Category: Inspiration

Psalm 51: Repenting Like David

Posted by on 09/20/2017 in: ,

Psalm 51 has long been one of my favorite passages of scripture, and I came to love it because of Jon Foreman’s song White as Snow. Funny thing is, this psalm is entirely about sin. It’s pretty humbling to read (and even more humbling to sing and confess to God yourself!).

This week, we have the MacArthur Study Bible with ESV on sale, so I was looking through it. I came across MacArthur’s notes on this passage, and they were so helpful in reminding me of the power of this psalm.

BACKGROUND

If you didn’t know already, here’s the background of Psalm 51:

“This is the classic passage in the OT on man’s repentance and God’s forgiveness of sin. Along with Ps. 32, it was written by David after his affair with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, her husband (2 Sam. 11–12). It is one of seven poems called penitential psalms (Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). To David’s credit, he recognized fully how horrendous his sin was against God, blamed no one but himself, and begged for divine forgiveness.

OUTLINE: Plea for Forgiveness (51:1–2); Proffer of Confession (51:3–6); Prayer for Moral Cleanness (51:7–12); Promise of Renewed Service (51:13–17); Petition for National Restoration (51:18–19).”

TAKEAWAYS

Ps. 51:1 steadfast love. “Even though he had sinned horribly, David knew that forgiveness was available, based on God’s covenant love.”

Have you ever been overwhelmed by your own sin, to the point of believing that God would abandon you? Or perhaps, you are so frustrated by what you have done, you become severely depressed and don’t know how you can keep on going? Sin can make us feel as if we are entirely unloveable.

But MacArthur points out here in his notes that David, before apologizing for his sin, calls on God’s unconditional love. Remember, David just MURDERED someone. Murder! I can’t image the weight of the shame and guilt he must have been carrying. I’m so thankful that the Bible doesn’t cover up the mistakes God’s people. Instead, we can read this and be encouraged.

Ps. 51:4 Against you, you only. “David realized what every believer seeking forgiveness must, that even though he had tragically wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, his ultimate crime was against God and his holy law (cf. 2 Sam. 11:27). Romans 3:4 quotes Ps. 51:4.”

When we sin, it is so important to remember that our mistakes are ultimately against God. I can think of two good reasons for meditating on this idea. The first is that we don’t want to act as if our sin only has to do with other people—it affects our relationship with God and we need reconciliation with Him. We need to ask for forgiveness! But also, we know that God is faithful and just to forgive us, and it is His forgiveness that matters. We are able to move past our sin and pursue holiness, even when the people we have sinned against won’t accept our apology.

Ps. 51:6 you will not delight in sacrifice. “Ritual without genuine repentance is useless. However, with a right heart attitude, sacrifices were acceptable (see v. 19).”

What kind of rituals surrounding repentance have we created? Maybe at your church, you recite a prayer of repentance each week. Or, it may be that you have a habit of asking God for forgiveness, but it’s become numb to you. God cares less about the action and more about the heart. Make sure to take the time you need to truly repent of your wrongdoing. Your relationship with God (and own struggle with sin, guilt, and shame) will be better for it.

LEARN MORE

These insights were inspired by the MacArthur Study Bible with ESV. Not only are there notes about Psalm 51 that I didn’t cover, but there are thousands of other notes, giving insight to all the passages of the Bible! This title is currently a part of our Fall Sale, so head on over to our website to learn more about it.

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11 Principles for Studying Biblical Culture

Posted by on 09/05/2017 in: ,

Proverbs 2:1-2, 5-6 NKJV

“My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding…
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

STUDYING CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS

The study of cultural backgrounds is important because grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting in which the inspired authors communicated their message. What we learn may show contrasts as well as similarities between our own culture and that of the ancient world. Here are some principles to consider when evaluating the biblical text with its ancient contexts:

11 PRINCIPLES

  1. Both cultural similarities and cultural differences must be considered.
  2. Similarities may suggest a common cultural heritage rather than borrowing from a specific piece of literature.
  3. It is common to find similarities at the surface but differences at the conceptual level or vice versa.
  4. All elements of the text must be understood in their own context as accurately as possible before cross-cultural comparisons are made.
  5. Proximity in time, geography and spheres of cultural contact all increase the possibility of interaction leading to influence.
  6. A case for literary borrowing can rarely be made and requires identification of likely channels of transmission.
  7. Similar functions may be performed by different genres in different cultures.
  8. When literary or cultural elements are borrowed they may in turn be transformed into something quite different.
  9. A single culture will rarely be monolithic, either in a contemporary cross-section or in consideration of a passage of time.
  10. Specificity in marking dates for events in the ancient world is inherently debatable. There was no universal cultural reference point with which the ancients could mark time (such as our dates of BC and AD). Different cultures used different historical reference points when marking time, so that even when researchers find recorded dates in ancient cultural literature or on artifacts, these can rarely be cited as definitive. The differences in dates for specific events in the Old Testament notes reflect this reality as various contributors reflect their own assessments. The earlier the time period, the more tenuous the dating becomes.
  11. Cultural terms in the text of the notes (e.g., use of the term “Palestine” in the Old Testament, which refers to the larger region in which the Hebrew people lived), do not refer to current political realities unless the notes indicate such.

LEARN MORE

This blog post was adapted from the NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible which is on sale right now in our store.

What benefits have you experienced in learning cultural backgrounds of the Bible? Comment below!

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Life Lessons: Hebrews 8

Posted by on 09/01/2017 in: ,

SITUATION

Hebrews 8: Jewish Christians struggled to understand the relationship between God’s free salvation and the Mosaic Law. The author explained that Jesus Christ was superior to the Law of Moses.

OBSERVATIONS of HEBREWS 8

God does not keep a record of our sins in order to use them against us. Rather, He forgives and loves us even as we suffer through the consequences of our sins.

INSPIRATION

I was thanking the Father today for His mercy. I began listing the sins He’d forgiven. One by one I thanked God for forgiving my stumbles and tumbles. My motives were pure and my heart was thankful, but my understanding of God was wrong. It was when I used the word “remember” that it hit me. . .

God doesn’t just forgive, He forgets. He erases the board. He destroys the evidence. He burns the microfilm. He clears the computer. . .

No, He doesn’t remember. But I do, you do. You still remember. You’re like me. You still remember what you did before you changed. In the cellar of your heart lurk the ghosts of yesterday’s sins. Sins you’ve confessed; errors of which you’ve repented; damage you’ve done your best to repair.

And though you’re a different person, the ghosts still linger. Though you’ve locked the basement door, they still haunt you. They float to meet you, spooking your soul and robbing your joy. With wordless whispers they remind you of moments when you forgot whose child you were. .

Poltergeists from yesterday’s pitfalls. Spiteful specters that slyly suggest, “Are you really forgiven? Sure God forgets most of our mistakes, but do you think he could actually forget the time you . . . ”

. . . Was [God] exaggerating when He said He would cast our sins as far as the east is from the west? Do you actually believe He would make a statement like “I will not hold their iniquities against them” and then rub our noses in them whenever we ask for help? . . .

You see, God is either the God of perfect grace . . . or He is not God. Grace forgets. Period. He who is perfect love cannot hold grudges. If He does, then He isn’t perfect love. And if He isn’t perfect love, you might as well put this book down and go fishing, because both of us are chasing fairy tales.

But I believe in his loving forgetfulness. And I believe He has a graciously terrible memory. (From God Came Near by Max Lucado)

APPLICATION

Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, God forgets our sins. Jesus paid the penalty for sins. We must no longer feel guilty for sins that God forgave.

EXPLORATION

Promised Pardon of God—Isaiah 43:25; 44:22; 55:7; Micah 7:18; 1 John 1:9.

LEARN MORE

This blog post was taken directly from Max Lucado’s Life Lessons Study Bible Notes. For Labor Day weekend, this title has been discounted from $49.99 to $9.99. Check it out here! [Deal ends September 5!]

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Why Every Christian
Should Study the Bible

Posted by on 08/16/2017 in: ,

This title might seem slightly redundant. Shouldn’t a Christian study the Bible because she (or he) is a Christian? If only that was enough to convince us. I graduated from a Bible college and work for a Bible app—and yet I still find myself procrastinating on reading God’s Word. Somehow, I manage to forget the importance of it all.

So, this blog post is for me just as much as it’s for you. We’re all in need of a reminder now and again. And perhaps you are reading this and you have never, on your own, truly studied the Bible. That’s alright! Let’s chat about three reasons we should study God’s Word.

1. THE BIBLE IS ALIVE

The writer of Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). What does this mean? The Bible pierces our souls. It discerns our thoughts and intentions. It brings our darkness to light.

This can take place without deep, academic study. You don’t need a PhD or a seminary education in order to be changed by God’s Word. Simple meditation can bring about growth because that’s how God works. If you knock, He will answer.

This is the first reason that we should study the Bible. Even if you hold to the word study very loosely–that’s okay. Read the Bible. Even if you struggle to understand, or find it boring at times, or would rather be doing something else… find time to read the Bible. Read the Bible because God desires to communicate with you, encourage you, and make you more like Him. This can only happen when we take time to be in His presence and to read His life-giving words.

2. IT ISN’T ALWAYS ABOUT US

Now, I won’t retract what I’ve said. Simply reading the Bible is better than not reading at all. But there are a few other points we need to consider.

The Bible, being the very Word of God, deserves great respect. We need to treat it better than we would Hamlet and Don Quixote, which means taking the time to understand the author and their intent. It would be wrong to say “This line in Pride and Prejudice reminds me of my sister, so I think that Jane Austen wrote about my sister.” That would be silly! In the same way, the Bible isn’t (always) about us. It is for us and our edification, but more often than not, Scripture is talking about a group of people in an era of time that we have never experienced.

However, one of the neatest accomplishments of our God is that He composed His Word for His people through His people. He included humanity in the process. Although remarkable, this characteristic does make our job of understanding the Bible a bit harder. Scripture is wrapped in history, cultural nuance, assumptions of understanding, and genre differentiations. Leviticus was law for the Israelites, the Epistles were letters to different churches, the Psalms were songs of praise and lament, Song of Solomon… you get the picture.

So, what do we do? For starters, we can read study bible notes, single-volume commentaries, or Bible dictionaries alongside Scripture. As we grow, we could read about Hermeneutics (the study of interpreting Scripture), Systematic Theology, Greek, Hebrew, or any other number of areas of study. That way, we don’t make our own assumptions about the text, but instead listen to those who have dedicated their lives to investigating the history of God’s Word. Then, with a more accurate understanding, we can begin to apply what we have learned about God to our own lives.

3. WE’RE CALLED TO DEFEND OUR FAITH

You’ve probably heard this verse: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:14-15). What kind of defenses do we need to be able to make today—and to whom?

There may come a time when you need to answer questions such as:

These might be questions that other people ask you, or these might be questions that you ask yourself. How do you answer them? You read.

Millions of Christians have composed their defenses of the faith in books such as commentaries, apologetic undertakings, topical research, personal testimonies, and more. These, although not perfect like the Bible, are fantastic resources for you to grow in your understanding and trust of God’s Word.

OUR PASSION: INSPIRING PEOPLE TO READ GOD’S WORD

The reason the Olive Tree Bible App exists is to encourage people to read God’s Word. We also want you to study God’s Word, and to apply it to your life. This is why we work very hard with publishers to give you price reductions on titles that we think will help you achieve this goal.

Right now, we have an array of titles on sale with the aim of helping you read and study God’s Word in new ways. Check out what is available by visiting our website.

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How-to Personally Apply the Bible

Posted by on 08/09/2017 in: ,

It is a marvel how personally the Bible applies. The words pointedly address the concerns of long-ago people in faraway places, facing specific problems, many of which no longer exist. They had no difficulty seeing the application. Much of what they read was personal application to actual situations they were facing.

But nothing in the Bible was written directly to you or specifically about what you face. We are reading someone else’s mail. Yet the Bible repeatedly affirms that these words are also written for us: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4; cf. Deut. 29:29; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:15–17).

Furthermore, the Bible is primarily about God, not you. The essential subject matter is the triune Redeemer Lord, culminating in Jesus Christ. We are reading someone else’s biography. Yet that very story demonstrates how he includes us within his story.

“Personal application” proves wise when you reckon with these marvels. The Bible was written to others—but speaks to you. The Bible is about God—but draws you in. Your challenge is always to reapply Scripture afresh, because God’s purpose is always to rescript your life.

What chunk of Scripture has made the most difference in your life? What verse or passage have you turned to most frequently? What makes these exact words frequently and immediately relevant? Your answer will likely embody four foundational truths about how to read the Bible for wise application.

FIRST, THIS PASSAGE BECOMES YOUR OWN BECAUSE YOU LISTEN.

You remember what God says. He is saying this to you. You need these words. This promise, revelation, or command must be true. You must act on this call to faith and love. When you forget, you drift, stray, and flounder. When you remember and put it to work, bright truth rearranges your life. The foundation of application is always attentive listening to what God says.

SECOND, THE PASSAGE AND YOUR LIFE BECOME FUSED.

It is not simply a passage in the Bible. A specific word from God connects to some pointed struggle inside you and around you. These inner and outer troubles express your experience of the dual evil that plagues every human heart: sin and confusion from within; trouble and beguilement from without (1 Kings 8:37–39; Eccles. 9:3).

But something God says invades your darkness with his light. He meets your actual need with his actual mercies. Your life and God’s words meet. Application depends on honesty about where you need help. Your kind of trouble is everywhere in the Bible.

THIRD, YOUR APPROPRIATION OF THIS PASSAGE REVEALS HOW GOD HIMSELF DOES THE APPLYING.

He meets you before you meet him. The passage arrested you. God arranged your struggle with sin and suffering so that you would need this exact help. Without God’s initiative (“I will write it on their hearts,” Jer. 31:33) you would never make the connection. The Spirit chose to rewrite your inner script, pouring God’s love into your heart, inviting you to live in a new reality. He awakens your sense of need, gives you ears to hear, and freely gives necessary wisdom. Application is a gift, because wisdom is a gift.

FOURTH, THE APPLICATION OF BELOVED PASSAGES IS USALLY QUITE STRAIGHTFORWARD.
  • God states something in general terms. You insert your relevant particulars. For example:
    “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). What troubles are you facing? Who is with you?
  • “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). What is your particular way of straying? How does the Lamb of God connect with your situation?
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). With what are you obsessed? What promises anchor your plea for help (Phil. 4:5, 7-9)?

Such words speak to common human experiences. A passage becomes personal when your details participate in what is said. The gap across centuries and between cultures seems almost to disappear. Your God is a very present help in trouble—this trouble. Application occurs in specifics.

Interested in learning other ways to apply God’s Word to your life? This content was pulled from the ESV Study Bible, available in our store for 50% off. This resource comes with 20,000 notes, 50 articles, maps, charts, and more. It is perfect for daily study of the Bible.

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Significant Stories: Olive Tree Customers

Posted by on 08/04/2017 in:

In honor of our nine-year anniversary in the App Store and Customer Appreciation Week, we’ve asked for your significant stories—ways that reading God’s Word through our app has brought change in your life or others. We strongly believe that God’s Word brings restoration and transformation to people’s lives. So, we’re celebrating. We’re celebrating our wonderful customers, and we are celebrating what God has accomplished.

STORY #1 “I’ve been around Olive Tree since 2000; I lived in Hawaii then. This is when I started to find the Bible online. I was amazed to see the software on the site as I searched for the Bible. It wasn’t until 2002 that was able to use it. I moved to Virginia and I got a Palm PDA (remember those?) from my dad. Olive Tree was the first piece of software I put on it. I was (and still continue) to be amazed at how powerful it is!

The true value of Olive Tree was made apparent to me at the local library in 2007. I had a Blackberry Pearl with the NRSV. I got into a debate/discussion with a random guy. I forgot what we talked about but I used the software to look up verses to refute him. I felt God’s hand through the app as Olive Tree made searching easy. As we were going around in circles, we decided to agree to disagree; that ended the encounter.

The software has proven its worth in recent months. Olive Tree has helped me prepare to study the weekly Sunday school lesson and teach it on occasions. In summary I’m thankful to God for what Olive Tree has done in my life for the past 17+ years.”


STORY #2 “[. . .]But another, big reason I like my Olive Tree app is my vision difficulties. I have several causes besides the typical “senior” problem. With the app, the light of the screen helps me see the text. Plus, I can choose the background and text color and change the font size to whatever I need for any reading session. This helps me to continue to study, since I can no longer use some of the resources I have in print.”


STORY #3 “I love Olive Tree app and recommend it to all of my friends because being a seminary student who lives on a very limited budget, I have to be smart in the way I spend my book money and here I get the best available resources for the cheapest price. I would not have finished this last year at the seminary here in Brazil as I did, if I did not have such an amazing app that aids me in urgent situations (on the smartphone), at home (on the desktop) and at the seminary (on the tablet).”


STORY #4 “So this preacher came on the subway (a while back) and announced ‘people it’s time to put down your phones and pick up your Bibles.’ I was like ‘bro, way ahead of you’ and showed him my Olive Tree Bible app on my phone. He was NOT impressed LOL!!. My go-to Bible (maybe 9 yrs. and counting).”


STORY #5 “I love the ease of use of this app. As I read portions of scripture the Holy Spirit less my thinking and I write my thoughts in the note section. These I copy to the clipboard and post on my Facebook page. They have been a blessing to many. Thank you Olive Tree for making this possible for me. I am shut in at home, and now I have a ministry because of you people. Thank you.”


STORY #6 “My wife and I moved across country in 2011 to attend a Bible college. In the first term I got an iPad. While investigating Bible apps a friend recommended OliveTree. Turns out I had opened an account with OliveTree and purchased some Bibles several years earlier to use on the Palm TREO I had then. Even though I hadn’t logged into my account or used the app in years, when I did log in all my previous purchases were there waiting to download to my iPad.

[…] Now my wife and I live in Scotland as missionaries and next month will open a new campus here of the school we graduated from. I am in my OliveTree apps multiple times every day. As my primary study tool, OliveTree has been a huge part of my spiritual journey over the past several years. The apps have made it possible for me to do more Bible study, more efficiently, and receive more powerful revelation of scripture, than I believe I would have with a paper Bibles or any other app I know about. I’m looking forward to many, many, more years studying, learning, and growing using your apps!”


If you want to read more stories, head on over to our Facebook page and read the thread! And please, feel free to keep sharing your stories with us. We LOVE reading them.

Also, don’t forget to check out our Customer Appreciation Sale, going on through the rest of this weekend.

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His Great Love Toward Us

Posted by on 08/02/2017 in: ,

“Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the Lord.” —Psalm 117

This psalm captures the essence of praise in miniature — it is the shortest psalm in the Psalter and the shortest chapter in the Bible. The psalm opens with a call for the nations to praise the Lord (verse 1) and then gives the reason for praise: the Lord’s great love and eternal faithfulness toward his people (verse 2).

117:1
The Lord is more than a parochial or tribal deity; he is Lord of all the earth (114:3 – 8; 115:15 – 16). Consequently, all nations must praise him. Psalms pictures a great contest between the rebellious nations and their Creator (see 2:1 – 6). The nations submit to their Creator by praising him (see 2:10 – 12; 108:3).

The New Testament attests that the nations have submitted to God because they praise the Son (see 2:10 – 12). Paul quotes this verse in Romans 15:11to show that the salvation of the nations (Gentiles) has always been God’s plan. Thus, they should be welcomed into the worshiping family of God.

117:2 Love. The Lord’s faithful covenant love. In Psalm 6:4, the term unfailing love (Hebrew hesed) is one of the richest in the Bible, often denoting God’s steadfast, loyal love for his covenant people Israel. It had special meaning for God’s people coming out of Egypt (Exodus 15:13; 20:6; 34:6 – 7), and God promised this love to many generations of Israelites, including David (Psalm 89:24,28,33; 2 Samuel 7:15; Isaiah 55:3). More than half of the Bible’s references to this covenantal love are found in Psalms, about half of those in psalms of David.

Endures forever. Never wears out. His faithfulness to his covenant promises does not have an expiration date; it will endure into eternity.

How has God shown His love and faithfulness towards you?

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Love & Grace

Posted by on 08/01/2017 in: ,

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” –2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV

The God of biblical revelation is no impersonal absolute. The living God is the God of love and grace. But what do such terms mean? It is in Scripture that big terms such as “love” and “grace” are embodied in stories as well as in direct affirmations. In particular, it is Jesus Christ and his story that provides the lens through which to view what the big biblical ideas are about.

What does divine love look like?

Love is manifested in action, as the story of Jesus exemplifies. Jesus embodies the divine love in his coming and his cross. As John 3:16 famously affirms, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” Paul elaborates, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). John adds to this testimony: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

As in the OT, in the NT practical consequences follow. Jesus exhibits a new paradigm for loving others (John 13:1-7). This love serves. This love shows hospitality. This love washes the feet of others. We are to love like that. Love is the new commandment (John 13:34). It is new because it is informed by the story of Christ.

This newness carries over into the Christian household. As in the OT, the NT presents no mere duty-ethic. This love is an answering love to the divine love as experienced in Christ: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This love is not manufactured by us; it is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ living within us (Gal 5:22). This love cannot possibly claim to love God while hating other believers (1 John 4:20). Some things – like knowledge and prophecy – fade away (1 Cor 13:8). But love remains (1 Cor 13:13). It never fades.

What does grace look like?

Divine grace is undeserved favor of a superior bestowed on an inferior. The Israelites experienced God’s grace when he delivered them from Egyptian oppression. God proclaims to Moses on Mount Sinai, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God” (Exod 34:6). The exodus event also shows that when God acts graciously, it means salvation for some (Israel) but often judgement for others (Egypt and its gods as in Exod 12:12-13). In Jesus the divine grace comes into view in the most personal of ways, as John points out in his prologue (John 1:17). By coming among humankind and dying on the cross, Jesus Christ did what he was not obliged to do, and he did so not for his own sake but for ours, undeserving though we are. The nature of this undeserved favor removes any grounds for our boasting before God about our meritorious works. As Paul tells the Ephesians, “It is be grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

Even though the accent on grace in Scripture focuses repeatedly on God or Christ as the gracious one, those who have received such grace must be gracious themselves. This graciousness must show itself especially in Christian generosity (2 Cor 8:9) and speech: “Let your conversation be always full of grace” (Col 4:6). Unsurprisingly such gracious speech characterized Jesus Himself (Luke 4:22).

Grace and love occur together in the Bible, and both express his goodness. We deserve neither God’s love nor his grace. Church leader Irenaeus rightly said in the second century, “[Jesus] became what we are that we might become what he is.” Such is grace. Such is love.

How has the grace and love you receive from Jesus Christ affected your life and relationships with others?

Looking for more encouragement? Right now we are going through, publishing content found within this helpful resource, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible! You can read the first post in this series here.

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Run with Passion and Perspective

Posted by on 07/28/2017 in:

“Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” 
— Hebrews 12:1–3

Hebrews 12 develops the theme of endurance. The first three verses teach us that the key to persistence is passion.

All the men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 “made it” because they felt passionate about their cause. The writer compares our lives to a race and tries to convince us that we must run with endurance if we plan to finish well.

The text also suggests that if the key to persistence is passion, then the key to passion is purpose. We must run with purpose, not aimlessly.

And the key to purpose? Perspective. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to consider three things that will help us to finish well:
1. Consider them (12:1) 
Since a great cloud of witnesses has gone before us, we must get serious about finishing well.
2. Consider ourselves (12:1) 
It is now our turn to run the race and watch for pitfalls. We must lay aside every encumbrance that would prevent us from finishing well.
3. Consider Jesus (12:2–3) 
Jesus ran His own race and endured hardship by fixing his eyes on the rewards; we must follow His example.

Looking for more well-written applications of Scripture? This article came straight from The Maxwell Leadership Bible Notes, which is on sale this week in our store!

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From Nothing to Everything

Posted by on 07/12/2017 in: ,

I look absolutely nothing like the rest of my family, sporting stick-straight blonde hair and blue eyes. My mother is a quarter Native American, my dad is an Irishman, and my sister is half African American. We always look like an odd bunch of people when we go out for dinner. I’ve even been asked by a waiter how we all know each other. I looked around the table at all our contrasting faces; “They’re my family,” I said.

Throughout my life I’ve been asked many questions about this characteristic, such as:

Do you wonder about your biological family?

If you could live with them, would you?

Do you really consider your mom to be your mom?

When you say dad… you mean your adopted dad, right?

Is it weird?

I honestly don’t mind the questions, but that’s probably because I don’t mind being adopted. Instead, it’s this one characteristic that brought about a deep understanding of God’s love for me—and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

You see, in Romans 8, the apostle Paul talks about adoption. He says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:14-15, NIV).

From my personal experience and observation, I took a few key points away from this passage. When I watched my parents adopt my little sister, I saw them dedicate time, money, and energy so that they could leave the courtroom saying, “This is my daughter. I love her. She’s mine.” And it doesn’t stop there. They then embarked on a life-long journey of caring for my sister, teaching her and shaping her. God does this for us, too. We leave the courtroom with him, calling him Father.

My personal understanding of adoption speaks volumes into my understanding of God. But it is also so important to investigate the cultural understanding of adoption during the time of the apostle Paul. The Archaeological Study Bible explains that, in the ancient Greco-Roman world, “only free men (not women or slaves) could adopt, and the adoptee was often an adult rather than a child.” Additionally, an adoptee “took the adopter’s name and rank and became his legal heir.”

When Paul embraced the metaphor of adoption, he meant so much more than receiving a new guardian. Where an adopted child may learn the new family’s customs, share in the labor, and easily fit into the new societal ranking, a grown adult may not. An adopted adult would cling to their old ways. An adopted adult would struggle to transition into their new identity. But, despite these challenges, the adoptee is welcomed in, being brought from poverty to riches, from shame to honor, from slave to free, from nothing to everything.

We, too, can welcome this change in our identity. We can rejoice in the eternal relationship we have with our God. We can call him Abba, Father, and he calls us his children.

Interested in learning more about the archaeological, historical, and cultural information tucked inside your Bible? The Archaeological Study Bible contains over 500 articles and 500 full-color photos. Best part? It’s on sale right now.

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