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How I Commune with God on my Morning Commute

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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:

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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

What The NIDB Is and How It Has Helped Me

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Guest ReviewAbram Kielsmeier-Jones

NIDB Olive TreeAn 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 logo

 

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:

 

NIDB Go To

 

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:

 

NIDB Search

 

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.

 

NIDB iPad

 

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.

NICOT Review for the Bible Study App

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NICOT in Olive TreeGuest Review: Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

Ask a group of pastors, seminarians, professors, or serious Bible readers, “What one commentary series on the Old Testament would you most recommend?” and you’re likely to hear: “NICOT.” Eerdmans’ New International Commentary on the Old Testament blends scholarship with application in a readable and engaging manner. Few, if any, commentary series are consistently this good throughout the series. And I don’t know of any other series that has such broad ecumenical appeal.

NICOT in Olive Tree has 23 volumes, spanning 26 biblical books. The bundle includes the 2010 volume on Hosea. The only volume currently in print that is not here is The Book of Judges, by Barry G. Webb (2012). (Judges is not available in any other Bible software at the moment.)

General editor Robert L. Hubbard Jr. writes of the series:

NICOT delicately balances “criticism” (i. e., the use of standard critical methodologies) with humble respect, admiration, and even affection for the biblical text. As an evangelical commentary, it pays particular attention to the textʼs literary features, theological themes, and implications for the life of faith today.

As I preached through Isaiah this past Advent, John N. Oswalt’s two volumes on that book were the first commentary I turned to after spending time with the biblical text. While it was always clear that Oswalt knew Isaiah and his milieu well, the author would find himself swept up at times in praise of the God Isaiah preached. On Isaiah 2:2, for instance, he writes:

What Isaiah was asserting was that one day it would become clear that the religion of Israel was the religion; that her God was the God. To say that his mountain would become the highest of all was a way of making that assertion in a figure which would be intelligible to people of that time.

NICOT IsaiahOn that passage’s promise of peace among nations, he concludes:

Until persons and nations have come to God to learn his ways and walk in them, peace is an illusion. This does not mean that the Church merely waits for the second coming to look for peace. But neither does it mean that the Church should promote peace talks before it seeks to bring the parties to a point where they will submit their needs to God.

Oswalt is representative of the authors in NICOT, in that he loves the text (and its grammar, history, and background) and loves the God who inspired it.

NICOT in Olive Tree has hyperlinks to biblical references and commentary footnotes, which you can easily and quickly view in the Bible Study (computer) app through the Quick Details corner (by hovering over the hyperlink), or as a pop-up window (which can then also pop out and keep your place in a separate window). It’s just as easy to tap a hyperlink in the mobile app.

There are two ways I’ve used NICOT so far.

1. I use NICOT as my starting point in the main window.

After some time in the biblical text, I have made my way through parts of NICOT by starting from the commentary. I can use hyperlinks to read the verses being commented on, as well as any other references. I can keep a Bible open in the split window and have it follow me along as I read through NICOT.

Using NICOT this way, there are quite a few ways to get around, both by looking up a verse in the commentary, and by navigating its Table of Contents. You only need to use one of these options at a time, but here they all are:

(click to enlarge image)

(click to enlarge image)

Note that from the Go To drop-down menu, I can keep following the sub-menus till I get to a specific place in the commentary (Introduction to Malachi in the instance above). One could also do this from the Go To item in the toolbar, which allows for both verse searching and Table of Contents navigation.

2. I use the Bible in the main window and NICOT as a supplement in the split window.

This has the advantage of letting me use NICOT as one among multiple resources in the Resource Guide, as shown (in part) here:

Resource Guide shows relevant library results (click to enlarge)

Resource Guide shows relevant library results (click to enlarge)

In both of the above setups you can take notes in NICOT, highlight, and bookmark your place. You can also do a search on a word or phrase in the commentary, with the results appearing almost instantaneously. One may wish, for example, to find all the times Oswalt refers to the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah, which is an easy and fast search to run.

In reviewing Olive Tree I have found it to have the most versatile, smooth, and customizable Bible app I’ve seen on iOS. I write more about the Bible Study iOS app here. The fact that Olive Tree is cross-platform makes it appealing to many. Though the desktop app is well-designed, I would like to see a future update where you can create a saved workspace with multiple resources open in various tabs and windows. That, I think, would take the app to the next level.

But everything is here to help you work through NICOT in a way that you couldn’t in print. There are a couple of options (one free and one paid) for Hebrew Bibles, too, if you want to use NICOT in tandem with the original language. (NICOT uses transliterated Hebrew.)

NICOT volumes consistently top the charts of the Best Commentaries site. Preachers and professors, parishioners and pupils will all find much to mine here, as they seek to better understanding the Old Testament and to more faithfully love the God whose goodness its pages proclaim.

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 New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), given to me for this blog review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review.You can find the product here

App Video Review

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Thank to Sara T. for her review of The Bible Study App and demonstrating how she uses it to setup prayer notebooks.

Have you written or made a video review of The Bible Study App? We’d like to hear from you and maybe even feature your review. Email us at connect[at]olivetree.com

 

 

Video Review

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Thanks to Lauren for her review of The Bible Study App!

For better viewing tap the box in the lower right of the video player to go full screen.

Have you done a written or video review of The Bible Study App?

If so we’d like to know. Email us at connect[at]olivetree.com

Video Review

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Thanks to Dan B. for demonstrating his three favorite features of The Bible Study App in this video review!

 

 

Go HERE to see the King James Bible with Strong’s mentioned in this review.

Do you have a written or video review of The Bible Study App?

Email us at connect[at}olivetreebible.com and let us know and we may feature it on an upcoming blog.

 

 

 

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