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Guest Blogger: Melissa Joy
But when I hoped for good, evil came,
and when I waited for light, darkness came.
Hope is a double edged sword. Walking through Holy Week, we think along the lines of so many events… It’s so busy! Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem while His people worshipped and called hosanna, He cleansed the temple and taught His people, He is betrayed by one who is unfaithful, He is perfumed by one who is faithful, He gives thanks even in the presence of His betrayer, He hands out bread and wine to His followers, He prays in solitude, He is captured and taken away, He is scrutinized and condemned, He is taken before leaders and stood before multitudes, He is burdened in every imaginable way, He is stripped and scourged, He is hung and nailed through, He cries out, He is forsaken, He bleeds, He dies, He is taken away, He is buried in the dark tomb…
The time between death and resurrection feels so dark, so empty, so long. What is happening in this day between Friday and Sunday? What are we to do as we sit outside the tomb? And what is our Lord doing in the darkness, the cold grips of death?
I have experienced waiting—longing, yearning, begging—for something, feeling like darkness and grief and death and hopelessness reigns around me. Hope is illusive.
Hope is defined as a longing and a desire, anticipating something good to come, a trust, to desire expectation. But Scripture adds a nuance of entwining hope with faith. A quick search of the word hope shows 164 places in the ESV Bible where the word is directly mentioned—and even more frequently alluded to. Adding faith to hope limits the results to just 13. We who are schooled in the Church are very familiar with the idea in Hebrews 11:1 that faith is the assurance of things hoped for—assurance. Faith is the guarantee of the hope.
Where is our hope? In the Lord. And what is the assurance of Him? Our faith. And who gave us this faith? Paul plainly tells us that faith is a gift of the Lord (Ephesians 2:8). But—He died. He is in the tomb!
On Saturday the busyness slows, seems to stop. What is the Lord doing? What are His people doing? The tomb is closed. Hope feels lost. The Guarantor of my hope, the One in whom I have faith, is lying lifeless in a dark cave, covered in perfumes and herbs, wrapped in burial cloths. I can not see my Lord, I only see thick rock through my eyelashes dripping with tears.
What do we do with our faith and our hope when we seem to be stuck in the long, dark Saturday between death and resurrection? When we can not see what the Lord is doing, do not grasp what His people are up to, and ultimately feel like we must simply wait because the darkness is so heavy and the grief so thick that there is nothing to do but sit. Wait. Groan. Wonder. Weep.
Where then is my hope?
Who will see my hope?
© Melissa Joy, 2015
Melissa Joy seeks to grow in grace and wisdom alongside her husband Steven (Olive Tree’s VP of Operations), while pursuing joyful domesticity by nurturing her home and family. The joy she finds in her family, homemaking, music, writing, ministering to those in grief, and seeking to be a pillar of loving strength in her home can be seen unveiled at Joyful Domesticity.
From Guest Blogger: Ashley LaMar
In about 15 minutes I’m going to be starting my weekday commute to work. My commute looks like this: a 5-minute walk to the train station, waiting 5-10 minutes for the train to arrive, a 25-minute train ride, waiting 5-10 minutes for the bus to arrive, a 15-minute bus ride, and a 5-minute walk to my office. My total morning commute time is 1 hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes and approximately 45 minutes of that is spent either riding the transit system or waiting. What do I do during the time? I read. I used to read a novel on my Kindle but ever since I’ve discovered the free Olive Tree Bible App I use this time for Bible study.
Note: This is not a sponsored post by Olive Tree, I just love their app and really wanted to share it with you.
I have two faith-based apps on my iPad that I use in the morning. The first is The Christian’s Daily Challenge. I read it in the morning when I first wake up before I shower, eat breakfast, and start my day. I ruminate on it and let it sink it while I’m getting dressed for work. Then, when I head out on my commute I open Olive Tree, read the same verse that The Christian’s Daily Challenge referred to, and delve deeper into study.
The other day on my commute I was reading through the book of Matthew again and, while reading about the immaculate conception and the birth of Jesus I noticed something that I hadn’t paid much attention to before and that was the frequent references to the Angels of God communicating with Joseph and the Magi through dreams. Every time I noticed the reference to an Angle communicating via dreams I highlighted it using the Olive Tree highlight tool. It’s actually really cool because you can set different color highlights to mean different things such as highlighting quotes or passages to memorize in yellow and verses about grace and love in pink.
Did you notice the little green arrow at the bottom of the page? Well…there is a ton of special hidden features down there! Just swipe the arrow up and you are able to access related verses, expanded detail on the people, the places, and the topics discussed on that page. You can also click through to check out maps, images, sermons, videos, etc on the people, places and topics. I admit I’m kind of a sucker for Bible maps and I love seeing how the regions discussed in the Bible correlate to the world as we know it today.
If you click on one of the topics the app will bring up a list of other places in the Bible where the same subject is discussed. That is one of my favorite features.
Plus there is a built-in store that you can access from within the app to buy books on theology and Bible history, Christian eBooks, Devotionals, Prayer, and Marriage & Family. A few of my current favorites are:
- Breaking Free Day by Day: A Year of Walking in Liberty by Beth Moore ($8.99)
- A Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer by Cheri Fuller ($14.99)
- Table Graces for the Family by Thomas Nelson ($12.99)
- This Momentary Marriage by John Piper ($9.99)
I love that you can buy the books from the in-app store and, in many cases, the books are cheaper than if you bought them on Amazon.
It’s an amazing app for Bible Study and it’s perfect for my commute. It allows me to commune with God in the morning as I start my day and again in the evening as I am drawing my day to a close and heading home to my family. I have noticed that I have developed more patience on my morning commute and been less irritable with crowds and delays as I start my day off in a peaceful place. I have also noticed that I return home at the end of the day less stressed and frustrated because I’ve spent time with the Lord, laid my stresses and cares upon Him and returned home with a joyful heart.
As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a sponsored post and the app is free on all devices iPhone, iPad (like I used it) and Android. It’s both Mac and Windows compatible and it is, hands-down, the absolute BEST Bible Study app I have found. If you’re interested you can get it here.
What do you think? Think you’ll check it out? What tools do you use for your Bible Study?
Learn More about Ashley at foreverashley.com
From Guest Blogger: Dr. Brian Simmons, Lead Translator for The Passion Translation
God Is Passionate and Poetic.
It may surprise some of us to hear God described this way, as passionate and poetic. Yet the heart of God is filled with holy longings, passions which he expressed in creation and through redemption. And we would never discover such passions completely without the gift of God’s poetic Word, spoken to us in our own language. The Passion Translation is committed to translating the Word of God with all of its poetic nuance, flavor, passion, and truth—without compromising accuracy in any way. It expresses God’s passion for people and His world by translating the original, life-changing message of God’s Word for modern readers; it is every bit reliable as it is relevant.
God’s Word is potent, it has power to transform lives. As you read the Bible in this new, modern English version, expect to be delighted by The Passion Translation with new insights and a fresh understanding of all that God wants to say to our hearts. This is a heart-level translation, from the passion of God’s heart to the passion of your heart. Written by passionate men, the Bible is unlocked and understood more fully when passionate people read it.
God is a Poet—the Poet of Poets.
I’m so thankful for the poetic books found in the middle of our Bible. There is something about the Psalms and the Proverbs that keep our lives fueled with praise and guided by wisdom. It would be hard to imagine the Word of God without poetry, parables, and proverbs, because they unfold an entirely different dimension of the wonderful heart of God!
I have cherished the Psalms for over four decades. I contemplate them almost daily, for they have been my comfort and joy, leading me to the place where worship flows. When discouraged or downcast, reading these divine poems has given me new strength. They charge my batteries and fill my sails. In fact, the older I get the more powerful they grow: their thunder stirs me; their sweet melodies move me into the sacred emotions of a heart on fire like never before! The dark rain clouds of grief turn to bright rainbows of hope, just from meditating on David’s soul-nourishing songs.
The Psalms find the words that express our deepest and strongest emotions, no matter what the circumstances. Every emotion of our heart is reflected in the Psalms. Reading the Psalms will turn sighing into singing, trouble into triumph. The word praise is found 189 times in this book. There is simply nothing that touches my heart like the Psalms. Thousands of years ago my deepest feelings were put to music—this is what we all delightfully discover when reading the Psalms!
God’s Wisdom Is a Fountain—Come, Drink Freely!
Then there are the divine words of wisdom from Solomon, the book of Proverbs, written by the wisest man (well, maybe second wisest man) to ever walk the earth! Imagine reading a 2800-year-old book of wisdom: How many secrets would be uncovered? What kind of wisdom would be revealed? How would your life change as you drank in its advice? That’s Proverbs! These powerful words are anointed to bring you revelation from the very throne room of God—the wisdom you need to guide your steps and direct your life.
When you read Psalms and Proverbs, you’re engaging your heart and mind with the greatest book of wisdom and the greatest book of praise ever written, penned by two kings full of sage advice and God’s favor. God has given away his secrets in these books and he longs for you to read and receive them deep within. The Passion Translation seeks to express them in a way that would unlock the ‘passion’ of God’s heart, change your life, and launch you into the kind of life God has destined for you.
Dr. Brian Simmons is a former missionary, linguist, minister, and Bible teacher. As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, Brian co-translated the Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama. He and his wife have birthed numerous ministries, including a dynamic church, Gateway Christian Fellowship, in West Haven, Connecticut. He is also a gifted teacher of the Bible who has authored several books and serves churches worldwide through his teaching ministry.
Guest Review: Abram Kielsmeier-Jones
An underrated but really good Bible dictionary is the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (NIDB). Published by Abingdon, the five-volume set is edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld and includes contributions of nearly 1,000 scholars.
For a short time the dictionary set is $99.99 in Olive Tree Bible software. Below I offer–from my perspective as a preaching pastor and Bible reader–my take on the set, with a focus on Olive Tree’s iOS Bible Study App.
What The NIDB Is and How It Has Helped Me
There are more than 7,000 articles in NIDB. The contributing scholars are diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, and denominational background–a refreshing mix of voices. The dictionary balances reverence for the biblical text with rigorous scholarship–though the dictionary is rarely arcane.
The NIDB has been eminently useful to me in my weekly sermon preparation. Last fall, for example, when preaching through Genesis, I knew I’d have to make sense somehow of the “subdue” command that God gives the first humans regarding their relationship to the earth. The dictionary’s “Image of God” entry helpfully clarifies:
While the verb may involve coercive activities in interhuman relationships (see Num. 32:22, 29), no enemies are in view here–and this is the only context in which the verb applies to nonhuman creatures.
The same article puts nicely the implications of humanity’s creation in God’s image: the “image of God entails a democratization of human beings–all human hierarchies are set aside.”
This sort of blend between technical detail and pastoral application is present throughout the dictionary.
I’ve also found useful background for my Greek reading. This year, for example, I’m reading through the Psalms in Greek with a group of folks (see here). In the “Septuagint” entry in NIDB I find this:
The 4th-cent. CE “Codex Vaticanus” contains all of the books of the Hebrew Scripture or Protestant OT, and the following material that is today classified as deuterocanonical: 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Ps 151, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sirach, the additions to Esther (several of which were originally composed in a Semitic language; others of which are original Greek compositions), Judith, Tobit, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the additions to Daniel (Azariah and the Three Jews, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon).
The entry goes on to describe other Septuagint manuscripts, with hyperlinks in Olive Tree to related entries.
iOS Features in Olive Tree
Olive Tree is as cross-platform as a Bible study app gets: it runs on iOS (iPhone and iPad), Mac, Windows, and Android. The app itself is free, and you can get some good texts free, too, so you can preview the app before you buy any resources in it.
I’ve got the Olive Tree app on Mac, iPhone, and iPad Mini. It’s one of the best-executed iOS Bible study apps I’ve seen. It is visually appealing, highly customizable (especially with gestures and swipes), and easy to learn.
When reading the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (or anything else), here are a few features that have impressed me:
You can navigate with “flick scrolling” (how iBooks is set up) or “page scrolling” (like Kindle). This will make just about any user feel at home in the app. Flick scrolling (how you’d navigate a Web page) feels more natural to me, so I use that.
Dictionary entries are easy to get to. You can simply tap on “Go To” and type in the entry you’re looking for. The auto-complete feature saves having to type very much on the iPhone’s small keyboard:
You can search the entire contents of NIDB by word. If I wanted to see not just the entry for “Septuagint,” but every time the NIDB mentions the Septuagint, I would simply type that word in to the search entry bar:
Then I can select a result and read the given entry.
The full-color photos are zoomable. The NIDB contains full-color photographs that help visualize various entries. You can select the photograph and pinch-zoom for more detail.
I’ve noted this before–there is a great deal of customizable “Gestures/Shortcuts” preferences in the “Advanced Settings” menu. Olive Tree is the most versatile Bible study app in this sense. For example:
- Two-finger swipe left and right takes you through your history within the app. I can swipe between NIDB, and the last NIV Old Testament passage I was reading, and a commentary, and…. No need to go through menus.
- Two-finger tap gets you from any screen to your library; right away you can get at your other resources.
Concluding Assessment and How to Buy
One of my favorite features of Olive Tree’s apps is that you can view two resources at once that aren’t tied together by Bible verse. It’s like having split windows on an iPad. So you can have the NIDB open in the top half of your screen, and a Bible text or other resource open in the bottom half–even to unrelated topics if you want.
The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible is about as good a Bible dictionary as you’ll find. If you can use it to complement the Anchor Bible Dictionary (also available in OT), you’d be very well set with Bible dictionaries.
Olive Tree has done a great job, especially with its iOS apps. As much as I loved my print copy of NIDB, I unloaded it not long ago since I can essentially carry it around with me now. And getting at its contents is even easier with the enhancements Olive Tree provides.
Abram Kielsmeier-Jones is the pastor of a great church in a seaside community near Boston, a youth ministry consultant, a husband and father, and a follower of Jesus. At his blog Words on the Word he records his thoughts on the Bible (particularly as written in Greek and Hebrew), books about the Bible, pastoring, leading worship, parenting, youth ministry, music, the Church, and more. Read more about Abram here.
Thanks to Olive Tree for the NIDB for the purposes of this review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review. You can find the product here, where it is currently on sale for $99.99.
From Guest Blogger: Andy Deane, author of Learn to Study the Bible
Studying the Scriptures is supposed to be exciting! That’s why King David tells us in Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Like me, I hope that you have found this verse to be true. Maybe, like me, you have also discovered that having plain honey multiple times a day can get repetitive. I’m not saying that God’s word becomes boring over time. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I love that God’s word is so diverse and continues to excite and bless the reader taste after taste. The Scriptures are not to blame if we lose our taste for them. The Bible is designed to be a continual blessing to the believer. But believers may sometimes need to mix up how they study the Scriptures to make sure to avoid the ruts that their method of extracting the honey can bring about. Sometimes when we use the same approach to studying each and every day, the approach can become repetitive. It’s not God’s word that needs new spice, it’s the method of study that needs variety. That is why I wrote Learn to Study the Bible. With forty different ways to study the Scriptures, you always have a fresh way to prepare and digest your daily manna from heaven.
I’d like to share briefly the three ways that I personally enjoy studying the Bible.
FAVORITE VERSE BIBLE STUDY METHOD:
To start, please consider buying a new Bible to use with this method, or at least a new color highlighter. Begin by reading one to four chapters of the Bible a day. Remember that reading one chapter a day will get you through the entire New Testament in a year with one hundred make up days for when you miss a day of reading. Four chapters a day will get you through the entire Bible in a year in less than 25 minutes of reading time. The key is that each day you underline only one favorite verse from each chapter you read. That’s easy when you are in Leviticus but extremely difficult when you are in Matthew! After you are finished reading the entire book, go back and circle one favorite verse from the verses you underlined in the whole book. Write a few sentences in your Bible about why that is your favorite verse for that book. After you’ve read the whole Bible, you’ll have 1,189 favorite verses underlined (one from each chapter) and 66 all-time favorite verses (one from each book). Think about how valuable that Bible will be to you because of this investment. As you turn to any page in Scripture you will remember which verse spoke to your heart the most. You might even consider putting the date next to the verses you choose to connect them to your daily journal to enhance the experience even more. These will become the verses you choose to memorize since they have meaning to you. It’s a simple but fruitful and personal way to study the Bible.
TRANSLATION COMPARISON BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Not every student of God’s word is going to have the blessing of learning the original biblical languages. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stand on the shoulders of scholars who spend their lives steeped in these languages, and this is the beauty of the Translation Comparison Bible Study Method. Every translation of the Bible represents the understanding and choice of dozens of skilled language scholars. When you see a unique word in a verse, you can be sure an important decision was made to choose that word over another word. This method helps you notice the different word selections that scholars made when creating English translations of the Bible. You’ll also learn how to prayerfully meditate on why these words were chosen over other words and how that can impact your understanding of the text. Learn how to compare Bible translations for spiritual growth and profit by reading a chapter from the book for free by visiting this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/167983176/Translation-Comparison-Method.
DAILY BREAD BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Sometimes our biggest problem is rushing our reading of a passage of Scripture. If we simply slow down and chew on God’s word then we would be blessed by it. Slowing down is exactly what the Daily Bread Bible Study Method will force you to do. With this method, you’ll learn techniques that invite you to take the time to make sure you’re squeezing all the meaning you can out of the Scriptures. If you’ve struggled with understanding what your pastor means when he tells you to “meditate on God’s word,” then this method is for you. Read another free chapter from the book by visiting http://www.scribd.com/doc/16565590/The-Daily-Bread-Bible-Study-Method.
I hope these three Bible study methods that I use personally will bless you as you experiment with them. Remember that however you mix it up, keep it exciting—don’t let your Bible study time become dull or a duty. I hope you’ll enjoy and use one of these methods, but don’t forget that you should never become devoted to the method—only to the Savior to whom the methods lead!
Guest Blogger: Rachel Wojnarowski
You intended for 2015 to be the year- the year that you settled into a daily Bible reading routine. Yet January 1st came… and the first week went, and you still haven’t started reading the Bible daily.
Guess what? I have wonderful news; it’s not too late to choose a Bible reading plan for 2015!
In fact, it’s never too late to begin a daily quiet time routine with God. The key to establishing a routine is to have an actual plan. Without a plan, we all know it just won’t happen; intentionality is a must. Today I have five questions to ask when choosing a Bible reading plan. These questions will provide guidance for choosing a Bible reading plan that works for you!
1. How much time do I intend to spend reading the Bible daily?
Choosing the amount of time you are going to spend each day reading the Bible doesn’t have to be set in stone, but it’s a great idea to estimate how much time you are going to set aside each day for reading. Knowing how much time you are going to use will enable you to choose a plan that will work for you! Whether it is 10 minutes or 20 minutes, choose an amount of time that is reasonable for you.
2. What is the best time of day for me to read the Bible daily?
While there is much to be said for beginning the day in God’s Word, there are seasons of life when taking 20 minutes in the morning is not the most ideal time for a larger segment of reading. Currently I am doing my daily reading in the morning, but there have been times in the past when I read just one verse in the morning and waited until a better time later in the day to read a full chapter or more. I believe the more consistent you can be with the time you have, the better the results.
3. How many chapters do I want to read in a day?
For the past two years, I’ve read the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan (available in Olive Tree’s Bible Study App) in order to read the Bible through in a year. This plan requires four chapters a day, as most Bible reading plans designed to be completed in a year. For me, this plan took about 20 minutes a day. Every reader will have a different comfortable speed of reading and different amount of time to spend reading each day. Think through these factors as you choose a Bible reading plan. This year I wanted to spend more time reflecting on the passage, so I chose to read one chapter a day. I won’t finish reading the Bible in a day, but that’s ok.
4. Do I plan to use any Bible study methods as I read or simply read and reflect?
Determining your study intentions before you begin the Bible reading plan will help you decide both your time factor and number of chapters per day. Whether you use a highlighting method or a simple Bible study guide each day will determine how much time you need to anticipate beyond the reading time.
5. How long do I plan to use this particular Bible reading plan?
Are you choosing your plan for the entire year or do you want to focus on a smaller increment of time, such as 3 months? It is sometimes difficult to know what you can do for an entire year and a shorter amount of time is a better way to commit. At the end of the 3 months, you can choose a new plan or even repeat the plan you finished for more impact.
What if I want to read through the Bible, but I know it will take longer than a year?
You can still read through the Bible AND do it all on your own. The first time I read through the Bible, I didn’t read 4 chapters a day and I didn’t use a set plan. You can find out what I did right here.
I hope these questions will guide you through the process of choosing a Bible reading plan that fits your current needs and desire.