My Honest Review: NIV Life Application Study Bible
With so many Bibles on the market, how do you know which one to choose? Is there a “best” Bible? What about all the extra features? What do you really need in a Bible?
These are all good questions, and if you’ve had your eye on the Life Application Study Bible, I want to give you some answers today in my honest review below.
A Little Background
A few months ago I got to attend an Independent Book Seller’s Convention and meet lots of interesting people in the Christian publishing industry.
One of the panels I attended featured Ron Beers, the general editor of the Life Application Study Bible, and I was fascinated to hear of the story behind this bestselling Bible, as well as the thought process that went into the most recent update.
They also showed this original short film, which had me and a hundred other people weepy as I thought of all the ways God used His Word at different junctures in my life, as well as the legacy I hope to leave for my children:
So when Bible Gateway reached out and asked me to review a copy of the NIV Life Application Study Bible, it was a quick yes! Especially since I got a free copy to review that went straight into this fabulous Bible & Breakfast Giveaway Box!
Why Another Bible?
Ron shared about his frustration in the early 1980s with the study Bibles that were currently on the market, which offered information and facts about Biblical times but no practical application. He wanted to know what God wanted him to do with what he was reading, but there was little help in the study notes.
In his own words, “So it sent me on a search through all the available study Bibles on the market. I found study notes about Wormwood but no notes on Worry. I found notes on Phylacteries, but not a single note on Purpose or Priorities. I found notes on the town of Gozan but nothing on Goals. This research begged the question: If the Bible is supposed to be a blueprint for living, then there should be plenty of verses that show us how to live as a disciple of Jesus, how we can live transformed lives, how to bear much fruit (as Jesus put it). But not a single study Bible did this—there was lots of information, but no application.
“I was fortunate enough (or I prefer to think of it as a divine appointment) to be working at Youth for Christ and right there in the headquarters offices were several people who shared this same passion for Bible application. It took us a year to carefully think through what an “application” Bible would look like, but we did it and several months later we had a contract with Tyndale House Publishers who caught the vision for how this could help people apply God’s Word to daily life. After six years of work the first edition of the LASB was published. Now, 30 years and 20 million copies later, the Life Application Study Bible (NLT website and NIV website) remains the bestselling study Bible in the world. I think God gave us a pretty good idea! I’m grateful we listened.”
You can read the full interview with Ron Beers here.
My Favorite Features:
- The notes not only explain biblical background but also help you think through practical applications for your own life
- Profiles of biblical characters help you get to know important people in the Bible story
- Red lettering for Jesus’ words helps readers distinguish when Jesus is speaking directly
- Each book of the Bible starts with an intro and overview, to help you differentiate between genres and understand context
- Timelines of world events alongside biblical events help you contextualize familiar Bible stories within world history
- Gold gilding and leatherlike binding make it feel like the Bibles my parents read from when I was growing up, which brings a sense of nostalgia and comfort
- While I appreciate the practicality of the study notes, I would urge you not to allow them to become a substitute for your own prayerful application. In other words, don’t get lazy in just checking a box for having done your Bible reading. Always, always ask God’s Spirit to illuminate the text and show you exactly how to apply it to your own specific life circumstances.
- With the wealth of study notes, it’s easy to get distracted from reading the text itself. This isn’t so much a critique of the Life Application Study Bible as it is a caution to fill your heart and mind with God’s Word first and foremost. I went through a season in my Bible reading when I switched to a Bible without any notes at all for my primary reading, and only after reading the text several times, would I pull out the study Bible to check notes. Use your discernment.
- There’s A LOT of information crammed into this study Bible, which inevitably means small print (8.5 font size, to be precise). This is to be expected, of course, but for those readers who need larger print, you may want to wait for Tyndale to release additional versions which are coming April 2020, including large print and smaller carry-along sizes.
- For someone who needs a beautiful aesthetic design (like my husband), this Bible may feel “boring” in its traditional font type and page layout. The She Reads Truth Bible (for women) or He Reads Truth Bible (for men) may be a better choice, because the first and most important aspect of Bible reading is to actually open up your Bible and read it.
Would I Buy It?
To come full circle to the questions I opened up with, there is no “best” Bible—it all depends on what kind of features you need in order to make your Bible reading experience as rich as possible.
As someone who loves learning as much as I can about biblical times, the charts, maps, notes, and extra study resources make my heart happy. But as someone who’s grown up studying the Bible, the application notes themselves feel a bit superfluous to me. For myself, I’d rather go with something like the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (review coming soon), but that’s because I’m an unashamed Bible nerd.
For someone who is newer to studying the Bible, and is just getting started in learning how to apply the Bible to their own life, I would absolutely buy the Life Application Study Bible for them in a heartbeat. It would also make a wonderful present for life transitions, like graduations and weddings.
Our culture today needs more biblical literacy, and I believe the Life Application Study Bible can help ease readers who are intimidated by the biblical text into an enjoyable Bible reading habit.