keeping His gracious covenant with Your servants who walk before You with their whole heart.”
—2 Chronicles 6:14 (HCSB)
The calendar has flipped over to the New Year, the time we all of think about beginnings, resolutions, and annual plans. If God and our relationship with Him are not at the top of all our 2018 lists, no doubt you’ll agree that some major re-think is in order.
I suggest in the strongest possible terms that a great way to keep God first — 365 days of the year — is to live the year Wholeheartedly.
Christian author, motivational speaker, Bible teacher, devotionalist, and passionate-yet-humble Ambassador of Christ Allison T. Cain has now given us her seventh book, Wholeheartedly: A Chronological Journey through the Bible in One Year. You may not know it yet, but you will be wanting a copy. Here’s why.
Most of us have, at some time, toyed with the idea of using one of the many “Bible in a Year” volumes to read the Scriptures in 12 months — and no doubt some have successfully done it. But as Allison has discovered, reading it in a way that allows you to follow the exact order of the history of God and humans gives both captivating revelation and motivating theology. As you can see below, she believes this to her very core:
“Reading the Bible chronologically has made me want to dance like David in pure abandon, without a care of who is watching and throwing every bit of energy, love and might I have into worshiping our Creator. Not only has it opened my eyes to another incredible and easy way to study scripture, it has given me a deeper understanding of the thread God has woven through history since He created Earth and man. It’s given me an appreciation and eye for Him in my daily life and world events. It’s not that I ever doubted God’s existence, power or attention to detail – it’s just that sometimes I put Him in my “human” box when He is so much more – so much greater. I sometimes simplify the greatness and forget to look at Him with the awe, gratitude, praise and adoration that I should.”
Allison does two major things in Wholeheartedly which, in my view, set this book apart from any other similar volume:
First — Making the Case for Reading the Bible Chronologically
Before turning things over to Allison for her enthusiastic take on this concept, let me set the stage for how this reading Plan differs from others you may have seen. Most “Bible in a Year” Plans give you readings that comprise some chapters in the Old Testament, more from the New Testament, an average of 3 Psalms or so a week, maybe a Proverb or two, and that’s how you proceed. Reading various and scattered parts of Scripture is wonderful, because we know all of the text is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). But the myriad and varied subject matters you are asked to absorb each day in this sort of Plan can be disjointed and hard on the concentration. There is often no logical flow to the daily selections or thematic glue that binds them together.
A Chronological “Bible in a Year” Plan, on the other hand, does just what the name suggests — it selects and arranges the readings in the order they happened — from Genesis (“Let there be light”) to Revelation (“Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”). And suddenly, the one entire, linear, and complete Story of the Bible becomes a true page-turner! The warnings God sends through the Prophets emerge logically from their historical context. Seeing how it grew out of the Babylonian captivity and events thereafter, the Judean social and religious backdrop with which Christ had to contend is much more easily understood, when one immediately follows the other.
If this sounds like you are being encouraged to “read the Bible out of order,” then I have not done well explaining the concept. But fortunately, Wholeheartedly‘s author does a great job. Take it away, Allison!
“It’s a story. I know we already know that, but there is something about reading the story in order that makes it so much better! Imagine reading one of your favorite books out-of-order. Things just don’t make as much sense and are more difficult to grasp and understand (i.e. history timeline, descendants, story lines). I’ve been so excited about ‘the story’ at times, I’ve completed a week’s worth of reading in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.”
“Imagine reading in 1 Chronicles about David, all his struggles, sins, etc. when what comes next is the Psalm he wrote during that time. The Psalms are even more beautiful and full of meaning when they are put into the context of David’s life and trials.
“When you read the Bible in order you have a fresh glimpse into how God’s hand REALLY is in every detail. It’s not just a saying anymore. It’s real. You see His hand at work as each leader or King gains or loses his power. You see how God raises up the shepherd’s son and understand how it all ties together.”
Full disclosure: my wife and I read the Bible chronologically at the time that Allison did, and the three of us eagerly compared notes throughout the year. I can truthfully say that her ebullient description of the experience is right on target.
Second — How to Read the Bible Chronologically
The first help Allison gives you is the invitation to make two choices — (a) which Bible translation you prefer to use and (b) which reading format works best for you. The great thing about the way it is approached here is that, while Allison provides her own suggestions for each of these two choices, Wholeheartedly walks with you, hand-in-hand, regardless of what decisions you make.
When Allison first read the Bible chronologically, she read it in a translation she’d never before read — the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). She found the HCSB to be a superb, highly readable, painstakingly accurate translation into modern 21st-century English. Her suggestion is that you use the HCSB for your Bible reading, and I agree. I use it exclusively, except when I am comparing translations. (More on the HCSB in “Additional Notes” below.) But the versatile strength of Wholeheartedly is that it marries seamlessly with whatever your preferred translation is.
The second choice you have is how you will make your way through 365 days of historical reading of Scripture.
- Do you want one single book which contains the entire Bible, published in the order of your daily readings?
- Or would you prefer a slimmer volume that lists which chapters are assigned to each day of the year, allowing you then to go to your favorite Bible and read them from there?
Option 1: If you choose the first option, there is a book titled Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible by George H. Guthrie. This one volume contains the complete text of the HCSB Bible, rearranged into the chronological order you are seeking. There’s no skipping around needed; you just read page after page straight through until the year is over. Allison supports this book’s approach: “I pray you will consider purchasing a chronological (HCSB) Bible as you begin this study.” (More on this book in “Additional Notes” below.)
Option 2: This option, which I urge you to strongly consider, is exactly what the book Wholeheartedly is all about. It provides a rich treasure of Allison’s personal commentary and reflections, ample set-aside space for your own note-taking and journaling, as well as the entire chronological listing of your daily readings (divided into each week’s seven daily readings). In this slim 120-page, easily portable volume, you find the readings for that day, go to your own Bible (whichever translation you wish to use), and read.
Regardless of which reading Options you choose, Allison gives you structured and thoughtful places for you to write your own musings, questions, discoveries, journalings, and notes, to be kept for your own future consideration.
And perhaps the most important part of the book — second, of course, to Scripture itself — are Allison’s myriad short, enthusiastic, and devotional Bible studies, pulled and expanded from the thoughts she recorded during her own chronological year. Here’s how I see the value of these writings in particular, and the book in general: If Scripture can be thought of as our Teacher and Coach, enabling us to learn truth and to climb higher and closer to God, then surely Allison’s heartfelt, God-centered reflections are like having our BFF-in-Christ sitting next to us, praising God with us, sharing insights and delights, urging us on, and cheering our progress.
Here’s an example of what you’ll find throughout the book in her personal, joyous, God-centered writings. It’s an excerpt from her thoughts about Genesis 2:1-3:
“So, as you begin this adventure through the story of God, please consider that the creator of the Universe, the one who knew you before you were born, the one who knows every hair on your head, loves you and walks with you daily wants to sit down with you. How quickly would you drop everything on your calendar and pull out your credit card to buy a plane ticket if your favorite band, movie star, president or author called to have you over to their home for dinner and conversation?
“Well, your Heavenly Father created this whole Universe, He’s the top dog, the CEO of Life, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the one who holds your life breath in His hand. He loves you so much that He sent His very own son, His only son, to die so that you could live forever with Him in paradise. AND … He wants to know you better. He wants to sit down with you and hear your heart’s desires. He wants to show you His promises of comfort, peace, love, forgiveness, and grace. He desires for you to seek Him when you need wisdom and direction. He wants to be your Living Well. Your stream in the desert. Your lifeline and your listening ear. He will not judge you, but He will love you. He will not disgrace you, but He will give you comfort. He will not condemn you, but He will forgive you.
By now, you know how much value I find in this book. So, how can you most quickly purchase a copy of the 120-page Wholeheartedly? Allison’s website links to Amazon.com, and you can buy it directly online there. You can find information on her first six books online as well.
fully; truly; sincerely; deeply; energetically; devoted; completely; earnestly; having or showing no doubt or uncertainty about doing something or supporting someone.
“I encourage you to jump into this adventure Wholeheartedly — with an unconditional commitment, unstinting devotion, and wild enthusiasm.
“You will never be more excited about the Bible story, and when you turn that page to find Jesus in the New Testament, you will discover and unravel mysteries you never noticed. You will find treasures on every page and learn more than you ever imagined about your Heavenly Father.
“Make this yours, but seek God through His word. Pray He multiplies your time and understanding in ways you never imagined to complete this journey.
“The word of God never grows old or stale. It is always fresh and relevant. I pray you will remain in Him wholeheartedly during the course of this study and revel in His truths and promises He will reveal to your obedient heart.”
I mentioned above that Allison gave praise to the Chronological Bible she first read, and which was the inspiration for her current book. It is called Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible, and is available from various booksellers, mostly online. For now, at least, it is still available at Amazon.com and CBD.com.
Allison also strongly recommended the use of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, along with her own book, to do the 365-day journey. The HCSB and Wholeheartedly are a great fit, as you will find that most of the scriptural quotes she pulls in the book are taken from that translation.
Bad news, however. Holman Bible Publishers has effectively discontinued the HCSB, and issued its “replacement,” the Christian Standard Bible. For reasons too numerous to list here, I find my preference is still strongly for the HSCB. Perhaps I will write another essay here detailing exactly why I feel this way.
So, we have to qualify any reference to the availability of HCSB or Reading God’s Story because of this publishing decision.
At the very least, if you do not already own a copy of the HSCB, I would go to Amazon.com or CBD.com to order one — now!
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