Throughout this year, I’ve been on a journey through The MANual, my NIV Bible for Men. Each week, I wrote a GodBuddy post containing lessons from a book (or group of books) of Scripture. These lessons are written primarily for men but many are certainly also applicable to women.
In this final post of the series, I share my reflections on this journey. I hope it encourages you to take the same journey at some point in your life. (When you are ready, here is a page with links to all posts so you can easily access any lesson).
Why Take This Journey?
At the beginning of the year, I challenged you to join me on this journey through the Bible primarily to help you. But it also was to help me!
Over the years, I’ve found it difficult to stick with a Bible reading plan or devotional book for any length of time. Maybe it was because I did not have accountability to anyone or a group who would read together. Maybe it was that I was afraid knowing the Bible would change me. Deep down though, I knew that understanding the lessons of Scripture could help me become a better man.
So this year, I was committed!
With the world stuck in COVID-19 variants again this year, I felt everyone should rediscover the importance of faith, family, and friendships. I personally needed to strengthen my knowledge that God was in control to help me cope with the grip of the lockdowns in this pandemic.
In the Beginning
My initial post in this series suggested we “downshift” to intentionally pursue the good life God offers by journeying through the entire Bible together. My belief is that men who know their Bible well, know how to be better husbands, fathers, friends, and men. So I decided to begin by knowing my Bible better.
Last year over the holidays, I stumbled across a copy of The MANual, a New International Version (NIV) Bible for Men that came from my former pastor. Over the years, I found the NIV and NLT (New Living Translation) Bibles easiest to comprehend due to their modern language. Their style was simpler than the majestic King James Version (KJV), which is full of “thou shalt not” and “the Lord calleth” of early English writings. Maybe it’s just me but I find the KJV hard to follow.
So as is the case when reading any book, I started my journey at the beginning with Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament.
Why Use The MANual?
My resource for this year-long journey is a Bible specifically designed to speak to Christian men. The MANual is written in an honest and straightforward style. It addresses our unique role as men in the face of a culture that actively works against God’s way. Zondervan Publishing writes that The MANual “helps motivate men to redeem their God-given passions, drives, and purposes so they can live out their faith.”
Now, who wouldn’t want that type of motivation!
The MANual Bible has over 1,500 pages of content. I intended to follow the flow of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, while using a mixture of these features to tackle the issues men face.
I also liked the five features used in The MANual. These features, “written by men to men who are fellow travelers on this adventure called life” include:
- Myths – articles about a common, accepted myth from the world, with a first-person story of a man who struggled with the lie and how it affected his life. Each concludes with principles from God’s Word that debunk the myth.
- Men of The Bible – profiles of selected men of the Bible with must-know, interesting facts, written in a creative, edgy style. Each profile highlights how God used this man despite his failings.
- Downshift – notes that include penetrating questions to pause and ponder. Where am I headed? What’s true? Why do I do what I do? What do I need to do differently?
- Knowing God – words that will help us know Him better and how to live as men created in God’s image.
- At Issue – some no-nonsense, hard-hitting brutally honest truths on issues that all men battle such as sex, money, jealousy, and pride from each section of the Bible.
I decided to use these features in my posts. I will admit though that I modified some to fit my distillation of longer books into a single digestible post though. My apologies to the publisher!
What Went Well on the Journey
The good news is that I made it through the entire Bible in 52 weekly posts.
My goal was to write an easy-to-follow, digestible post on each of the 66 books of the Christian Bible. (Check out my post, Between the Old and New Testaments for more about why some Bibles have different books).
I quickly realized that was not so easy.
The Bible’s “Big Story”
Here is where I use one of the features of The MANual to describe the “big story” of the Bible. The story known by most Christians consists of four parts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.
The Old Testament describes how God created a perfect world. It describes how Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden led to “The Fall” of humanity and the “original sin” that carries forward in many generations. God promises His people that they could enjoy a better life if they followed His commands. But their continual rebellion led to a change in plans.
The New Testament details that God, The Father, sent His One and Only Son, Jesus down to earth to teach us how to live and love. Sadly, the ancient people crucified Jesus on a cross. Thankfully, Scripture includes the Good News that He rose again to redeem us from our sins. Scripture also explains that Christ will return one day to judge all that is evil so be ready as He will restore those who truly believe to an eternal life with God.
In short, a journey through the Bible provides a history lesson with stories about God’s plans for how to live a wonderful life.
What Did Not Go So Well on the Journey
When I started mapping out how to fit the entire Bible into one year, I realized that I needed to combine some books together to make the schedule fit. While I deviated a bit from my original map, The MANual helped me group some together into consolidated posts. For instance, the Introduction to The Prophets includes separate posts on the Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. There’s also a single post on John’s Letters (1, 2, 3 John).
But I also feel that I didn’t do some books justice.
My original goal was to keep each post between 1,200 and 1,500 words. However, I often exceeded that limit and still didn’t cover the main points in that lesson.
I also found some books, like Psalms, required multiple posts. I also wish I could have split other books into multiple posts. In full disclosure, I often struggled to read the entire text of Scripture each week. At times, I relied on the summaries in my NLT Bible to help me distill books into a single post.
I guess these are reasons why some Bible reading plans take 2 or 3 years!
Some Surprises Along the Way!
One of the most surprising impacts actually came before I even started this journey. A former member of our church told me he used some of my GodBuddy posts to lead a men’s group discussion at a local restaurant. Inspired, I decided to incorporate bullet points for those aforementioned 5 features to use as personal reflection and discussion questions. It also led to the “GodBuddy Focus” section at the end of each post with an action point for the week.
Also during this past year, I began work on a book based on my GodBuddy concept. Over the years, many guys in our church’s men;’s group suggested I turn the GodBuddy concept into a book.
So this last winter, I began re-writing posts from the first two years of this my blog into a manuscript, which eventually became a book. In August, I self-published Get Out of Your Man Cave: The Crisis of Male Friendship.
The inclusion of bullet points and focus questions in my MANual posts also led to creating a section at the end of each chapter of my book called “Personal Reflection Questions”, along with some “Group Study Questions.”
Side Note: I would be honored if you would buy a copy in eBook or print on Amazon. You can also pre-order bulk copies for your small group or request a signed copy by contacting me directly at this link.
The GodBuddies blog may not have thousands of followers. The book may never become a New York Times bestseller. But these creative outlets do “check a box” on my bucket list since I can say I’m now a published author. They’ve also challenged me to know my Bible better.
Since its release, I’ve been a guest on a few podcasts to discuss the book and related topics. I’ve also been invited to some speaking engagements next year too. (You can access all those podcasts and live stream recordings here).
This journey through the Bible helps me talk more intelligently about biblical concepts. I give God all the glory for any success that comes from my writing or speaking so I’ll trust how he uses me this year.
Another outcome of this journey is that I will attempt to include the GodBuddy Focus and action points with each new post because -as one national men’s ministry leader says, “When a man gets it, everyone wins!”
In the End, God Wins!
My post on the final book of the Bible, Revelation, reminds us that —no matter how much the world seems to be spinning out of control, God wins! I can now trust in His plans.
The end of my year-long journey means I can return to writing posts that help men become better men. My posts are likely to still include references to Scripture. They will also include examples and practical ways to find GodBuddies and nourish those friendships.
God Buddy Focus
This journey through the Bible during a pandemic year showed me the importance of knowing the Bible better. While I still have a long way to go in my knowledge of God’s Word, my understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus has increased. I also feel more equipped to help you become better men.
Another is seeing the importance of having close friendships with a few godly men. This journey strengthened my belief that men need deeper friendships who desire to learn together, support each other with prayer, and encourage each other. It shows that having GodBuddies is very important when things get tough, especially during a pandemic or personal crisis.
- Review the list below of this year’s posts. Read (or re-read) those books of the Bible that you know the least about.
- Find a group of men who are committed to learning more about the Bible and start a discussion group.
- If you need meaningful friendships, get a copy of my book about why deeper, more authentic friendships are so important to your growth as a man.
The next post begins a new year with a renewed focus on us becoming more godly men.