Inspiration

Read short inspirational articles by Olive Tree staff members.

Free Resource Friday!

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Free this Friday Only! Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs for. What Every Church Can Be by James MacDonald

Infighting, backbiting, heartbreaking, frustrating … church.

Though exceptions do exist, the reality is that church in America is failing one life at a time. Somewhere between pathetically predictable and shamefully entertaining, sadly sentimental and rarely authentic, church has become worst of all … godless.

Vertical Church points to a new day where God is the seeker, and we are the ones found. In Vertical Church God shows up, and that changes everything.

If you want to experience God as you never have before and witness His hand at work, if you want to wake up to the first thought, “Thank God it’s Sunday,” if you’re ready to feel your heart beat faster as you drive to your place of worship … then devour and digest the lessons of Vertical Church.

Search for this title in the in-app store or go HERE and click the “Go Get It!” button for download instructions.

Celebrate Charles Spurgeon & John Wesley’s Birthdays with these titles!

Free offer expires June 20, 11:59 PM EST.

Free Resource Friday!

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Free this Friday Only! To My Sons: Lessons for the Wild Adventure Called Life by Bear Grylls

This humorously illustrated book is a collection of wisdom that renowned adventurer Bear Grylls wants to share with his sons about the risks, tumbles, and victories of a well-lived life.

Fatherhood is the greatest adventure. Mountain climber, world-record holder, and internationally known television personality Grylls knows a thing or two about adventure. The greatest adventure he’s experienced, though, is raising his three boys. In To My Sons, Grylls shares the quotes, Scripture verses, and spiritual wisdom he has learned through the literal ups and downs of an exciting life. Featuring cartoons from well-known sketch artist Charlie Mackesy, this book is a poignant primer for boys and men of all ages.

Search for this title in the in-app store or go HERE and click the “Go Get It!” button for download instructions.

Browse more titles for Dads HERE.

Free offer expires June 13, 11:59 PM PST.

Free Resource Friday!

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FREE TODAY ONLY! Letters to a Young Pastor by Calvin Miller

Calvin Miller has long been one of the most creative voices in the church. As a best-selling author and poet he has enabled believers to flourish. As a pastor and educator he has equipped countless thousands to know and serve God more fully. Having survived these tumultuous decades, Dr. Miller now shares his well-earned wisdom with the next generation of pastors– including you, or someone you know.

Miller acknowledges much has changed over his years of ministry, as we’ve moved from switchboards to smartphones and from big-haired evangelists to cigar-smoking emergents. But two truths remain the same: God is love and people are broken. In this honest, engaging, and humorous collection of letters, he encourages you to fight the good fight, stay the course, and keep your eye on the Author and Finisher of the faith, to serve well every Sunday so you’ll never feel the urge to resign on Monday.

Search for this title in the in-app store or go HERE and click the “Go Get It!” button for download instructions.

My Favorite Three Bible Study methods

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From Guest Blogger: Andy Deane, author of Learn to Study the Bible

learntostudythebible

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!

Learn to Study the Bible by Andy Deane can be purchased for the Bible Study App on www.OliveTree.com here.

National Day of Prayer

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PrayerToday is the first Thursday in May, a day set aside by our country’s leaders as a national day of prayer. The Bible speaks of prayer often and encourages us with numerous examples of people who spent time in prayer. Examining the lives of those prayerful individuals in the Scriptures reveals that they are no different from you and me; they have their shortcomings and, in many cases, it is only through the Lord answering their prayers that they succeeded.

Learning to Pray from Moses

Moses’ example—that is, his overcoming his fear of public speaking and leadership—speaks volumes about prayer. Moses knew he wasn’t a capable leader of his people, so he spent much of his time in conversation with the Lord, often pleading for God to have mercy on the stubborn and rebellious Israelites. It was only through his conversations with the Lord that Moses was able to deliver Israel from Egypt.

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ [God] said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’ (Ex. 3:11-12 ESV)

Moses continued to ask the Lord for guidance, and when it was clear Israel would need a new leader to take them in to the land, he appealed to God, saying:

‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.’ So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.’ (Num. 27:15-18 ESV)

God provided Joshua to be the new shepherd to the Israelites, a direct answer to Moses’ prayer. However, not all of Moses’ prayers were answered. In Deuteronomy 3:23-28,  Moses pleads with God to let him enter the Promised Land with the Israelites.

And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’

But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan.  But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’ (ESV)

God’s answer to our prayers, like His answer to Moses’ here, may be “no,” but the truth still remains that God is willing and ready to listen to our prayers, but we must be equally willing to speak to Him and listen for His answer.

As a Christian, prayer is an important part of spiritual life.  It’s a time when we draw into the presence of our Lord and offer Him our praise, thanksgiving, supplication and repentance. We want to encourage you today and every day to spend time taking advantage of the privilege of speaking to our Lord personally and intimately through prayer. The writer of Hebrews invites us to do the same:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16 ESV)

To help equip you for this day, all of our prayer titles are 25% off through May 5th!

 

Easter’s Over. Now What?

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The community outreach events are completed.  The music hit home.  The preaching connected.  Lives were changed forever.  Everything you’ve worked towards and focused on the last several weeks has come to fruition.  Now what?

seven days of week from Monday to Sunday in isolated vintage letYou knew this moment would happen, but the hustle and bustle of preparing for the most important service and sermon of the year consumed your every waking thought.  Now it’s Easter Monday and the next Sunday sermon is only 6 days away.  Maybe you had the forethought to plan the next series, but haven’t had the time to actual prepare.

Not to worry.  There are plenty of themes to discuss.  Here are a few questions to help you brainstorm and get the ideas flowing:

Consider your Easter Sermon.  What was the main point (beyond the obvious)?  What are some secondary points that could be used as a sermon series?  Could you take the bullet points from your Easter sermon and create a series of sermons to drive the point home?  Were there things you left unsaid because of time constraints? Perhaps you can take that sermon and use it as a launching pad into the next few weeks or months.  You spent a lot of time preparing for that Easter sermon.  Use those resources to your benefit.

Consider your Calendar.  What is coming up next on the calendar? Some of the obvious answers would be Pentecost Sunday and Mother’s Day.  But what else could you bring a biblical perspective to?  What about Tax Day, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Memorial Day?  Okay, maybe Tax Day is a stretch.  Take a look at your local calendar as well.  Is your church celebrating a significant event?  What is going on in your community in the upcoming weeks and months?  What can you point out and use as a bridge to your community?

Consider your Context.  What are the issues going on in your community right now? Are there social justice issues that need to be addressed from a biblical perspective?  Are there positive outcomes in the local government or law enforcement that you can affirm?  What are the heart concerns of the community?  How can you speak to these issues?  Take a few minutes to feel the pulse of your context.

Consider your Church.  How’s your church doing?  Are there aspects of disunity, bitterness, or un-forgiveness to be confronted?  On the other side of this, who do you need to say “thank you” to?  Who needs to be encouraged, affirmed, strengthened, and appreciated for all the hard work they did on Easter Sunday?  How can you champion the volunteers in the nursery, Sunday school, small groups, greeters, ushers, worship team, and all of the various aspects that it takes to make a service happen?

Consider Christ. Perhaps the most overlooked sermon prep tool is prayer.  How is Jesus speaking to you?  What is Jesus saying that needs to be preached?  How can you point people to Jesus and use their felt needs as a starting point?  We have to remember that Christ is more concerned about people than we are.  It’s easy to fall into the trap that we alone are responsible for bringing the Word of God to people.  However, it’s Jesus who said that He will build His church (Matthew 16:15).  Let’s remember to ask God for His help in bring His Word to His people.

 

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