Bible, Bible Study

My Favorite Bible & Study Apps

Many of my readers have asked1 for recommendations of good apps for reading and studying the Bible. These aren’t the only good ones out there (I’m sure there are hundreds) but they’re a few of my favorites, and they’re all free.

BibleGateway– This app has the whole Bible in many different translations and languages. Several of the translations are also available in audio format so you can listen to the Bible as you drive or do other activities. Additional helpful features include footnotes, cross references, and parallel panes for viewing a passage in several different translations at once. There are Bible reading plans and other study resources such as commentaries, Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, and study Bibles. Not all of the devotions and “translations” (e.g. The Message, The Voice) are trustworthy, but if you stay away from those, Bible Gateway is excellent.


Faithlife Study Bible– A wonderful study Bible with copious notes, charts, articles, maps, photos, and even videos. It comes with several free translations (the Lexham English Bible is their default translation, and a good one), an audio feature, and community groups you can join.


The Study Bible– A great little Bible study app from Grace to You. The entire text of Scripture (ESV, KJV, or NASB), search, audio, highlighting, notes, and you can synchronize your account across devices. Access John MacArthur’s daily devotional and tons of sermons. And, if you’ve always wanted a MacArthur Study Bible, but cost was an issue, all of the study Bible notes and features are available as an add on for just $5.99.


Bible Hub– Bible Hub has so many helpful resources I tend to forget that you can just read the full text of the Bible on it, too (in dozens of different translations – mostly decent ones). Tons of commentaries, sermons and thematic/topical outlines to accompany every Scripture reference, daily devotions from Spurgeon, Tyndale, and others, Strong’s lexicon, parallel passages and chapters, interlinear, Bible book overviews and outlines, a timeline of the Bible …and so much more. It’s like having a theological reference library on your phone. There are literally thousands of resources – impossible for me to vet them all – so if you choose a devotion, commentary, sermon, etc., be discerning.


Blue Letter Bible– Sort of the “diet” version of Bible Hub, but it still has a number of great features. Several translations and languages are available, notes, highlights, audio, parallel, reading plans, interlinear, sermons, commentaries, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, and much more. This one also has an interesting feature: you can auto scroll (instead of scrolling manually) as you read through the text of Scripture. I imagine this might be very helpful for folks with arthritis, tremors, or limited manual dexterity. Be discerning about any sermons, commentaries, etc. you might choose.


The Olive Tree Bible– A good, basic Bible app. The Bible portion of the app is ESV default, though there are other downloadable versions. Good cross references, audio Bibles, and a number of Bible reading plans are included along with standard notes, highlights, and other features.


Literal Word– Literal Word is a very simple, streamlined, NASB-only (New American Standard Bible) app. It has the typical notes and highlighting features, but that’s basically it, except for one handy feature: integrated Hebrew and Greek lexicons. What does that mean for you? Simply click on a word as you’re reading, and the info box will tell you the Greek or Hebrew word and its definition(s). A great app if NASB’s your jam, and you just want to read the Bible without all the bells and whistles.


Legacy Standard Bible– This one’s great if you’re an LSB geek. But even if you haven’t had the pleasure yet, this is a super, no-frills Bible reading app that will help you get acquainted with this new, rock solid translation. The full New and Old Testaments are now available (LSB only). In addition to standard notes and highlighting, the LSB app does have a unique interlinear feature available, as well as a handy word click Greek and Hebrew lexicon feature. Syncs with your Accordance account if you’ve got one.


ReadingPlan– All Bible reading plans, all the time. There are literally hundreds of plans to choose from (there was no way I could vet even a fraction of them, so be very discerning) in this great little app. Download the one you like, set your start date, link up your favorite online Bible, and start reading. You can even sync and share your progress and set a daily reminder for reading.


1Some of the requests were from readers who wanted an alternative to YouVersion (Bible.com) and The Bible Recap, neither of which I would recommend.

Bible, Bible Study, Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Context Message Me

Originally published December 3, 2013

Yesterday, I saw several friends and organizations re-posting this article (and others like it) on Facebook. The gist of the article is about teaching the Gettysburg Address to students in a “stand alone” sort of way without teaching that it has anything to do with the Civil War.  

As a teacher myself, this seems utterly ridiculous to me. How can students grasp the full meaning, depth, and impact of the Gettysburg Address without knowing the history and events that led up to it, who wrote and delivered it, the people to whom it was delivered, and why it was delivered?

Yes, a few things can be gleaned merely from the text itself, but is that all we want our students to learn about the Gettysburg Address? Are we satisfied for them to merely skim the surface of this document and leave with a superficial (and likely, incorrect) understanding of it, or do we want them to dig in and learn all they can about it?

And then it hit me: What many of us would not abide in the classroom, we embrace in the sanctuary.

What many of us would not abide in the classroom, we embrace in the sanctuary.

Week after week, many Christians sit under pastors and Bible teachers who fail to preach and teach God’s word in context. A verse from one book is thrown in here, a half verse from another passage, there, like so many sprinkles on top of an ice cream sundae.

No mention is made of the historical (pre-Exile or post-Exile?) or cultural (Was this written to Jews or Gentiles?) context of the passage.

Prescriptive (thou shalt/shalt not do X) passages are conflated with descriptive (here’s what happened to this particular guy) passages, leading to confusion over law, grace, and precisely what it is that God wants from us.

Promises that were never meant for 21st century Christians (because they were written only to a specific person/people at a specific time) are ripped away from their intended audience and plastered, bait and switch style, onto you and me. (I’ve always wondered why Jeremiah 29:11 is preached as applying to today’s Christians, but verses such as Jeremiah 29:17-19 are not.)

Pastors and teachers treat individual Bible verses and brief passages as “stand alone” items rather than showing how they fit into the immediate context of the surrounding passage and book, while simultaneously neglecting to show how those Bible tidbits fit into the broader, complete story of the gospel revealed across both Testaments.

Pastors and Bible teachers, myself included (and, believe me, I’ve failed many times in this area, too) are to care for those who sit under our teaching by doing our best to handle God’s word correctly (2 Timothy 2:15) and by preaching and teaching, as Paul put it, “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). May we as teachers not merely skim the surface of God’s word, but proclaim the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. And may our hearers demand nothing less.

Bible Study

How to Study the Bible- and How Not To!

Originally published December 31, 2020

It’s almost the new year! Are you making a resolution to start having a personal, daily Bible study time? Would you like to improve on the way you study your Bible? Maybe you’re looking for a Bible reading plan, or maybe you’re just looking to change things up a little?

If that sounds like you, give a listen to this December 2020 episode of A Word Fitly Spoken:

How to Study the Bible – and How Not To!

Amy and I discuss what our own Bible study times look like, plus some other helpful methods and resources. We also discuss false doctrine and false teachers to avoid as you’re studying your Bible.

This episode is a great way to kick off the new year. And don’t forget to subscribe to A Word Fitly Spoken on your favorite podcast platform!

Additional Resources:

Bible Study Resources (how to study the Bible)
Bible Studies
Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2022

Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends

Bible Study

Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2022

Happy New Year! Do you make resolutions or set goals you’d like to accomplish during the new year? A lot of people resolve to read the Bible more often or read it through in a year. If that’s you but you’re not quite sure where to start, here are some awesome and unique reading plans that can help¹. (Click titles for links to each plan.)

1. The Chronological Plan

I cannot recommend this plan strongly enough. You’ll read through the entire Bible in a year, following the events as they happened chronologically. I have been through this plan several times (I even took my ladies’ Sunday school class through it in 2014). It is wonderful for helping you see the big picture of the Bible as well as how all the little pieces of the biblical puzzle fit together.

2. 5 Day Bible Narratives Reading Plan and Family Devotional

You can use this year long, 5 days a week plan individually or with the whole family. It “focuses only on the narratives [stories] of Scripture, along with all of the psalms and proverbs,” and includes a 52 week catechism, a weekly hymn, and a study guide for each day’s reading. You can access the plan online, in CSV format, in Google Calendar, and via daily email notifications.

3. The M’Cheyne Plan

How about reading through the Bible in a year with your spouse or family (you could also do this one individually)? With the M’Cheyne plan you’ll read through the Old Testament once, the New Testament and Psalms, twice. Each day, you’ll read an OT chapter and a NT chapter as a family and another OT chapter and NT chapter on your own (“in secret”). Free Daily Bible study offers suggestions for making this a two or three year plan if one year seems too daunting.

4. Getting Back to the Bible

This 9-week plan designed by John MacArthur is a weekly, rather than daily plan. You are given a block of Scripture at the beginning of each week, and you decide how to break it up into manageable daily chunks that fit your schedule. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments. In 9 weeks, you’ll read through Mark, Luke, John, Romans, Proverbs, and part of Psalms.

5. The 21-Day Challenge

New to daily Bible reading and don’t want to bite off more than you can chew? Try Back to the Bible’s 21-Day Challenge. Each day, you’ll read one chapter in the book of John, and in three weeks, you’ll be finished. It’s a great way to get your feet wet.

6. God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment Plan

“The God’s Glory In Salvation Through Judgment Bible Reading Plan will aid your study of Scripture by helping you see the gravitational center of Scripture, God’s glory in salvation through judgment. This Bible reading plan follows the order of the Hebrew Bible and the canonical order of the New Testament.” This one year plan is available in two printable formats and a Kindle format.

7. The 90 Day Challenge

Another great one for those who struggle with long term commitment. “The 90-day Bible reading plan integrates readings from Genesis, the foundational book of the Old Testament, with the three [synoptic] Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. On one side you’ll see God’s creative work and earliest interactions with His people; on the other, you’ll get to know Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us, fulfilling the promises made even in Genesis.”

8. Every Word in the Bible

Take time to slowly savor God’s word with this relaxed pace plan. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testament to keep you from getting bogged down in some of the more difficult sections. You’ll read through the whole Bible, one to two chapters per day, in three years.

9. Praying the Psalms

How about a two-fer: Bible study and prayer? From Don Whitney’s Praying the Bible, this is an undated 31 day schedule for praying through all of the Psalms, five psalms per day (except on the 31st day – Psalm 119 stands alone!). Try it for a month, do it every month for a year, or intersperse it with other short plans. The schedule also includes instructions and guidance for those new to praying Scripture.

10. John MacArthur’s Bible Reading Plan

If you like lots of flexibility and designing your own plan, this one’s for you. It’s really more of a guideline of how much of the Bible to consume and how to break it down. You handle the specifics. “Read through the Old Testament straight through at least once a year. About three chapters a day should get you there…When it comes to the New Testament…Read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more.” Also includes Dr. MacArthur’s brief instructions on how to study the Bible.

11. The Five Day Bible Reading Program

“This special Bible reading system allows you to read the entire Bible (or just the New Testament) in one year while only reading five times a week. Five readings a week gives room to catch up or take a day off to focus on other Bible reading or spiritual disciplines, and makes daily Bible reading practical and do-able…The Old Testament readings [except Job] are placed as chronologically as possible.”

12. The Bible’s Grand Narrative

“Over the course of a month, follow along with a reading plan…comprised of twenty-eight readings, offering a selection of passages that follow the broad narrative of Scripture. This plan stretches from Genesis to Revelation, making important stops along the way.” Geared toward new Christians.

13. Bible Reading Plan for Beginners

“The Bible Reading Plan for Beginners takes into account the great number of people who do not have a strong background in the word of God. This plan gives you a stepping-stone so that you do not have to read straight through every word of Scripture the first time. It starts you with the basics. After you feel comfortable at this level, then you can go on to the entire Bible.

The Bible Reading Plan for Beginners is a plan for reading about 40% of the Bible in 170 days (about six months). In this plan, you will read much of the Old Testament story, every chapter in Psalms and Proverbs, the two gospels of Mark and John and several of the New Testament epistles (including Romans, Philippians, Titus and others). You will not read the details of the ceremonial law, lengthy genealogies or difficult prophecies.”

14. Chronologically Thematic Whole Bible Plan

The idea of this plan is to show you how the New Testament fulfills the Old. “Starting at Genesis 1, this plan moves chronologically through the Bible, but when a weighty person, place or theme is mentioned, other parts of Scripture are read alongside to go more in depth with the person, place or theme. Thus there are both Old Testament and New Testament passages all year, but they relate to each other thematically.” Unique to this plan are special readings for certain holidays, such as Easter, Christmas, Advent, and more. This is a six day per week plan if you wish to finish in a year, but it is undated, so you can set your own pace. Readings take approximately 30 minutes each.

15. The “How to Eat Your Bible” Plan

My friend, Pastor Nate Pickowicz’s latest book, How to Eat Your Bible, is a gem in the Bible study genre. This brief book is packed with great instruction on how to approach studying your Bible, and culminates with Nate’s seven year Bible reading plan, which you can customize.

16. Who’s Who of the Bible

A fascinating topical study. In 121 days you’ll learn how God works, teaches, and reveals Himself through people, including major characters of the Bible and not-so-major characters. Each day’s passage is linked so you can do your reading on site from the translation of your choice, or you can print out the chart to use with your regular Bible.

17. 4-Month Layered Bible Reading Plan

Can’t wait a whole year to get from Genesis to Revelation? Would four months work better for you? In this fast-track plan you’ll do three readings each day: one from Old Testament history, one from Old Testament poetry / prophets, and another from the New Testament. Each reading takes about 15-20 minutes.

18. 31 Days to Know God’s Plan for Us

Though it’s billed as a plan for new Christians (and it’s certainly an excellent plan for that), this would also be a wonderful plan to work through to help you present the gospel to others, or to suggest to a lost friend who’s open to learning the gospel. Day 1 starts with the Fall of Man. Then you’ll work your way through OT passages demonstrating our inability to keep the law, followed by NT passages from the gospels and epistles detailing what Christ did for us and how that applies to us for salvation and eternity.

19. The 6 Month Challenge

“Over six months, this plan takes you through the New Testament from Acts to Revelation. This plan also integrates the worship and wisdom of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes on a daily basis, for a balanced diet of instruction and intimate time with God.”

20. Bible Reading Plan Generator

This handy dandy little algorithm allows you to design your own Bible reading plan. You choose the start date, the length of the plan, your language, your favorite format, which books of the Bible you want to read, which days of the week you want to read, and several other options, and the Bible Reading Plan Generator creates a custom designed plan just for you.

Bible Reading Plans for Children

(Need recommendations for children’s Bibles? Click here.)

Depending on the age and maturity of your child (especially teens), I would certainly recommend any of the plans above or in the “Collections” section below. Perhaps you would want to start off with one of the shorter plans or one of the plans designed for new Believers or those who are new to reading the Bible. That being said, here are a few plans that are billed as being designed specifically for children:

Through the Bible in 20 Days– “…intended to be a child’s first exposure to regular Bible reading…geared toward ages 8 to 10. It includes twenty days of reading to be spread over one month, with five readings done per week.”

Through the Bible in 60 Days– “…designed to be a child’s second exposure to regular Bible reading,” this plan builds on the 20 day plan (above). “…geared toward ages 11 to 13. It includes sixty days of reading. This could be spread over three months, with five readings done per week.”

100 Day Summer Reading Plan– Though dated for the summer of 2021, this plan could be used at any time of the year. It breaks down the main plot points of Scripture into seven sections in case your child needs a break between sections. More info. here. (Please note I have not vetted, and thus, am not recommending anything on this page except the reading plan. Zondervan’s theology has been sketchy at times.)

Children’s & Teens’ Bible Reading Plans– Dozens of plans of varying lengths that will take your child through various books of the Bible, Bible overviews, topics, etc. Several of the plans have a few reading comprehension style questions for your child to answer at the end of each day’s reading. I was not able to vet all of these due to the sheer number of plans, but the several I checked appeared to be doctrinally sound. There are also helpful hints for encouraging your child to habitually study the Word. Carefully vet any of the additional or supplementary resources recommended before using them. I am recommending the reading plans only.

Be sure to thoroughly vet (for sound doctrine) any plan or website before assigning it to your child.


Collections of Reading Plans

Need more suggestions? Check out these collections of Bible reading plans:

  • Ligonier– A wide variety of plans, most available in PDFs.
  • ReadingPlan– There are literally hundreds of plans to choose from (there was no way I could vet even a fraction of them, so be very discerning) in this great little app. Download the one you like (Settings>>Reading Plan>>View Available Plans), set your start date, link up your favorite online Bible, and start reading. You can even sync and share your progress and set a daily reminder for reading.
  • ESV Bible– Here, you’ll find several good, “no strings attached” plans available in PDF format for easy printing. But if you sign up for a free ESV/Crossway account, you’ll have access to more than twenty great reading plans, many of them only 5-7 days in length. You’ll be able to read the day’s text, take notes, and track your progress, all online.
  • Bible Study Tools– Some awesome “start any day you like” plans, ranging in length from ninety days to two years.
  • Bible Gateway– Several great plans, especially if your church uses the Revised Common Lectionary or the Book of Common Prayer and you want to follow along at home. Log in each day and the selected text is displayed on your screen, or subscribe to your plan via e-mail. (Note: I would not recommend the Daily Audio Bible plan. It uses several different “translations,” which is an interesting idea, but while some are accurate, reliable translations (ESV, HCSB), others are faulty paraphrases (The Message, The Voice). However, many translations on Bible Gateway have an audio option, so pick another plan with a good translation and listen away!)
  • Into Thy Word– A number of diverse plans, including one in large print, from 31 days to one year in length. Available in PDF or Microsoft Word formats.
  • Heartlight– Five different one year plans that will take you through all or parts of the Bible. Daily passages are linked so you can read online, but translations are limited, so you might want to use the printable PDF guides with your own Bible.
  • Blue Letter Bible– Several one and two year plans that cover the whole Bible. Available in PDF format.
  • Bible Plan– Yearly and monthly plans, one chapter per day plans, and a few miscellaneous plans. Sign up for daily reminders for your plan via e-mail. These plans are available in many different languages.


Additional Resources

The Mailbag: Which Bible Do You Recommend?

The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it

Nine Helps for Starting and Sticking to Daily Bible Study

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them

The Mailbag: As a newly doctrinally sound Christian, should I stop journaling? (Taking notes on the text of Scripture.)


Which plan looks most interesting to you?
Have a plan you love that isn’t listed? Please share!

Bible Study, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?

Originally published May 15, 2017

Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study? 

Can you recommend a Bible study we can do with our teens/children?

Next to being asked whether or not a particular teacher is doctrinally sound, this question, or some variation of it, is the one I’m most often asked. And, to be honest, it’s a question I have a love-hate relationship with.

I love (LOVELOVELOVELOVE) that women ask me this question because it means two things: they want to study, or teach their children, the Bible and they want to be sure what they’re learning or teaching is doctrinally sound and in line with Scripture. That’s the central reason my ministry even exists- I want Christian women to be grounded in the Bible and sound doctrine, and it brings me unbelievable joy and encouragement when I see women seek that out.

The hate part has nothing to do with the people asking the question, but with the prevailing line of thought in evangelicalism that has led them to ask the question. Namely, that the people in the pew aren’t capable of studying and understanding the Bible for themselves- they need some Christian celebrity to tell them what it means.

This is scarily reminiscent of the pre-Protestant Reformation ideology that ruled Roman Catholic “Christianity.” The pope and the priests, not the Scriptures themselves, told Christians what to believe. Catholic rulers prohibited the people from having copies of the Bible in their own language and martyred many Bible translators and Reformers. Only the elite, those in leadership, were supposedly able to comprehend the Scriptures and dispense doctrine to the common Christian.

Twentieth and twenty-first century evangelicalism hasn’t taken that direct and violent route, but rather, has gradually brainwashed – whether intentionally or unintentionally – Christians into thinking that if they’re going to study or teach the Bible, they have to have a curriculum, book, or DVD study in order to do so. Teach straight from the Bible with no leader’s guide or student books? It’s practically unheard of in the average church, and hardly anyone is equipped to do so. Why? Because for the past several decades, that’s how Bible study has been presented to church members. You walk into Sunday School and you’re handed a quarterly. Somebody wants to teach a women’s Bible study? She’s sent to peruse the shelves of LifeWay for a popular author, not to her prayer closet and her Bible. Using teaching materials written by somebody else is just assumed.

Well in my opinion, it’s time for another reformation. A Bible study reformation. And, so, with hammer in hand, I have one resolution I want to nail to the door of Church As Usual:

I will no longer help perpetuate the stranglehold the pre-packaged Bible study industry has on Christians. If you are a 21st century believer with access to a Bible in your native language and doctrinally sound preaching and teaching I will not recommend a Bible study book or program to you. You need to pick up the actual Bible and begin studying the God-breathed text for yourself, and teach it to your children. 

“…my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”¹

Ladies, I know you may feel inadequate, but don’t give in to those feelings. Try. Pick a book of the Bible, start at the beginning, and read it through to the end, taking as much time as you need. You might just be pleasantly surprised at how well you grasp it. That’s because, if you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit resides within you and will help you to understand the Word He authored.

Read directly from the Bible to your children. Ask them simple questions about the passage: How was this Bible character obedient or disobedient to God? What can we learn about what God is like from this chapter? What does this passage teach us about prayer, forgiveness, loving each other, kindness, etc.? Explain any big words they might not understand, or look them up together.

Afraid you might get something wrong? Confused by a particular verse? That may happen from time to time, and that’s OK. Bible study is a skill just like everything else. Nobody ever tried a new task and was perfect at it the very first time. But God has not only given you the Holy Spirit who will never lead you into doctrinal error, He has given you a pastor, elders, teachers, and brothers and sisters in the Lord to help disciple you. Ask questions, trust God to illumine your understanding, and keep right on practicing.

There are also a myriad of reference materials that can hone your skills and help as you study your Bible (see the “Additional Resources” section below). And there are some fantastic, easy to read books on theology by trustworthy authors that can give you greater clarity on various points of doctrine. By all means, read as many as you can get your hands on.

But when it’s time for Bible study, study your Bible. When it’s time to teach your children, teach them the Bible. You can do this, ladies. Women with less education and fewer resources than you have access to have done it for centuries and have flourished in their walk with the Lord.

Trust God. Study hard. You can do this.


Additional Resources:

Bible Study resource articles

Bible Studies by Michelle Lesley

The Mailbag: We Want Bible Study Answers

The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

10 Bookmarkable Biblical Resources for Christian Women

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study


¹Just a little tribute to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.