My Favorite Bible Study Tools

There are SO MANY Bible study tools available. And among them are a lot of great resources as well as a lot of…um…not so great ones. So if you don’t know what you’re looking for (or maybe even if you do), navigating the sea of accessible Bible study tools can be overwhelming. So I thought I’d let you see some of my go-tos. Please note that even though I tried to keep this list short and simple, it can still seem like a lot if you’re just getting started. So after getting a Bible, if you want to start with just one thing, skip to the very end!

My Go-To Bibles:

First things first. The most important tool when you’re studying the Bible is…a Bible.

She Reads Truth Bible – There are a lot of Bibles in my home in a vast array of translations, languages, and editions. But when I’m sitting down to spend time with Jesus, this is the first one I grab. It has helpful resources in it (devotionals, charts, timelines, etc.) but not so much that I get bogged down in overthinking mode. In other words, it has a clean design and doesn’t look like a textbook. It also has wide margins, so it’s a great journaling Bible. (Random fun fact: one of the devotional writers is Jill McDaniel. Who’s Jill McDaniel? She goes to my church and she’s my friend. Also, she’s awesome.)

He Reads Truth Bible – I love my SRT Bible so much that I bought my husband the HRT Bible when it came out. Unlike the SRT Bible, the HRT Bible doesn’t have any devotionals in it. BUT, it does contain more resources (charts and such) that they developed after making the She Reads Truth Bible. Because of that, it’s not uncommon for me to borrow my husband’s Bible.

ESV Study Bible – This is pretty much the gold standard of study Bibles! It’s what I go to when I want to get into the nitty gritty. Its pages contain a wealth of diagrams, charts, notes, and a whole lot more. (Something to keep in consideration is that many of the notes in this study Bible are written from a more Reformed perspective. If that’s a turnoff for you, I list another great study Bible below.)

Digital Bibles:

Bible.com – This is a free digital Bible website and app. I mostly use this when I’m on the go or when I’m looking up passages in multiple versions. (I also link to Bible.com whenever I quote passages in my blog. 😉 ) The She Reads Truth app and He Reads Truth app are also great digital Bible options.

Since words—especially words in the Bible—don’t always mean what we think they mean, here are a couple websites where you can click/tap on a word in a passage and find out what it means: NetBible.org and BibleWebApp.com.

Bible Background Resources:

Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible – I didn’t list this under the “My Go-To Bibles” category because I only have this Bible in Kindle format, so I mostly use it for the articles. If you don’t already have a study Bible, I highly recommend this one! (I link the NIV below, but it also comes in NKJV and NRSV.)

To be honest, I don’t use the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible as much because the following two books are my go-to for historical and cultural background deep dives.

John Walton and Craig Keener, the writers for the notes in the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, are the same people who wrote these commentaries. When I read these commentaries, I often find myself exclaiming out loud, “What?! This passage makes so much more sense now!”

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

A note about commentaries for Biblical studies and ministerial students: I use a lot more commentaries than what I list here. I’m not going to list any of them here, because the point of this post is to give people who are beginning to study the Bible a starting point. Which commentaries are best? It depends on which book of the Bible you’re studying and what you’re looking for in a commentary. So when you’re picking commentaries, do your research and use more than one source when you can (libraries can help!).

If I Had to Pick Just One to Get Started:

BibleProject.com – From the BibleProject website: “BibleProject is a nonprofit animation studio that produces short-form, fully animated Bible videos and other Bible resources to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere. We create 100% free Bible videospodcasts, and Bible resources to help people experience the story of the Bible.”

I love BibleProject so much that I got their ginormous coffee table book that has all the diagrams and summaries from the videos for each book of the Bible.

Honestly, I could spend hours just sitting and watching BibleProject videos. They have so much to explore! But when it comes to my regular Bible study, what do I do with these BibleProject resources? Before I begin reading a book of the Bible, I like to watch the corresponding video that “outlines its structure and design and how it fits into the entire biblical story.” And then I like to keep the coffee table book open close by so that if I feel like I’ve lost where I am in the larger story—especially when I’m reading a particularly lengthy book—I can glance up and get my bearings.


Okay, so I told you some of my go-tos. What are some of yours?

14 Days of Deep and Slow

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Our lives have been interrupted, but this is a time when we can focus on the things that matter most, a time for growth and beauty. So for each day in the next 2 weeks, I’m giving you something you can read or listen to—a blog post, podcast, recording, book—that can help you slow down and go deep in some way.

 

Day 1 | Blog: A Rule of Life

Something I’ve been cultivating is a rule of life, a rhythm of spiritual disciplines. These next couple of weeks are a great time to lean into it even more! If the idea of a rule of life is new to you, here’s something I wrote a couple months ago to give you some ideas to help you start your own.

 

Day 2 | Podcast: Bridgetown Church Series on Scripture (You can also find this on Spotify.)

This series on the Bible is all the yeses and wows. I’m seriously going to listen to it again and again.

 

Day 3 | Book: The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, by John Mark Comer

This book is life changing. And with everything that’s happening, it feels as though this is our moment to fully embrace and live out this message.

 

Day 4 | Music: Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites, performed by Yo-Yo Ma

You can never listen to Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suites too many times in your lifetime. You just can’t.

 

Day 5 | Blog: God’s Presence in Our Suffering

This is the story of my lupus diagnosis and how God reshaped my faith. (If you’d rather listen to it, you can do that here.)

 

Day 6 | Podcast: Ask NT Wright Anything

N.T. Wright. What more do I need to say? Except that at the end of some episodes, he sings a song and plays the guitar. I mean, how cool is that?

 

Day 7 | Music: Universalis, by Hammock

Hammock is my favorite thing to listen to when I want to read, write, pray, and create.

 

Day 8 | Church: Central Assembly’s YouTube Channel

For such a time as this, technology and the internet are a blessing. If you don’t have a church home (or if your church doesn’t have the capabilities to do online streaming of services), you can check out my church’s YouTube channel. (Bonus: my pastor’s a rocket scientist! I’m not kidding!)

 

Day 9 | Blog: Why I Threw Out My Five-Year Plan

If you’re worried about how current events may affect your five-year plan, this one’s for you!

 

Day 10 | Podcast: Go + Tell Gals

This podcast is for women running on mission. These episodes aren’t your typical “You got this!” messages. They are a beautiful, weekly dose of depth + practicality + encouragement.

 

Day 11 | Book: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

I had to put at least one novel on the list! I’m reading through this for the first time and I’m regretting that fact I never read it before!

 

Day 12 | Music: Sleeping At Last Enneagram

A bit of self discovery set to beautiful music? Yes, please!

 

Day 13 | Podcast: The Office Ladies

Laughter and joy are important. Just as I wanted add at least one novel to the list, I also wanted to add something fun.

 

Day 14 | Music: What a Wonderful World, performed by Anderson & Roe

If you need a moment to take your eyes off the darkness and see some light, here you go!

 

Books I Loved in 2019

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After my post about my year of 100 books, people have asked me what books I enjoyed in 2019. Listed in the order that I read them, here’s a list of my favorites—the ones that moved me, the ones that opened my eyes, the ones I can’t stop recommending, and the ones I want to read again and again.

1. The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, by Maxwell King

Mister Rogers made a huge impact on my life. So of course, I couldn’t pass up the first full-length biography of one of my childhood heroes. Bonus: the audiobook is read by LeVar Burton, another one of my childhood heroes!

2. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

I believe reading novels is important. They make us more empathetic, creative, and articulate. This one made me cry!

3. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Jonathan Haidt

Wanna understand Gen Z? This is the book to read!

4. Come Matter Here: Your Invitation to Be Here in a Getting There World, by Hannah Brencher

This book challenged me with Brencher’s vulnerability about depression, loneliness, and the struggles of adulthood.

5. Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt, by Austin Fischer

I couldn’t stop highlighting as I read this book. If you’re struggling with your faith, battling doubt, or feeling disillusioned by Fundamentalism, you want to read this book!

6. The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, by Jemar Tisby

This book is a must read. It hurts in all the right ways! In addition to being a hope-filled vision for the Church in regard to racial issues, it is a beautiful example of how to dig into history and also how to properly interpret Scripture.

7. Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering, by Makoto Fujimura

Wow. This book is about art, literature, culture, suffering and trauma, Japan, the gospel…Almost every page in my book is marked. I had high expectations before I began reading it and it exceeded them.

8. Miss Mink: Life Lessons for a Cat Countess, by Janet Hill

This is a picture book. It’s ridiculous and I love it!

9. The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide, by Jenna Fischer

This book is for aspiring actors, but it has so much wisdom for anyone wanting to go into an artistic field. Also, the audiobook version is fabulous.

10. Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram: A Handbook for Harmony and Transformation, by Adele & Doug Calhoun and Clare and Scott Loughrige

This book goes beyond knowledge about the Enneagram and delves into how we can partner with God to do the transformative work in our lives.

11. You Are the Girl for the Job: Daring to Believe the God Who Calls You, by Jess Connolly

This book is for anyone who has doubted themselves or is struggling to take the next step (or even first step) in what they feel called to do. The author packs this book with so much practical advice, wisdom, encouragement—and no fluff!

“We are the girls for the job because of the God of all capacity who not only calls us but equips us, and dwells within us, enabling us to carry out His plans. We are able to live, to love, to move, to repair, to receive, to heal, to hope because of Him. We are the girls for this job, for this season, for this life, for the joy and blessing of those around us at this appointed time because God has placed us here. He’s called us to be his ambassadors, and he doesn’t make mistakes.”

This book will fill you with a fire and give you tools to move forward and run on mission.

12. Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation, by Ruth Haley Barton

I needed this book. It has shifted my prayer life, my daily and weekly rhythms, how I view my body…It challenges you to go deeper into spiritual disciplines while breaking them down to make them practical and accessible.

What I Learned in My Year of 100 Books

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One of my goals for 2019 was to read/listen to 100 books. I was able to achieve (and surpass) this goal by carrying a book with me everywhere I go and using Hoopla, an app that allows you to borrow audiobooks from your local library.

Here’s some stuff I learned from my year of 100 books:

– I enjoy listening to audiobooks when I’m in slow moving traffic.

– 100 books is too many books for me in the span of one year. I often found myself hurrying to gulp down books to achieve my 100 book goal. And the hurry took away the joy and my ability to think about what I had read. Many books are like a hot cup of tea; they need time.

– I want to listen to more podcasts.  There are some podcasts I started listening to, but I’m way behind because there are only so many hours in a day when I can read and listen to audiobooks. In my year of 100 books, podcasts were too hard to fit.

– A lot of book titles are better than the books themselves.

– Not every book is worth my time. Before this year, I wanted to read all the books. I still love books, but I no longer want to read all of them. I want to read all the good books. Life is too short to waste reading books that don’t challenge, or grow, or delight me. On a related note…

– It’s okay to not finish a book.

– I need quiet in my life. And books—even though you can have quiet while you’re reading—can be noise for my mind. Yes, there are books that are a welcome escape. But sometimes my mind doesn’t need an escape; sometimes my mind needs to be present in this very moment.

So what’s my reading goal for 2020? To read less. That’s right. I want to read less. If I read 5 good books in 2020, that’s enough for me!