Tweet this]

Yet as I read, the page that gave me the biggest pause contained the fewest words of all.

Just two.

“New Testament.”

You may have missed it. In The Message Bible that I’m reading, it’s but one page from Malachi 4 to the introductory paragraphs of Matthew.

One page. Thin. White. Mostly blank. Requiring only a split second to flip.

But as soon as I flipped the page, I had to go back. And I stared at this nearly empty page for some time.

Because while this one page represented a “Whahooo!” moment, a transition from the Hebrew to Greek Scriptures, the Promised Messiah arriving on the scene, I knew that for the people of God it represented something entirely different.

Silence.

400 Years of…

Deafening silence.

Heartbreaking silence.

Silence has a way of making you second-guess and self-doubt. [Tweet this]

Silence has a way of making you question what you believe, where’s God, and if He’s forgotten you altogether. [Tweet this]

Some might say I’m reading too much into a blank page, but anyone who has ever cried out to God and only heard the silence of God in response knows it to be one of the most painful sounds of all.

I allowed myself to sit. Staring at this mostly blank page. Allowing its weight to sink in. [Tweet this] I reflected on the silence of God in the past. The silence of God in the present.

Then I flipped the page. Joy came rushing in.

Jesus.

The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: How A Nearly Blank Page in the Bible Spoke VolumesJesus who waits with us in the silence. Jesus who intercedes when we have nothing more to say. Jesus who proves to be God’s answer to all we cry out for, all we hope for, all we long for. [Tweet this]

Indeed, Jesus awaits us in our silence.

And somehow, quite mysteriously, a nearly blank page spoke volumes.

What image or word or phrase or idea has been popping off the page as you read the Bible this Lent? [Tweet this] What is the Holy Spirit echoing to you? [Tweet this]

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18 responses to The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: How A Nearly Blank Page in the Bible Spoke Volumes

  1. Luke tells us that a man by the name of Joseph, who” lived in alert expectation of the Kingdom of God,” asked for the body of Jesus. Mark says Joseph of Arimathea was “one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the Kingdom of God.”
    Are we living expectantly? Do we expect God to show up when we pray? When we worship? When we give thanks? My prayer is that I will live each day expectantly, confident that He is beyond my wildest expectations!!

  2. The phrase that I keep coming back to from this Lent Bible reading plan is in Habakkuk 2 in The Message translation….Full of Self, but Soul Empty….
    “Look at that man, bloated by self-importance—
    full of himself but soul-empty.
    But the person in right standing before God
    through loyal and steady believing
    is fully alive, really alive.”
    A self full life that is soul empty or a FULL life that is FULLY alive in Him. LIttle choices every day I guess to live for self that keep a soul empty or to live FULLY alive in Him right now today.

    • Kristen,
      While I haven’t thought about this exact passage, I, too, have been taken by the theme of life, abundant life (John 10) and what that means..from the opening of Genesis, Let there be light, to the ocean teaming with life, to the abundance of life–that is given, sustained by Go. Indeed, God calls us to an abundance of life, really living…that is found in Him.

  3. What is shouting out to me from the pages is God’s ceaseless striving with his people to be done with guilt and embrace righteousness. And then along comes Jesus, God made flesh, who mysteriously–even bizarrely–takes away our guilt and replaces it with his righteousness. His perfect walk becomes our fresh start. A Jew who steers clear of Gentiles, yet re-handles the Law to let everyone in (well, everyone who is willing).

    Jesus. The last, greatest, and most permanent revival story. Our sovereign Lord, judge, and best friend.

    • Charlie,

      I love this…I didn’t see this..but I WANT TO! Where did you so clearly see the “striving..to be done with guilt”. What passage in particular? What story? What imagery? I want to know!

  4. In reading the gospels back to back ….I am pondering how many times Jesus healed someone and told them no to tell anyone….mark 5:43…Matt.8:4…matt9:30…Matt 12:16… To name a few….just pondering asking for insight about this….

  5. Oh, Margaret. One passage?

    Okay, I would dismiss this one as too obscure to pack the necessary wallop had you and I not just read these parts of the bible at this pace and breadth. Going through the OT, you see the ebb and flow of holiness, both in the leadership and in the people. Wickedness seems to peak in Judges until you realize that throughout Kings and Chronicles, you are reading truncated versions of the same thing. Every so often a king will come along who tries to sweep away the foulness, but the people will often resist. Then comes another king who leads the nation astray, but the remnant hangs on. And the tug-of-war continues. And we, the readers, long for a lasting revival to be recorded. When, oh when will this story get good and stay good?

    Then I came across 2 Chron 15, where King Asa takes his turn at hearing and heeding the voice of a prophet, reforming the national policy, and hoping for a reform of the national character. And bless them, they get it.
    2 Chr. 15:15 All Judah rejoiced over the oath; for they had sworn with all their heart, and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.

    Somehow, with Judges, Samuel, Kings and most of Chronicles fresh in my memory, and feeling the sad rhythm of Israel’s dance toward and away from God, this verse shone brightly, reminding me that it is possible for God, king, and commoner to unite in holiness, if only for a time. And what effect would such a triumph have on the hearts of the parents as they raise their children such that
    “they shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord–and their descendants as well.” Is 65:23

    So, there you go Margaret. Two scriptures and a back story.

    • Charlie,

      Love this. Love what you wrote. And until you said, I hadn’t seen the relationship between God and His people as a dance…but it was, wasn’t it? The people drawing near, pulling away, scooting to the other end of the dance floor, God swooping in, grabbing, twirling, tugging close…then away, again, to the far end of the dance floor, down the stairs, out the back door, down the street…all the while, God calling, beckoning, wooing,

      And Christ comes…a flesh and blood invitation to dance…but now the music is different, the steps familiar yet not quite the same..a new rhythm..a new way of dancing….

      Okay. That isn’t what you said at all. But goodness, I’m a sucker for imagery :).

      Love your Scripture and observation. Thank you for taking the time to write and share them!

  6. Your right! There is a blank page there. I guess I just kept on with the reading so missed the blank page, but to me that blank page is a little like us. God writes His story on us using our own personal needs and what he knows is the very best for us.
    I like the way the whole Old Testament points the way to Jesus, and then we turn the page, Here comes Jesus!!!

  7. I’ve been reading and blogging through this challenge. I’m so grateful for Jesus’ arrival. As an evangelical, I’ve been clueless about the gaping hole, that others tribes fill with the apocrypha. So I’ve been reading that on Sundays and learning a great deal.
    God is love
    jpu

  8. I haven’t been doing the Bible Challenge as I only just found out about it is week, but I did start a reading in the Passion Week text this weekend and the Sacred Echo that I keep hearing over and over in the Bible, in Church services, in the TV I’m watching, in everyday conversation, etc. is Forgiveness…particularly God’s Forgiveness and I am Wonderstruck at what all Jesus had to endure and the reason He chose to make this sacrifice…and the fact that He forgave them anyway: the thief on the cross, the soldiers, Judas, Me…

  9. I am going to begin this challenge today. I printed it. Thanks so much for sharing.

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