(Or in my case, 31 days because Chinese New Year season messed up my Bible reading every so slightly. Nonetheless, it was an entire month of only reading the Bible.)
Basically, The Shred is a Bible reading plan that takes you through the entire Bible, all 66 books and almost 800,000 words in it, in 30 days.
The goal of #TheShred is not to have the most comprehensive understanding of biblical contexts and the Bible as a historical text. Rather, it’s a chance to approach the Bible as a storybook, as God’s storybook.Tweet
I’ve heard about The Shred in 2017 through @nathanfinochio, who was once Hillsong NYC’s resident theologian, because he encouraged the church to do ‘The Shred’ with him in Jan 2018, to start the new year on a strong biblical note. At that time, I never thought I could do it. I genuinely thought it was a dumb idea because that would require too much sacrifice on my end, and no one has the time for that. Oh, excuses.
Then 2019 came around and I was not in a place to face the future (context: my US work visa got rejected and I was temporarily in London spending time with my family, not really sure what I was doing with my life). So I ‘missed’ the deadline to join The Shred and I just thought, oh well.
As for this year, for some reason, 2020 took its time to arrive in 2019 December, so I actually got the chance to sit down and reflect on what I hoped for in 2020. I hate doing New Year’s Resolutions, but I had to make a decision on how I wanted to start a new year, a new decade. So after the wild ride of 2019, I hoped that 2020 would feel more stable. (LOL BOY I WAS WRONG)
Regardless of how the year or the decade would turn out, if I craved stability, I needed to build my life on something that is stable, that is always stable. And what is more stable than a never-changing, ever-present God? And the best way to build your life on God is to build it on His Word.
The thing about #TheShred is that it’s not a quick decision – there needs to be intention.
The most important preparation you need to do is make time to read ~40 chapters of the Bible every single day. This means sacrificing activities to get your Bible reading done (I did a social media fast at the same time).
This also means finding ways to make the Bible accessible and readable to you. Some people use audiobooks. Some people actually carve out time and space to diligently read the physical Bible. I got used to reading on my phone so I used the Bible App on my phone and read through it whenever I had any free time, like on the subway or in between work errands.
So here are some fun personal takeaways from finishing #TheShred:
Reading the Old Testament in one shot is actually more fun than the New Testament. I know we get more of our modern ‘morals’ from the NT, but the OT has some good storytelling that is only present in NT’s book of Acts.
The hardest books to get through was NOT Leviticus or Numbers. Those were actually a breeze because this is God’s first establishment of His society, so it’s actually interesting. For me, the hardest books I struggled through were the Kings and Chronicles. Basically, the repetition of kings being stupid is an overdone trope (Josiah and Hezekiah are breaths of fresh air), and those four books are side-by-side and they basically repeat each other.
But my least favourite book in the Bible is probably Nehemiah. I just feel bad for that guy because his book’s narrative was: God tells him to warn people of their sin, he warns people, people try to annihilate him, he survives, he laments, God tells him to warn people again. I pity the guy, and I don’t like pitying anyone.
The funniest book is Jonah. That guy has issues, and so do I. Plus, it’s sobering to see God’s sass shine in this book.
My favourite book is probably still Job, with a close second of Ecclesiastes. In my opinion, these two books are the most human books of the Bible. They not only illuminate our human condition and the general human suffering in the most unique light, but also they remind me that God has meaning in our meaninglessness.
Which leads me to my more serious and general takeaways for us to ruminate on, me included.
God is not hostile, but He is Holy.
The most beautiful thing about reading the Bible as God’s storybook is that I realise that the Bible is God’s romantic pursuit of us. And of all creation to pursue and love unconditionally, He chose us, broken and imperfect humans.
(He could’ve chosen otters or dogs, something more wholesome)
The entire Bible is about how God wants to reconcile with us. But He would never compromise who is He to bend to our image of what a god should be.Tweet
I’ve been seriously thinking about how churches nowadays, in an attempt to attract newcomers and unbelievers, zone in on the truth that God is love. And God IS love. He is graceful and He wants to bless you like a good father wants to bestow the best on his children. He has forgiven your past, and He loves you so, so much.
But if you look at God as who He says He is in Exodus 34:6-7, He is a God that “does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
This is still the God of love. This God is the same in the Genesis/Exodus of the Old Testament, to the Revelations of the New Testament.
When you reckon with a truly holy God – a God that doesn’t tolerate sin at all, you start to realise how unworthy you are to even consider being in the presence of this God.
Yet, God’s holiness has never been about me. The Bible isn’t about me. The Bible is about God. And how wild, awesome, and beautiful is it that a holy God wants to be with me, a human being who consistently falls short of His holiness?
One way to truly enjoy the Old Testament is to hunt for Jesus Easter Eggs.
Like how you would watch through Pixar or Marvel movies foreshadowing or alluding to previous/future movies – read through the Old Testament looking for Jesus. After all, the entire Old Testament is the foundation to Jesus’ eventual arrival in the New Testament, from the sacrifices in the temples, to the lineage of David, to the very beginning where all life begins with one man.
If you read the Bible with the intention of historical analysis, you’ll probably reap the harvest of bountiful Middle Eastern historical analysis with a sprinkle of Rome in the New Testament.
However if you read the Bible with your eyes searching for God, for Jesus – you’ll find Him. Because He’s always been close by, waiting for us to find Him whenever we’re ready.Tweet
If He is the same God of Genesis to Revelations to now, He has always been a holy God who wants intimacy with us, with you, with me.
And He has never stopped His pursuit from the moment Adam and Eve first messed up, to beyond the final amen was written in Revelations, to as you read this right now in 2020. He is holy, but He has never been hostile to us. (In fact, we’re the ones who have been hostile to Him. Me included.)
So I’ll leave you with my FAVOURITE verse out of this entire journey. Proverbs is regarded as the book of wisdom. So I leave you with this blatant, outright, foreshadowing nugget of beautiful advice: