The Stress of Vacation

Posted by on 06/26/2017 in:

As I write, it is 4 a.m. I’m not used to 4 a.m. It’s dark, my house is cold, and I don’t have the drive to turn my coffee pot on. You read that right . . . I am writing without coffee.

An important question you’re hopefully asking yourself is, ‘“Why? What would cause this man to be awake so early, and trying to function without coffee?’”

The answer is pretty simple . . . vacation.

My family and I are leaving for vacation today, and I don’t know about you, but the nights before I leave for vacation are historically bad nights of sleep for me. Excitement paired with the fear of forgetting . . . well, everything, is overwhelming.

As I pull together the final things I need to pack, I am thankful for the little things. I’m thankful that over the past year I have accumulated four new chargers for my iPhone and iPad, so I don’t have to disconnect the ones that are basically built into my bed frame. I am thankful for my noise cancelling headphones. I am thankful for my backpack and all its different compartments so that I can easily separate my Macbook from my Chex Mix (an imperative snack for flying).

Also, I am very, very thankful for technology. Especially this week.

You see, when I get back from vacation, I will have 10 days until I preach at my church. For me, this takes A LOT of planning—not because I’m super intellectual and plan to go 14-layers deep into the genealogy of Christ (I don’t know where 14 came from?). Rather, it’s because I only preach once or twice a year. The other Sundays I am either leading worship services or banging around on some drums. That’s right . . . I’m a drummer.

At this point I feel that it is necessary to tell my dad’s favorite drummer joke:

Dad: “Hey Kyle, how do you get a drummer off your front porch?”

Me (Eyeroll. Glare. Give in): “ . . . How Dad?”

Dad: “Pay him for the pizza!”

You can use that one this week if you’d like. If you have a drummer in your church, I am honestly curious if he/she has heard that one. My guess is that you may get an eyeroll too, but don’t let that stop you.

Anyway . . .

One essential tool to any great vacation is my Bible. I love doing my devotional reading in new, fun places. I have a spot all mapped out where we are going. There is a bench that sits under a lone tree that overlooks the beach. It’s close enough to the water to hear the waves break, but not so close that I fear a bird will swoop down and eat my blueberry scone. Perfect.

On this trip in particular, I am looking forward to some deep studying on that bench. I know the subject I’m going to speak on that Sunday, but I also know that I have a lot of work to do to prepare—work that can all be done without wifi from my iPad with Olive Tree’s Bible App.

While having my Bible is obviously important for study, I also rely on other study resources. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • NKJV Strong’s Tagged Bible (a Strong’s Tagged Bible is a MUST HAVE in the Olive Tree app, in my opinion)
  • Vine’s Dictionary
  • NKJV Study Bible Notes
  • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
  • Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Revised
  • The Bible Speaks Today OT and NT sets

Having all of these in the palm of my hand makes me confident that my sermon is going to come together quite nicely. Sure, there may be a few more beach references than normal, but it’s going to be packed with great information that will be helpful to my church community. I’m thankful that, out of all the worries I have this morning before we leave for vacation, how I’m going to write this sermon is not one of them.

Where is the most exotic place you have written a sermon?

This blog was written by Kyle Menasco, an Olive Tree Bible employee.

Continue Reading

Yielding to God’s Purposes

Posted by on 06/23/2017 in:

“But the wisdom that is from above is the first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. –James 3:17 NKJV

Consider this: God is perfect. Eternal. Almighty. He knows everything about everyone (Ps. 139:1-4). On the other hand, we are imperfect. Sinful. Our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know.

So why in the world wouldn’t we align our plans with God’s purpose?

We tend to think we know enough to make our own way in life.

But because God actually cares, get over that tendency. He is God. You are His. He provides the resources you need to accomplish His purpose.

Isaiah 41:10 records God’s assurance to His people:

“Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

God’s purpose for you is not mysterious – see Micah 6:6-8. This is the foundation of God’s will: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. All of the specific decisions we make can fall under these categories.

So make every one of your actions purposeful. And know that obedience is tightly tied to how your purpose is lived out.

If God’s absolute care for you is not enough motivation, consider this: There were many times God called specific people to do specific things; and from those who did not obey He took away His hand of protection and provision (Jer. 7:13-15; Rom. 1:18-32). Even in such cases, His distance is intended to bring us to repentance and reconciliation.

David wrote Psalm 57 when he fled from Saul into the cave. Perhaps David doubted God’s purpose for him at this point. Maybe he wondered what was going on. He may have even been tempted to think God was wrong. But instead he wrote, “I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me” (Ps. 57:2-3). David did not turn away from God’s purpose for his life, even when circumstances made it difficult to see the way forward.

Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgement is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). James calls us to follow Jesus’ example when he reminds us that the fruit of wisdom is becoming a person who is “willing to yield” (James 3:17).

What might the Lord be asking you to yield or surrender so that you might do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly alongside Him? Think on these things.

If you are a fan of this blog post. you can read more like it by purchasing the Know The Word Study Bible, which runs parallel to any Bible in our app.

Continue Reading

How I Learned to Love Church History

Posted by on 06/20/2017 in: ,

If you asked me to list my favorite subjects when I was in school, history would not even make the list. While I believe those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, I still found the subject boring. Memorizing dates and seemingly random events never resonated with me. That said, I enjoy studying the Bible and all things related to it. A part of that involves studying history, the subject I loathe. What was I to do? Let me tell you how I learned to love Church history.

When it comes to learning Church history, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Starting with the Apostles, we’re looking at almost 2,000 years of history to explore. I can barely keep up with all the world events that have taken place in my 35 years of life, so how was I going to tackle learning Church history? Easy. I found a resource that gives an overview of the entirety of Church history from early Christianity to the present day, and does it in a way that’s easy to digest. The Atlas of Christian History is that resource!

Instead of tackling a thick history book that would give me far more detail than I want as a newbie, I opted for a book that would give me quick summaries of the major events and people throughout the centuries. In a matter of a few short paragraphs per section, the Atlas of Christian History gives me the high level view I need to get a broad understanding of Christian history. And, for a more abbreviated view of history, the first paragraph to begin a new section is bold and gives you a couple sentence summary of the date or event in view. As an example, here is the first paragraph under “The Arian Challenge”:

Around 318 a particularly divisive dispute flared between Arius (c. 250–c. 336), a presbyter in Alexandria, and the Patriarch Alexander (r. 313–26). Arius was teaching that, if the Son of God had been crucified, he suffered – as the supreme deity cannot do. He argued that Jesus Christ was therefore not eternal, but made by the Father to do his creative work. By dividing off the Son from God the Father, Arius undermined Christ’s status as God’s revelation and as the saviour of humankind.

The thing that sets this resource apart from other history titles is that it’s also an atlas! If there’s anything that makes studying history fun it’s lots of maps and pictures. The Atlas of Christian History does not disappoint in this department. This book has some of the best maps I’ve ever seen in a Christian resource. Quite literally, the maps are the reason to buy this book! The beautifully designed maps are what made learning Christian history fun. I’d often find myself enthralled with the maps, only to begin reading the preceding text to get the context for the data being presented to me. And guess what?! Without even trying, I was learning and loving history!

Take a look at these maps to get an idea of what I’m talking about. The first shows the spread of Christianity by AD 300. The second depicts the distribution of major denominations in the United States as of the year 2000. And along with the maps, you’ll also find stunning photographs of important Christian sites throughout history.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think I could ever love studying history. The Atlas of Christian History changed that for me. If you’re like me, this resource is a great primer for getting a broad overview of 2,000 years of Christian history. The maps alone are worth their weight in gold. If this resource doesn’t get you excited about learning history, nothing will. No matter your level of expertise, the Atlas of Christian History will help you better understand our history as the Christian Church.

Click here to add this amazing title to your Olive Tree library today!

Continue Reading

Love Is An Action

Posted by on 06/19/2017 in:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” —John 13:34-35 NKJV

Faith is compelling when it is seen in action. When Jesus announced that He would be leaving, He gave one very simple and profound instruction: “Love one another.”

This is harder than it seems. We are prone to argue, hate, and fight. We default to selfishness and wanting to win. Love doesn’t naturally fit.

But we crave it.

And love is the mark of Jesus’ followers.

Jesus asked His disciples to practice the love that He modeled. If they reflected the example of Jesus’ love, they would stand out in a world that does not understand love.

Jesus explained, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).

The distinguishing mark of Jesus followers is how faith influences their daily actions: how they work alongside coworkers, how they solve problems, how they speak to spouses and children, how they work out problems with church members. Jesus’ followers live differently, demonstrating love consistently toward others.

Jesus kept it simple. He taught and demonstrated that love is an action. As John explains, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Faith transforms us into people of love who live differently in the world. There are plenty of distinguishing characteristics when it comes to the church. Unfortunately, and all too often, outsiders looking into the church see it as a place of hatred and condemnation. Our churches are to be oases of love. In a world where so many people feel beat down, insecure, and worn out, the behavior of a loving Christian is refreshing water for parched and weary souls.

Love is an action. What actions can you take to love more like Jesus? A helpful exercise may be to write down a list of ways you remember Jesus loving others as told in the Gospels. Not only will this help you to remember God’s love for you, but it will inspire you to be a person who loves as well.

Need help thinking through other passages of scripture? Know the Word Study Bible Notes (used in the writing of this blog!) can run parallel to your Bible in our app, helping you navigate and apply God’s Word to your life.

Continue Reading

Do You Know about These Two Unique Features of John’s Gospel?

Posted by on 06/16/2017 in:

It has been understood that John’s Gospel is a distinct chronicling of the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s so unique that biblical scholars have isolated it from the so-called Synoptic gospels. And if you’ve spent any amount of time with the beloved disciple’s gospel you’ve probably sensed its uniqueness, too.

But do you know some of the central features that make it distinct? Edward W. Klink III helpfully explains two such characteristics in his new John commentary (ZECNT), which is currently 50% off on our website.

Building on the pioneering work of C. H. Dodd, who “In the twentieth century … provided the most focused analysis” (53), Klink provides readers an extended introduction to two unique features of John in order to help readers interpret it rightly: dialogues and monologues.

Johannine Dialogues: Functions and Forms

Klink identifies two functions for the dialogues in John’s gospel. First, they serve an important role in developing its broader narrative, where the meaning lies not only in what is said, but in how what’s said moves the plot forward.

The dialogue brings meaning to Jesus’s person and work so that the characters—and therefore the readers—are exhorted to take a particular action, thereby moving the plot along toward it ultimate goal: “that you may believe” (20:31). (54)

Second, the dialogues give meaning and direction to the pericope where they occur. This narrative device serves to offer the necessary material to interpret the more narrow elements of the scenes themselves, as well as move the broader plot forward.

Such insights into the function of a dialogue provide lenses with which to understand the passage’s details and developing movement. Only by understanding the dialogical structure of the scene can the reader make sense of not only its details but also the rhetorical meaning of the interaction. (54)

Johannine dialogues come in three forms: social challenge, taking the form of an informal debate where the honor and authority of the interlocutor is challenged; legal challenge, in which a principle, idea, or point of law is formally debated; and rhetorical challenge, where conflict between two parties is intensified by reestablishing antithetical positions, rather than necessarily advancing an argument.

Klink suggests primarily seven formal dialogues in John’s gospel between Jesus and other characters, utilizing these three forms:

  1. Nicodemus (3:1–21) social
  2. Samaritan Woman (4:1–42) rhetorical
  3. Jewish Crowd (6:22–71) social
  4. Jewish Authorities and Jewish Crowd (7:14–52) social
  5. Jewish Authorities (8:12–59) legal
  6. Jewish Authorities (9:1–41) legal
  7. Jewish Crowd (10:22–42) social

Like Dodd, he makes clear John used dialogues deliberately in his narrative composition:

Using the conventions and patterns of ancient dialogue, the Gospel’s dialogues offer a dramatic theological presentation that engages the reader at numerous levels, drawing them more fully into the depth of the Gospel story that began in the conflict between darkness and the light (1:5) and ends in the cross. (57)

Johannine Monologues: Functions and Forms

Also unique in John’s Gospel is the use of several extended discourses, or monologues, of Jesus. Klink explains, “a monologue is similar to a dialogue in that it is set in the context of an engagement and conflict, but rather than engaging point for point it allows for a lengthy argument.” (57)

Like dialogues, Jesus’s monologues contain similar elements of rhetoric, challenge, and conflict. They also function similarly: “its significance is not merely the meaning of the language and the propositions of the argument but also what the language does” (57), especially how it is connected to the narrative elements before and afterward.

Klink explains that monologues will contain within the narrative flow dialogue and audience engagement. Yet attention isn’t meant to be on the conflict and resolution inherent within such scenes. Instead, “The monologue brings meaning to Jesus’s person and work so that the listeners—and therefore the readers—are exhorted to take a particular action.” (58)

He identifies four substantial monologues in John’s Gospel:

  1. The Identity of (the Son of) God (5:19–47)
  2. The Shepherd and the Sheep (10:1–21)
  3. “The Hour has Come” (12:20–50)
  4. The Farewell Discourse (13:31–16:33)

“As a whole, the monologues provide robust insight into the identity of Jesus and the work given to him from the Father,” concludes Klink. “The monologues also serve the narratives by facilitating the Gospel’s plot, depicting in great detail God’s own argument and explication of his person and work in the world.” (58)

***

Leveraging the important interpretive insights of these two narrative features, Klink helps readers of the Fourth Gospel exegete it with care and precision in order to offer its theological and homiletical insights to those they shepherd.

Interested in learning more about the uniqueness of John’s Gospel? Don’t miss out on purchasing this commentary at half it’s normal price, available on our website.

This blog was written in coordination with Zondervan Academic.

Continue Reading

Last chance: Sale on Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Revised Edition

Posted by on 06/14/2017 in: ,

Expositor's Bible Commentary - Revised Edition

Right now, the 13-volume Expositor’s Bible CommentaryRevised Edition is over $200 off at Olive Tree.

This commentary set is a favorite of pastors, teachers, and Bible students for its scholarly but accessible approach to helping you understand the biblical text’s core meaning. It’s full of world-class scholarship from D. A. Carson, George Guthrie, John Walton, Andreas Kostenberger, and many others.

“If there is one set of commentaries that all pastors and teachers should have, this is it,” writes Daniel I. Block.

Get the complete collection on sale now at Olive Tree.

Don’t wait! The deal will disappear soon.

Continue Reading

What are the characteristics of a godly man?

Posted by on 06/12/2017 in: ,

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned  to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,  but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. -Matthew 1:18-25 NASB

Until he became engaged to Mary, Joseph’s life probably resembled that of most other men in his hometown. No doubt he had business concerns and goals for the future—but nothing seriously interrupted his daily routine until Mary informed him she was pregnant. This was when his life changed rapidly.

The news was shocking to him, and rather than disgrace Mary, Joseph planned to send her away (Matt. 1:19). But God saw the confusion building within Joseph’s mind and sent His angel to guide him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (vv. 20, 21). From this point on, Joseph never questioned the Lord’s method or motive. He realized that the God of the universe had chosen him to watch over Mary and the Son she would have. He remained faithful not only to his wife, but also to the Lord.

Joseph showed courage by ignoring the ugly rumors swirling around town about Mary’s pregnancy; he valued God’s plan above what others thought of him. He remained sensitive to the Holy Spirit, demonstrated by his acceptance of His guidance. After the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to him, warning him of impending danger. Joseph immediately took Mary and Jesus to Egypt, where they found safety until the threat passed (Matt. 2:13–15). As we look at the life of Joseph, we find that he was a humble man who honored God by obeying His Word. He remained consistent and content, and he could be counted on to follow the Lord, regardless of the personal costs.

How can you grow in your faith to become a godly individual? Begin by committing yourself to a consistent, daily walk with Christ. Attend a church where the Word of God is proclaimed as the standard of life. Make a commitment to God and to your loved ones that you will not abandon your devotion to Christ or to them.

You will gain a sense of godly responsibility when you stand up for what is right. A committed Christian is not easily swayed, but is filled with conviction, faith, and a desire to know God intimately. When Joseph had no one else to guide and comfort him, he turned to God and found the strength and love he needed to get through the most difficult of circumstances.

You will, too. Will you make Joseph’s spiritual commitment your own today?

Adapted from Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible Notes. Add it to Your Library today!

Continue Reading

These Exegetical Commentaries Are for You, If…

Posted by on 06/12/2017 in: ,

Right now the Zondervan Exegetical Commentaries on the New Testament and Old Testament are steeply discounted (50% off).

If you identify with one or more of these statements, this commentary series is for you:

  1. you would like help interpreting the words of Scripture without getting bogged down in scholarly issues that seem irrelevant to the life of the church.
  2. you would like to see a visual representation (a graphical display) of the flow of thought in each passage.
  3. you would like expert guidance from solid evangelical scholars who set out to explain the meaning of the original text in the clearest way possible and to help you navigate through the main interpretive issues.
  4. you have taken Greek and would like a commentary that helps you apply what you have learned without assuming you are a well-trained scholar.
  5. you would find it useful to see a concise, one- or two- sentence statement of what the commentator thinks the main point of each passage is.
  6. you want to benefit from the results of the latest and best scholarly studies and historical information that helps to illuminate the meaning of the text.
  7. you would find it useful to see a brief summary of the key theological insights that can be gleaned from each passage and some discussion of the relevance of these for Christians today.

View the deals now.

Don’t wait, because this sale ends June 26, 2017!

P.S. Daniel I. Block explains the series’ approach in this video:

Continue Reading

How does the Expositor’s Bible Commentary Approach Scripture?

Posted by on 06/07/2017 in: ,

Expositor's Bible Commentary

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary series set the gold standard for expositors—for understanding the biblical authors and teaching their message today.

Save 50% on this 12-volume commentary set right now. Don’t wait.

ABOUT THE EXPOSITOR’S BIBLE COMMENTARY

The Gold Medallion Award–winning Expositor’s Bible Commentary offers pastors, teachers and students a comprehensive tool for the exposition of the Scriptures and the teaching and proclamation of their message.

How does this commentary approach Scripture?

Hear from the General Editor, the late Frank E. Gaebelein:

The chief principle of interpretation followed in this commentary is the grammatico-historical onenamely, that the primary aim of the exegete is to make clear the meaning of the text at the time and in the circumstances of its writing.

This endeavor to understand what in the first instance the inspired writers actually said must not be confused with an inflexible literalism. Scripture makes lavish use of symbols and figures of speech; great portions of it are poetical. Yet when it speaks in this way, it speaks no less truly than it does in its historical and doctrinal portions.

To understand [Scripture’s] message requires attention to matters of grammar and syntax, word meanings, idioms, and literary formsall in relation to the historical and cultural setting of the text.

About the contributors:

  • 78 international contributors from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand are included
  • Many evangelical denominations are represented including Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, and Reformed
  • Contributors include Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Leon Morris, D. A. Carson, general editor Frank E. Gaebelein, and many others

The contributors represent the best in evangelical scholarship committed to the divine inspiration, complete trustworthiness, and full authority of the Bible.

Learn more and see the sale today.

Continue Reading

Which Expositor’s Commentary is Right for Me?

Posted by on 06/05/2017 in:

If you’re looking for a great Bible commentary you may have noticed a couple resources in the Olive Tree store that have similar names:

While price may often be the biggest influence on whether you’d like to add them to your study library, the most important question is, ‘What’s the difference between them?’

Here are few things that may help you in your decision.

Authorship

Both commentary sets have a strong evangelical influence while at the same time drawing from a broad diversity of churches, including Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, and Reformed.

The original Expositor’s Bible Commentary was compiled between the years of 1976-1992 with 50 different authors contributing.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Revised Series is a 2012 update to the original that includes the work of 56 different authors – 30 of whom are new.

Content

The original and the revised editions include the following content:

  • Comprehensive introductions
  • Short and precise bibliographies
  • Detailed outlines
  • Insightful expositions of passages and verses
  • Overviews of sections of Scripture to illuminate the big picture
  • Occasional reflections to give more detail on important issues
  • Notes on textual questions and special problems, placed close to the texts in question
  • Transliterations and translations of Hebrew and Greek words, enabling readers to understand even the more technical notes

Both sets use the New International Version for its English text, but also refer freely to other translations and to the original languages. Each book of the Bible has, in addition to its exposition, an introduction, outline, and bibliography. They also include a balanced and respectful approach toward marked differences of opinion.

Olive Tree Bible App

In the Olive Tree Bible App all of this content is easily accessed in the Resource Guide found in the split window. No matter which commentary you are using they both follow along with the scripture in your main window to give you easy access to expositional commentary, charts, outlines and more.

Each number indicates relevant entries for the passage

Notes are just a tap away

Charts and outlines are easy to use

Both of these great commentary series are on sale right now. Click the links below to see them.

Continue Reading