One of the most important things you can do for your congregation is to encourage them to read through the Bible in a year in chronological order. I've created a printed schedule, booklets, and motivational articles to help you do that. Now is a great time to be planning ahead to do this.
Though some of this has only been available for Members of Effective Church Communications in the past, for the coming year I am making all of it FREE to everyone. Please pass on and share with others.
This post has:
- A short summary of why it is important to read the Bible in chronological order this is beneficial, at the end of this post are two more articles. You can use these in any of your communications to encourage your people.
- Handouts for the schedule in MS Word
- A Booklet of the Schedule in MS Publisher
- A short video that shows you how to create the booklet
- Two more motivational articles from my Bible blog, www.untilfulllight.com
Below the video is a link to a ZIP file that has both ready-to-print PDFs and editable, MS Publisher original files of all the materials above.
A short summary of: What reading through the Bible in Chronological order will do for us
We'll understand the whole story of salvation as it unfolds
For many of us, we only have bits and pieces of the story, but when you read it in chronological order you'll see God's extraordinary planning and working out of every detail over the centuries.
We see how God is truly the author of the entire Bible
The Bible was written over 1600 years and yet it has one voice under all the voices and one clear theme—of God seeking, saving, and restoring his lost people.
It will help us understand the uniqueness of the Christian Bible
No other religion has Scriptures written over a similar time period that are as internally consistent as the Christian Bible is. There are no other Scriptures that have historically verifiable prophecies that were fulfilled in verifiable historical settings as there are in the Bible. These are bold statements and you have to read the Bible in chronological order to see them.
It will grow our trust and confidence in our God
The same God who mercifully clothed Adam and Eve after they sinned and promised them a Savior is the same God who formed Israel, guided, and disciplined it, and who from it brought his Son into the world and who lived, died, rose, and formed his church to carry his message of salvation and his return to restore all things.
When you see that big picture and the sometimes difficult lives the Biblical characters lived in the midst of it, it can give you peace and trust to understand your part of the same great story, filled with hope and an assured glorious ending when daily trials threaten to undermine your faith.
CLICK HERE or on the image to download a PDF of the Bible Reading Plan.
Following are images of the two versions of the MS WORD files and three different covers for the Booklet size of the publication.
The booklet is half of an 8 1/2 by 11 page. Though the publication is 8 MS Publisher pages when you lay it out only takes 2 pages to produce it, but you must have MS Publisher if you want to modify it. You can also create the booklet by printing out the PDFs. Below the images is a short video that shows you how to do it.
Images of covers
Video of Booklet Making and printing process
Below is the link to download the booklet illustrated above.
CLICK following to download the ZIP FILE: Through the Bible Booklets and Handouts
Articles on Why Read through the Bible in Chronological order:
Below are two articles you can use in any way you like (web, newsletter, handout etc.) to encourage your people to read through the Bible.
Five KEY Reasons why it's important to read through the Bible in historical, chronological order
Reading through the Bible in historical, chronological order, where you read the events as they took place and where you read the material associated with a historical period close to the same times as reading the historical narrative is much more than an interesting alternative way to read the Bible.
It can be a totally life-changing experience. It will help you grow in your trust in and appreciation for the Bible and will enable you to grow as a disciple of Jesus in a way few other things will. Following are Five Key Reasons why it is important to read through the Bible in historical, chronological order:
God works in linear, historical order
One of the distinguishing marks of the Christian faith is that it views human history as a linear process with a starting point and ending point. In contrast, many Eastern religious systems view human history as an endlessly repeating cycle.
It follows therefore that God's work, His revelation of Himself, and His actions are revealed in historical order. Salvation history builds upon the promise of the Savior immediately after humanity's fall. It moves through the preparation for the Messiah in the Old Testament to His life, death, resurrection, and founding of the church in the New Testament to the promised culmination in the new heavens and new earth.
Revelation is progressive and many of the great themes of the Bible are seen dimly in the Old Testament, further clarified in the Prophets, brought to fruition in the Gospels, and applied to life explicitly by later writers such as the Apostle Paul.
Much of this is missed when Bible reading consists of jumping from passage to passage. Reading that way, you see bits and pieces of God, but not the full display of his grandeur.
God works in and through human history
Not only are God's actions in a linear process, but they are intimately involved in the tangible events of world history. When you read the Bible, and take the time to match it up with world history, you'll see how prophecy predicted becomes prophecy fulfilled.
The Christian faith is the only faith in all the world's religions that is both historical and evidential. The events took place in real history and we have evidence of it.
Unlike many other religions our Bible has maps because the events recorded took place in real places you can visit today. Archeologists have discovered the city of Ur where Abraham lived before he was called out of it to found the Jewish nation. If you search the web today, you can see U.S. troops on some of the temple steps of the city that have been unearthed. When you read about the fear Israel had of Nineveh, you can see the ruins of the place of Sennacherib there the reliefs show in detail the impaling and torture of the people he conquered. The cities Paul wrote his letters to in Asia Minor in the New Testament can be visited today and you can walk on remnants of some of the same Roman roads he traveled to share the good news about Jesus.
When you match the stories in the Bible with the archeological artifacts and historical cities and events they move out the realm of biblical fairy tales and become what they are—real history.
Individual Bible stories make more sense
We've all heard the story of Jonah, but his bad attitude that caused him to run away from God's calling to go and preach to Nineveh makes much more sense when you put it into the historical perspective of his time and life. When you read Jonah in conjunction with the historical passage where he is mentioned, you find that:
2 Kings 14: 23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years.24 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. 25 He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.
26 The Lord had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. 27 And since the Lord had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.
We see from this passage how Jonah had been a prophet who preached deliverance to Israel. He was popular, his message was positive. But now God wants him to go and preach judgment.
Not only will you understand the personal stories and messages of the prophets more clearly as you put them in historical context, but as we go through these books, we'll look at the world history that was going on at the same time. You'll see how Assyria (Nineveh was the capital), was the rising world power. They were a cruel and brutal people and the last thing Jonah wanted was for them to repent. As the previous section mentioned, they were a people known for their excessive cruelty and the last thing Jonah wanted was for them to be saved.
One more insight we learn from understanding Jonah in his historical context is in part an answer to the question, "What about the people who have never heard the Christian gospel?" The book of Jonah would answer, "How do you know who has heard and who has not?" The Assyrians were not part of the "chosen people" and yet God reached out to them in mercy and a great repentance and revival took place. It did not last, but one might assume that when Israel was taken into captivity later, there were believers in Jehovah there to greet them in this most unlikely of circumstances.
There are many treasures like this in the Bible that you will only see if you read it in historical, chronological order.
Reading the whole Bible in this way respects the book and the author
What other book from a comic to a best-seller to a textbook, would you pick up, open a page here or there, glance at a passage at random. and then have the nerve to say you "read the book?" If you didn't read the whole thing, in the order it was written, you haven't read the book.
Do not lie to yourself or others and say you've read the Bible when you heard a few stories at church and read a verse here and there that promised to make you feel good.
What other book would you pull a quote or two out of context and then have the nerve to pass judgment on the usefulness of the entire book?
How can you comment on the truthfulness or trustworthiness of the author when you don't read his words in the order he wrote them? Or how can you critique the flow of his thesis or argument if you haven't read it from beginning to end?
We would never disrespect a secular author the way we disrespect God, the author of our Bible.
One more thing (and I realize this may upset some) DO NOT think you have read the Bible if you read a chopped version of it such as The Story. The Story IS NOT the Bible. It is a selection of stories from the Bible—but it is not the Bible when huge sections of the law, prophets, and basically all the hard parts are taken out. Sadly, many people who read it think it is a version, a modern translation of the Bible (just look at the reader's comments on Amazon for verification of this), but it is not and many people are deceived by thinking they have read the Bible, when what they have read is far from it.
We don't read for fun; we read to be obedient
Leviticus is not a fun book to read. Neither is Jeremiah or a host of other passages that are brutal, confusing, and demanding. But God put them in there so we would understand not only his love, mercy, and the fun, adventurous, stories of his dealings with humanity, but the reality of how we disobeyed and the consequences of our disobedience.
The Bible wasn't written to entertain us or make us feel good (though it can certainly do that at times when it provides eternal hope and comfort), but to show us how to properly relate to our Creator and Lord. To encourage people to read the only the happy parts, the bits and pieces that are easy reading and then later when they have formed one opinion of a God who exists to tell good stories with happy endings and then later to introduce the difficult, demanding parts, the parts that show the depths of our sin that required Jesus die a horrific death on the cross is spiritual bait and switch. The Law comes early in God's dealings with his people and it's tough to get through, but unless we understand early on that we are a fallen people, we won't need to see our need for a Savior.
When critics point to the horrible parts of the Bible that describe human sin and the consequences of it, we need to be familiar with that also. We need to read (though we may never fully understand) the context of God's judgment in situations such as when he sent the Flood to destroy the human race except for Noah and his family and his commands to wipe out the idolatry of people of Canaan. We need to read through the history and prophets in the Old Testament and see the result of continual wars and domestic turmoil because the people didn't obey God's commands. In the midst of that judgment, we need to read about God's unfailing love and mercy no matter how far his people strayed.
When we get to the New Testament, we need to understand that though salvation in Jesus is a free gift, we are responsible for how we act after we receive it. If we haven't read the Old Testament, many of the allusions, references, and commands in the New Testament won't make sense. When John the Baptist says of Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)" we will have a much richer understanding of the significance of that phrase when we've read of the millennia of temple sacrifices that came before it. When Peter says of believers that we are "a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9)" when we've read the demands of the Old Testament priests, we have a greater understanding of our call and responsibilities as believers in Jesus when Peter uses them as a standard of behavior.
To respect the author of the Bible and the book he's given us, we must read the whole thing. Reading it in historical, chronological order is one of the best ways to understand it.
I hope you'll join us in this adventure—a sometimes difficult and demanding, yet ultimately fulfilling one than you can imagine.
By Yvon Prehn
Why read through the Bible in Chronological Order?
As we start reading through the Bible in Chronological order, it's worth asking why we should do it. To answer, ask yourself, why read any story in the order that the events happened?
The answers are obvious. With the exception of the use of flashbacks or other literary devices, we need to read and experience events and character development in their natural time-dictated sequence for the story to make sense, for us to know the characters, and to care about what happens to them. In a non-fiction book we have to know the premise, the background, the arguments for the practical recommendations that follow for them to make sense.
To illustrate the truth of this:
Jump into the middle of a Harry Potter story with Muggles, Quidditch, Dumbledore, and Hogwarts
Open at random a book from Hunger Game Trilogy and read about Mockingjays, Panem, and the Twelve Districts
Open a book on the popular Paleo diet find these terms: paleo/primal, autoimmune protocols, leaky guts, and ketogenic
All of the above are nothing more than a confusing list of names and terms if you don't read the entire book but they would all make perfectly good sense if you read the entire book from start to finish and meet each term in context.
It's no different with the Bible
For someone who did not grow up listening to Bible stories or perhaps grew up in church and wasn't paying much attention, how much sense does it make when you hear about Shem, Jeroboam, and Barnabas or about atonement, sanctification, and justification?
We wouldn't claim to know the least bit about the Hunger Games or the Paleo diet if we only dipped into a few pages of each book here and there, even if we had favorite pages we went back to again and again, so why do we think we know the Bible when for many Christian they have:
- Never read it all the way through
- Or ever read it in Chronological Order
Though all Christians should read their Bibles regularly and many do, it's easy to go back to the books and passages with which we are most familiar.
In addition, and this is a simple, but extremely important reality—it isn't easy to read the book of the Bible in chronological order because they aren't organized that way in our Bibles today. In most Bibles, the books of the Bible are grouped by type: In the Old Testament: history, poetry, prophecy; the New Testament is similar: history, letters, prophecy.
Why are they in the order they are in today?
After researching many sources, the short answer seems to be "because they've always been arranged that way." When I tried to find out why they've always been that way, I didn't find a good answer, but I suspect that when the books were arranged this way, the scribes and later the editors of various translations, from their great familiarity with the content of all the books, knew which prophetic writings were spoken during what king's reign, which psalms David wrote at various times in his life, and what was happening in Acts to prompt Paul to write letters to various churches.
Sadly, that isn't true of most of us today. We may love Jesus, our church, and Christian friends, but many of us don't have any idea what Amos was preaching about or when or the setting of how Cyrus fulfilled a prophecy Isaiah spoke about him 150 years before he was born. We can't appreciate how Jesus fulfilled many prophecies in the Old Testament or the depth of his life and sacrifice as Paul explains them because we have no idea of the Old Testament rituals and the sacrificial system he refers to. We sometimes don't understand the parts, promises, problems of individual passages because we don't understand the big picture.
The end result of this method of interaction with the Bible is two-fold:
- One, because we have no idea of the contextual meaning of the passage we pull out a promise or encouragement we like, interpret it in a way that makes us feel good, and then when God doesn't do what we think he should (and that in reality he never promised to do) we get upset with him and wrongly assume he can't be trusted.
- Two, because we tend to go back to favorite passages instead of reading the entire Bible, we skip the hard parts. These are the parts that are not easy to understand, like Leviticus (but without understanding it, the sacrificial death of Jesus won't ultimately make sense), or the difficult challenges of the minor prophets (who spell out what "to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God" really mean), or the exclusive claims of Jesus as the only way to God and what his death demands of those who follow him (why we are also commanded to take up our cross and are reminded we are crucified with Christ).
It's a little like the description of Aslan, the Christ figure in C.S. Lewis book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh," said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
Reading the whole Bible isn't safe—it will shake and transform every part of your life if you will let it. But it's good.
Why it's good for us to read through the Bible in chronological order
We'll understand the whole story of salvation as it unfolds: for many of us, we only have bits and pieces of the story, but when you read it in chronological order you'll see God's extraordinary planning and working out of every detail over the centuries. You'll see how the entire Bible builds towards the coming of Jesus, this death, resurrection, and promised return.
We see how God is truly the author of the entire Bible: The Bible was written over 1600 years and yet it has one voice under all the voices and one clear theme—of God seeking, saving, and restoring his lost people.
It will help us understand the uniqueness of the Christian Bible: no other religion has Scriptures written over a similar time period that are as internally consistent as the Christian Bible is. There are no other Scriptures that have historically verifiable prophecies that were fulfilled in verifiable historical settings as in the Christian Bible. These are bold statements and you have to read the Bible in chronological order, along with an understanding of history to see them.
It will grow our trust and confidence in our God: the same God who mercifully clothed Adam and Eve after they sinned and promised them a Savior is the same God who formed Israel, guided, and disciplined it, and who from it brought his Son into the world and who lived, died, rose, and formed his church to carry his message of salvation and his return to restore all things. When you see that big picture and the sometimes difficult lives the Biblical characters lived in the midst of it, it can give you peace and trust to understand your part of the same great story. It will fill you with hope and assurance of our glorious ending when daily trials threaten to undermine your faith.
To download a PDF of Bible Readings in Chronological order, CLICK HERE.
To download an MS WORD file of the Bible Readings in Chronological order, that has clickable links, CLICK HERE.
by Yvon Prehn