Light of the World: Let There Be Light

With The Good and Beautiful God series coming to a close, South Ridge Church has officially started a new message series titled Let There Be Light. With a new message series comes a new daily devotional.

For those not subscribed to the South Ridge Blog, feel free to subscribe on in order to receive the daily devotional in your email inbox each morning. And now…let’s begin.

(Begin with 1-2 minutes of silence)

One Scripture passage that is communicated regularly in our culture — through music, movies, or other forms of artistic expression — is Genesis 1:3. The NIV translation reads, And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

 According to the Bible, light was the very first thing created by God. Light, it seems, was necessary for everything else that was to be created afterward. Light makes that which was invisible, visible. Light, the Scriptures declare, would not exist without God. 

The CSB Study Bible rightly notes that when God speaks, He does so with universe-changing authority. The creation of light, therefore, isn’t something God just decided to create one day. It was an essential aspect of God’s creation. It was foundational for the rest of God’s plan. It was central to the inner workings of the entire universe. And God declared that the light was good.


     GENESIS 1:1-5

When God speaks, He does so with universe-changing authority. In what ways is God speaking to you today? 


Heavenly Father, there’s a part of me that recognizes just how much power and authority You have, but I know I sometimes  live like my own wants and desires are all that really matters. Help me to remember that You are central to everything that is good in life, and that as long as I continue to seek You I will continue to grow into the person You have made me to be. May I rest in You and Your Word today. Amen. 

(End with 1-2 minutes of silence)

A Closer Look at the NLT Life Application Study Bible (Third Edition)

What is the the NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible?978-1-4964-3928-4.jpg

Way back in 1988, Tyndale Publishers released the first edition of the Life Application Study Bible. At the time, the Study Bible market was fairly slim. By releasing a quality Study Bible with commentary, charts, notes, and profiles of over 100 different people throughout the Scriptures, Tyndale did an admirable job of helping the Bible make sense to the modern reader.

Over 30 years later (October 2019), Tyndale has now released the Third Edition of the NLT or NIV Life Application Study Bible. And even though the Study Bible market today is flooded, the Life Application Study Bible continues to set a very high standard, and it remains the best-selling Study Bible on the market.

What’s new in the Life Application Study Bible?

According to the publisher, somewhere between 30-40% of the Third Edition is new compared to the First and/or Second Edition. This is primarily because there are major topics of conversation today (such as shame, equality, gender, etc.) that were not well represented in the commentary notes 30 years ago. As such, Tyndale reassembled the original Life Application Study Bible team, hired additional young women to help with the editing, and revamped the look, feel, and commentary notes throughout the Study Bible to make it even more applicable to today.

Who is the NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible for?

Personally, I would wholeheartedly recommend the The NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible as somebody’s first Study Bible. Even if it’s not your first Study Bible, it’s worth having one of these on your shelf.

From a marketing perspective, the publisher notes that the LASB is the most complete Bible ever compiled. Even though this is nothing more than marketing hype, there’s a lot to love about the NLT (or NIV) LASB.

All in all, the LASB is an excellent all around Study Bible that does a great job of explaining how to apply each passage by answering the question, “So what? What does this really mean? Why is this important for my life? How can I actually apply this in my life?” Below are a number of examples that show how the LASB answers these questions by encouraging the reader to live out the Biblical text well.

Example #1: Deuteronomy 5:7

Deut 5.jpg

Both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 list the Ten Commandments. Deuteronomy 5:7 is the first commandment, “You must not have any other god but me.”

The LASB Commentary note reads, “A god is whatever people use as the driving force in their lives. Some people literally worship other gods by joining cults or false religions. In a more subtle way, many worship other gods by building their lives around something other than the one true God. If your greatest desire is for popularity, power, money, relationships, or even a healthy lifestyle, you are devoting yourself to something other than God. To put God first, (1) recognize what is taking his place in your life, (2) renounce this substitute god as unworthy of your devotion, (3) ask God for forgiveness, (4) restructure your priorities so that love for God is the motive for everything you do, and (5) examine yourself daily to be sure you are giving God first place.”

Admittedly, this is quite a detailed commentary note! Whether somebody is a young Christian, or has matured deeply in the faith, there is plenty here for any reader to reflect on when thinking about whether or not she is worshiping another ‘god’ or not.

Example #2: Exodus 20

The other passage on the Ten Commandments includes this commentary note:

“Why were the Ten Commandments necessary for God’s new nation? At the foot of Mount Sinai, God showed his people the true function and beauty of His laws. The commandments were designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness. In them, people could see the nature of God and his plan for how they should live. The commands and guidelines were intended to direct the community to meet the needs of each individual in a loving and responsible manner. By Jesus’ time, however, most people had come to look at the law the wrong way. They saw it as a means to prosperity in both this world and the next. And they thought that obeying every law was the way to earn God’s protection from foreign invasion and natural disaster. They failed to see that keeping the law should be the means to fulfill God’s ultimate law of love.”

Example #3: Psalm 1:1-2

Psalm 1 is one of my favorite Psalms, as it has a lot of helpful reminders about life transformation. The first two verses read, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”

The LASB Commentary note reads, “We can learn how to follow God by meditating on his Word. This has become difficult in an age of sound bites and banner headlines. Meditating means spending time reading, thinking, marking, and reviewing what we have read. It means asking how we must change and grow so we will live as God wants. Meditating on and understanding God’s Word are the first steps toward applying it to your everyday life. If you want to follow God more closely, you must take time to know what he says.” 

Once again, this applies well to both the young and the mature Christian.

Example #4: Matthew 4:3-4

Matthew 4:3-4 reads, “During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The LASB Commentary note reads, “The devil tried to get Jesus to doubt his Father’s love, protection, and provision. Jesus was able to resist all of the devil’s temptations because he not only knew Scripture but obeyed it. Ephesians 6:17 says that God’s Word is a sword to use in spiritual combat. Knowing Bible verses is an important step in helping us resist the devil’s attacks, but we must also obey what the Bible teaches. Satan knew Scripture, too, but he purposely misquoted it, disregarded its real meaning, and had no intention of obeying it. Continuing to study and know what the Bible says and what it really means helps us follow God’s desires rather than the devil’s.”

Remembering that the Scriptures can be used for both good and evil is an important reminder. God has an enemy, and that enemy will use anything – even twisting God’s own words – in order to accomplish evil objectives. Commentary notes such as this one and the one for Psalm 1 are excellent because they encourage the reader to not only read the text, but to memorize it, meditate on it, and review it regularly.

What about the other features of the Life Application Study Bible?

JeroboamThere are nearly 150 profiles of different people throughout the text, as well as hundreds of charts and maps. Having just completed a 10-week series on some of the kings of Israel and Judah, the Life Application Study Bible had a profile for at least 8 of them.

This picture of Jeroboam’s profile  provides a good example of this.


Are there any negatives to the Life Application Study Bible? 

This is a really hard question to answer, as preferences are very subjective. As I’ve been reading primarily from the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible over the past year, I can offer the following observations.

  • The paper weight of the Life Application Study Bible is quite thin, which does allow bleed through from other pages. Though this is generally common among major study bibles today.
  • The NLT or NIV Life Application Study Bible is 2-color. The NLT has more Green for charts, maps, and profiles, and the NIV has more Red for charts, maps, and profiles. Compared with the 4-color (full color) printings of other major Study Bibles available today, it would’ve been nice to have more color. But given the significant amount of content, this is a very minor quibble. Full color likely would’ve required a slightly heavier weighted paper, which would make it too heavy to comfortably hold.
  • Perhaps my biggest gripe is that some of the charts use hard to read fonts. Below is an example of a chart provided in 1 Kings 6 on Solomon’s Temple. The light green font on a light green background is really hard to read. I’m honestly not sure how this passed through the printing editors without being noticed.

The top portion of the picture reads 1. Most Holy Place with Ark of the Covenant. The bolded font is easy to read. The other is a light green font with a light green background.

Is there anything else I should know?

Hmmm…let me think.

  1. If you want to have a closer look, here is a sampler that offers additional insights into the NLT LASB. You can also click here to see some videos and additional graphics about the Third Edition of the LASB.
  2. My copy of the NLT LASB weighs in at around 4 pounds. I think my NIV Cultural Background Study Bible in fairly similar in both dimensions and weight. As such, reading at a desk or table is easier than holding it in hand.
  3. The font is fairly small, but as a 42 year old I’m able to read it without much difficulty. The Biblical text is a fairly dark-weighted font which stands out well against the white paper. Biblical text: 8.5 point font. Commentary Notes: 7 point font.
  4. The LASB contains one ribbon marker. So having an additional bookmark on hand would be helpful for most readers.
  5. There are both Red Letter Editions and Black Letter Editions available. The primary difference is that Red Letter = Jesus’ words being printed in red font. I find the red font more difficult to read, so I purchased a black letter edition.
  6. As of November 2019, there is not a digital edition of the LASB Third Edition available. The Second Edition is still widely available with software or Bible apps such as Olive Tree. Personally, I prefer reading a paper Bible as I’m less likely to get distracted. (I imagine a digital edition will be made available at some point in the future.)
  7. My opinion is that the NLT (or NIV) Life Application Study Bible is an excellent resource, and one I’ll be utilizing on a regular basis.

Thoughts on Gentleness

This past week was an interesting one. As we at South Ridge Church have been focusing on the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) throughout the Summer, I had the pleasure of studying the topic of Gentleness. Had I been asked to define Gentleness before the message, I’m quite certain my personal definition would not have compared with the definition I discovered in my studies.

According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Gentleness, has a dual meaning.

  • Gentleness is not only applied in outward behavior or our relationships with others. But primarily an attitude reflected towards God Himself. It is that attitude of spirt [in which] we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resit.
  • Gentleness is getting angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason.

Regarding this understanding of Gentleness, I took this opportunity to challenge the people of SRC with two questions:

  • Who and/or What may be preventing you from experiencing the Gentleness of God?
  • Who and/or What may be preventing you from expressing the Gentleness of God?

The beauty of these questions is that there is likely a different answer for each person. One individual may not experience the Gentleness of God due to their own sinful nature (Galatians 5:19-21). They may miss out on experiencing the Gentleness of God because they get involved in things such as pornography, sex outside of marriage, other forms of lust, putting someone or something before God, resenting others for what they have, outburst of anger, intimidating others, regularly disagreeing with others, drunkenness, getting high, and so much more.

Or maybe they don’t get to experience the Gentleness of God due to other things they use to hide from God. Social Media, Entertainment, News, Diet, and so much more. These, too, may be excuses we use to hide from God. We don’t believe His dealings with us are good, which causes frustration. Pain. Hurt. Shame.

These are just some of the things that may be our go-to’s because we don’t accept that God’s dealings with us are good. As a result, we get into a terrible cycle.

We don’t believe God’s dealings with us are good.

         We give into something that’s a part of our sinful nature.

                We don’t experience the Gentleness of God.

                      We don’t believe God’s dealings with us are good.

                           We give into something that’s a part of our sinful nature.

                                We don’t experience the Gentleness of God.

                                     And on and on and on the cycle goes.


As the cycle continues, we may become more frustrated with God. Or we feel shame, so we hide from God. Or we try to numb our pain by going to something or someone other than God. And the cycle continues. Again. And again. And again.

In order to experience His Gentleness, we must first trust – completely, wholeheartedly, confidently – that God’s dealings with us are good. When we don’t, we miss out on experiencing His Gentleness. And then when we miss out on experiencing His Gentleness, we miss out on being about to express His Gentleness in our other relationships.

So, this week, consider these questions:

  • Who and/or What may be preventing you from experiencing the Gentleness of God?
  • Who and/or What may be preventing you from expressing the Gentleness of God?

Once you’re able to identify (at least) some of the things that may be preventing you from experiencing & expressing the Gentleness of God, only then can you consider how God may be inviting you to experience & express His Gentleness in your relationships with others.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.

Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. (James 1:22 NLT)

hcsb journaling bible review:

We live in a technologically driven age. As such, anybody can, at any point in time, pick up their phone or tablet and read God’s Word. There are many apps that give quick and easy access to Scripture Reading Plans, Devotionals, Study Tools, and so much more. YouVersion, Oliver Tree, Logos…the list goes on. God’s Word. Right there. Just a few clicks away.

Personally, I find reading the scriptures in this way simple. I can have notifications pop-up on my iphone every morning, reminding me what passage to read for the day. I can have my daily reading sent directly to my email inbox. And I can quickly and easily keep track of where I am in a reading plan.

However, in my own personal reading times, I’ve began to notice a disturbing trend by reading or studying in this manner. I’ll come across a scripture passage that I previously highlighted, and have no real idea why I highlighted it in the first place. Sometimes I’ll recognize a note that I wrote (or typed) for a specific passage, but the study note makes no sense to me. “That’s fascinating,” I’ll think to myself. “But I have no idea why or how that information is useful for me right now.” It becomes quite clear that I didn’t include enough detail as to why I wrote it to begin with!

Due to this, I’ve been re-working how I’ve chosen to read and study God’s Word. I will often read a passage, sometimes on my phone or iPad, or sometimes I’ll grab my HCSB or NLT Study Bible, and then I’ll take the opportunity to journal out some thoughts on what I’ve read. I often use a real notebook. Actual pen and paper. Crazy, right?

Well this week I received something that may help in this regard. The HCSB Journaling Bible.

The HCSB has been one of my go-to Bible translations since it was first released. I won’t say it’s the best translation on the market. I will simply say that the best Bible translation is the one you’re reading. But the HCSB is a very good translation. If you’re unfamiliar with it’s origins, you can read more about it here. But what I really want to focus on today isn’t the translation, but the Journaling Bible as a whole.


FullSizeRender-2This image here shows some of the go-to Bibles I have on my shelf. From bottom to top, it includes the NLT Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, Disciple’s Study Bible, HCSB Ultrathin Large Print Bible, and the HCSB Journaling Bible. By comparison, the HCSB Journaling Bible is about as thick as the Disciple’s Study Bible, but not as tall.

(Note: The Disciple’s Study Bible is no longer in print. If anybody at Broadman and Holman would happen to be reading this, please consider the possibility of updating this excellent Study Bible and re-releasing it.)


IMG_2073The Font of the HCSB Study Bible is 8 pt. It feels a little smaller than what I’m used to. I used the HCSB Ultrathin Large Print Bible for many years, and became very accustomed to the 10 pt. font it uses. However, I haven’t yet felt any strain on my eyes when reading through the Journaling Bible.


FullSizeRender-1The cover of the Journaling Bible is technically considered Bonded Leather. In my opinion, the cover looks and feels like the cover a journal. It’s not overly feminine (something important for men when considering a Bible), and it’s sturdy enough to stand on a shelf without needing additional support on either side. Personally, I would prefer a softer cover like my leather-bound Study Bibles, but that’s really just a matter of preference.


FullSizeRender2The primary feature of the HCSB Journaling Bible is the ability to take notes or write “journal” entries on the side of each page. There are no cross references. No Greek/Hebrew word studies. No study notes. And no introductions for each book. It’s God’s Word, and your notes on what He has to say.

The back of the Bible has a few extra features as well. It includes HCSB Bullet Notes, a 52-week Scripture Reading plan, a concordance, and a few maps of ancient Israel.

How to Use It:

Everybody reads and studies God’s Word differently. For example, years ago I was encouraged to color a Bible in order to see specific themes throughout the text. (Note: Some of the colors didn’t translate correctly in the included photo.)FullSizeRender-3

  • Yellow = Glory of God, His Person / Character / Attributes
  • Green = Grace of God and Gospel verses
  • Red = Blood, Death, Suffering
  • Blue = Direct Statement or Command from God
  • Light Blue = Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
  • Brown = Judgment, Punishment, Sin, Temptation
  • Purple = Prayer, Promises
  • Orange = Word of God

Using this system, I colored a good bit of the New Testament. However, I found this system to not keep me engaged long-term. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable reading/study method. I know people who have used this method every year for over 20 years! But it wasn’t how I best study.

With the HCSB Jouraling Bible, I took time to think through how to best use it. I concluded that I wanted to keep my notes broken down into just 4-5 categories:

  1. Study Note – Summary of the passage, or other useful info.
  2. Journal Note – How to apply the passage, or a note on the character of God.
  3. Personal Prayer
  4. Question & Answer – Question about a passage or a term in the passage, and then a brief answer included after doing a bit of research.

Page Thickness:

IMG_2078Having been journaling in a notebook for quite some time, I wanted to test the durability of my writing on the pages. While the pages of the journaling Bible are thin (you can see the bleed-through of my writing on the back-side of the page), it wasn’t unbearable. Choosing a good pen that maintains a light touch on the page will prove beneficial to those using it long term.

Who is it for?

The HCSB Journaling Bible is for anyone who is looking for a Bible they can use to read as well as write their own journal notes in. I believe it would be useful for both men and women who are not looking for detailed study notes, but who simply want to read God’s Word and answer questions such as, “What is God inviting me to do?” or “What is the key principle God is communicating in this passage?”

While a number of apps are available today to read the Scriptures, the HCSB Journaling Bible does not give you the option to quickly transition to your email or other apps. In other words, you’re not going to be distracted by receiving a text message, but will instead stay focused on the Scriptures until you’re finished reading and writing. In today’s busy world, that’s enough of a selling point for me.

Final Verdict:

I would rate the HCSB Journaling Bible a solid 8.5/10. The cover is sturdy and durable, and as noted above, the HCSB is a very good translation of the Scriptures. The look and feel should be attractive to both men and women, which I see as a plus.

In full disclosure, I received a free review copy of the HCSB Journaling Bible from Broadman & Holman Publishers. Nevertheless, I intend to use it regularly and will update this review if any of my opinions change in due time. Those interested in purchasing an HCSB Journaling Bible can do so here.

.  .  .  .  .

Have a question about the HCSB Journaling Bible? Feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to reply soon!

your life verse?

About twelve years ago I remember sitting at Chestnut Ridge Church with 15 other men, taking the opportunity to discuss some of our favorite Scripture passages. Even though it was 6am, everybody in the room had something to contribute to the conversation. When someone asked, “What’s your favorite book of the Bible,” one individual took the opportunity to shout out, “Leviticus!” Naturally, he was the only one.

At the time, my answer to that question was the book of Job. The poetry woven throughout the book, the challenging circumstances he faced, God’s revelation of His power at the end of the book…it’s always been something I’ve had a deep appreciation for.

But after we all took the opportunity to discuss our favorite book, the question turned to, “What’s your life verse?”

Admittedly, this was a more challenging question for me. I had never really had a “life verse,” one verse I would hold onto on a regular basis. For the purpose of the ongoing conversation, I recited Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you, you need only to be still.” It was a reminder to me that God is ultimately the one who fights battles, and the Old Testament shares story after story of God’s intervention to save His people.

Nine years later, many changes had occurred in my life. I was a father, and had officially been recognized as a pastor. My grandmother offered an encouraging card (as she often did), and wrote down Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” It was a verse I had read dozens of times, but through a generous check she offered me, I had this verse lasered onto the back panel of a new ipad.

Naturally, I stored the ipad in a case for most of it’s life. But anytime I took it out to clean the screen I was reminded, “He who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion.”

Then a couple of months ago I was enjoying some coffee over at the Joe N Throw, when I took a hard fall. The ipad I had used for years took the fall with me, and it hasn’t worked the same since. Sure it works, but it’s very slow and can barely connect to the internet. The added case often made connecting to the internet even more challenging, so I finally just removed the case altogether. Every time I’ve picked it up since then I’ve been reminded, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”

Due to it’s age and condition, my lovely wife just offered to get me a new ipad. Sure, I could’ve gone to Best Buy, Target, or even WalMart to get one. But I wanted to keep that reminder on there, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion,” so I ordered it directly from Apple.

I share this only to say, I’m quite certain my life verse has become Philippians 1:6. There are days I may feel as if the world is winning. There are seasons I struggle with illness, or frustrations, family challenges, ministry challenges, or other abnormal life circumstances. Admittedly, there are also moments I respond poorly to the situations happening around me. Yet I’m regularly reminded…

Philippians 1-6

That’s my life verse.

And if you’re up for it, feel free to share yours.

what study bible is right for me?

Every once in a while I’ll receive a question about the various Study Bibles that are available. While some are interested in questions about different Bible Translations, others are even more interested in the study notes, maps and other features that are often included in Study Bibles.

Questions often asked include, “Which one is the ‘best’? Which one will help me to know God better? Which one is the right one for me?”

I oftentimes answer these types of questions with a simple phrase. “The ‘best’ Bible is the one you’re reading.” But people want more info. than that. They’re looking to invest some money into a Bible that they’ll likely be reading for years and years. So…which one is best for you?

Well, that’s a tough question to answer. Every Study Bible has different features, different scholars, different goals, and in the end, each one provides a different study experience for the reader. That said, I think there are three available Study Bibles today that will offer the best study experience for you. Below, is a simple breakdown of each one. Which one you choose to read and study with is up to you, but it’s my hope that this will at least provide some insights as to some fantastic resources available today.

#1: NLT Study Bible

Translation: New Living Translation (NLT)

Reading Level: 6-7th

What I Like:

1. The Translation: If I were only allowed to make one Study Bible recommendation, the NLT Study Bible would be at the top of my list. The goal of the New Living Translation was to translate the ancient Greek and Hebrew texts into English in the clearest possible manner. A number of challenging passages are easy to read, and the NLT just ‘makes sense’ to people. If you’re looking for your first Study Bible, I would highly recommend giving the NLT Study Bible a serious look.IMG_1218

2. The Footnotes: The Study Notes in any Study Bible make it or break it. When it comes to the NLT, the Study Notes make it. The footnotes will either provide additional insights into the passage being read/studied, or suggestions for how the passage can applied in real life. It’s the best of both worlds. And for the passages or topics that need even additional care or study, the NLT Study Bible has extra articles included in the text to cover those as well.

3. Greek/Hebrew Study: Throughout the text, specific words are included in the cross references that provide a Greek or Hebrew word that’s worth additional study. The reader has to turn to the back of the Bible to look up the definition of that word to see how or why it was translated as it was, but including the Greek/Hebrew word study is a nice touch and is very helpful for daily study.

4. Book Introductions: While the Book Introductions in the NLT Study Bible aren’t as detailed as some other ones out there, they still provide a good background of the book and the culture in which it was written. This is necessary when reading the Bible, because you have to understand not what the text means to you, but what it meant to the people who first read it. So a good and thorough book introduction is necessary to help, and while the NLT could provide more detail, it’s enough to communicate the main purpose of the book.

What I Don’t Like:

There’s very little I don’t like about the NLT Study Bible. Every once in a while I’ll read a passage that I don’t care for the translation when compared to others, but oftentimes it’s the opposite. Seriously, there’s just a lot to like about the NLT Study Bible, and it would be my first recommendation to most people. If you’re interested, here’s a sample that’ll give some additional insights into the NLT Study Bible.

#2: HCSB Study Bible

Translation: Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Reading Level: 7-8th

What I Like:

The Translation: The HCSB is one of the newer translations available (honestly, some of my seminary professors have never heard of it), but continues gaining popularity due to it’s translation style and conservative nature. Some interesting aspects of the HCSB include the use of Yahweh for the name of God throughout the Old Testament, whereas many translations simply translate God’s name as LORD. The HCSB reading level is about 7-8th grade, right in line with the NIV and others as well.

The Footnotes: While not fully on par with the NLT Study Bible, the footnotes in the HCSB are quite good. Fantastic in fact. Over 15,000 notes are included. But it’s not just the footnotes that make this a great Study Bible. This particular Study Bible is FULL of color. The verse numbers and footnotes are an offset blue color, making it easier to find specific passages and footnotes and then get back right to where you left off.IMG_1219

Greek/Hebrew Study: The HCSB wins over the NLT in this one, as the Hebrew and Greek word studies are included right on the same page. You don’t have to turn to the back of the Bible to look up specific words, but can simply read the definition and significance of that word in Hebrew or Greek, and then get back into your reading. It’s a great feature, and one I wish the NLT Study Bible had used as well.

Book Introductions: Here again, we have lots of color. Each book begins on different colored paper, which makes it look nice, but it doesn’t really add any significant book introduction features to the NLT.

What I Don’t Like:

As noted above, I truly believe the best Bible is the one you’re reading, and the HCSB is a fantastic Study Bible. If I had to offer some cons, I would say that this Bible is a little heavier than the NLT Study Bible, and it offers a lesser quality (if only slightly) footnotes than the NLT. However, the translation itself has been my preferred translation for a few years now. If you’re interested, here’s a video that’ll give you some additional insights into the HCSB Study Bible.

#3 ESV Study Bible

Translation: English Standard Version (ESV)

Reading Level: 10th

What I Like:

The Translation: The ESV does a good job of providing a more direct translation of the Greek/Hebrew text than say, the NLT does. This is sometimes a very good thing, as it does provide some additional insight into the original language. However, it may have some cons as well, as it has the possibility of making it more challenging to read, forcing you to read the study notes when you may not need to if you were reading a different translation. The bottom line is that when you’re studying a text, sometimes it’s good to read it in multiple translations, but when you have just one Study Bible, you only get one choice. The ESV is a good choice. It’s not my first choice, but it’s a good choice.IMG_1220

The Footnotes: The ESV Study Bible footnotes are regarded as some of the best of the best out there. And on passages where a number of different scholarly views are held, the ESV will often list the 3-4 different views, without telling you which is the ‘right’ one. This is a great study tool, as it then gives you something to go on should you desire to give the passage even more study. While the footnotes aren’t as colorful as the HCSB, they’re more detailed, and that’s a good thing.

Greek/Hebrew Study: I don’t see any specific Greek/Hebrew word studies in the ESV Study Bible. But there are perhaps more charts/graphs here than the others, which is a great benefit to understanding the text in a more systematic way. Still, if you like diving into the original languages, you’ll miss out in the ESV Study Bible.

Book Introductions: The ESV Study Bible probably has the best book introductions of the three. They’re detailed, and provide tremendous insight into the style and structure of each book, as well as the purpose. Yes, the NLT and HCSB have good Bible introductions, but the ones here are even better.

What I Don’t Like:

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not a huge fan of the ESV. Of the three translations covered here, it’s the highest reading level. Also, the lack of original word studies is a minus. That said, the ESV is still one of the best Study Bibles out there, and the footnotes (if that’s your thing) are probably the most detailed of the three mentioned here. If you’re interested, here’s an intro to the book of Ephesians, that’ll show you the quality of notes and book introductions of the ESV Study Bible.


I hope you find this mini-review of these Study Bibles helpful! If you would happen to have any additional questions, the pastoral staff here at SRC have each of these Bible on our bookshelves. If you’d like a little more hands-on time before deciding which one is best for you, just let us know. We’d be happy to help you out any time.

For additional insights on each Study Bible, feel free to check out the following links:

NLT Study Bible

HCSB Study Bible

ESV Study Bible