Category: Food for Thought

The Faith of a Dying Thief

Posted by on 03/24/2018 in: , ,

In Christ’s Words from the Cross Charles Spurgeon talks in great lengths about Jesus’ crucifixion, including those who were crucified with him The dying thief did the impossible that day. In front of multitudes of scoffers, he used the only part of his body not nailed to the cross (his tongue) to proclaim Jesus’ identity: the Messiah. The following is an excerpt from Spurgeon’s message.

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THE FAITH OF A DYING THIEF

The story of the salvation of the dying thief is a standing instance of the power of Christ to save, and of His abundant willingness to receive all that come to Him, in whatever plight they might be. I cannot regard this act of grace as a solitary instance, any more than the salvation of Zacchaeus, the restoration of Peter, or the call of Saul, the persecutor. Every conversion is, in a sense, singular: no two are exactly alike, and yet any one conversion is a type of others. The case of the dying thief is much more similar to our conversion than it is dissimilar; in point of fact, his case may be regarded as typical, rather than as an extraordinary incident.

Remember that our Lord Jesus, at the time He saved this malefactor, was at His lowest. His glory had been ebbing out in Gethsemane, and before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate; but it had now reached the utmost low-water mark. Stripped of His garments, and nailed to the cross, our Lord was mocked by a ribald crowd, and was dying in agony: then was He “numbered with the transgressors,” and made as the offscour-ing of all things.

Yet, while in that condition, He achieved this marvelous deed of grace.

Behold the wonder wrought by the Saviour when emptied of all His glory, and hanged up a spectacle of shame upon the brink of death! How certain is it that He can do great wonders of mercy now, seeing that He has returned unto His glory, and sitteth upon the throne of light!

“He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is that He can do even more now that He lives and reigns. All power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of His grace?

It is not only the weakness of our Lord which makes the salvation of the penitent thief memorable; it is the fact that the dying malefactor saw it before his very eyes. Can you put yourself into his place, and suppose yourself to be looking upon One who hangs in agony upon a cross? Could you readily believe Him to be the Lord of glory, who would soon come to His kingdom? That was no mean faith which, at such a moment, could believe in Jesus as Lord and King.

If the apostle Paul were here,

and wanted to add a New Testament chapter to the eleventh of Hebrews, he might certainly commence his instances of remarkable faith with this thief, who believed in a crucified, derided, and dying Christ, and cried to Him as to One whose kingdom would surely come. The thief’s faith was the more remarkable because he was himself in great pain and bound to die.

It is not easy to exercise confidence when you are tortured with deadly anguish. Our own rest of mind has at times been greatly hindered by pain of body. When we are the subjects of acute suffering it is not easy to exhibit that faith which we fancy we possess at other times. This man, suffering as he did, and seeing the Saviour in so sad a state, nevertheless believed unto life eternal. Herein was such faith as is seldom seen.

Recollect, also, that He was surrounded by scoffers.

It is easy to swim with the current, and hard to go against the stream. This man heard the priests in their pride ridicule the Lord, and the great multitude of the common people, with one consent, joined in the scorning; his comrade caught the spirit of the hour and mocked also, and perhaps he did the same for a while; but through the grace of God he was changed, and believed in the Lord Jesus in the teeth of all the scorn.

His faith was not affected by his surroundings; but he, dying thief as he was, made sure his confidence. Like a jutting rock, standing out in the midst of a torrent, he declared the innocence of the Christ whom others blasphemed. His faith is worthy of our imitation in its fruits.

He had no member that was free except his tongue, and he used that member wisely to rebuke his brother malefactor and defend his Lord.

His faith brought forth a brave testimony and a bold confession.

I am not going to praise the thief, or his faith, but to extol the glory of that grace divine which gave the thief such faith, and then freely saved him by its means. I am anxious to show how glorious is the Saviour–that Saviour to the uttermost, who, at such a time, could save such a man, and give him so great a faith, and so perfectly and speedily prepare him for eternal bliss. Behold the power of that divine Spirit who could produce such faith on soil so unlikely, and in a climate so unpropitious.

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In the World, Not of It

Posted by on 03/20/2018 in:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. —John 17:15-16 NIV

IN THE WORLD, NOT OF THE WORLD

How are God’s people supposed to engage the broader culture around them? There is much confusion around the topic of cultural engagement. Whereas some Christians choose to ignore culture, others rail against it. And others are seduced by it.

The Bible calls us to engage the broader society while retaining a distinctive Christian identity and purpose. We need to think deeply and clearly about what it means to engage secular, pluralistic culture, especially in our work.

Many Christians are confused about how and to what extent they should engage the world. For this reason, discussing cultural engagement requires humility and submission to God. We need to realize that if we do not think carefully about how to engage the culture, we may succumb to the ways of the culture that are not pleasing to God when we decide to engage it. Pastor and theologian Tim Keller explains:

“The reality is that if the church does not think much about culture – about what parts are good, bad, or indifferent according to the Bible – its members will begin to uncritically imbibe the values of the culture. They will become assimilated to culture, despite intentions to the contrary. Culture is complex, subtle, and inescapable…. And if we are not deliberately thinking about our culture, we will simply be conformed to it without ever knowing it is happening.”

4 MODELS OF CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT

Keller then reviews four different models of cultural engagement:

  1. Being relevant to the culture to live winsomely (joyfully)
  2. Transforming culture to the decrees of Christ when possible
  3. Living counter-culturally to shine the light of Christ
  4. Recognizing that there are two kingdoms- the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God

According to Keller, each of these four Christian approaches to cultural engagement can help us discern how to engage the world in a fruitful and faithful way. There is not one uniform approach that should dictate how a Christian engages the world. Rather, there is a need for significant spiritual discernment in the difficult balance of being in the world, but not of it.

EVERY DAY DECISIONS

Every day we are faced with decisions about how we should engage the world in our work. For example, many of us have to make decisions about which clients to take on, whose lead to follow and what causes to stand for. And our decision-making inevitably entails all sorts of trade-offs, compromises and ambiguity. We often find ourselves living and working in gray areas, questioning how intentional or effective we are with respect to engaging the world distinctly as Christian.

How do we know where we can and should be flexible for the sake of a greater good? How far is too far before we lose our distinctiveness as Christians? The answers to questions like these will need to be considered case by case, with the wisdom of Scripture and other Christians. But the four approaches provided by Keller above are a good starting point. We must realize, with humility, that different situations require different approaches. Nevertheless, as Christ’s disciples we are called to engage the world so that we might win some to Christ and see his kingdom advance on earth

APPLICATION

How can you engage culture distinctly as a Christian in your day-to-day life?

What parts of culture are good to participate in? Also, what are the benefits? Think about Jesus’ ministry.

NIV FAITH AND WORK BIBLE

This blog content was taken directly from the NIV Faith and Work Bible. It contains doctrine, Scripture application, and real-life experiences to help you answer this fundamental question: “How does my faith relate to my work?”

So, it doesn’t matter what job you have. You could work mid-shift, freelance, or part-time. You could be a teacher, a politician, or even a marketer. This Bible will have something relevant for you to apply to your daily work life.

Learn more about the NIV Faith and Work Bible here.

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You’re Called to Be an Apologist [VIDEO]

Posted by on 03/12/2018 in:

WHAT IS AN APOLOGIST?

The words “apologist” and “apologetics” stem from the Greek word apologia. This word means “defense” or “answer.” It appears 17 times as either a noun or verb in the New Testament—including 1 Peter 3:15-16:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (NIV)

Although we have made apologetics its own area of scholarly expertise, we are still held accountable to be prepared to give an answer. Not all of us will write lengthy books like Lee Strobel or give mind-blowing presentations like Ravi Zacharias. But, we can all do our part to soak up the knowledge of these apologists, learning to share this information with those we come in contact with.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to be able to answer someone’s questions about the “reason for the hope that you have”?

APOLOGETICS WITH DR. BILL MOUNCE

4 AREAS OF APOLOGETICS

There are differing opinions of the function of apologetics, but these four are typically taught in apologetics courses and books.

VINDICATION or PROOF

Presenting proof for the Christian faith requires philosophical, scientific, and historical evidence. Through positive statements, we can show how Christianity is the true worldview.

DEFENSE

When other world views present doubts, questions, criticisms, and objections to Christianity, we can defend the faith. In order to do this well, we have to first know the opponent’s argument and then provide information on how Christianity can answer the questions presented.

REFUTATION

Although this function doesn’t necessarily prove Christianity to be true, it is still important. Refutation is the system of disproving opposing world views. If we only know why Christianity is true, not knowing why other options are false, then we may easily be swayed toward universalism.

PERSUASION

We can’t convince people to become Christians. This requires the work of the Holy Spirit! But we can be persuasive, respectful, and heartfelt. We should be willing to recognize that apologetics isn’t about winning an argument, but about opening the minds of non-believers to the truth of the Gospel and inspiring Christians to find the answers to their doubts. Most importantly, we want the world to know and love Jesus Christ.

START WITH THE BASICS

Interested in learning the basics of apologetics? Check out The Apologetics Study Bible Notes on our website. Not only does it provide helpful insights on most verses of the Bible, but it also comes with helpful articles from well-known apologists to get you started.

Already a fan of apologetics? Who’s your favorite apologist?

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Why Celebrate Lent?

Posted by on 02/13/2018 in:

In high school, I attended a Baptist church “in-town” while most of my peers went to the Catholic church down the street. I always knew when the Lent season started—not just because of the ashes they wore to school—but because of the cafeteria food. They started serving fish. Every. Friday.

And high-school-cafeteria-style fish is not the most appetizing.

Somehow, this was all that Lent meant to me: black smudges and Fish Fridays. But then, I went to Bible college, attended a few churches, and went to some Lent services. I realized how much I had been missing out on.

THE BENEFIT OF CELEBRATING LENT

In case you didn’t know (like me), the Lenten season lasts for 40 days, mirroring Jesus’ time spent in the desert. Just like Jesus fasted during those 40 days, many Christians choose to give something up for that period of time. This is a practice of self-denial, discipline, and reflection. We take time to recognize that the ONLY thing that can quench our hunger, thirst, and desire is Jesus Christ.

Then, when Easter comes, our hearts are ready to rejoice. We do have and will always have a relationship with our Lord.

WHAT SHOULD I GIVE UP?

If you don’t answer this question before Lent starts tomorrow—don’t give up. You can still participate in this tradition!

Some advice I’ve been given that I found useful is to pick something that I think about a lot or find my identity in.

This is why people often give up a food, drink, or social media.

If you decide to give up something that you use or think about often, it will help draw your mind to Christ more frequently—reminding you that He is the one who sustains you.

WHAT ABOUT ADDING SOMETHING?

Yes, yes yes.

Adding a spiritual discipline to your daily or weekly routine during Lent is another great way to turn your heart toward Christ. This is a practice of self-denial and discipline as well—giving of your time and energy in new ways.

What should I add?

We’ve put together a Lent Reading Plan for all of you.

We hope you’ll find it as encouraging as we do during this season. You can find it here with all of the other reading plans:

We also put together a list of Lent Devotionals

You can check out the list by heading over to our website.

HAVE ANY ADVICE, TIPS, OR ENCOURAGEMENT?

Share with us in the comments! How do you celebrate Lent?

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Is a Study Bible Right for You?

Posted by on 01/17/2018 in:

1) ARE YOU A VISUAL LEARNER?

Sometimes the best way to make sense of a lot of text is to represent it visually.

This is why many study Bibles almost come with photos, charts, timelines and more. That way, if you’re reading a description of a place you’ve never visited in the Middle East, you can see a picture of it. Or, if you’re reading about a long list of historical events, look at an organized charts of all the important dates.

Whether you consider yourself a visual learner or not, these resources will immerse you in your Bible study.

TAP TO ENLARGE!

2) HAVE YOU WONDERED WHAT LIFE WAS LIKE IN BIBLE TIMES?

If you’ve ever read Leviticus, you definitely know that the Bible talks about confusing rituals and practices. Since we’re living in the 21st century, and most of us aren’t professional historians, these passages can be daunting. You’re not alone in wishing that you could step inside the Bible times, even for just a second.

Surely it would give some insight into what the Bible is trying to communicate.

Thankfully, there are Christians who enjoy studying history professionally! With plenty of research and fact-checking, these scholars have published their notes in study Bibles for us to read. Not only that, but they have made them understandable.

READ NOTES WITH JUST A TAP

3) ARE YOU UNSURE HOW TO APPLY SCRIPTURE?

So, you may know a thing or two about the Bible’s history… but you aren’t sure how it affects your daily life. This is a really common problem! Without guidance, it can be difficult (and almost dangerous) to make those kinds of analogies.

This is another great reason to have a study Bible. Although it depends on the author and which study Bible you choose, most have sections meant solely to help you apply the Bible to your life. You’ll find explanations, scenarios, insightful questions, and more.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE

4) DO YOU HAVE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS?

Here’s some truth: everyone has unanswered questions. We can’t know everything—and we especially can’t know everything about God.

But when we doubt, wonder, or question what we read in the Bible, the best places to look are 1) in the Bible itself and 2) in books that teach us what Christians have been preaching for the past 2,000 years.

This is the last and most important reason to own a study Bible: to have input into your unanswered questions. Before jumping to conclusions or making decisions based on a misunderstanding, see if any Biblical scholars have something to say about the passage you’re reading. It could affect the way you live your life.

WHY GET A DIGITAL STUDY BIBLE?

Here’s a few reasons why using this resource in the app is way more helpful to your study time:

  1. You can tap on images and enlarge them
  2. Tap on verse references to open them (in context!) in a pop-up window
  3. Reading multiple translations? The resource guide will always let you know if your study Bible has any information on what you’re reading
  4. You can make unlimited notes and highlights that sync between your devices

SEE HOW IT LOOKS IN ACTION!

I’M INTERESTED!

If you’ve decided that a study Bible is right for you, head on over to our study Bibles section. We’ve got what you’re looking for!

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Team-Oriented Ministry

Posted by on 12/13/2017 in:

Ministry is not something that we do alone! Learn about team-oriented ministry from 1 Thessalonians. The content in this blog is taken directly from the Story of God Bible Commentary.

PAUL’S TEAM-ORIENTED MINISTRY

Paul’s opening in his letter to the Thessalonians demonstrates something important about ministry. It is never done by one person. Although Paul may be the primary person in this tripartite ministry team, there is much that he would have been unable to accomplish if he did not also have the support and assistance of Silas and Timothy, his fellow missionaries.

This type of support is evidenced in many of Paul’s letters where he mentions those who assist him — people like Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3), Urbanus (Rom 16:9), Timothy (Rom 16:21; 1 Thess 3:2), Apollos (1 Cor 3:5, 9), Silvanus (2 Cor 1:19), Titus (2 Cor 8:23), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), Eudoia, Syntyche, and Clement (Phil 4:2–3), Aristrachus, Mark, and Jesus Justus (Col 4:10–11), Demas, Luke, and Philemon (Phm 1, 24; see also Col 4:11).

When you take stock of the number of Paul’s ministry companions and all that he accomplished with them, you realize he had a lot of help.

THE DIFFICULTY OF LEADING A SMALL CHURCH

Most people who train to be pastors will never serve a large congregation. Unless there is someone who works in the church office, chances are they will be the only paid staff member. This means that a lot of responsibility for the ministry of the church falls to them. They are the ones doing the preaching, planning/leading the services, performing weddings and funerals, and visiting the congregation (to name a few).

Leaders feel it’s their job to know everything about everyone in the congregation and to be there for them. And to some degree this can’t be helped. The pastor is usually the one who has the calling and the training for ministry while those she or he serves are often working in jobs outside of the church. But the inherent danger here is that the pastor and congregation can enter into an unspoken agreement that all ministries are the purview of the pastor. The pastor cares and does so much that the congregation forgets or is unaware of its responsibility to bear one another’s burdens.

Ministry, however, is a community effort. It requires all of us to pitch in and do what the Lord bids.

DELEGATION IN MINISTRY

Helping a congregation participate in the ministry of the church can happen in small ways. Rather than do everything, a leader can delegate some responsibility to others in the church.

For example, the pastor doesn’t always need to be the one who opens and closes in prayer or says grace over the church dinners. There may be some who are more gifted in the area of mercy and compassion and have more time in their schedule to visit and minister to the sick.

Developing a lay ministry team within the church can help alleviate the leader of some responsibilities while at the same time training future leaders who will either serve that congregation or another one in some other location. I have met many a student who heard the call to ministry while serving as a volunteer in their home church.

PAUL’S EXAMPLE: TIMOTHY

Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is an example of team-oriented ministry. Although Paul is the lead person, he is careful to talk about the apostles’ ministry in the plural (“we”).

The role of Timothy in this letter may seem a minor one as he acts as messenger. But this is a role he will serve in faithfully later as he travels on behalf of Paul to both Corinth (1 Cor 4:17) and Philippi (Phil 2:19–24). He is also listed as the coauthor to six of Paul’s letters (2 Corinthians; Philippians; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; Colossians; Philemon). In later life Timothy served the church at Ephesus, and instead of writing and delivering letters for Paul, he was receiving them from Paul (1 Tim 1:2).

Timothy is an excellent example of how team-oriented ministry not only helps the leader to be successful but also prepares them for a leadership role in the church.

LEARN MORE

This content came directly from the Story of God Bible Commentary! You can learn more about this fantastic resource by visiting our website.

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When Thankfulness is Hard

Posted by on 11/23/2017 in:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

WE HAVE SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR

It’s Thanksgiving — a holiday centered on family, being grateful, and eating lots of food! At an event like this, it isn’t too hard to think of things to be thankful for. Mashed potatoes are totally on my thankfulness list. . . also my aunt’s mac and cheese. Yum, yum, yum.

Coming up with something to be thankful for should be even easier for Christians. There’s one huge item at the top of our thankfulness list: our reconciliation with God.

Jesus came to earth to die so that we might not only know God, but spend eternity with him in perfection. That’s worth rejoicing over, even if we had nothing else to be thankful for.

BUT SOMETIMES IT ISN’T EASY

Sometimes I read Philippians 4 and I feel so pumped up, like a football player right before going out on the field. I reminisce over Jesus’ life and the ways God has blessed me. I quickly find myself at the Savior’s feet, freely asking for my heart’s desires and praising him for who he is. My love for God flows uncontrollably.

Other times, I read this passage and it leaves me feeling anxious (despite its command to not be anxious). I wonder if it is really true, if God really hears or cares about my requests. I wonder if he can be trusted. I question his goodness because of all the sadness, destruction, and evil I see around me. My heart closes up and even if I wanted to pray, the words won’t come.

Perhaps there are some of you who can resonate with this, too. There are times when prayer and thankfulness are not easy.

HOW DO WE RESPOND?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. — Philippians 4:8

This Thanksgiving, there are many people mourning a loss, whether that be a loved one, a job, a divorce, a natural disaster, or one of the many mass shootings. It can be easy for us to dwell on the evil, to separate ourselves from God, and to become bitter and angry.

But in Philippians, Paul asks us to meditate on good things. Now, hear me out, I am not saying to stop mourning, or crying, or feeling sad. Oftentimes, those responses are completely justified. Even Jesus cried over Lazarus’ death, knowing that he would bring him back to life. Things are not the way they are supposed to be.

But what if we chose to meditate on Jesus?

Jesus is true, noble, just, pure, and lovely. Jesus wept. Jesus prayed in desperation—and even when he asked for the cup to be taken from him, and it wasn’t, he still praised God. Jesus suffered the greatest injustices and still gave thanks.

What does that mean for us?

Even when God feels distant, apathetic, and confusing, we can look to the person of Jesus for comfort. We know that Jesus is mourning with us—and for that we can thank him.

And that’s all it takes. Remember this one thing to be thankful for—that our God mourns with us—and I pray that this will begin to soften your heart toward God again.

AND FOR EVERYONE ELSE…

If you’re reading this and your response to Philippians fits my first example more than the second, I’m very glad. As you spend time with people this holiday season, be sensitive to those who are mourning. Show them the love and compassion of Jesus by mourning with them.

LET’S SHARE

If you have anything that you are thankful for and would like to share, please leave a comment. We are the body of Christ, and we should encourage one another! Nothing is more uplifting than seeing God work in the lives of those around us.

Most of all, Happy Thanksgiving from us at Olive Tree. We are thankful for you, our users, and your pursuit after God’s heart. May you walk through today knowing are loved by the creator of the universe.

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Friendship with the Master

Posted by on 11/23/2017 in: ,

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. — John 15:15

FRIENDSHIP IN ROME

In the Roman world, a “friend” was often a political ally who owed one a favor, or a more powerful patron on whom one could depend. But the traditional Greek concept of friendship remained influential even during the apostle Paul’s day. Paul had urged the financially well–off Christians of Corinth to treat Christians in Jerusalem as friends by sharing all things in common.

Friends treated one another as “equals” (2 Corinthians 8:13,14).

FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS

Jesus said to His disciples: “I have called you friends.” While He was not implying that as His friends they were His equals, He was offering to share with them what belonged to Him. John’s Gospel describes this assurance specifically as the promise of the Spirit sharing Jesus’ words with the disciples, so they would know Jesus’ heart (see John 16:13–15).

The intimacy pictured between Jesus and the disciples fits the ancient ideal of friendship, which stressed both loyalty and the sharing of secrets. Among the Greeks, the highest expression of a friend’s loyalty was to die for a friend, and Jesus summoned His disciples to lay down their lives for Him and for one another, as He was about to do for them (John 15:12–14).

But servants often proved no less loyal then friends, so Jesus spoke of an intimacy greater than that between the average master and servant. Greek literature often stressed how friends share secrets with one another in confidence, and Jesus had shared with the disciples all the words He had heard from His Father (John 15:15).

Some Jewish writers in Jesus’ day stressed that being God’s friend, as exemplified by Abraham and Moses, was even greater than being God’s servant. Jesus thus bestowed on His disciples such an honor of intimacy with Himself.

You can talk to Jesus with this level of intimacy as well. Jesus calls you friend. How does this change your relationship with him?

LEARN MORE FROM A CHRONOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE

This blog post was created from a note in the The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV). But what exactly is a chronological study Bible?

Chronological study Bibles are just what they sound like—Bibles arranged in chronological order with study notes inserted. How does this work? Here’s an example!

The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV) starts the New Testament with Matthew 1:25, covering Jesus’ genealogy. There are a few study notes on the culture and society during Jesus’ birth. Verse 25 ends with Joseph believing that Mary is still a virgin and naming his son Jesus… and then the text jumps to Luke 2:1-20, sharing the more detailed account of Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem.

Reading a chronological study Bible can rejuvenate your quiet time by helping you see the story of God’s Word. All of the different historical accounts interact with one another and show God’s faithfulness through time. When you read it in order, you will be able to insert yourself into the story, too.

Visit our website to learn more about how The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV) works!

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The Message of the Reformers

Posted by on 10/23/2017 in: ,

Did you know that John Calvin made a point to write very little about himself—which is one reason why we don’t know much about his personal life? He isn’t the only one. The reformers didn’t write too many captivating memoirs, despite their brave and dangerous lives.

Why didn’t the reformers write about themselves, and what were they writing instead?

The reason the reformers wrote so little about themselves was that they were not focused on themselves; they were focused on the message. We may best remember Luther for nailing up his theses or Tyndale praying “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.” But I believe the reformers would be deeply saddened if we remembered only their brave actions and not their important message.

So, for those of us who are celebrating the anniversary of the Reformation, we should make it our aim to pick up something the reformers penned.

READING THEIR MESSAGE

Of course, it’s slightly impossible to read everything the reformers penned. Even picking up Calvin’s Institutes alone is a daunting task. Plus, without being familiar with their writing styles and historical context, their writings can be difficult to understand.

Thankfully, the second generation of reformers was aware of this issue. They summarized reformation teachings into bite-sized pieces. Their intent was not to replace the works of the reformers, but to give people like us, who may never go to seminary, a place to get started. These summaries are contained in the confessions and catechisms of the reformed churches.

START READING NOW FOR FREE

At Olive Tree, our goal is similar to that of the second generation of reformers. We want to make it easier to access the Scriptures and biblical teachings. That’s why we’ve released The Westminster Confession of Faith with the Shorter and Larger Catechisms for free. These resources line-up closely with the teachings of men like John Calvin and John Knox, expressing the most important parts of their message.

Wondering where to start? The authors recommend first reading through and becoming familiar with the Shorter Catechism. Then, read the Larger Catechism, which builds on the shorter. Lastly, study the Westminster Confession of Faith. When combined, these three relatively short documents provide an excellent summary of reformed teaching on faith, life, and worship. We hope that you’ll enjoy these free resources and grow in your understanding of church history.

LEARN MORE

We’ve released more than a few free resources recently, so we thought it would be a good idea to remind you all. Here are the other releases:

Luther’s 95 Theses
The Psalms of David in Metre
London Baptist Confession of Faith & Catechism

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Paul and Meditation

Posted by on 10/06/2017 in:

This week, we are focusing on teaching others how to study the Bible. One of our favorite methods is the SOAP study: Scripture, observation, application, and prayer. Here’s our findings from our study on Philippians 4:8-9 while using the Blackaby Study Bible.

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

OBSERVATION

Taken from the Blackaby Study Bible introductory notes on the book of Philippians.

The early church accepted Philippians as an authentic letter written by the apostle Paul (Phil. 1:1), and modern scholars agree. Paul wrote the letter from prison (1:13, 14), almost certainly in Rome (Acts 28:16–31) in A.D. 61–62. His situation confined him, but it did not keep him from communicating with churches and preaching the gospel to his captors (Phil. 1:12–14).

A notable feature is Paul’s sensitivity to the Christian mind. He challenged believers to strive together “with one mind” (Phil. 1:27), to be “like-minded” (2:2), to be “in lowliness of mind” (2:3), and to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ” (2:5). Other statements include: “as many as are mature, have this mind” (3:15), and the peace of God will “guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7).

Paul asserted that the Philippians’ enemies “set their mind on earthly things” (3:19). He was concerned that Christians have a godly perspective as protection against false and corrupt teachers. This defense was found in knowing Christ personally (3:8–10) and meditating on that which is from God (4:8). In particular, Paul used the life of Christ as the ultimate example of how Christians ought to think and act (2:5–11).

APPLICATION

Taken from the Blackaby Study Bible notes on this passage.

The Greek word logizomai, translated “meditate,” has various nuances. It can mean to account, consider, or let one’s mind dwell on something. Paul’s focus was not indifferent examination, but practical consideration that leads to action. We are not merely to reflect on a principle, but we are to live according to all the implications of God’s great salvation. That takes energy, striving to know fully all of what God desires for our life. When we consider what God has promised His children and meditate on the truth revealed in His Word, the Holy Spirit works those truths into our lives.

PRAYER

Set a goal for yourself this week! Pray and meditate on God’s promises for 5 minutes before bed—or any other goal you can think of to help you apply this information to your life.

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