Bible Gateway’s Bible Audio App (review)

Typically, I post book reviews. So what’s a review of an audio app doing here? Quite simply, the Bible Gateway Bible Audio App is a wonderful companion piece to the Book of books—the Bible. 

I am a voracious reader, but my all-time, hands-down, nothing-else-is-even-close book is my Bible. I enjoy finding new ways to interact with God’s Word, so I am always on the lookout for study aids or companion pieces. This audio Bible meets this desire very nicely! 

I enjoy how streamlined this app is. Not a lot of options or distractions on the screen. Just pick your passage, select which version you would like to listen to, and tap the big play button. It’s that simple! If you would like to look at the screen while you listen, the verses appear one-by-one at the top of the screen as they are being read. Other options include playback speed, repeat options, and a sleep timer. 

I recently recommended this app to a friend of mine and he wrote, “I have two learning disabilities: dyslexia and ADD. I found the audio easy to listen to and appreciate the large print text. This app is now the first thing and last thing I do every day!” 

The free version of this app is more than adequate, but for a small fee, you can upgrade to add even more versions to your library, which you may then listen to even when you’re not on a WiFi. 

Bible Gateway is owned by Zondervan. Some of the other Zondervan Bible study tools I have reviewed in the past (and I am still using today) include:

I downloaded this audio app for free, and you can too by clicking here. 

10 Marriage Tips For Guys

Guys, here’s how to add heat to your marriage (regardless of its current temperature)—

  1. Let the Holy Spirit continue to develop His fruit in you—this is the only way to become a truly exceptional lover.
  2. Pray for your wife, and pray with your wife.
  3. Say “I love you” every day. 
  4. Learn her love language and speak it regularly. 
  5. Hold her hand. 
  6. Compliment her privately—not just for how she looks or what she does, but for who she is. 
  7. Praise her publicly in front of her friends, family, and coworkers.
  8. Find ways to assure her that she is your #1 priority. Every single day.
  9. Take her out on a date that you have planned. 
  10. Repeat steps 1-9.

“The most joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, trustworthy lovers are Spirit-empowered lovers.” —Craig T. Owens

Got any other ideas? Share them in the comments below so we can all benefit from them.

Handling Tough Texts

How do you handle a hard passage in the Bible? Peter wrote this about Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand….” But if we don’t take the time to wrestle with that passage, Peter says this is what happens next: “…which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).

So here’s a 5-step plan I use when I am working through a challenging passage of Scripture.

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you

All Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16), and the same Holy Spirit lives in a Christian (1 John 2:20). Think about that: the same Holy Spirit that inspired an author to write the words of Scripture is the same Spirit that will illuminate them to you!

  1. Read the difficult passage in context

We will make our task much easier when we “zoom out” from the difficult text and read the whole passage surrounding the difficult verse/phrase. Perhaps we need to “zoom out” even farther to understand why the whole chapter or book was written.

  1. Identify the parts that are clear

Start off by identifying the parts that you do understand, and then see what light that shines on the tricky text.

  1. Cross reference with other Scriptures

Never, ever, ever draw a conclusion from just one passage of Scripture. Paul reminded his audience that he used the “whole counsel of God’s Word” (Acts 20:27) in forming his sermons. If the challenging passage contains an Old Testament passage, look it up; if it references an historical event, read that history. I also like to use biblegateway.com’s excellent search feature to find cross references.

  1. Draw conclusions on what appears to be the main point

Only after you have done step #1-4 should you attempt to draw some conclusions. You will set yourself up for error if you draw a conclusion first, and then try to find other texts in the Bible that agree with you.

The Apostle Peter writes something rather challenging in his first letter. In fact, Martin Luther said this about 1 Peter 3:18-22: “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.” If you would like to see how I walk through the 5-step plan on this “obscure passage,” please check out the video below.

3 Bible Studies For You To Try

Book by book studyLast week I spoke and wrote about some tools you might use to study your Bible. Now I’d like to share some Bible study projects you might try with those new tools. As always, I recommend that beginning Bible studies go verse by verse through the Bible. I believe you will lay a strong foundation for your faith when you systematically put God’s Word into your heart.

Book By Book

I’ll use the book of Ephesians as an example. Using my Bible atlas I find that the city of Ephesus is located along an important trade route, and it is the Roman capital of the province of Asia. My Full Life Study Bible tells me that because so much trade passed through this city, this letter was probably intended to be a circular letter for all of the communities near Ephesus. As a result, Paul is not addressing any specific problems in this church, but writes theological ideas for a broad spectrum of people.

As I begin reading, I paused in the first verse when I came to the phrase “the faithful in Christ.” I asked myself, “What does it mean to be faithful IN Christ? Can I be faithful outside of Him?” By the time I got to verse 3, I saw a similar phrase: “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Now I went back and used a blue highlighter (there’s nothing special about blue, it just happened to be the first highlighter I grabbed), and marked those two “in Christ” phrases. I see two more in verse 4: “He chose us in Him” and “holy and blameless in His sight.” Going through the whole book I discovered 36 times the phrases “in Christ” or “in Him.” This is helpful to me to know the kind of security I have in Jesus.

Another thing that stood out to me were Paul’s prayers for the church. I see His very moving prayers in passages like 1:15-19 and in 3:14-21. I also see in 6:18 that he tells us to pray all kinds of prayers for ourselves and for others. And I see in 6:19 that Paul asked the church to pray for him too.

And always look for “therefore” phrases. For example in 4:24-25 or 4:32-5:1. The “therefore” phrases tell us how to live or think in light of the ideas that were just shared.

Chapter By Chapter

A good place to do this is in the Psalms or Proverbs. These are usually stand-alone chapters. When reading the chapters in these two books, I love reading them in parallel with other translations. For example, check out this from Psalm 1.

In Psalm 59, notice the superscript (or introduction). This gives us some background information to the psalm. Using my concordance, I found that this psalm was written this time in David’s life.

There is usually a theme to each chapter of the Proverbs, so try to discover that. In Proverbs 2, I noticed the “if … then” statements. In the first four verses I see things like “IF you will seek wisdom like this,” and then in verses 5-22 I see a whole bunch of blessings that follow the “then” that starts verse 5.

Word By Word

Sometimes I like to go really deep in a passage, so I slow down and look at it word by word. Here you need to use a Strong’s Concordance of the Bible. I like the one available on Blue Letter Bible. For example, next to 2 Peter 1:5, you can hover over the word “Tools” and select “Interlinear.” Clicking on “Interlinear” you will see all of the Greek words that make up this verse. By clicking on the Strong’s number, you can see the definition of that Greek word. Scrolling down a bit, you can see all of the other verses where that Greek word is used in the New Testament.

None of these tools are meant to take the place of the Holy Spirit. He is called the Spirit of Truth, and since He is the One who inspired all of the Scripture, ask His help before you begin any Bible study.

In this video I go into more detail on how I undertake all of these Bible studies. And be sure to join us next week as we take another look at different types of Bible studies.

7 Must-Have Bible Study Tools

Bonhoeffer - study the BibleIt’s been said that if the only tool a man has in his toolbox is a hammer, he tends to see every problem as a nail. In other words, we try to force every project to be handled in the exactly same way.

Sadly, for many Christians, the same is true with our knowledge of the Bible. If we have limited tools, we try to make every situation look like something we can fix with that smaller toolbox. It’s not enough for us to know only a couple of verses or a few biblical principles, and then try to use those tools to handle all of life’s situations. So let me share some basic tools that will help you expand your biblical toolbox.

Time and cultureThink about how much your culture has changed just in the 70-80 years since your grandparents were born. Think about how wardrobes have changed, and technology, and manners and customs. The earliest book of the Bible was written about 1400 BC, and the most recent book was written about 100 AD. To better understand the things I read in the Bible, here are some tools I like to use:

LanguageEven the English language has changed a lot since William Shakespeare penned his famous plays. But consider that the Bible was written in languages that are even older (not to mention they’re languages other than English!). To really get the full meaning of a passage, here are some tools I use:

Chain of pearls—The Bible is not a collection of isolated, independent stories or concepts, but it is a beautiful string of pearls. Every part connects to the rest of the Scripture. So some resources I use to help me discover how the pearls are strung together include:

What did I miss? What are your favorite Bible study tools? In the comments, please share books, commentaries, or online resources that you use to maximize your study of God’s Word.

This Sunday I’ll be sharing some different styles of Bible studies we can all do. If you live in the Cedar Springs area, please come join a really great group of people at Calvary Assembly of God. Otherwise, watch us on Periscope.

New Year New Attitude

New YearIf you’re looking to challenge yourself to be a better person in the New Year, you couldn’t go wrong with this list—

  1. Hate what is evil
  2. Cling to what is good
  3. Love others with real compassion
  4. Honor others above yourselves
  5. Work hard
  6. Keep growing spiritually
  7. Find new ways to serve the Lord
  8. Be joyful in hope
  9. Be patient in hard times
  10. Be faithful in prayer
  11. Share with others who are in need
  12. Practice hospitality
  13. Bless those who persecute you
  14. Laugh with your friends when they’re happy
  15. Cry with your friends when they’re sad
  16. Live in harmony with everyone
  17. Make friends with those others call “nobodies”
  18. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not
  19. Don’t respond to insults with insults, but with love
  20. Try to do what is right in the eyes of everyone
  21. Live at peace with everyone
  22. Don’t take revenge, but let God handle it
  23. Don’t let evil get the best of you, but get the best of evil by doing good

(Hat tip: Apostle Paul in Romans 12:9-21)

144 Buts

144 ButsThe book of Proverbs has so much timely wisdom. Many of the proverbs are presented as the opposite of what pop culture promotes. Nowhere is this more stark than chapters 10-15.

In these six chapters, nearly every verse uses the conjunction BUT to set apart God’s way from the world’s way. In fact, I counted 144 BUTs in these chapters. Clearly there is a lifestyle that God blesses, and a lifestyle that God rejects. 

I would encourage you to read these proverbs for yourself, but let me give you just a taste of what I’m talking about. In chapter 10, the BUTs show us that doing things God’s way leads to:

  • Joy
  • Eternal treasure
  • Honor
  • Blessing
  • Strength
  • Security
  • Peace
  • Unity
  • Wisdom

And doing things the world’s way leads to:

  • Grief
  • Worthless things
  • Disgrace
  • Rot
  • Ruin
  • Insecurity
  • Violence
  • Dissension
  • Foolishness

Or consider the proverbs about our vocabulary from chapter 12:

  • Wicked words are out for blood, BUT upright words rescue (v. 6).
  • Sinful talk ensnares, BUT righteous conversation avoids trouble (v. 13).
  • Truthful words build an honest reputation, BUT a false witness is never trustworthy (v. 17).
  • Reckless words wound, BUT wise words heal (v. 18).
  • Lies are short-lived, BUT the truth wins out (v. 19).
  • God detests lies, BUT He takes delight in those who are truthful (v. 22).

Take some time to study the BUTs in these chapters, and then comment below on what you find.

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