Inspiration

Read short inspirational articles by Olive Tree staff members.

Palm Sunday

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This Sunday commemorates Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and is called Palm or Passion Sunday, depending on your tradition. All four gospels record this significant and prophetic event and I highly recommend you read them for yourself. You can find them in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. As I reread each account myself here are four things that stick out about this historic event that we still commemorate today.

Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy.
Not only was Jesus the long awaited King that the Jews had been longing for but his very entry into Jerusalem was just how it had been prophesied over 500 years earlier.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
I can imagine that Jewish theologians had been trying to reconcile their picture of a King (think David or Solomon) with the idea that he would ride in on a little colt, his feet barely off the ground. Yet here he was, having given his disciples an awkward command on how to get the colt, fulfilling prophecy that had been written centuries earlier. This was a plot twist that I don’t think even Hollywood could dream up.

What’s with the Palms?
The imagery of palms was a part of the Jewish culture and often reflected honor and nobility. 1 Kings  chapter 6 and 7 record how Solomon had them as part of the sacred carvings of the temple. In Mark’s account of Jesus entry, people are spreading palm branches out on the ground along with their cloaks in what I imagine would be a sort of ancient red carpet that probably helped keep the dust down.

The significance of this honor paid to Jesus also foreshadows what is to come. In Revelation 7:9 there’s an incredible description of worship that – you guessed it – includes palm branches. So we see here Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah and also pointing forward to an even greater scene of worship that is to come.

Hosanna
The chances are pretty good that at some point you’ve sung a song at church with the word ‘Hosanna’ in it. As Jesus made his entry there was definitely some worship going on but what does Hosanna actually mean? It was a desperate cry from an oppressed people living under Roman rule that means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’.  He would certainly save them but not quite how they imagined.

Where’s the Victory?
The Jews had been waiting and their King was finally here! Sure he was riding on a baby donkey and didn’t have a sword, armor, or an army but he was there none the less. As the shouts of Hosanna went out, everyone anticipated what this long awaited Kings next move would be. How would he save them? Would he be like David and his mighty men? Would he be like Solomon with wisdom and riches? “Save us now”, they cried!

One week later, many of these same people who had shouted ‘Hosanna’ would be shouting ‘Barabbas’ . They would trade their long awaited King for a thief and a murderer. He hadn’t fulfilled their image of a King or brought about their idea of salvation and so they turned on him.

But God in his sovereign grace had a plan that included a vastly different idea of what salvation was to look like, one that we’ll be celebrating this coming week. I’ll leave you with these words from Revelation 7:9-10:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ” Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

That’s my King!

Saved by the Word

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This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him
Psalm 18:30

The Message

Never were these words more true than for Ricky Wagoner of Trotwood Ohio. Yesterday morning as he stood outside of the bus he drives he was assaulted, shot, and stabbed in the leg. When it was all over two bullets had hit him in the chest – actually not him but The Message Bible that was in his shirt pocket. While we’re big fans of all things digital, this was definitely one case where a good old fashioned paper Bible turned out to be a life saver.

You can read the entire account here…

Where is Patience?

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such bigstock-HS-Patience-48914204things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

If we’re honest, most of us would admit that one of our least favorite words is patience. In a ‘me first’ western culture we can often get what we want, when we want it. Whether it’s Burger King saying, “Have it your way” or the Staples slogan, “That was easy,” our natural desire to be selfish only seems to be magnified by the messages marketed to us on a daily basis, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the message of patience is nearly impossible to find in our culture. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus, however, patience is the fruit of God’s Spirit at work within us.

It’s easy to read about the people in the Bible that God used in amazing ways and yet forget about where God showed up in the timeline of their lives. The theme of patience and endurance is one we see throughout scripture. Abraham and his wife Sarah weren’t young when they finally had the child God had promised. Joseph spent years in jail on wrong accusations before he became a powerful leader, fulfilling the dreams God had given him. Moses lived a non-descript life before God called him to lead his people out of Egypt. The Israelites had to spend 40 years in the desert before God released them into the Promised Land. Even Jesus didn’t start his public ministry until he was 30 years old.

If you’ve ever been in a place in your spiritual growth or your ministry where you feel that nothing is happening, you can take great comfort that you’re in good company. God is always concerned more about our depth of character than our width of ministry.  So how do you know if God is working in your life during a season where nothing seems to be happening? Jesus answers that question in the ‘Parable of the Sower’ in Luke 8.
“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15, ESV).

If you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, hear God’s Word, and are holding it fast in your heart, then be on the lookout for seasons of patience and embrace them. As you do, be reminded that you’re walking the same spiritual road as Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, and Moses. And  God used these individuals to change whole cultures.

Patience and God’s Timing
When my son was three, he and I were hanging out at home and lunch time was fast approaching. He was getting increasingly irritable and fussy, and I hadn’t quite learned how important it was to feed kids on time. He then asked me when lunch time was, and I told him I’d start making it in five minutes. Instead of saying, “Sounds good Dad,” my three-year-old son (to my ignorant surprise) proceeded to throw a tantrum that made me wonder if he had heard me say five hours instead of five minutes. As I quickly made him a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich two thoughts hit me.

First, my son didn’t have a concept of time. As an adult, waiting five  minutes is nothing. For a preschooler with no concept of time, any amount of waiting is too long, whether it’s five minutes or five days.

Second, I am just like my son. Sure, I may not throw a fit if I have to wait five minutes but if something doesn’t happen on my timeline my response isn’t much more mature than his. How many times have I approached God and said, “Here’s what I need and when I need it.” The big problem here is that if God doesn’t answer my prayers on my timeline then I assume he’s just not going to answer them. But this isn’t necessarily true. While a young child has no concept of time, we as adults also don’t understand God’s concept of time because it’s eternal. He sees our needs  but through the perspective of eternity. Though we don’t have an eternal viewpoint, God’s eternal viewpoint should give us comfort that God provides our needs and our answers at just the right time.

Jesus’ brother James says this about patience and God’s timing:
“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8, ESV).

As sons and daughters of a perfect and loving God, being patient is evidence of our trust and faith in our heavenly Father. As we pray and make requests of our Father we can be confident that his timing is the best timing.

Take time to reflect on both answered and unanswered prayers. When and how did God answer those prayers?
For those prayers that have yet to be answered, ask God for his perspective and trust in his perfect timing.

 

 

 

 

In Desperate Need of Hope

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“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
- The Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. “
-Jesus in John 16:33 (ESV)

Since Adam and Eve were cast from the garden, every generation has been on a desperate search for hope. Hope that there is a cure, that there is a way out, that something ‘I’ can do will make all things right again. For those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus we know that He alone is our hope. It’s only through his saving grace that our desperate search for hope finds an answer.

But, here’s the thing, it’s not yet fully complete. The day of Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul references in Philippians 1:6 (see above) is yet to come. Our hope begins when we accept the gift of God’s grace and say ‘yes’ to Jesus – and it’s fully and wholly completed on Christ’s return.  So what do we do in the meantime? What do we do when health fails, depression overwhelms, and the circumstances of life overwhelm us?

We still cling to hope! We still believe the promises of Jesus (see above verse) and at that moment – as the writer of Hebrews says – hope becomes our anchor. If Jesus isn’t that hope that anchors us down – then just like a ship in a storm – we become lost, aimless, and desperate. Have you ever felt like that? I certainly have and it’s in those seasons of desperation that everything the world has to offer is no more solid than sinking sand.  Jesus says, we ‘will have tribulation’ but despite the hardships of life we choose hope. Hope in him and his promises – knowing he is faithful.

This is the good news the world needs to hear and we need build our lives on!

Watch the video below to hear how the reality of Jesus brought hope despite the circumstances of life. If you find yourself in a season that has tried to steal your hope check out the book 365 Days of Hope or check out other great books on hope here.

The Story of Christmas

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The story of Christmas told by multiple Christian artists.

 

You can get the NLT translation of the Bible (quoted in the video) for the Bible Study App.

Bearded Theologian Winner

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With over 130 amazing submissions we are pleased to announce the randomly selected winner of Olive Tree’s Bearded Theologian Contest!


The winner gets the Olive Tree C. H. Spurgeon collection valued at over $200. As a thanks to all who participated we’re offering this collection on special this week only. Go here for more information.

You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.
Leviticus 19:27

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