Category: Food for Thought

Yielding to God’s Purposes

Posted by on 06/23/2017 in:

“But the wisdom that is from above is the first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. –James 3:17 NKJV

Consider this: God is perfect. Eternal. Almighty. He knows everything about everyone (Ps. 139:1-4). On the other hand, we are imperfect. Sinful. Our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know.

So why in the world wouldn’t we align our plans with God’s purpose?

We tend to think we know enough to make our own way in life.

But because God actually cares, get over that tendency. He is God. You are His. He provides the resources you need to accomplish His purpose.

Isaiah 41:10 records God’s assurance to His people:

“Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

God’s purpose for you is not mysterious – see Micah 6:6-8. This is the foundation of God’s will: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. All of the specific decisions we make can fall under these categories.

So make every one of your actions purposeful. And know that obedience is tightly tied to how your purpose is lived out.

If God’s absolute care for you is not enough motivation, consider this: There were many times God called specific people to do specific things; and from those who did not obey He took away His hand of protection and provision (Jer. 7:13-15; Rom. 1:18-32). Even in such cases, His distance is intended to bring us to repentance and reconciliation.

David wrote Psalm 57 when he fled from Saul into the cave. Perhaps David doubted God’s purpose for him at this point. Maybe he wondered what was going on. He may have even been tempted to think God was wrong. But instead he wrote, “I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me” (Ps. 57:2-3). David did not turn away from God’s purpose for his life, even when circumstances made it difficult to see the way forward.

Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgement is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). James calls us to follow Jesus’ example when he reminds us that the fruit of wisdom is becoming a person who is “willing to yield” (James 3:17).

What might the Lord be asking you to yield or surrender so that you might do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly alongside Him? Think on these things.

If you are a fan of this blog post. you can read more like it by purchasing the Know The Word Study Bible, which runs parallel to any Bible in our app.

Continue Reading

Love Is An Action

Posted by on 06/19/2017 in:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” —John 13:34-35 NKJV

Faith is compelling when it is seen in action. When Jesus announced that He would be leaving, He gave one very simple and profound instruction: “Love one another.”

This is harder than it seems. We are prone to argue, hate, and fight. We default to selfishness and wanting to win. Love doesn’t naturally fit.

But we crave it.

And love is the mark of Jesus’ followers.

Jesus asked His disciples to practice the love that He modeled. If they reflected the example of Jesus’ love, they would stand out in a world that does not understand love.

Jesus explained, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).

The distinguishing mark of Jesus followers is how faith influences their daily actions: how they work alongside coworkers, how they solve problems, how they speak to spouses and children, how they work out problems with church members. Jesus’ followers live differently, demonstrating love consistently toward others.

Jesus kept it simple. He taught and demonstrated that love is an action. As John explains, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Faith transforms us into people of love who live differently in the world. There are plenty of distinguishing characteristics when it comes to the church. Unfortunately, and all too often, outsiders looking into the church see it as a place of hatred and condemnation. Our churches are to be oases of love. In a world where so many people feel beat down, insecure, and worn out, the behavior of a loving Christian is refreshing water for parched and weary souls.

Love is an action. What actions can you take to love more like Jesus? A helpful exercise may be to write down a list of ways you remember Jesus loving others as told in the Gospels. Not only will this help you to remember God’s love for you, but it will inspire you to be a person who loves as well.

Need help thinking through other passages of scripture? Know the Word Study Bible Notes (used in the writing of this blog!) can run parallel to your Bible in our app, helping you navigate and apply God’s Word to your life.

Continue Reading

What are the characteristics of a godly man?

Posted by on 06/12/2017 in: ,

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned  to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,  but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. -Matthew 1:18-25 NASB

Until he became engaged to Mary, Joseph’s life probably resembled that of most other men in his hometown. No doubt he had business concerns and goals for the future—but nothing seriously interrupted his daily routine until Mary informed him she was pregnant. This was when his life changed rapidly.

The news was shocking to him, and rather than disgrace Mary, Joseph planned to send her away (Matt. 1:19). But God saw the confusion building within Joseph’s mind and sent His angel to guide him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (vv. 20, 21). From this point on, Joseph never questioned the Lord’s method or motive. He realized that the God of the universe had chosen him to watch over Mary and the Son she would have. He remained faithful not only to his wife, but also to the Lord.

Joseph showed courage by ignoring the ugly rumors swirling around town about Mary’s pregnancy; he valued God’s plan above what others thought of him. He remained sensitive to the Holy Spirit, demonstrated by his acceptance of His guidance. After the birth of Jesus, an angel appeared to him, warning him of impending danger. Joseph immediately took Mary and Jesus to Egypt, where they found safety until the threat passed (Matt. 2:13–15). As we look at the life of Joseph, we find that he was a humble man who honored God by obeying His Word. He remained consistent and content, and he could be counted on to follow the Lord, regardless of the personal costs.

How can you grow in your faith to become a godly individual? Begin by committing yourself to a consistent, daily walk with Christ. Attend a church where the Word of God is proclaimed as the standard of life. Make a commitment to God and to your loved ones that you will not abandon your devotion to Christ or to them.

You will gain a sense of godly responsibility when you stand up for what is right. A committed Christian is not easily swayed, but is filled with conviction, faith, and a desire to know God intimately. When Joseph had no one else to guide and comfort him, he turned to God and found the strength and love he needed to get through the most difficult of circumstances.

You will, too. Will you make Joseph’s spiritual commitment your own today?

Adapted from Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible Notes. Add it to Your Library today!

Continue Reading

Pentecost: A Fulfillment of the Jewish Feast

Posted by on 05/31/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
—John 14:16-17 NKJV

The Feast of Weeks

The Feast of Weeks was the festival celebrated at the beginning of the grain harvest (Exodus 34:22). This was the feast at which the Hebrews offered their firstfruits of the harvest to the Lord at the tabernacle. It was one of the three major Jewish feasts, along with the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Exodus 23:14–17; 4:18–23; Deuteronomy 16:1–17).

According to Leviticus 23:15, 16, the Feast was celebrated for seven consecutive weeks beginning “the morning following the Sabbath day” of Passover. Thus comes its title, the “Feast of Weeks.” Later in the Old Testament this feast became known as “Pentecost” (“fiftieth”), since it was celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover.

Pentecost

The Jewish Feast of Pentecost was fulfilled as described in Acts 2. On this Day of Pentecost came the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ, as Christ Himself had promised (John 14:16, 17).

The Orthodox services for Pentecost place their emphasis on the descent of the Holy Spirit in all His fullness. His descent means that the Mosaic Law, given by the Lawgiver and honored on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, is now transcended: “The All-Holy Spirit, who freely distributes gifts to all, has descended and come to earth; not as He formerly had in the Law’s dark shadow, shining in the Prophets, but now in very truth, He is bestowed in us through Christ” (Vespers, Thursday after Pentecost).

The worship services for Pentecost repeatedly emphasize how Old Testament prophecies of the Holy Spirit are fulfilled on this day. Two of the greatest of these prophecies are found in the Old Testament readings for this Feast—Ezekiel 36:24–28 and Joel 3:1–5. St. Peter directly quotes the passage from Joel in his exhortation to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16–21). A third reading—Numbers 11:16–17, 24–29—relates how the Lord commands Moses to select seventy of the elders of Israel, who, when the Spirit comes upon them, prophesy at the tabernacle. The comment of Moses regarding this event, “Would that all the Lord’s people might be prophets when the Lord would put His Spirit upon them” (Numbers 11:29), is prophetic of the Day of Pentecost.

Excerpted from a study article in the Orthodox Study Bible.

How have you felt the Holy Spirit working in you? Please share below!

Continue Reading

Jesus, the Peace–Bringer

Posted by on 05/30/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
—John 14:27

Peace, shalom (shah–loam). Shalom comes from the root verb shalam, meaning “to be complete, perfect, and full.” Thus shalom is much more than the absence of war and conflict; it is the wholeness that the entire human race seeks. The word shalom occurs about 250 times in the Old Testament.

In Psalm 35:27, God takes delight in the shalom (the wholeness, the total well–being) of His servant. In Isaiah 53:5, the suffering Messiah was beaten to bring us shalom. The angels understood at His birth that Jesus was to be the great peace–bringer, as they called out, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14–17).

Just as the saving power of His death and resurrection makes it possible for us to have peace with God (being made right with Him, Romans 5:1), the indwelling of His life and character through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is intended to help us learn to abide in the peace of God.

Jesus said to His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart” (John 14:27). Surrender to His will and submission to His Word will bring inner rest, as we allow the peace of God to “rule” in our hearts (Colossians 3:15), that is to let God’s peace act as umpire 1) over decisions that would trouble you, 2) overruling doubts that would disturb you, and 3) overthrowing the Adversary’s lies that would defeat or deter you. Perfect peace is available when the heart and mind keep focused on God’s promise, power, and presence. Trust Him.

What troubles and doubts might you need to surrender to God today?

Excerpted from a “Kingdom Dynamic” and “Word Wealth” study note in the New Spirit–Filled Life Bible.

Continue Reading

Introduction to the Gospels

Posted by on 05/25/2017 in: , ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” —John 20:30–31

The English word “gospel” derives from the Anglo–Saxon word godspell, which can mean either “a story about God,” or “a good story.” The latter meaning is in harmony with the Greek word translated “gospel,” euangellion, which means “good news.” In secular Greek, euangellion referred to a good report about an important event. The four gospels are the good news about the most significant events in all of history—the life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

The gospels are not biographies in the modern sense of the word, since they do not intend to present a complete life of Jesus (cf. Jn 20:30; 21:25). Apart from the birth narratives, they give little information about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. While Jesus’ public ministry lasted over three years, the gospels focus much of their attention on the last week of His life (cf. Jn 12–20). Though they are completely accurate historically, and present important biographical details of Jesus’ life, the primary purposes of the gospels are theological and apologetic (Jn 20:31). They provide authoritative answers to questions about Jesus’ life and ministry, and they strengthen believers’ assurance regarding the reality of their faith (Lk 1:4).

Although many spurious gospels were written, the church from earliest times has accepted only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as inspired Scripture. While each Gospel has its unique perspective, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when compared to John, share a common point of view. Because of that, they are known as the synoptic (from a Greek word meaning “to see together,” or “to share a common point of view”) Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for example, focus on Christ’s Galilean ministry, while John focuses on His ministry in Judea. The synoptic Gospels contain numerous parables, while John records none. John and the synoptic Gospels record only two common events (Jesus’ walking on the water, and the feeding of the 5,000) prior to Passion Week. These differences between John and the synoptic Gospels, however, are not contradictory, but complementary.

Each Gospel writer wrote from a unique perspective, for a different audience. As a result, each Gospel contains distinctive elements. Taken together, the four Gospels weave a complete portrait of the God–Man, Jesus of Nazareth. In Him were blended perfect humanity and deity, making Him the only sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the worthy Lord of those who believe.

Learn something new? Share your thoughts!

Excerpted from the Introduction to the Gospels in The MacArthur Study Bible.

Continue Reading

A Better Understanding of Biblical Joy

Posted by on 05/17/2017 in: ,

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

On the twenty-third day of the seventh month he sent the people away to their tents, joyful and glad of heart for the good that the Lord had done for David, for Solomon, and for His people Israel. 2 Chronicles 7:10 NKJV

3 Hebrew Word Studies on Joy

Sameach: The joy the people felt was more than just a spontaneous subjective emotion – it was rooted very concretely in all “that the LORD had done for David, Solomon, and for His people Israel.” Indeed, the Feast of Tabernacles was intended as a time of rejoicing for all the ways the Lord had blessed His people (Deut. 16:15). The people were filled with “great joy” at Solomon’s coronation (1 Kin. 1:40). Haman’s joy at his plot to kill Mordecai (Esth. 5:9, 14) backfired when he was executed instead, “and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad” (Esth. 8:15). But more often, joy is connected directly to God: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.” (Ps. 126:3).

Simchah: This Hebrew word is one of several frequently occurring Hebrew words that express exceeding gladness of rejoicing. Like its synonyms, this word can apply to a disposition of heart (Prov. 14:10; Jer. 15:16). It is frequently set in a context of feasting (Neh. 8:12) and singing (1 Sam. 18:6; Ps. 137:3), as it is in a prophecy concerning God’s singing over Jerusalem (Zeph. 3:17). The word is also used for the senseless happiness of the enemies of God’s people (Judg. 16:23; Ezek. 35:15; 36:5), of the foolish (Prov. 15:21), of the lazy (Prov. 21:17), and of the hypocrites (Job 20:5). However, joy in the Bible is usually associated with the people of God who celebrate God’s blessing at a number of occasions – feasts, coronations of kings, victories in battle, and the dedication of the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem (Num. 10:10; 1 Kin. 1:40; 2 Chr. 20:27; Neh. 12:27). In fact, Moses exhorts the Israelites to serve God with joy, so that they would not lose their blessing (see Deut. 28:47).

Gil: A somewhat rare form that is more familiar to us as rejoice (1 Chr. 16:31, Ps. 2:11; 21:1; 51:8; Prov. 23:24-25). In Isaiah, when the prophet has already declared he will rejoice, but wants to emphasize his response to God, this term offers that direct form of exultation.

Which Hebrew word would you use to describe the joy you feel about the Lord Jesus?

Drawn from word studies in the NKJV Word Study Bible.

Continue Reading

Understanding the Lord’s Prayer

Posted by on 05/08/2017 in: ,

He said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. ‘Give us each day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us [who has offended or wronged us]. And lead us not into temptation [but rescue us from evil].’” Luke 11:2-4 AMP

The Lord’s prayer illustrates the variety of requests that one can and should make to God, as well as displaying the humble attitude that should accompany prayer. The use of the plural pronoun us throughout the prayer shows that it is not just the prayer of one person for his or her own personal needs, but a community prayer.

Your Kingdom come: The references here is to God’s program and promise. This is more affirmation that request, highlighting the petitioner’s submission to God’s will and the desire to see God’s work come to pass.

For we ourselves also forgive: The petitioner recognizes that if mercy is to be sought from God, then mercy must be shown to others. We need to adopt the same standard that we expect others to follow.

Lead us not into temptation: This remark is often misunderstood as suggesting that perhaps God can lead us into sin. The point is that if one is to avoid sin, one must follow where God leads. In short, the petitioner asks God for the spiritual protection necessary to avoid falling into sin.

Which part of the Lord’s prayer resonates most with you?

Find more content like this in the Amplified Study Bible. Add it to your Olive Tree library today.

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

Continue Reading

8 Marks of Authentic Faith

Posted by on 05/04/2017 in: ,

Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.

Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’” But not even then did their testimony agree.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But He kept silent and answered nothing.

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
— Mark 14:55–64, NKJV

Israel’s religious and political leaders wanted to rid themselves of Jesus, so they tried every means possible to convict Him of a crime. They paid an informant from among Jesus’ own followers, but he returned their money and declared the Lord innocent (Mark 14:43–46; Matthew 27:3–5). They orchestrated an armed mob to intimidate Jesus, but He kept His cool and restrained His followers (Matthew 26:51–54.). The leaders even presented witnesses to testify against Him, but the witnesses perjured themselves and contradicted each other (Mark 14:55, 56).

People tried to convict Jesus of a crime for which they lacked a shred of evidence. They failed because Jesus lived His life in plain sight. For every false accusation lodged against Him, there were countless examples of His love and moral perfection.

What signs of authentic faith do people see when they scrutinize our lives? Is it enough evidence to prove that our trust in God is real? The Bible suggests eight outward marks of authentic faith:

  1. We display the Beatitudes that Jesus described in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3–16).
  2. We think with a transformed mind, we express genuine love, and we respect authority (Romans 12:1,2; 13:1–7).
  3. We overflow with love actions (1 Corinthians 13).
  4. We display the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22–26).
  5. We imitate Christ’s humility and look out for others’ interests (Philippians 2:1–4).
  6. We pray without ceasing, and in everything we give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).
  7. We carry out works of faith and compassion (James 2:14–17), we control our tongues (3:1–11), and we speak wisdom (3:13).
  8. We hold to the truth about Jesus (2 John 4; 3 John 3, 4) and defend it (Jude 3).

As others study our lives for evidence that we are followers of Christ, how many of these marks do they see?

Drawn from the Apply the Word Study Bible Notes. Click here to add it to your library.

What challenges and successes have you encountered as you seek to pursue faith that is transformative and authentic?
Join the conversation below!

Originally posted at Bible Connection.

Continue Reading

Prayer Journaling with the Bible App

Posted by on 05/01/2017 in: ,

Everyone knows that the Olive Tree Bible App is great for reading and studying the Bible. But, did you know that it can help you with other areas of your spiritual life? With the National Day of Prayer approaching, I want to show you how you can transform your Bible App into a tool for journaling and keeping track of your prayers.

What is Journaling?

There are numerous ways to define journaling. In a spiritual sense, journaling involves writing out your thoughts and prayers as you study the Bible. Some people write with pen or pencil in a physical notebook, while others type them out in a journaling app or word processor. Just about anything that falls within those parameters can qualify as journaling.

Now, let me show you how you can start journaling within the Bible Study App because it’s easy!

Praying with the Bible App

Instead of showing you different methods for journaling, I want to show you how to do it in the Bible App.

To begin journaling in the Bible App, you don’t need to do anything more than create a note. If your note is based on a specific passage or verse, it’s best to make a verse or word based note.

To create a note tied to a verse, tap the verse number and select “Note.” Otherwise, if you want it based on a word or phrase, select your text and then tap “Note.”

Alternatively, you can also create a standalone note by opening the Split Window to the “My Notes” screen. At this screen tap the “Add Note” button and begin writing your note.

Organizing Your Notes

If you’re going to regularly pray and journal with the Bible App, keeping your notes organized is important. The easiest way to keep your journal organized is to use categories. I like to start by creating a top level category called “Prayer Journal.” To create this folder have the “My Notes” screen open and tap “Add Category” at the bottom. You can then further refine your categories for greater organization. For example, you can create subcategories for each year. Once the categories are created to your liking, you can then start placing your notes in each category.

Adding Tags

Tags are another great way to organize your prayer journal. As you write in your journal, you can add tags to your notes to help you find them later. You can create your own tags, or you can use the preexisting tags. The nice thing about using the preexisting tags is that they are tied to the Resource Guide. With the Resource Guide integration, your journal notes will appear under your tagged topics in Resource Guide when you are in a relevant Bible passage. This is a great way to keep old notes in front of you, while also using them as a part of your Bible study.

Try It Today

If you’ve been an Olive Tree user for any length of time, I haven’t shown you anything that you didn’t already know how to do. You know how to makes notes within the app. But, I hope I broadened your thinking about how to use notes within the Olive Tree Bible App. If you’re already using the Bible App to take notes, then start adding your prayers as well. If you haven’t made any notes, today is a great day to get started!

Continue Reading