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.

Basic Training, Bible

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

Originally published March 10, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

God said to me…/I heard God say…

Listen for God’s voice…

God spoke to me in a dream…

God gave me a vision of…

We hear things like this non-stop these days in pop-evangelicalism. And it’s not just in the whack job Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation movements, or in Charismatic churches, either. These words are coming out of the mouths of regular, every day Baptists and Methodists and Lutherans and Presbyterians, too. It’s largely due to the infiltration of Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine into our churches via a) “Bible studies” from false teachers like Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Lysa TerKeurst and others and b) individual church members who feed on a steady diet of “Christian” television such as TBN, CBN, Daystar, and GodTV. Christians are getting the false idea that they need to hear, or should be hearing, God speak to them instead of trusting in the sufficiency of God’s word.

The theological term for “God spoke to me/showed me in a dream/etc.” is extra-biblical revelation– words or revelations, supposedly directly from God, that happen outside the pages of the Bible. I’d like to share with you six reasons God’s word is sufficient, and extra-biblcal revelation is both unbiblical and unnecessary.

1. Extra-biblical revelation is not the method God has established for communicating with us.
Maybe you and I would prefer it if God would just talk to us and tell us, one on one, in no uncertain terms, what He wants us to do. But that’s not the way that God prefers to communicate with New Testament Christians this side of a closed canon. God chooses to communicate with us through His written word. He says:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2

Let’s bear in mind, it is God Himself who breathed out these words. These verses are God speaking to us, and He says Scripture is enough to make us complete and mature, and to equip us for everything He has for us to do.

When we insist on “hearing God speak” outside of Scripture, we’re essentially saying, “God, I reject Your way and demand you do things my way instead.” Remember, God set up this whole Christianity thing, and He gets to make the rules, not us.

2. What makes you so sure it’s God who’s speaking to you?
Just because you have a feeling, an urge, or an intense experience doesn’t mean that was God speaking to you. Maybe it was Satan. Maybe it was your own wicked heart. Maybe it was a temptation to sin. Maybe it was just an old memory resurfacing. How can you know, objectively (not based on your feelings, the intensity of the experience, etc.), beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was actually God speaking to you? And if you can’t know for sure it was God, why would you put your trust in whatever “He said” to you?

As Christians, we can irrefutably know God is speaking to us when we read His word because we know He is the author of Scripture.

3. Extra-biblical revelation is redundant and unnecessary.
Even those (most of them, anyway) who believe God still talks to people will tell you that God will never say something to you that contradicts His written Word. So why not just bypass the whole “God spoke to me” thing and go straight to the Bible? Or as Puritan John Owen put it:

As God Himself has told us in His written Word, the Bible is sufficient instruction for every situation in our lives. We don’t need God to speak to us verbally. He has already spoken. Why aren’t we satisfied with that?

4. Insisting on extra-biblical revelation demonstrates a lack of trust in God and His ways.
James 1:5 says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

And where do we get wisdom to handle the situations and decisions of life? Not from a voice from Heaven saying “do this” or “do that,” but from Scripture:

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. Psalm 119:130

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word! Psalm 119:169

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; Psalm 19:7

and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15

We don’t need God to tell us what decision to make, we want Him to, because that’s easier than doing the hard work of digging into Scripture, studying the biblical principles that apply to our situation, making the best and most godly decision we can, and trusting God for the outcome. But that’s exactly what God wants us to do:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

When we honor and trust God by looking to His written word for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, He has promised to give us wisdom to make godly decisions and make our paths straight.

5. What about being led by the Holy Spirit?
For some reason people often draw a distinction between being “led” by the Holy Spirit and studying the Scriptures He breathed out, as though they’re two different things. Studying, believing, and obeying the words the Holy Spirit inspired is being led by the Spirit.

6. Extra-biblical revelation sets up a class system within Christianity.
Why do some people “hear” from God and others don’t? The reason implied by the Christian leaders (or even your fellow church members) – who make sure you know they’ve personally heard from God – is that people God speaks to are, spiritually, a cut above. Special. More faithful. More favored by God than you are. It’s like a carrot dangling in front of a horse. It keeps you buying their books, attending their conferences, following them on social media, hoping against hope that one day you’ll become one of the spiritual elite.

But how does the idea that others are “hearing God speak” affect a Christian who isn’t hearing from God? She starts thinking maybe God isn’t pleased with her. Maybe she’s sinning against God in some way. Maybe she’s not being faithful enough, praying enough, giving enough. Maybe God doesn’t love her. Maybe she’s not even saved. It turns her into a second class citizen of God’s Kingdom and causes her to covet something she doesn’t have and God never promised her.

None of this is biblical. There are no first tier and second tier Christians. A lot of the people God actually spoke to in Scripture were hardly paragons of spiritual awesomeness: BalaamSaul, and Moses, just to name a few. And God measures “spiritual awesomeness” not in strutting your closeness to Him before others, but in humility, servanthood, and crucifying self.

Ladies, God’s written Word is sufficient for our every need. We can trust that the words of Scripture are directly from the lips of God Himself. No one can say that with any certainty about extra-biblical revelation. Trust God to direct your paths and give you biblical wisdom to make godly decisions as you grow in the knowledge and understanding of His word.


Additional Resources

Where is it written that God doesn’t speak audibly any more? at Naomi’s Table

Listening to God Without Getting All Weird About It by David Appelt

How God Speaks To Us Today by Tim Challies

Basic Training, Bible

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Originally published February 17, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.bible-authority

The Bible. Scripture. The Good Book. It used to be so blatantly self-evident that God’s written Word was the foundation and standard for the Christian faith that it was assumed. A given. You learned, “I stand alone on the word of God- the B-I-B-L-E,” when you were three or four years old, you believed it, and you moved on.

But take a look at the Westernized version of Christianity these days. The fruit of abandoning the authority of Scripture is chilling. From the demonic tremoring and barking antics of New Apostolic Reformation “churches” to the rebellion of female “pastors” to the “gay Christian” movement to “Christian” abortion doctors, it’s clear that an astounding number of self-professed Christians and churches don’t submit to Scripture’s mandates for their beliefs and practices.

“Whew,” you might be thinking, “my church and I must be OK. We call homosexuality sin. We’re pro-life. Our pastor is male. And the wildest our congregation gets is when Brother Joe bellows a good, hearty ‘Amen!’ during the sermon.”

Those are all good, biblical things and I don’t want to minimize them. But is it good enough? Are there other, more subtle ways you or your church aren’t submitting to the authority of Scripture? And what does it mean that the Bible is our authority, anyway?

Have you ever played Monopoly? If you have, you know that you’re supposed to use a Monopoly board, two dice, the and the game pieces and Chance and Community Chest cards that come with the game. You also know that there is a standard set of Monopoly rules that are supposed to be followed.

monopoly-1356307_640Suppose a friend invited you to play Monopoly but wanted to use a checker board instead of a Monopoly board. Or wanted to create a new rule that you would get $500 for passing Go instead of $200. Or that you could get out of jail without rolling doubles.

Monopoly was created in 1903 by a lady named Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips. Magie created the game to teach people the consequences of having large or valuable tracts of land controlled by private monopolies¹. Each piece of the game and each rule was created with that teaching goal in mind. To alter the rules of the game is to, at best, be out of alignment with Magie’s intentions and purposes, and, at worst, to not be playing Monopoly at all. If you want to truly play Monopoly, learn the fullest extent of the lesson Magie was trying to teach, and respect Magie as the creator of the game, you’ve got to play by her rules. All of them. Even the ones you don’t like or particularly understand.

Many of the same principles apply to Christianity. God set Christianity up a certain way with His own intentions and purposes. If we alter His rules, we’re, at best, not lined up with those intentions and purposes, and, at worst, not practicing Christianity at all. If we really want to honor God, grow in Christ to the greatest extent and truly be practicing biblical Christianity, we’ve got to play by His rules. All of them. Even the ones we don’t particularly like or understand.

But what many Christians are doing today is taking their “Monopoly game” of Christianity and assuming it’s for their own entertainment, better quality of life, or positive feelings. And because they’re largely ignorant of the Creator of the “game” and His purposes and intentions behind said game, the players start tossing out His rules whenever those rules don’t fit the purposes and intentions of the players.

God created you and me and the world and Christianity and the church for His glory. He gets to make the rules. We follow the rule book (the Bible), not because those rules will make us personally happy or successful, but – simply and ultimately – because they are given by God and glorify Him. What He says goes, and we honor Him by our obedience. We need to remember that our role in the game is player, not Creator. Players submit to the authority of the Creator.

When the Creator says…
I created the world in six literal days and here’s how I did it, we don’t dishonor His word by trying to cram evolution in there and make it fit. We believe Him, and we teach what His word says.

When the Creator says…
Ladies, I don’t want you to preach, teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men in the church, we don’t search for loopholes. We search for ways we can humble ourselves and serve God in ways that please Him, not ourselves.

When the Creator says…
Here’s how I want you to pray, we repent of using unbiblical prayer methods such as private prayer languages and contemplative prayer, and we pray the way God wants us to pray.

When the Creator says…
Pastor, I want you to preach the Word, that means pastors preach rightly handled, in context Scripture- not a stand up comedy routine, not the storyline of the latest blockbuster movie, not a half hour of jokes and personal anecdotes, not their own opinions and self-styled doctrines.

When the Creator says…
I want you to stay away from people who teach false doctrine, it doesn’t matter how much we like that teacher, how good she makes us feel, how much we think she’s helping us in our walk with the Lord, or that we’d rather “chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” We reject her, and her teaching, and listen to those who teach sound biblical doctrine instead.

We bow the knee to what God’s word says. Period.

Ladies, if you don’t want to cripple your growth in Christ, one of the worst phrases you can utter about Christian beliefs and practices is, “Well, I just think…” followed by your own personal feelings or opinions. You don’t write the rules.

The Bible says:

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. 
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a

…you…have become slaves of God…
Romans 6:22

If you’re a genuinely regenerated believer, you are the slave of Christ. That means you don’t get to hold, or live by, your own feelings or opinions any more. That’s what lost people do. You are only entitled to God’s opinions as set down in His written Word. Your opinions don’t matter.

mozart

When it comes to Christian beliefs and practices, your experiences don’t matter either. It doesn’t matter what kind of so-called supernatural experience you had where you babbled incoherently or “heard God speak” or saw a “vision” or whatever. If your interpretation of your experience conflicts with the written word of God, your interpretation of your experience is wrong. Something may have happened, but it wasn’t God. (And if something supernatural happened and the Bible says God doesn’t work that way, there’s only one other option.)

When you decide what you’re going to believe and do based on your own opinions, feelings, and subjective personal experiences rather than the written word of God, what you’re doing is saying, “I know better than the almighty, all-knowing God of the universe.” You’re setting yourself up as judge over Scripture. You’re in charge, not God. Doesn’t sound much like a slave, does it?

That’s because Scripture says those who truly belong to Christ will have a heart to keep His word. We will stumble and fall along the way. We will sometimes mistakenly believe things we shouldn’t. But one of the hallmarks of a Christian is that she loves and strives to obey God’s word. Because, as Christians, the Bible is our authority.

ps-119-57


Additional Resources

What does it mean that the Bible should be our sole authority for faith and practice? at Got Questions

For the Authority of Scripture by Dr. John MacArthur

Divine Authorship and Authority at Ligonier

The Authority of the Bible by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word


¹Monopoly (game), Early History, Wikipedia, February 16, 2017
²Amadeus photo and quote courtesy of Orion Pictures, Amadeus1984.

Basic Training, Bible, Bible Study

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: The Bible is Necessary

Originally published March 17, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:1-4

I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily food.
Job 23:12

More to be desired are [the words of God] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:10

I have a question for you. Try to answer it within three seconds.

Where’s your Bible? (Not the one on your phone or computer- your real Bible.)

Were you able to answer in three seconds because you read it today and remember where you left it when you were finished? Because it stays on your night stand and rarely gets opened? Did it take longer than three seconds because you frequently carry it around with you and can’t remember where you most recently left it?

The point of the question isn’t really where your Bible is in geographical relationship to you, but where you are in relationship to your Bible.

David said God’s word was more valuable to him than gold, even much fine gold.

Job said he treasured God’s word more than his daily food.

Jesus hadn’t eaten a bite in over a month, and He still valued every word that comes from the mouth of God over bread.

If someone put a stack of fine gold in front of you and said you could have it as long as you hardly ever read your Bible, would you take it?

What if you had gone without food for forty days and someone offered you a loaf of bread in exchange for your agreement to put your Bible away and open it only rarely? Could you withstand the temptation?

I’d like to believe I would choose God’s word over a stack of gold or even life-sustaining food. But when I think about all the lesser things I sometimes choose to do instead of setting aside time to study God’s word…

…television
…social media
…reading
…sleeping
…hobbies

…well, I can’t help but wonder:

Do I really value God’s word as deeply as He wants me to?

We need God’s word. It is more necessary to us, spiritually, than food is to us, physically. Yet many Christians unintentionally starve themselves spiritually, thinking a “meal” or two of Scripture at church every week (if they actually attend every week, that is) is enough to sustain them. It’s not. We need to feast on God’s written Word every single day.

We need to know who God is

Saved people are in a one-on-one, personal relationship with God. But how can you have a relationship with someone you don’t really know? How can you love Him, please Him, or enjoy spending time with Him if you know nothing about Him? His character, His attributes, His likes and dislikes, the way He operates – these are all integral to knowing this God who created and saved us. And in His infinite love, God has chosen to reveal all these things about Himself in a book we call the Bible.

We need to know who we are

Just as an employee can’t rightly relate to her employer if she doesn’t understand her role, her place, and her responsibilities, we can’t rightly relate to God unless we understand both who He is and who we are in relationship to Him. We need to understand that He is God and we are not. That He is perfect in holiness and righteousness and we are depraved from the womb. That we are sinners in need of a Savior, created for the purpose of bringing glory to God, servants of the most high King. The only place to learn all of this, and more, about who we are, and where we stand with God, is in the pages of His word.

We need to know what God wants from us

What does God want me to do with my money? How can I be a godly wife if my husband is unsaved? Does God think it’s important for me to go to church? Is it always a sin to lie? Is it wrong to watch pornography? In addition to being a revelation of the nature and character of God, the Bible is also an intensely practical book, instructing Christians on issues of every day life and helping us to understand how God wants us to think, act, and speak. God knows we have questions and in His kindness and mercy has provided all the answers we need in Scripture.

We need to hear from God

While the idea and practice of “hearing God’s voice” is unbiblical, the desire to commune with God- to visit with Him as a loved one – is not. We only have to look back to the Garden of Eden to see that God’s perfect design was for people to fellowship with Him. Because of the Fall, we can’t do that face to face this side of Heaven. For now, we talk to God through prayer and worship. He talks to us through His written Word. Constant communion with God deepens our love for Him and increases our Christlikeness.

More than daily food. More than gold. More than any earthly pleasure, wisdom, or experience, we need God’s word. And we need it every day, all the days of our lives.