Archive for year 2012
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
If we’re honest, most of us would admit that one of our least favorite words is patience. In a ‘me first’ western culture we can often get what we want, when we want it. Whether it’s Burger King saying, “Have it your way” or the Staples slogan, “That was easy,”, our natural desire to be selfish only seems to be magnified by the messages marketed to us on a daily basis, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the message of patience is nearly impossible to find in our culture. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus, however, patience is the fruit of God’s Spirit at work within us.
It’s easy to read about the people in the Bible that God used in amazing ways and forget about where God showed up in the timeline of their lives. The theme of patience and endurance is one we see throughout scripture. Abraham and his wife Sarah weren’t young when they finally had the child God had promised. Joseph spent years in jail on wrong accusations before he became a powerful leader, fulfilling the dreams God had given him. Moses lived a non-descript life before God called him to lead his people out of Egypt. The Israelites had to spend 40 years in the desert before God released them into the Promised Land. Even Jesus didn’t start his public ministry until he was 30 years old.
If you’ve ever been in a place in your spiritual growth or your ministry where you feel that nothing is happening, you can take great comfort that you’re in good company. God is always concerned more about our depth of character than our width of ministry. So how do you know if God is working in your life during a season where nothing seems to be happening? Jesus answers that question in the ‘Parable of the Sower’ in Luke 8.
“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15, ESV).
If you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, hear God’s Word, and are holding it fast in your heart, then be on the lookout for seasons of patience and embrace them. As you do, be reminded that you’re walking the same spiritual road as Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, and Moses. And God used these individuals to change whole cultures.
Patience and God’s timing
When my son was three, he and I were hanging out at home and lunch time was fast approaching. He was getting increasingly irritable and fussy, and I hadn’t quite learned how important it was to feed kids on time. He then asked me when lunch time was, and I told him I’d start making it in five minutes. Instead of saying, “Sounds good Dad,” my three-year-old son (to my ignorant surprise) proceeded to throw a tantrum that made me wonder if he had heard me say five hours instead of five minutes. As I quickly made him a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich two thoughts hit me.
First, my son didn’t have a concept of time. As an adult, waiting five minutes is nothing. For a preschooler with no concept of time, any amount of waiting is too long, whether it’s five minutes or five days.
Second, I am just like my son. Sure, I may not throw a fit if I have to wait five minutes but if something doesn’t happen on my timeline my response isn’t much more mature than his. How many times have I approached God and said, “Here’s what I need and when I need it.” The big problem here is that if God doesn’t answer my prayers on my timeline then I assume he’s just not going to answer them. But this isn’t necessarily true. While a young child has no concept of time, we as adults also don’t understand God’s concept of time because it’s eternal. He sees our needs but through the perspective of eternity. Though we don’t have an eternal viewpoint, God’s eternal viewpoint should give us comfort that God provides our needs and our answers at just the right time.
Jesus’ brother James says this about patience and God’s timing:
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8, ESV).
As sons and daughters of a perfect and loving God, being patient is evidence of our trust and faith in our heavenly Father. As we pray and make requests of our Father we can be confident that his timing is the best timing.
As the year comes to a close, take time to reflect on both answered and unanswered prayers. When and how did God answer those prayers? For those prayers that have yet to be answered, ask God for his perspective and trust in his perfect timing.
Olive Tree employees had the opportunity to participate in a Spokane-area Christmas tradition this year called the Tree of Sharing. The non-profit organization aims to serve the “often-forgotten” members of the community by supplying 60 local agencies with Christmas presents and other aid throughout the year. My coworker and I picked out 30 tags before Thanksgiving on which 30 individuals of all ages had requested Christmas gifts. The gifts Olive Tree employees could buy were varied, to say the least, from hats and gloves to board games to monster trucks and John Deere tractors for kids. I particularly liked these guys:
For three weeks, Olive Tree employees brought their gifts in, some wrapped and some unwrapped, and piled them around the Christmas tree in the Olive Tree kitchen. By the end of the three weeks, we had quite the stack of presents!
This morning, two men from the Tree of Sharing organization came to pick up the gifts. Several of us helped them carry the gifts out into the gently falling snow to a car that would deliver the gifts to the families and individuals.
In this Christmas season, it has been such a blessing for me and the other Olive Tree employees to follow Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew: “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (25:40). Praise God that Christmas reminds us to give with bold generosity as we pattern our lives after the King of Kings who “though he was God, did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Phil. 2:6-7) and “so the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only son” (John 1:14).
Praise be to Emmanuel, God With Us!
Question of the Day: Does your family or workplace have a giving tradition at Christmas? Tell us about it.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says,” James 1:22 (NIV).
James wrote these words long ago but his challenge still resonates strongly today. The words echo what Jesus himself taught in John 14 that whoever loves him will obey his teachings.
We live in an amazing time where – thanks to technology – we have access to dozens of Bible translations, libraries of biblical wisdom, and can listen to thousands of sermons from preachers around the world. The challenge for us in the Western world isn’t getting access to this information, it’s what we actually do with the information we have. How do we apply it? Let me offer a few simple ideas to you that have the potential to breathe new life into your Bible reading.
After Jesus’ resurrection and before he ascended into heaven, Jesus promises that the church won’t be left alone, that the Holy Spirit will come and be the one to guide the believers into all truth (John 16:13). As believers, that same Holy Spirit lives within us, so while you read God’s Word, ask the Holy Spirit to guide, reveal, and help you apply his word in your life. It’s a prayer that he wants to answer.
The word ‘meditate’ may generate a specific response or picture in your head – either good or bad. Many religions use meditation in one form or another. One of my favorite pictures of what it means to meditate is the idea of ‘chewing.’ Many of us approach reading God’s word with the goal of getting through it in a set time. In contrast, the idea of meditating is to slow down, imagine, consider…or chew. If you’re a ‘get it done’ type of person by nature, try a different approach to reading God’s word. Use your imagination as you think about the setting of Jesus’ teachings or the surroundings of the desert that the Israelites lived in for 40 years. Chew on the implications of Paul’s teachings for the people living in pagan Ephesus – both for them in the first century and for you today. As you meditate, you’ll find that God’s word sticks with you throughout the day.
Sometimes the simple questions you ask every time you read through the Bible can help get the wheels turning on how to apply God’s word. Here are a few easy ones:
- Who was the original audience of this passage?
- What are the timeless truths in this passage?
- What does this passage show me about who God is?
- What do I need to study further in this passage so I can understand it fully?
You may not be able to answer all of these questions easily, depending on the passage you’re reading but these questions will help ensure that your daily reading is applied to your life and can challenge you to go deeper.
As someone once said, “Proclamation, without application, can lead to stagnation.” I trust that these simple ideas for application can become a normal part of your study and that for all of us, the long distance from our head to our heart will become shorter and shorter as the truth of God’s word bears fruit in our lives.
What do you really know about Christmas?
The music, decorations, and retail sales are the most poignant indicators that the Christmas season is in full swing. All of these things have become an integral part of our culture and the feeling of this holiday season. It’s a challenge for those of us who strive to keep Christ the center of Christmas to separate the true meaning of this season from all the cultural expressions that have nothing to do with it.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with embracing the fun and festive aspects of these weeks ahead as we go to tree lightings, Christmas parties, or other events. Here’s the funny thing though; whether we realize it or not the one story from the Bible that we think we know best – The Christmas Story – has actually been told to us more from songs, nativity scenes, and Christmas plays than from the Bible. As a result we may not have all of our facts right about what really happened on that night over 2,000 years ago.
So, how familiar are you with the Christmas story as it’s presented in the Bible? We’ve put together a fun little video quiz that you can take HERE. Check it out, pass it onto your friends, and take some time this Christmas to read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus birth found in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.
The Bible in 29 Seconds
If you were to explain the Bible to a friend in 29 seconds, what would you say? Check out our attempt to do this and tell us what you think. When we boil the Bible down to 29 seconds we just end up with the top Bible points: creation, sin, Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection and eternal life.
thanks for your feedback
The Word Biblical Commentary (WBC) is now available in the Bible Study app. We couldn’t be more excited to offer this outstanding commentary set to our users. I spoke with the content craftsman who formatted the WBC, Matthew Jonas, and asked him to talk a little about WBC and how it can best be used in the Bible Study App. He gave me a lot of great information, and I thought I’d pass it along to you here.
A Long History of Excellence
WBC currently contains 59 volumes and has been in progress since 1977. Written from an evangelical perspective, WBC strives to uphold the ideas of the Scripture as divine and revelation, and the truth and power of the Gospel message. All of the volumes were originally written in English, but are based on the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic texts of the books they cover. Each author was required to provide his own English translation for each passage, which always forms the first sub-section in each section of the commentary.
Using the WBC in the Bible Study App
If you saw our last article on WBC you will know that this is a hefty commentary series. Because of the vast information included in WBC, it presents some challenges for usage in a mobile platform. Each section of commentary in WBC (covering a range of verses) is further divided into a number of sub-sections which each approach the entire set of verses from different perspectives like “Bibliography”, “Translation” and more. As I mentioned before, each of these sub-sections covers the entire range of verses for the section. If we were to attach a Bible verse location to all of them, there would be no way to distinguish in the verse chooser between the sub-sections and you’d be given multiple results for every location.
To avoid this problem, only the translation section is tied to a Bible verse location. This means that if you select a verse in the verse chooser, you will be taken to that verse in the translation sub-section of the appropriate section in the commentary.
Why the Resource Guide Makes WBC Even More Awesome
The best way to use WBC in the Bible Study app is with the Resource Guide. Each of the sub-sections has been individually tagged based on content, meaning that if you have a particular Bible passage open in the main window, the Resource Guide will display the commentary notes for that passage in the WBC for each of the subsections. Using it like this with the Resource Guide like this makes it easy to drill down to one sub-section, then jump back up quickly and then back down to another sub-section on the same passage.
More Tips for Using WBC
When using WBC in your main window, you have the option to switch the Go To menu from grid view to list view. The list view will give you access to the full table of contents as outlined in the table of contents at the beginning of each printed volume. This is the recommended method of navigating from point to point in our version of WBC.
One more note on the WBC, if you have your main window and split window set up to track along with each other, moving the text in the other window will take you back to beginning of that section in the commentary. You can turn off the setting that sets windows to follow one another, which is recommended when using the WBC alongside another text.
Thanks Matt! If you missed out on the great savings we offered on WBC a couple of weeks ago (it was only $299.99 for this incredible set!), keep your eyes out. We are going to be running some great promotions during Christmas and a little birdy told me that WBC might just go on sale again.
It’s that time of year again in the U.S., when we gather together to stuff ourselves with delicious food, watch football, and remember how thankful we are for the many blessings we have. (Hopefully, not in that order.)
This year, I thought it would be fun to ask around the Olive Tree office to see what our team is thankful for this holiday season. I asked my team members to tell me one serious thing and one not so serious thing that they are grateful to have in their life.
Here’s what they said:
- “I’m thankful for my healthy, beautiful baby.” (Shown above, she was born on 11/20/12 at 1:27am!)
- “I’m thankful for COFFEE! I’ve had about 5 hrs of sleep this week!”
- “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work for a company that helps people study the Word of God.”
- “I’m thankful for heated car seats in the Winter!”
- “I am thankful I live in a country where basic necessities exist in abundance.”
- “I am thankful for coffee, as I am sure that there is more coffee than blood coursing through my veins.”
- “Well I am thankful for what Jesus did for us, and I am thankful for everything He has given me that I do not deserve.”
- I am especially thankful for opposable thumbs. Can you image what life would be like without them? How would we hit the space bar on the keyboard? Everthingwouldlooklikethisinsteadofnicelyspacedout!”
- “I’m thankful for my kids and watching as they grow up, more of their personalities come out. It’s like watching a mystery story unfold: who did God make these people to be?”
- “I’m thankful for my mother-in-law’s cheesecake.”
- “I’m thankful that God frequently reminds me that he is always with me (because I easily forget).”
- “I’m thankful for how beautiful the inland northwest is, even when it’s raining all the time.”
- “I’m thankful that God has always provided for my basic needs… clean water, food, shelter, etc. A lot of people in the world right now do not have that.”
- “I’m thankful for Thanksgiving leftovers. And because of them, not having to prepare lunches for a week or so after thanksgiving.”
- “I am thankful to the Lord for all He has done. God has done so much for us. He created us. He sent His son to save and redeem us. God gave us life and breath. He gave us joy and happiness (and some sorrow).”
- “I am thankful for our wonderful Olive Tree users, publisher partners, authors and team members.”
- “I am thankful for the users who patiently work through issues with the app so they can persevere with their study of God’s Word.”
- “I am also thankful for car window defrosters.”
- “First, I am thankful for second chances.”
- “Second, I am thankful that the letters L and R have worn off my earbuds and I can now feel free to put them in any ear I please.”
And finally, I’m thankful for having family close so that I can spend time with them all year long, and I’m thankful for slip-on shoes, because who has time for laces?
I hope this inspired you as it did me, to reflect and thank God for the many blessings He’s given you. Let us know what you are thankful for, serious or silly, in the comments.