The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: Why is God so Wildly Inefficient?

Margaret —  February 18, 2013 — 33 Comments

WONDERSTRUCK

We’re already done with Week One of reading the 40-Day Bible Challenge of reading or listening to the entire Bible as an audiobook (free copies here!) during Lent. It’s going fast. We never expected nearly 2000 people to download the free 40-Day Reading Guide in the first 24 hours. You can grab your copy by clicking here.

And we never expected to hear from so many of you—churches printing the guide in their bulletins to encourage congregations to join, men and women inviting their friends to join in the reading and share what they’re learning in small groups and online, and individuals like a sweet man who wrote me and said he grew up Catholic and has never read the entire Bible but he’s determined to do it for Lent this year. Whoohoo!

Reading the Bible in 40 days provides a much different perspective than a slow read. What I’m finding is that reading quickly in large chunks causes me to see and reflect on details I’d otherwise miss.

My hope and prayer is that during the Lenten season, the timeless truths of Scripture will come alive in a whole new way. That the beauty of God’s word will captivate us anew. That glimpses of God’s character will leave us breathless. That in a book or a passage or a single word, we will find ourselves wonderstruck.

A few things I’ve been noshing on this week:

  1. The way books of the Bible begin and end. I love the way the Message Bible records in Genesis 1, “First this, God.” Genesis 50 concludes with the death of Joseph, but Exodus 1 picks back up the story without missing a beat. In Pursuing God’s Love: Stories from the Book of Genesis DVD study, I noted that Exodus begins with the word “And” suggesting these two books are so intimately tied together—a linking of the great big story of God. But now I’m noticing more details like how Exodus concludes with God’s presence—God dwelling among the people once they are set free.
  2. I love the meaning of names—they’re wrapped in significance and provide so much insight. The Message Bible provides some great translations into the meanings of names, but I find myself wanting to know the meaning of every name. I wish there was a Bible that provided the meaning next to every name in the Scripture. Does anyone know of one? I can always type them into Google but phew! that’s a lot of names.
  3. Reading at this pace tends to reveal one main idea or theme or word or image. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. On the first day’s reading, the word that emerged was life—the idea that God is the source of all life, the abundant life, our every breath.

As I continued reading the word blessing kept popping off the page. God is the source of all blessing and blesses abundantly. God blessed humanity (Genesis 1), the seventh day (Genesis 2) Noah (Genesis 9), Abraham (Genesis 12), Ishmael (Genesis 17), Isaac (Genesis 26), Laban (Genesis 30), Jacob (Genesis 32) and the list rolls on through Exodus and into Leviticus. One fellow Lenten sojourner, Philip Huber, noticed this, too, and commented on it. Love that!  

But as I’ve read for the last few days the phrase I can’t get out of my mind traces back to Genesis 8. After the rain finally quit from the great flood, the Bible says, “Inch by inch the water lowered.”

Something about “inch by inch” popped off the page for me.

I began noodling on how God often seems to move inch by inch. Not insta-, not lightning speed, but inch by inch throughout history.

God is not efficient in the way we tend to think about efficiency. We tell ourselves that the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line. And those who win the race are the fastest. And efficiency is all about “get r’ done” to use a phrase from one of my favorite comedians.

If those are the measures of efficiency, God seems wildly inefficient.

The God who created time yet lives outside of time seems to like to take His time. [Tweet this]

Inch by inch the water lowered. Inch by inch Abraham’s faith became strong. Inch by inch Jacob became Israel. Inch by inch Joseph rose to power over all of Egypt. Inch by inch Pharaoh’s heart softened to let God’s people go free. Inch by inch the Israelites made their way through the desert toward the Promised Land. Inch by inch a dwelling was built for God. Inch by inch God gave the people instructions regarding everything from offerings to festivals to infections to how to live with each other.

Inch by inch.

Yet how many days do I look at God and ask, Why aren’t things moving forward faster? Why is the answer to this prayer taking so long? Why aren’t you responding on my timetable 

All too often I forget that God often chooses to move inch by inch. [Tweet this] Inch by inch people move toward making a commitment to faith. Inch by inch marriages are restored. Inch by inch communities are transformed. Inch by inch we grow more Christ-like. When I remember this foundational truth, I’m better equipped to begin moving alongside of God with greater joy and anticipation and celebration of all God is doing.

Inch by inch.

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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33 responses to The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: Why is God so Wildly Inefficient?

  1. Thanks for sharing your observations about time. I hadn’t thought about the connection with several of those people/situations you mentioned. And I can be such an impatient person so these reminders were very meaningful.

  2. I love the inch by inch…such a God picture of how God is at work…even if it seems so slow to us…for me…over the years I have read parts of the law…parts of Leviticus…but reading all the laws one right after another…piling higher and higher… and all they ways to cleanse oneself from being unclean… I could almost feel the full weight…the enormity of “keeping” the law…the cross of Christ is precious to me…but I have an added dimension to the meaning of the cross. And also have gained a deeper insight of what Jesus coming…not to abolish the law but to fulfill it meant for them.

    • AMEN! Thanks Ro for sharing this so beautifully because that is what stood out to me also! So glad to be freed by the blood of Jesus and through His precious sacrifice and Name instead of being under all these LAWS! l so love how you captured what I was thinking as I read and listened.

      I wish The Message was available in audio. But I’m enjoying the NIV with Max McLean much more than the Spanish with ?Rafael Cruz? yet it’s much easier to listen than the strain on my eyes.

      I’m thankful that I am staying caught up “so far, so good” and I thought I’d get buried in all of this history, but I’m actually more appreciative!

    • Ro, amen! Very well said! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Inch by Inch did not jump out to me, however, I love it. It does track with what has been reverberating with me as I read faster than normal and try grasp the over all picture. Which for me has been God’s plan and promises, even when it doesn’t marry up with what I’m thinking (usually time-frame related)…is His sovreign plan and it will play out perfectly in the end. For 8 years now it seems that my life has been blown in the opposite direction than where God told me it would go, it has rocked my faith, I’ve grumbled, complained and thrown temper tantrums…so much like the Israelites I’m ashamed to admit. BUT inch by inch God (who is a personal God)…is present and rebuilding my faith, restoring my trust and healing my heart…brining me into the promise land. My guess is that I wasn’t quite ready for the land flowing with milk and honey.

  4. Well, I guess that answers my “how long” questions. As long as it takes God to do a work in me, inch by inch. Brilliant and encouraging. Thanks, Margaret.

  5. Natalee McRoberts February 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I was wonderstruck right from the start, at creation. As I read, I pictured God as the conductor, backlit like on Fantasia and I could hear the beautiful symphony He created as He brought each instrument into the orchestration. I could actually feel the excitement like electricity zipping through me at the power, beauty, and wonder of it all. Many times I have taught children about creation, but I have never experienced the raw power and strength of our God as I did in that moment. I was definitely wonderstruck!

  6. Thanks Maragaret! This was so insightful! I too love the concept of “inch by inch” and the new perspective this gives! Yes, this truly does leave you WONDERSTRUCK… or overwhelmed like me and so very thankful that Jesus came to fulfill the Law not abolish it.

    Your Tweet really stood out to me here:
    “The God who created time yet lives outside of time seems to like to take His time.”

    And I also like your focus or desire to know the meaning and list of God’s many names! I thought that perhaps the Blue Letter Bible may have what you were looking for but it is just a study “tool” not the Bible with it: http://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/name_god.cfm

    and I came across these but no Bible yet
    http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/the%20many%20names%20of%20god.htm

    http://bible.org/article/names-god

    Dr. Ralph Wilson (The Jesus Walk) also does a Bible study on this: Names and Titles of God http://www.jesuswalk.com/books/names-god.htm, so perhaps he may know.

    • sorry, I could not find how to delete this one and had not signed off …so the other is waiting approval but I did not realize that this one had published. It looked like it hadn’t until I refreshed and saw it twice. :0( (sigh)

      Have a blessed week as we continue being WONDERSTRUCK in His Word!
      Peggy

  7. Thanks Maragaret! This was so insightful! I too love the concept of “inch by inch” and the new perspective this gives! Yes, this truly does leave you WONDERSTRUCK… or overwhelmed like me and so very thankful that Jesus came to fulfill the Law not abolish it.

    Your Tweet really stood out to me here:
    “The God who created time yet lives outside of time seems to like to take His time.”

    And I also like your focus or desire to know the meaning and list of God’s many names! I thought that perhaps the Blue Letter Bible may have what you were looking for but it is just a study “tool” not the Bible with it: http://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/name_god.cfm

    and I came across these but no Bible yet
    http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/the%20many%20names%20of%20god.htm

    http://bible.org/article/names-god

    Dr. Ralph Wilson (The Jesus Walk) also does a Bible study on this: Names and Titles of God http://www.jesuswalk.com/books/names-god.htm, so perhaps he may know.

    Have a blessed week as we continue being WONDERSTRUCK in His Word!
    Peggy

  8. We often forget that God is NOT human. Just because Jesus was born of Mary and the Holy Spirit, lived His life as a human while on earth, He did not continue to be human back in Heaven. We try to hold up “human” to God and it does not fit. This is why He says His thoughts are higher than ours and His ways higher than ours. We have no concept of what it is like to be Him. But we will because flesh and blood does not inherit the Kingdom of God. I have often thought about that moment of transformation from human to a spirit being. It’s not turning into a nebulous ghost but being transformed in the blink of an eye to another life form entirely. It really blows my mind! I try to imagine it but I can’t because I don’t know what God looks like. I think it will take all our breaths away and then we get to see Jesus for the first time.

    • Thanks Wendy! This is GREAT and inexpensive in Kindle. I knew that Ann Spangler has books and does devotionals on the Names of God/Jesus but did not realize that she had put the Names back into their place in the Bible! This is awesome and perfect.

      I was going to add The Names of God by Lampert Dolphin but this is so much better because it’s as they appear in the Bible as you read! Really appreciate this link to this Names of God Bible!

      So Elohim is the first Name of God used in Genesis 1:1 followed by Ruach Elohim in Genesis 1:2! According to this Bible, the key Names of God in Genesis (plus this is done for each book) are: Yahweh, El, Elohim, Ruach Elohim, El Elyon, Adonay, El Shadday, El Olam, El Roi, Yahweh Yireh!!! Awesome! This alone will make the 40 days of reading the Bible so much more intimate and drawing closer to Our God of Wonders!

      Margaret, You’ll really love this one!

      Peace and love … many blessings,
      Peggy

      • Since we’rein Numbers for day 6
        Key Names of God in Numbers

        Yahweh LORD
        El, Elohim God
        Ruach Spirit
        Adonay Lord, Master
        Ruach Elohim the Spirit of God
        Shadday Almighty
        Elyon Highest

        (2011-09-01). Names of God Bible (with direct verse lookup),
        The (p. 174). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

  9. Deborah (Debbie) February 18, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Oh Margaret! I didn’t begin the 40 days through the Bible but how I am wishing I had after reading what you are “seeing”. How I love it when God speaks in unexpected and wonderous way — “inch by inch”. I needed to see this myself today — and now I am off to mull this over, chew on it — digest it — meditate….God has a good word for me here. Thank you for sharing it!
    Blessings as you continue on this wonderful journey!
    Debbie

  10. “The 40-Day Bible Reading Challenge: Why is God so Wildly Inefficient?

    ” was seriously entertaining and educational! Within the present day world that’s challenging to manage.
    With thanks, Jeanette

  11. So far, my momentum has been steady. There is wonder, even in this.
    Exodus – a book I have thought of a a departure is actaully a book of arrival. God’s arrival among his people. God is drawing close to his people. He has heard their groaning and seen their suffering. By the end of the book, he is dwelling with his people, his glory settling in the tabernacle).
    In all this I am reminded of God’s longing for intimacy. He will not stand aloof in the pearly halls of paradise. Instead he will enter into my squalor, a tabernacle in the gritty wilderness of my sordid soul.
    Leviticus – Atonement. At-one-ment. The holiness demanded is a stringent tightrope. I am often at-odds-with. I need to be at-one-with. So atonement comes through sacrafice. It is but a short step from the sacrafices of Leviticus to the Sacrafice of Calvary. The forty days of Lent are leading us there. Good Friday and Easter are on the horizon.

  12. So I’m doing this reading challenge. As soon as I came across your idea through someone on twitter I knew it was exactly what God wanted me to do. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and church and never felt absolutely compelled to read the bible. For (literally) years I have felt like I somehow was just never invited to that particular party. I am now in some pretty heavy recovery from some really ungodly things and working at keeping focused on the right things. The things of God. I have been moved every day so far by the revealing of His word to me and the real connection I feel to Him. I keep repeating to myself that He is the Word . . . and I finally feel that I’m seeing who He really is and that He LOVES me. I don’t know why this is how I have finally come to the bible . . but I know it’s perfect timing and I know it’s Him. Thank you Margaret.

  13. Many thanks for taking some time in order to compose “The 40-Day Bible Reading
    Challenge: Why is God so Wildly Inefficient?”.
    Many thanks for a second time -Carmon

  14. www.biddingdirectory.biz February 21, 2013 at 12:49 am

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  15. Don’t know if someone answered your question, but the (free) online HCSB Bible (http://www.mystudybible.com“) provides meanings and roots for every name and most words! Just hover your cursor as you’re reading and the definition box appears! Happy reading :)

    Also, I’m sad I found out about your Lent challenge so late. I read the Bible all the way through in 90 days last year and it was the BEST experience EVER! I want to read through it every single year in a different way. I think I might take your advice and listen to the audiobible. After all, I have 2.5 hours every day during my commute…

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