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Writer for Olive Tree

Posts by Elizabeth

Bible Handbook: A Companion for Reading Plan

We’re a week into the Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan, and we’ve been reading the stories of Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and the striking account of the power of God in the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

Baker Illustrated Bible HandbookThese stories remind us that our individual stories fit into God’s overarching plan of redemption. Our intention with the Reading Plan is to throw you headlong into the full biblical narrative. The authors of the Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook also want to bring your story in line with God’s story.

An excellent companion to the Olive Tree Bible Reading Plan, the Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook is split into three sections:

  1. The first section explores the Bible’s organization, explains the basics of each book of the Bible, and gives a cultural and historical framework for the Old and New Testaments.
  2. The second section deals with the inspiration of Scripture and the steps taken to bring Scripture into the form we know it today. Topics explored in this section include the New Testament canon, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Bible translation, and more.
  3. The third section of the Handbook addresses how we use and understand the Bible, including information about literary features in the Bible, archeology in the Bible, and issues of authorship.
Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook

Screenshot from Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook in BibleReader

There is something new for every student of Scripture. This invaluable resource will give you a broader and deeper understanding of the historical and cultural roots of God’s Word. At the same time, the Word of God transcends time and space in its message. Yesterday, today and forever, the Good News is that God in Christ “proclaim(s) good news to the poor…, liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).


Download the Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan today for free here by logging into your Olive Tree account. After today, the Reading Plan will be sold for 99 cents.

Olive Tree Summer Bible Reading Plan!

When I was a sophomore in college, I took an Old Testament Survey class in which we read the entire Old Testament in one semester. I remember reading the syllabus during our first class and balking at some of our homework assignments. Read Psalms 76-150 for Wednesday’s homework. Read Isaiah for Friday. Yes, that’s right. Read all of Isaiah.

Without a doubt, the volume of reading that semester was a challenge. But in hindsight, I am thankful for the lightning-speed pace with which we moved through the Old Testament because it revealed an overarching narrative to the Bible that I’d never noticed. There is a profound continuity between the Old and New Testament. God really is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and his desire is for the salvation of all people, first for the Jew and also for the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

When we were discussing overarching themes for the summer here at Olive Tree, we got hooked on this idea of reading through parts of the whole Bible in one summer. Rather like New Year’s, summer carries its own set of resolutions and to-dos. We invite you to make Olive Tree’s Summer Bible Reading Plan your goal for the summer.

Here’s the lowdown on reading plan:

  1. The reading plan organizes the Bible’s 66 books into eight literary genres: Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, Gospels and Acts, Paul’s Letters, and the General Letters/Revelation.
  2. Each genre and book of the Bible includes a succinct introduction written by Olive Tree staff members that will help both mature and new Christians understand the basic historical context and themes.
  3. The plan’s dates are from June 1 to September 11. In most cases, you’ll be reading several chapters a day.
  4. The plan will be available as a free download until Friday, June 8. After that, it will be available at OliveTree.com for 99 cents.

Olive Tree is excited to help you dive into the Word of God. Our end goal for the Summer Reading Plan is that you become so steeped in God’s story that it begins both to define and transform your life.

“Let your roots grow down into [Christ Jesus], and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7, NLT)

Just Give Me Jesus

To know the stories behind the authors of devotionals like Anne Graham Lotz’ Just Give Me Jesus gives new depth of meaning to the written work. Today, we take a peek into the life of one of the daughters of the world’s most famous evangelist, Billy Graham.

Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s second daughter, is a powerful force for God’s Kingdom in her own right and was even called “the best preacher in the family” by her father. But Anne’s road to ministry was an uphill battle. She married early and had her first child at age 20. Several years later, Anne was struggling with depression as she cared for three small children and wrestled with her role as a stay-at-home mother. She wanted an opportunity to serve the Lord outside the home.

In 1975, God revealed an opportunity for Anne to lead a Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) group at her church in Raleigh, North Carolina. Though some disapproved of her choice, it quickly became clear, when the audience numbered 300 and counting, that Anne had found her niche.

After 12 years of ministry with BSF, Anne began to receive speaking requests both nationally and internationally and was shaped by other women in ministry, including Audrey Wetherell Johnson, the founder of BSF. Since then, Anne has started a non-profit called AnGeL Ministries, formed from her initials AGL, whose mission is to “give out messages of biblical exposition so that God’s Word is personal and relevant to ordinary people.” Anne’s ministry includes numerous speaking engagements and writing devotional books. Olive Tree has four of Anne’s books, including The Vision of His Glory, Just Give Me Jesus, Heaven: My Father’s House, and God’s Story, which will be on sale at OliveTree.com later this week in honor of Mother’s Day.

In Just Give Me Jesus, Anne longs for her readers to know God and reflects on her own life-long journey to know Christ:

“I am growing in my knowledge of God, and I say without hesitation or qualification that knowing God is my joy and reason for living. He is…


the Wind beneath my wings,

the Treasure that I seek,

the Foundation on which I build,

the Song in my heart,

the Object of my desire,

the Breath of my life—

He is my All in all!”


Encouraged by Anne’s example, may Jesus also be our all in all!

Be Inspired by Francis Chan’s Erasing Hell, Forgotten God, and Crazy Love

For another week and a half, Olive Tree is offering Francis Chan’s three best-selling books for the great price of $2.99 each. Add Erasing Hell, Forgotten God, and Crazy Love  to your Olive Tree account today and be inspired and challenged by Chan’s books.

Chan’s books invite us to ask challenging questions and grow in our knowledge of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

Erasing Hell invites us to ask the hard questions about life after death, including questions like “How could a loving God send people to hell?” and “Will people have a chance to believe in Jesus after death?”

Forgotten God offers us a chance to learn how the Bible speaks of God’s spirit and calls us to understand, embrace, and follow the Holy Spirit in our own lives.

Crazy Love beckons us to live into an authentic faith that is marked by radical love for God and other people. Those who truly know God’s love will never be the same.

Reading each of these books in BibleReader offers you a great reading experience with the added bonus of Olive Tree’s hyper-linked verses. With Chan’s heavy reliance on Scripture, you won’t have to go back and forth between your book and your Bible. Rather, you can just click on the verses and have the Bible passage appear in front of you.

Chan is the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. He is developing a church-planting movement in the inner city of San Francisco and sits of the board of directors of several mission organizations. Chan is also working to launch a country-wide discipleship movement to help Christians deepen their walks with God.

Pick up one of Chan’s books today from OliveTree.com to help you grow in your knowledge and love of God.


Before Resurrection, Crucifixion

Lent is the time of year when we clean out the cobwebs of our spiritual lives, a spiritual “spring cleaning,” if you will. And just as we likely don’t enjoy this season of self-denial and discipline (as I certainly don’t enjoy spring cleaning), it’s a necessary task in the Christian life. It’s similar with Good Friday. If we mean good in the sense of pleasant or cheerful, Good Friday is anything but good. Rather, Good Friday is a day of grief, of sorrow, of darkness. Before joy comes sorrow. Before light comes darkness. Before new life comes death. Before resurrection comes crucifixion.


Coupled with the Good News of the Gospel is bad news about the human condition. As Paul writes in Romans, “There is no one righteous, not even one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Humanity has gone astray and the only way to redeem this incredible wrong is for God himself, in human flesh, to take on humanity’s brokenness in suffering and death.


To sit in the Good Friday service or to read through the Passion accounts in the Gospels is not particularly enjoyable either. We are left to sit in darkness when Christ dies on the cross, pondering our part in Jesus’ death by our own sinfulness. It is with this realization that the cleaning of our spiritual lives begins, with an acknowledgement that the cleaning is necessary. It is Christ who cleans; Christ sweeps away our pride and washes away our sin. “’Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” Though the full spring cleaning, top to bottom, will come with Easter when Christ settles sin and death for good, we begin with the crucifixion.


And in doing so, we get our first glimpse of Easter.


A Command To Love and a Model to Follow

“[Jesus said,] ‘Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples– when they see the love you have for each other.’”

~John 13:34-35


Mandatum. The Latin word for “command” is at the root of Maundy Thursday, the night in which Jesus issues the command to his disciples to love one another. In 1 Corinthians 11:24-26, Paul quotes Jesus’ Maundy Thursday words: “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do, this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Just as the joy of Easter is undermined if we ignore the sorrow and grief of Good Friday, ignoring Maundy Thursday also diminishes Easter’s joy. Maundy Thursday gives us a beautiful picture of Christ’s love-filled sacrifice in the Bread and Cup of Communion. It’s crucial that we remember that Jesus’ body was sacrificed for us. His blood establishes a new covenant with God that calls us to new life in Christ. Maundy Thursday thus forces us into the world around us to obey the command that Christ not only gave, but modeled.

This Maundy Thursday, may the love of Christ overflow from you into the lives of the people surrounding you!

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