Archive for year 2013

The Selfless Season



As the year 2013 comes to a close I find myself running from holiday party to Christmas shopping, to more holiday parties, with barely a moment to spare. Besides the busyness of the season, one of the reasons I don’t have much extra time could have something to do with the upcoming adoption of my son which has definitely turned my world upside down – in a good way. In a season that is usually very focused on ourselves, my wife and I have found our perspective radically changed. To put it mildly, my focus has shifted. It has shifted from me to my new son. To a life focused on self to a life…well, a little less-focused on self (I still have a long way to go before I’m entirely selfless).

As a Christian one phrase I’ve often heard said during this time of the year is “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate his birth, a birth that would ultimately lead to the most important and selfless act, as Jesus later willingly gives his life. The challenge we face in our consumer driven society today is to actually keep the real meaning of Christmas at the center of our celebration. This is always difficult for me as I can get so focused on buying stuff and giving my family ideas of what to buy for me that I lose sight of what this the season is supposed to be reminding me of.

It’s no coincidence that two areas that are the biggest focus this time of year- gifts and relationships- are also the same ones that can cause people to dread the Christmas season the most. While gift giving will always be a main focus of the season, there are many people in our community that barely have enough money to buy food, let alone presents, for their kids. For them Christmas can be a time where the overwhelming commercialism serves as a constant reminder of their shortcomings.

Many amazing people and organizations in our community reach out during this time of the year to make Christmas special and help meet the needs of those in our community – selflessly giving and taking the time to serve those who have fallen on hard times. Because of their effort we also have an opportunity to partner with them. Whether it’s donating a gift or just dropping spare change in a bucket, your selfless act of giving has the potential to bring light and hope to someone’s life this year.

The second area that can be a struggle this time of year is in our relationships. For many of us this is a time of reuniting with family and friends and enjoying the blessing of the relationships that we have. Unfortunately this time of year also brings to the surface the pain of relationships that have been lost. Whether because of death, estrangement, or other circumstances – intense loneliness and even mourning is often a byproduct of the Christmas season. Our ability to fill the relational void in people’s lives requires more intentional individual action than simply donating a gift or money. Giving of ourselves and our time can be a far more sacrificial act. It may mean inviting someone to a family gathering that isn’t family, sharing a meal, or just listening to and acknowledging the challenges and hurts of life. I often find the hardest part of my life to be selfless with is my time. But giving time can be a gift far more valuable than a wrapped present.

As the hands and feet of Jesus, let’s take the time this season to let the universal message of Christ’s love speak through the commercialism and self-centeredness of our society.  Imagine what this season could like if we did?


Free Resource Friday

What do you really know about Christmas?

We’re influenced by our culture more than we realize. While the Christmas story is one we’ve heard for years, there’s a good chance that our knowledge of those events that happened 2,000 years ago are more influenced by our culture than the Bible.
How well do you know the Christmas story? Take this short video quiz and find out.


Download this video to use in your church or other type gatherings.


The Office Decoration Contest

Today we took a brief break and blitzed our work areas in the annual Olive Tree office decorating contest.


Bearded Theologians


Last month we asked people to submit pictures of their beards and then chose a random winner who received the Charles Spurgeon Collection.

Thanks to all who had fun with us and submitted a picture! We didn’t want to keep them to ourselves so we now present to you the Bearded Theologians of Olive Tree.



As a thanks to all who participated we’ve put The C.H. Spurgeon Collection on sale for this week.
Go here to find out more!



Look Inside The New Moody Atlas of the Bible


We’re pleased to announce The New Moody Atlas of the Bible as a new title available to the Olive Tree library for The Bible Study App. Watch the video below for a brief look at how this title looks and works within the App.



To find out more about the New Moody Atlas of the Bible go here!


Look Inside The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times


The newly released Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times has amazing content and is a great resource for Bible Study.  The introduction states that the “goal of this visual guide is to restore clarity and vitality to those portions of God’s Word that speak of the activities and social stations of the past.”  The Bible Study App integrates this resource into a seamless part of your Bible Study.

Here’s one example of an article I found on “Pharisee”.  (screenshots taken from the Windows Desktop Bible Study App. Click for a larger view).

With Matthew 23:2 in the ESV opened in the Main Window, I read that Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses ‘seat…”. I can open The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times in the split window and navigate to the article on “Pharisee”.

split window navigation

Once I get to the article, I can see the article on Pharisee and read it in the split window without having to leave my Bible text.

split window

As I’m reading I see several full-color photographs relevant to the article I’m reading.  For example, within the Pharisee article is a picture of “the seat of Moses”.  If there are any footnote references, I can tap/click on those and they can be viewed in a pop up.

footnote popup

Continuing to look through this article, there are several other photographs that help give me not only a better understanding of Pharisees, but also a visual picture of what a synagogue would have looked like:


even down to a temple warning inscription blocked Gentile access to certain segments of the temple complex.  As with all resources in The Bible Study App , I can tap/click Scripture references to view them in a pop up without having to leave my place in the Bible text.

scripture reference popup


With The Bible Study App, I can also make notes, highlights, and tags within the The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times to help keep my Bible Study organized.

note - tag

Looking through these beautiful full-color photographs gives a sense of being “in the action” and gives a sense of realism and depth. As the author states, “cultural practices of the past are fascinating on their own, but even more so as they help us correctly interpret God’s Word and apply it to our lives.”

As you can see, The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times is a fantastic resource that will help you increase your Bible knowledge.

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