Read short inspirational articles by Olive Tree staff members.
While the gospel ought to always be at the forefront of our minds, I do not deny there being something special about this time of year. The Passion Week presents us with the opportunity to look closely at the cross of Christ and to share salvation’s good news with loved ones. Hearing about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is brand new for many people. But, how does the person who’s been a Christian for years or decades keep the gospel fresh? This is one of my challenges as a Christian. So, what do I do? I look outside the gospel narratives and look at the rest of Scripture.
Since all the Bible is about Jesus, we should see things that either point forward (Old Testament) or back (Acts & beyond) to the work of Christ. Today I’d like to walk you through a quick time of study I had this morning reading a seemingly random Bible passage and how that pointed me back to the cross and helped me meditate on Christ this Passion Week.
My morning started with a reading in the first couple of chapters in 1 Timothy. As I read, one verse stood out more than others:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Yes, Jesus came to save sinners, and Paul assures us that this statement is trustworthy and worthy of acceptance. Like Paul, I can identify with these words and I lean on the truthfulness of why Christ came. After meditating on that verse and its surrounding context, the ESV cross references pointed me to Romans 4:25, which is where my study became fun.
23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)
In this context Paul is talking about Abraham and how he was justified through faith. Paul makes it clear that Abraham was declared righteous before his circumcision or any other act he performed, such as obeying the call to sacrifice Isaac. Paul then brings this forward and applies it to Christians and our justification. He shows how justification is applied through our faith in Jesus’ atoning work. The cross is now clearly in view and how it benefits my life.
At this point, a few Study Bibles provide further edification as they elaborate on the Romans passage.
4:25 Both the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are necessary for forgiveness of sins and justification. raised for our justification. When God the Father raised Christ from the dead, it was a demonstration that he accepted Christ’s suffering and death as full payment for sin, and that the Father’s favor, no longer his wrath against sin, was directed toward Christ, and through Christ toward those who believe. Since Paul sees Christians as united with Christ in his death and resurrection (6:6, 8–11; Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12; 3:1), God’s approval of Christ at the resurrection results in God’s approval also of all who are united to Christ, and in this way results in their “justification.” (ESV Study Bible)
4:25 The proof of justification by faith alone in Abraham’s case leads Paul back to the foundation of justification in the work of Christ (3:24-26). Christ’s death and resurrection are two indivisible but distinguishable aspects of His one saving work. In His death, Christ bore the legal penalty for our guilt. In raising Jesus from the dead, the Father vindicated Jesus, nullifying the sentence of death, and declaring Him to be righteous. This vindication grounds our justification through our union with Christ. (Reformation Study Bible)
Both of these notes drive home great points concerning the correlation between Jesus’ work on the cross and our justification. Without his death our sins are not forgiven; and, without his resurrection there is no proof that God accepted his sacrifice. Like Abraham, we only receive this through faith. In response to reading these notes all I could think was, “Ah, thank you Lord for the cross! Without your death and resurrection I am hopeless!”
But, there was one more note in the HCSB Study Bible that cross referenced one last passage in Acts, which led me to a moment of true thankfulness and hope.
4:25. Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses as promised in Is 52:13–53:12. Who delivered up Jesus? Was it Judas? Pilate? The Jewish Sanhedrin? Satan? Certainly all these were causal agents in the crucifixion of Christ, but ultimately it was the sovereign God who brought it to pass in order to fulfill His plan of redemption (Ac 4:27- 28). The Father delivered Jesus up for our trespasses, and raised Him so that His righteous Servant would justify many people (Is 53:11). (HCSB Study Bible)
Jesus’ death on the cross was not an accident. God planned it long ago and had a hand in all of it. After being released from prison, Peter and John prayed to God and recognized that he was at work the entire time, even working through wicked men. Personally, realizing the bigger picture of the Passion Week is a huge comfort to me. Yes, wicked men sentenced Jesus to death, but it was all part of God’s plan. Jesus died for our sins. He rose again, showing God’s acceptance of his sacrifice. We are justified because of our faith in the work of the cross. But, God had his plan in place before Adam even sinned. What an awesome God we serve!
I love how God can work and point us to the gospel as we read his Word. It may be Passion Week, but that’s not where I’m reading; yet, God still points me to his Son’s work on the cross and my soul is lifted because of it!
For years Michael Card’s music has imaginatively explored the narrative power of the Word of God. Now in the Biblical Imagination Series, Card invites readers to enter into Scripture as he has learned to do, at the level of the informed imagination.
These volumes will help you discover the biblical text for yourself, ask your own questions and uncover deeper truths. Taking seriously the individual life and voice of each biblical writer, the Biblical Imagination Series will help you reintegrate your mind with your heart to recapture your imagination with the beauty and power of Christ.
Right now the Biblical Imagination Series 4 Volume set is only $24.99 for a limited time!
Throughout the book of Psalms, believers are admonished to lift their voices and offer praises to God. For centuries now, the faithful have composed “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” to express their trust in God and their love for Jesus Christ. Included in Hymns of Praise are a short introduction and the complete words to ten best-loved hymns, to offer inspiration and encouragement in your daily walk with God.
Find this great resource in the Bible Study in-app store or go HERE for install instructions.
Please note that a Free Olive Tree account is required to access this Free Download.
From Guest Blogger: Ashley LaMar
In about 15 minutes I’m going to be starting my weekday commute to work. My commute looks like this: a 5-minute walk to the train station, waiting 5-10 minutes for the train to arrive, a 25-minute train ride, waiting 5-10 minutes for the bus to arrive, a 15-minute bus ride, and a 5-minute walk to my office. My total morning commute time is 1 hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes and approximately 45 minutes of that is spent either riding the transit system or waiting. What do I do during the time? I read. I used to read a novel on my Kindle but ever since I’ve discovered the free Olive Tree Bible App I use this time for Bible study.
Note: This is not a sponsored post by Olive Tree, I just love their app and really wanted to share it with you.
I have two faith-based apps on my iPad that I use in the morning. The first is The Christian’s Daily Challenge. I read it in the morning when I first wake up before I shower, eat breakfast, and start my day. I ruminate on it and let it sink it while I’m getting dressed for work. Then, when I head out on my commute I open Olive Tree, read the same verse that The Christian’s Daily Challenge referred to, and delve deeper into study.
The other day on my commute I was reading through the book of Matthew again and, while reading about the immaculate conception and the birth of Jesus I noticed something that I hadn’t paid much attention to before and that was the frequent references to the Angels of God communicating with Joseph and the Magi through dreams. Every time I noticed the reference to an Angle communicating via dreams I highlighted it using the Olive Tree highlight tool. It’s actually really cool because you can set different color highlights to mean different things such as highlighting quotes or passages to memorize in yellow and verses about grace and love in pink.
Did you notice the little green arrow at the bottom of the page? Well…there is a ton of special hidden features down there! Just swipe the arrow up and you are able to access related verses, expanded detail on the people, the places, and the topics discussed on that page. You can also click through to check out maps, images, sermons, videos, etc on the people, places and topics. I admit I’m kind of a sucker for Bible maps and I love seeing how the regions discussed in the Bible correlate to the world as we know it today.
If you click on one of the topics the app will bring up a list of other places in the Bible where the same subject is discussed. That is one of my favorite features.
Plus there is a built-in store that you can access from within the app to buy books on theology and Bible history, Christian eBooks, Devotionals, Prayer, and Marriage & Family. A few of my current favorites are:
- Breaking Free Day by Day: A Year of Walking in Liberty by Beth Moore ($8.99)
- A Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer by Cheri Fuller ($14.99)
- Table Graces for the Family by Thomas Nelson ($12.99)
- This Momentary Marriage by John Piper ($9.99)
I love that you can buy the books from the in-app store and, in many cases, the books are cheaper than if you bought them on Amazon.
It’s an amazing app for Bible Study and it’s perfect for my commute. It allows me to commune with God in the morning as I start my day and again in the evening as I am drawing my day to a close and heading home to my family. I have noticed that I have developed more patience on my morning commute and been less irritable with crowds and delays as I start my day off in a peaceful place. I have also noticed that I return home at the end of the day less stressed and frustrated because I’ve spent time with the Lord, laid my stresses and cares upon Him and returned home with a joyful heart.
As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a sponsored post and the app is free on all devices iPhone, iPad (like I used it) and Android. It’s both Mac and Windows compatible and it is, hands-down, the absolute BEST Bible Study app I have found. If you’re interested you can get it here.
What do you think? Think you’ll check it out? What tools do you use for your Bible Study?
Learn More about Ashley at foreverashley.com
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter in which many Christians observe a form of self-denial as a way to identify with Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. It’s easy to relegate Lent to a time of “giving something up,” maybe chocolate or Facebook or fast food. While our waistlines might affirm these Lenten fasts, our spiritual nature begs for something more. Throughout Church history, Christians have turned to classic spiritual disciplines during Lent. But human nature can’t seem to make up its mind about the virtues of discipline. Sure discipline is a good thing. I brush my teeth every morning and evening. I drive safely. I read my Bible every day. But let’s face it: Discipline is hard. Why do we need to practice discipline in a season like Lent anyway?
In essence, discipline helps us to be more like Christ. As Jesus himself taught, denying oneself is integral to the Christian life and necessarily tough. Even Jesus’ discipline of obedience to the Father led to Calvary. As Christianity Today’s editorial from March 1960 puts it, Lent is a time in which we “follow the battered path to Calvary” and recognize our need to “yield ourselves afresh to God…” Just like we discipline ourselves in the care of our physical bodies, we must also do the necessary work of discipline in order to be healthy spiritually.
In this Lenten season, we encourage you to spend time with God each day as we approach the heart of the Christian faith in the agony of Good Friday and the glory of Easter. Along with the Bibles and Study Bibles that Olive Tree offers, check out the Lenten devotionals 40 Days with Jesus by Sarah Young and Walk with Jesus: A Journey to the Cross and Beyond by Charles Swindoll at OliveTree.com. We pray that the discipline of reading a devotional and your Bible daily will help you become more Christ like this Lenten season.
From Guest Blogger: Dr. Brian Simmons, Lead Translator for The Passion Translation
God Is Passionate and Poetic.
It may surprise some of us to hear God described this way, as passionate and poetic. Yet the heart of God is filled with holy longings, passions which he expressed in creation and through redemption. And we would never discover such passions completely without the gift of God’s poetic Word, spoken to us in our own language. The Passion Translation is committed to translating the Word of God with all of its poetic nuance, flavor, passion, and truth—without compromising accuracy in any way. It expresses God’s passion for people and His world by translating the original, life-changing message of God’s Word for modern readers; it is every bit reliable as it is relevant.
God’s Word is potent, it has power to transform lives. As you read the Bible in this new, modern English version, expect to be delighted by The Passion Translation with new insights and a fresh understanding of all that God wants to say to our hearts. This is a heart-level translation, from the passion of God’s heart to the passion of your heart. Written by passionate men, the Bible is unlocked and understood more fully when passionate people read it.
God is a Poet—the Poet of Poets.
I’m so thankful for the poetic books found in the middle of our Bible. There is something about the Psalms and the Proverbs that keep our lives fueled with praise and guided by wisdom. It would be hard to imagine the Word of God without poetry, parables, and proverbs, because they unfold an entirely different dimension of the wonderful heart of God!
I have cherished the Psalms for over four decades. I contemplate them almost daily, for they have been my comfort and joy, leading me to the place where worship flows. When discouraged or downcast, reading these divine poems has given me new strength. They charge my batteries and fill my sails. In fact, the older I get the more powerful they grow: their thunder stirs me; their sweet melodies move me into the sacred emotions of a heart on fire like never before! The dark rain clouds of grief turn to bright rainbows of hope, just from meditating on David’s soul-nourishing songs.
The Psalms find the words that express our deepest and strongest emotions, no matter what the circumstances. Every emotion of our heart is reflected in the Psalms. Reading the Psalms will turn sighing into singing, trouble into triumph. The word praise is found 189 times in this book. There is simply nothing that touches my heart like the Psalms. Thousands of years ago my deepest feelings were put to music—this is what we all delightfully discover when reading the Psalms!
God’s Wisdom Is a Fountain—Come, Drink Freely!
Then there are the divine words of wisdom from Solomon, the book of Proverbs, written by the wisest man (well, maybe second wisest man) to ever walk the earth! Imagine reading a 2800-year-old book of wisdom: How many secrets would be uncovered? What kind of wisdom would be revealed? How would your life change as you drank in its advice? That’s Proverbs! These powerful words are anointed to bring you revelation from the very throne room of God—the wisdom you need to guide your steps and direct your life.
When you read Psalms and Proverbs, you’re engaging your heart and mind with the greatest book of wisdom and the greatest book of praise ever written, penned by two kings full of sage advice and God’s favor. God has given away his secrets in these books and he longs for you to read and receive them deep within. The Passion Translation seeks to express them in a way that would unlock the ‘passion’ of God’s heart, change your life, and launch you into the kind of life God has destined for you.
Dr. Brian Simmons is a former missionary, linguist, minister, and Bible teacher. As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, Brian co-translated the Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama. He and his wife have birthed numerous ministries, including a dynamic church, Gateway Christian Fellowship, in West Haven, Connecticut. He is also a gifted teacher of the Bible who has authored several books and serves churches worldwide through his teaching ministry.