When you attend a conference, whether in person or virtually, it’s a lot of back-to-back speakers, panelists, break out sessions, coffee and content. After countless hours and several days, it might be fair to say you don’t remember much, and you likely implement even less. Which is why it’s typically good advice to take notes and at the end of every day (before the Happy Hour networking meet up event) review your notes, summarize them for yourself, and decide what is worth remembering and what you actually want to act on and how you intend to do so. (Spoiler: Your boss will likely ask what you learned when you get back anyway, so you’re setting yourself up for success here.)
Reading the entire Old Testament of the Bible feels a lot like this.
- Conference Tracks: aka A Handful of Genres: Law, Prophecy, Wisdom…
- Sessions: actually 929 Chapters
- Quotable Moments: 23,145 verses
- Speakers/Panelists: Multiple authors, some unknown, each with their own style
It took me January 2020 through April 2021 to finish reading the Old Testament, taking notes daily. So before rushing into the New Testament, I decided to take the Conference Recap approach, and go back and reread my notes. There are a few big themes I took from those 39 books (and a lot of little ah-ha notes too about specific sections).
Over the next week, I’ll highlight each of the big themes and eventually tackle the quirky #HotTake “No way?!” details that struck me along the way.
Welcome to Day 1 of my Old Testament Conference Recap.
1. It’s about God. It’s not about you.
Do you read a biography about Abraham Lincoln like a self-help book looking for lessons on parenting, relationships, and communication? That might be weird. You probably just wanted to learn more about Lincoln.
Unfortunately, we tend to approach the Bible that way, like a self-help book for our specific life concerns. We even create books and “studies” around topics we care about in 21st century America and group a bunch of unrelated texts together to try and cobble together a narrative we can remember and apply for Christian life success. Taking a Self-Help approach to reading the text is why (in my opinion) certain verses throw us for a loop, confuse us, offend us, and intimidate us.
This is why memory verses, without context, can be dangerous. We take a historical moment or a piece of wisdom, that was shared with a specific person or specific group of people, at a specific point in time and cultural context… and we try to transform it into a broadly applicable life lesson. And some of us try to take our half-sentence advice quote and apply it to our super specific time sensitive personal situation. Sometimes that might be okay.
Hot Take: Most times it’s NOT.
Memorize verses. I’m not saying you shouldn’t. But read the context first and make sure you understand what it is and isn’t really about before you turn it into wall art or try to “speak truth” into someone else’s life (more on that one in another post).
Read the Bible to learn about God, and how the people of God (from those time periods in their specific situations) interacted with God, followed his lead (sometimes), how God reacted, how the people tried to take things into their own hands, how God expressed his thoughts, how he warned them time and again, how he used other people to share his message, and how he called people to return to him time and again.
Approach the Old Testament to learn about the culture, what people thought, about their leaders (the good and the bad) and most importantly read it like you’re reading a biography about God.
Challenge yourself NOT to immediately ask how this applies to you or your situation. It will make more sense. (And it will make it easier to read the chapters that are like an Ancestry.com lineage for a family you’ve never met.) Again it’s not that application questions are a terrible idea. But don’t start there. Don’t approach the Bible with that as your end goal. Getting to know God is the end goal.
Day 1 Review
The Bible is about God. Learn more about him. Stop always trying to make it about me.
Upcoming Review Sessions
- Context matters
- Long term planning
- The wrong definition
- Silence vs. Spoken
- Bonus Notes: Myth Busting