Category: Inspiration

Jesus’ Leadership Mantra

Posted by on 03/05/2018 in: ,

The Bible has a lot to say about leadership—especially in the Gospels. So, resources like the NIV Leadership Bible Notes are great tools for helping you process these passages and apply them to your own leadership style. In Matthew 20:20-26, Jesus makes one of the most profound statements on being a great leader, clearly defining his view of power. The four steps below, taken directly from the NIV Leadership Bible Notes, will assist you in this effort:

MATTHEW 20:17-19

“Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'”

QUESTION ONE

Reread the passage and envision the scene. Imagine the disciples and Jesus walking along on their way to Jerusalem. What mood does the paragraph in verses 17–19 cast on the scene?

MATTHEW 20:20-23

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

‘What is it you want?’ he asked.

She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’

‘We can,’ they answered.

Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.'”

QUESTION TWO

Now, notice the conversation between Jesus and Zebedee’s family in verses 20–23. Imagine the Son of God asking you the question he asked in verse 21!

What would you say?

What were they really asking for?

Think beyond the obvious answer and imagine their dreams. From your knowledge of situations like this, what might have been their (good and not-so-good) motives?

MATTHEW 20:24-28

“When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

QUESTION THREE

Now, notice the other disciples’ response in verse 24. What generated their indignation?

QUESTION FOUR

In verse 25, Jesus identified the disciples’ understanding of power positions: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.” And in verse 26 he informed them of his approach to power and leadership. Put this approach into your own words.

JESUS’ LEADERSHIP TECHNIQUE

Think about this for a bit. After Jesus’ ascension, these men would be in charge. The disciples would need to be the highest-profile and most authoritative leaders in all of Christian history. They were to take over this ministry with no historical precedent, no written documentation that they could follow. They were the only disciples. However, their highest qualification was being personally groomed by Jesus. They had his example as a point of reference. And here he tells them not to lord it over others or exercise authority in a negative way.

Notice what Jesus told them in verses 25 and 26. He said that the highly visible uses of power around them, namely “lording it over” and “exercising authority over,” were not options. How, then, were they to get people to do what needed to get done? Jesus said, essentially: To be great, be a servant; to be first, be a slave. “First” is higher than “great” and “slave” is more servile than “servant.” Think about it!

Anticipating their confusion about whether this approach would work (actually, most hearers would be quite convinced that it wouldn’t work), Jesus gave a simple and solid closing argument. To those with whom he had lived and worked he concluded that they should serve “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 28).

LEADERSHIP FOR TODAY

Today, countless articles and journals report on hours of empirical research and careful thinking about what makes leadership work. Increasingly, experts compile theories that affirm and explain what Jesus taught: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (vv. 26–27).

Jesus taught it, and then he went out and lived it.

COMMENT BELOW: How have you seen this leadership technique work for yourself?

NIV LEADERSHIP STUDY BIBLE NOTES

Wondering how to be a godly leader? Let the NIV Leadership Bible Notes assist you in applying the Bible to your leadership strategy—whether you’ve been in leadership for ages or are looking for an opportunity to start.

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Be Noble: Studying Scripture Like the Bereans

Posted by on 03/02/2018 in: ,

“As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” — Acts 17:10-12, NIV

It can be very difficult to know what is true and what isn’t. I often feel overwhelmed and exhausted by all the fact checking that is required of us in 2018. We are CONSTANTLY receiving new information: articles shared on Facebook, opinions on Twitter, advertisements on Instagram, books, movies, app notifications… the list goes on and on.

The Bereans weren’t unaware of the pressure to have correct information. With the news Paul and Silas were spreading about Jesus, everyone was on edge. The Gospel challenged the current thought trends on religion, politics, socioeconomics, and more. So, choosing sides was a lot more threatening than picking Democrat or Republican. This decision was Religious Rulers versus Jesus, Rome versus Jesus, Cultural Values versus Jesus… and behinds the scenes, Satan versus. Jesus.

But in Acts 17:10-12, we see Luke write something attention-grabbing. He lifts the Berean Jews up as an example. This is rare! Why did he choose to say this, out of all the people they met on their journey? A characteristic stood out to him—a very important one.

NOBILITY

According to Strong’s, the use of “noble” here is the Greek word εὐγενής. It means, “well born, i.e. (literally) high in rank, or (figuratively) generous.

In 2018, I picture Luke saying something like, “The Berean Jews knew how to stay classy.” When they were met with a difficult message, they kept their character in check and remained honorable. When everything they were taught was challenged by the Gospel, they didn’t run away plugging their ears or start shouting over Paul and Silas. With eagerness and a willing mind they began the process of fact checking, seeing if the Old Testament really did prophecy Jesus to be the Messiah.

In the end, they discovered the Gospel to be true and became followers of Jesus.

NOBILITY TODAY

Maybe this Sunday you will find yourself questioning if what is being preached is true. Perhaps you’re in a Seminary course and your textbook is making some interesting claims. Or, maybe you’re simply scrolling through Facebook and a headline makes your stomach churn with anger, fear, and questions.

How can we be like the Bereans in these moments? Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t lose your temper
  • Having a willing mind
  • Listen to what others are saying
  • Evaluate the claims others make
  • Compare what we hear with Scripture
  • Ask some friends to join you in your research
  • Rinse and repeat

One of the trickiest situations we encounter is when someone claims the Bible to mean something we aren’t sure to be true. The problem is that the Bible is a translation and not all of us are Greek and Hebrew scholars. How do we evaluate these claims then?

Like I did toward the beginning of this post, you can use a Bible study tool that has Strong’s. With a tool like this, you look up nearly any word with a tap or two and read it’s original definition.

If you do have experience with Greek and Hebrew, you might find it helpful to have a resource that provides you with parsings. If this feature is listed on a product page, it will show you something like this when you use it:

Do you have any advice on how to eagerly examine Scripture to see if what you hear is true? Comment below!

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God Can Show Up Where You Don’t Expect or Deserve

Posted by on 02/26/2018 in: ,

The following is an excerpt from the For Everyone Commentary Series by John Goldingay and N.T. Wright.

WE DON’T ALWAYS GET WHAT WE DESERVE

I’ve remembered why I had that visit from the man I mentioned in connection with Lamentations 5. I’d talked in class about a pastor who ignored a call from God to go and serve him abroad as a missionary. His subsequent ministry in England had been greatly blessed, even though he was not in the place where God had wanted him. One failure in obedience to God doesn’t have to ruin your whole life.

The man who came to see me had been told that persisting with his new relationship and divorcing his wife so he could marry this other woman would mean God would never bless his new marriage. I told him you could never make such predictions because God is always having to decide afresh whether to be merciful or disciplinary. Our calling is to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because we might forfeit God’s blessing.

LEARNING FROM EZEKIEL 1:1-28

Ezekiel’s community is people who were transported to Babylon in 597; five years have now passed. Anyone with religious sensitivity or principle knew that they’d deserved this fate (even if there were individuals like Ezekiel who didn’t deserve it) and would wonder whether they could ever expect Yahweh to reach out to them in Babylon. Their feelings might be similar to those expressed in Lamentations after the further fall of Jerusalem in 587. They’ve forfeited any right to expect God’s blessing.

(We don’t know what “the thirtieth year” refers to. Maybe Ezekiel was thirty years old, the age when he might have taken up his ministry as a priest if he hadn’t been transported to Babylon.)

GOD SHOWS UP

Out of the blue, in a literal sense, Yahweh appears in Babylon. Maybe Ezekiel sees a literal storm approaching, with wind, cloud, and lightning. If so, Yahweh turns the literal storm into an appearance of his own cloud carriage. Yahweh is coming to his people in Babylon—Babylon of all places!

Not that he’s coming with a message of comfort; rather the opposite. It does mean he hasn’t simply washed his hands of them. Perhaps the vision’s significance is to show that Yahweh has already been present with his people in Babylon; he now enables this prophet to see behind the veil constituted by the heavens themselves, to see that Yahweh is present, and to report that fact to the people.

There are limits to what God dares let Ezekiel see. Too direct an appearance of God would simply blind a mere human being. Most of what God lets Ezekiel see is his carriage pulled by four creatures—not mere horses but combinations of human being, animal, and bird (so they can fly and transport God through the heavens). They’re subsequently called cherubs. Their combined features give them great maneuverability, as do the crisscross wheels on the carriage that can go this way or that at will. But they’re driven by one will.

HE LETS US SEE & EXPERIENCE HIS GREATNESS

The creatures support a platform on which there stands a throne; on the throne is a human-like figure. Ezekiel is looking from below, so he sees little of the figure. His experience parallels that of Isaiah, who sees only the hem of God’s robe. While God can be pictured as lion-like or rock-like, more often God is described as human-like—it links with the fact that human beings are made in God’s image to represent God in the world. Ezekiel’s account also safeguards God’s transcendence (it won’t let us think of God in too human terms) by using the name Shadday. The traditional translation “Almighty” is a guess. The only other Hebrew word with which the Old Testament links the name is a verb meaning “destroy,” so people might take “Shadday” to suggest “destroyer”; this understanding would suit Ezekiel.

It’s also a solemn fact that the storm comes from the north, the direction where people often located God’s abode, but also the direction from which invaders came. But then it declares that there was something of a rainbow’s appearance about this God, one who put his bow away and let it hang in the sky without string and without arrows (see Genesis 9).

God’s appearing to Ezekiel is both good news and solemn news. For Ezekiel’s audience and for people reading his messages in written form, it also indicates that we’d better take his words seriously.

THE FOR EVERYONE COMMENTARY SERIES

Did you enjoy how this commentary takes a passage of the Old Testament and relates it to daily life?

The For Everyone Commentary Series has 35 volumes, including books from both the Old and New Testament. Each volume includes the editors’ translations of the entire text. Then, each short passage is followed by background information, useful explanations and suggestions, and thoughts as to how the text can be relevant to our lives today.

This resource works with the Resource Guide, showing you relevant articles as you read the Bible. Also, verses and footnotes are linked for quick reading.

Visit our website to learn more about this well-loved commentary series.

COMMENT BELOW: Where have you seen God show up where you didn’t expect or deserve?

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We’ve Reached Another Milestone!

Posted by on 01/19/2018 in:

This week is all about looking back on 2017 and celebrating what we’ve accomplished. Not just us at Olive Tree—although we have done a lot of work on improving the app!—but also what you, our users, have done.

With that being said… we’ve reached another jaw-dropping milestone!

1 BILLION SYNCABLES

It’s hard to be as excited as us if you aren’t sure what “syncables” are.

Syncables are items like:

  • notes
  • highlights
  • tags

Anything that syncs across your devices when you tap “sync” in the app—that’s a syncable item.

WHY IS THIS EXCITING?

It can be hard to measure how engaged everyone is inside our app. Lots of people download Bible apps and then barely use them. We don’t want our app to be just another icon on your home screen. Instead, we want our users to use our app to spend time connecting with God and His Word.

The more syncable items you all create, the more you are interacting with the Bible. This is why we are incredibly excited about reaching the 1 billion mark.

CELEBRATE WITH US

How can you celebrate with us?

Open the app, read the Bible, take some notes, make some highlights, and pray. Reflect on God’s love.

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Tips for Bible Reading in 2018

Posted by on 01/12/2018 in:

A new year can encourage you to try new things or start old things up again. Here are some Bible reading tips we put together for the start of 2018.

1) PRAY PRAY PRAY

It can be easy to pick up the Bible, skim it, and never actually participate in a conversation with God. So, before opening your Bible, form the habit of starting in prayer. Take a deep breath and remember that you have been invited to commune with the Creator of the universe.

Pray Before Reading

What should you pray about? Here are a few ideas in case you’re stumped:

  • Confess any anger or bitterness
  • Share your doubt or frustration
  • Ask for help (for you or others)
  • Acknowledge God’s power, love, and faithfulness
  • Ask God to help you experience His power, love, and faithfulness
  • Give thanks

Look for Answers

This part can be crucial for our walk with the Lord. So often, we ask God to move in our lives… Then, when He does, we forget what we asked for and figure it all worked out because of circumstance or coincidence.

Keep a list of the things you are praying about. It could be as simple as a sheet of paper or you could keep track with your notes inside our app. Praise God and be encouraged by His presence when you see an answer.

2) LOOK TO JESUS

Maybe it sounds surprising, but there can be many reasons to study the Bible: seminary assignments, sermon prep, a love for history, because you feel like you have to…

But honestly, the best reason to read the Bible is to get to know Jesus. The other two members of the Trinity are also important, but Jesus came so that we could know God. He said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Jesus is the lover of our souls, our best friend, our redeemer, and our savior. If you’ve been feeling dry about reading the Bible, or about Christianity in general, slowly read through the gospels. Take notes on Jesus characteristics, the things he does, and the people he talks with. Get to know Jesus again.

3) ASK FOR INPUT

The Bible doesn’t speak directly to you and your circumstances alone. It is a historic book that is for God’s people! It can be dangerous to rely solely on how you interpret it. Instead, here are some ideas of who to ask for input:

-Your spouse or housemates
-Children (a unique perspective!)
-A pastor or mentor
-Bible study group
-Study Bibles
-Commentaries
-Other passages of Scripture (really important)

4) HAVE DISCERNMENT

It’s a balance to allow input into your life while also having discernment on what to believe and accept. Ask questions and hear answers from the above list, but also make sure to think critically about their response. And, to bring this blog post full circle… PRAY about what you learn. Ask God to reveal truth to you. If it is good, pure, lovely, gracious, self-sacrificial, and resembles Christ, you’re probably on the right track.

SHARE!

What are your Bible study tips for 2018? What’s the #1 piece of advice you would give someone just getting started? Let us know in the comments below.

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You Can Still Make a New Year’s Resolution

Posted by on 01/08/2018 in:

Do you ever wake up at 8:02 but lay in bed until 8:05 or 8:10? Or maybe, while eating a tub of ice cream, you decide that tomorrow will be the day you start eating healthier? It can be difficult to start something new or hard, so we often wait for milestone moments to make a change. Then, when we miss the milestone moment, we put off whatever we were set out to do. But don’t let that stop you!

Week one of 2018 is completed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a New Year’s resolution.

Here are some of our resolution ideas that will encourage spiritual growth in 2018:

1) BECOME A PRAYER WARRIOR

START FRESH

Prayer journaling is really easy in the app when you use our notes feature. You can start by making a category simply dedicated to your prayers if you want to stay more organized. Check out this example!

PLAN IT OUT

Then, create a few different folders for types of prayers. This way, it will be easy for you to not only return to old prayers, but also to make sure your prayers have variety. It’s good to ask God for things, but we also need to give Him our praise!

PRAISE GOD FOR ANSWERS

It can often feel like God isn’t answering our prayers, but that might be from our own lack of looking for His hand in our life. Keep coming back to your current prayers, petitioning God again, and reflecting on His word and response. When you see an answer, move the note to the answered folder. Then, when you experience doubt or fear, remind yourself of God’s faithfulness.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE

2) TAKE TIME TO REFLECT

VOTD (Verse of the Day) can be something you glance at for 5 seconds or something you use as a catalyst to spend time with the Lord.

Set a goal to always open your VOTD notification. It’s customizable, so you can set it to appear during a time you know you will usually be free. Take time to slowly read the verse, reflect on each word, and talk to Jesus about what it means for you.

PRO TIP: Tap “Read” at the bottom of VOTD to read the verse in context. It’s so important to make sure that we read the Bible as a cohesive book and don’t interpret it incorrectly.

3) READ PARTS OF THE BIBLE YOU DON’T HEAR MUCH ABOUT

Reading plans are great tools to prevent you from reading the same, familiar Bible passages over and over again. Instead, every time you open the plan you’ll be shown a different passage and guided through reading the entire Bible. This way, you don’t have to wonder where you should start.

If you’ve never looked at our reading plans, now is the time to do so. Specifically, you could start a one-year reading plan that would get you through the entire Bible by next January. Simply select a plan, set up your reminders in the settings, and start reading!

4) GAIN WISDOM AND INSIGHT FROM OTHER CHRISTIANS

Following Christ isn’t something that we do alone. Instead, we should always be listening (with discernment!) to our brothers and sisters in Christ, trying to learn from them.

Enhanced devotionals are perfect for this type of learning. Similar to a reading plan, the devotional will be broken up into sections for you to complete. You can also schedule notifications to remind you to read.

Since these aren’t paper devotionals, you will be able to quickly access a Bible or any other study tool in the split window. Use this feature to learn more about what you’re reading or to check what the author is saying.

SEE OUR ENHANCED DEVOTIONALS BY CLICKING HERE.

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The Satisfied Life – Psalm 91

Posted by on 12/07/2017 in:

Life can be difficult and dangerous, but in the Psalms we see God’s faithfulness to us through the difficult and dangerous times. This excerpt, taken directly from the BE Series Commentary by Wiersbe, walks us through Psalm 91. Even when life is dangerous, in God we can have a hidden, protected, and satisfied life.

BE Exultant – Book IV, Psalm 91

The previous Psalm focuses on dealing with the difficulties of life, but the emphasis in this psalm is on the dangers of life. The anonymous author (though some think Moses wrote it) warns about hidden traps, deadly plagues, terrors at night and arrows by day, stumbling over rocks, and facing lions and snakes! However, in view of terrorist attacks, snipers, reckless drivers, exotic new diseases, and Saturday-night handgun specials, the contemporary scene may be as dangerous as the one described in the psalm.

The saints who abide in Christ (vv. 1, 9) cannot avoid confronting unknown perils, but they can escape the evil consequences. Moses, David, and Paul, and a host of other servants of God faced great danger in accomplishing God’s will, and the Lord saw them through. However, Hebrews 11:36 cautions us that “others” were tortured and martyred, yet their faith was just as real. But generally speaking, walking with the Lord does help us to detect and avoid a great deal of trouble, and it is better to suffer in the will of God than to invite trouble by disobeying God’s will (1 Peter 2:18-25). The psalmist described the elements involved in living the life of confidence and victory.

FAITH IN GOD–THE HIDDEN LIFE (vv. 1-4)

The most important part of a believer’s life is the part that only God sees, the “hidden life” of communion and worship that is symbolized by the Holy of Holies in the Jewish sanctuary (Ex. 25:18-22). God is our refuge and strength (46:1). He hides us that He might help us and then send us back to serve Him in the struggles of life. (See 27:5) The author of the psalm had two “addresses”: his tent (v. 10) and his Lord (vv. 1, 9). The safest place in the world is a shadow, if it is the shadow of the Almighty. Through Jesus Christ we find safety and satisfaction under the wings of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies (36:7-8). Jesus pictured salvation by describing chicks hiding under the wings of the mother hen (Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34), and the psalmist pictured communion as believers resting under the wings of the cherubim in the tabernacle.

The names of God used in these verses encourage us to trust Him. He is the Most High (Elyon, vv. 1, 9), a name found first in Genesis 14:18-20. He is higher than the kings of the earth and the false gods of the nations. He is also the Almighty (SHADDAI), the all-sufficient God who is adequate for every situation. (See Gen. 17:1.) He is Lord (vv. 2, 9), Jehovah, the covenant-making God who is faithful to His promises. He is God (ELOHIM, v. 2), the powerful God whose greatness and glory surpass anything we can imagine.

This is the God who invites us to fellowship with Him in the Holy of Holies! This hidden life of worship and communion makes possible the public life of obedience and service. This God shelters us beneath the wings of the cherubim, but He also gives us the spiritual armor we need (v. 4; Eph. 6:10-18). His truth and faithfulness protect us as we claim His promises and obey Him. The shield is the large shield that covers the whole person. (See Gen. 15:1; Deut. 33:29; 2 Sam. 22:3.) Some translations give “bulwark” or “rampart” instead of “buckler.” The Hebrew word means “to go around” and would describe a mound of earth around a fortress. But the message is clear: Those who abide in the Lord are safe when they are doing His will. God’s servants are immortal until their work is done (Rom. 8:28-39).

PEACE FROM GOD–THE PROTECTED LIFE (vv. 5-13)

When we practice “the hidden life” we are not alone, for God is with us and compensates for our inadequacies. This paragraph emphasizes that we need not be afraid because the Lord and His angels watch over us. In the ancient Near East, travel was dangerous, unless you were protected by armed guards. (It is not much different in some large cities today.) “Terror by night” could mean simply “the fear of the dark” and of what can happen in the darkness. Contaminated water and food, plus an absence of sound health measures, made it easy to contract diseases by day or by night, although “the destruction that lays waste at noon” (v. 6 NASB) could refer to the effects of the burning rays of the sun.

Verses 7-8 read like the description of a battle and may have a direct relationship to the covenant promises God made with Israel (Lev. 26:8; Deut. 32:30). With their own eyes, Israel saw the grief of the Egyptians over their firstborn who died on Passover night (Ex. 12:29-30), and they also saw the Egyptian army dead on the shore of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:26-31), yet no harm came to the people of Israel. God’s angel went before them to prepare the way and to lead the way (Ex. 23:20). Satan quoted part of verses 11-12 when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matt. 4:6), and the Lord responded with Deuteronomy 6:16.

If the Father had commanded Jesus to jump from the temple pinnacle, then the angels would have cared for Jesus, but to jump without the Father’s command would have been presumption, not faith, and that would be tempting the Father. In Scripture, the lion and serpent (cobra) are images of Satan (1 Peter 5:8; Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9; 20:2; and see Luke 10:19; Rom. 16:20). In the ancient Near East, both were dangerous enemies, especially for travelers walking along the narrow paths.

LOVE FOR GOD–THE SATISFIED LIFE (vv. 14-16)

The Lord spoke and announced what He would do for those of His people who truly loved Him and acknowledged Him with obedient lives. The word translated “love” is not the usual word but one that means “to cling to, to cleave, to be passionate.” It is used in Deuteronomy 7:7 and 10:15 for the love Jehovah has for His people Israel. (See John 14:21-24.) Among His blessings will be deliverance and protection (“set him on high”), answered prayer, companionship in times of trouble, honor, satisfaction, and a long life (see 21:4; Ex. 20:12; Deut. 30:20).

The salvation mentioned at the end of the psalm may mean help and deliverance during life, as in 50:23, or the joy of beholding the glory of God after a long and satisfied life. To the Jewish people, living a long life and seeing one’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was the ultimate of blessing in this life. Like Abraham, they wanted to die in a good old age and “full of years” (Gen. 25:8), which means “a fulfilled life.” It’s one thing for doctors to add years to our lives, but God adds life to our years and makes that life worthwhile.

QUESTIONS FOR DEEPER THINKING

  1. What two addresses did the psalmist have (vv. 1, 9, 10)? Which one is everlasting? How should you live, knowing which address is everlasting?
  2. Do you agree or disagree that the believer who does the will of God is safer in a war zone than in a house in the suburbs? Explain.
  3. How would you define “high quality of life” according to this psalm? What is the good life?

LEARN MORE

Interested in more articles and questions like these to enrich your study of God’s Word? The BE Series Commentary is currently on sale! You can learn more about this resource and how it works in our app by visiting our website.

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The Greatness of Forgiveness

Posted by on 11/27/2017 in: ,

What does Matthew 18 teach us about forgiveness? We’re giving you a huge peek inside the renown Preacher’s Commentary because we love what it has to say!

THE NATURE OF FORGIVENESS

The nature of forgiveness is a most profound aspect of reconciling grace. Forgiveness is never easy; it is hard.

It is the most difficult thing in the universe. Forgiveness means that the forgiving person as the innocent one resolves his own wrath over the sin of the guilty one and lets the guilty one go free. To forgive means that one genuinely loves, and this love can move beyond the issue to the person, and that one cares more about the person than about what he or she has done. Forgiveness liberates. Forgiveness frees the person for the options of living. Our refusal to forgive is a power play that limits the offender, that holds the guilty “under one’s thumb,” or power.

But such forgiveness is always in relationship, hence the condition of repentance. It is not a package that one accepts and runs away with. It is only known in reconciliation.

THE NEED FOR FORGIVENESS

Following a sermon which I had preached in a meeting in western Pennsylvania, a gracious lawyer thanked me for the message, but then added, “I’m not a Christian; I’ve never accepted this idea of the innocent suffering for the guilty, this blood religion.”

I said, “Sir, I’m very sorry for you, for you can’t have a happy marriage, or a happy family, or any lasting friendships in your social relations.”

He responded with, “And why not?”

To this I replied, “Because you are not an angel, and you make mistakes, and as you make mistakes the only way in which people can keep on accepting you is if they, as innocent, will forgive your guilt and accept you. But you just told me that you don’t believe in the innocent suffering for the guilty!”

He was honest enough to say he would think this over. And he came back to the next meeting when I preached on the Cross, which showed in Jesus’ death the depth of God’s forgiveness as He absorbed His own wrath on our sin by His love and extended forgiveness.

FORGIVENESS IN MATTHEW

This is the remarkable truth of this story. Matthew says Peter asked how often we should forgive. In his question he goes beyond the rabbinic rule of three times and extends it to seven. But Jesus answered, “Not seven, but seventy times seven.”

Jesus taught that forgiveness is qualitative, not quantitative.

And that forgiveness takes the place of revenge. A man in Christ never reaches the limits of love (Rom. 13:8). The following points express:

  1. Forgiveness creates the deepest awareness of sin: we can’t change the facts.
  2. Forgiveness costs the innocent one, for he resolves the problem in love.
  3. Forgiveness conditions one to forgive others for he is forever accountable for his privilege of freedom.

AN EXPLANATION OF THE PARABLE

The statement, “The kingdom of heaven is like ” sets the parable in the context of divine grace.

A king, settling accounts with his servants, found one servant owing ten thousand talents. The amount is so great that there is no conceivable way in which he could pay. This is the equivalent of at least twelve million dollars in our currency. It was fifty million denarii, and one denarii was a normal daily wage. Herod’s annual income was only nine hundred talents. The tax on Galilee and Perea together was only two hundred talents, and this man owed ten thousand! Jesus is illustrating our debt to God as totally beyond our payment.

The king decided to collect what he could, and ordered the man and his family to be sold (see Josh. 7; 2 Kin. 4:1). But the man fell on his face and entreated the king for patience, promising to pay everything. With this attitude toward the impossible, the king had compassion on him and forgave him the debt.

Forgiveness was because of his attitude, not his ability. In view of the interpretation given earlier of the meaning of forgiveness, we note that the guilty man was liberated, and the innocent person, the King, paid the debt, for He crossed ten thousand talents off of his accounts! This is Jesus’ illustration of forgiveness.

JESUS ADDS A SEQUEL

But human nature is inclined to resent rather than to release, to be demanding rather than to forgive. And Jesus adds a sequel to the story.

The forgiven man, who should have lived accountably in gratitude for his freedom, went out and met a man who owed him a relatively small sum. The figure was one hundred denarii, about twenty dollars, 500,000 times less than the forgiven man’s debt; but even so he demanded payment. He took him by the throat, throttled or strangled him, demanding the money.

His debtor now fell at his feet, begged for patience as he had, promised to “pay all” with the same words the forgiven man had used in his own desperation. But he would not extend patience, and threw the man in prison until the debt should be paid.

The behavior was so scandalous that his fellow servants were shocked at his injustice and reported it. The king called him in, and placed his condemnation in the form of a question—“I forgave you all that debt because you begged me; should you not also have had compassion?” The king was angry, and measuring judgment by the same measure in which the man had treated his debtor, delivered him to the tortures of prison until he should pay.

THE PUNCH LINE

The punch line is, so will my heavenly Father do if you forgive not.

This is not a legalism, but states the expectation of responsible persons whose moral sense of responsibility will call them to express the forgiveness towards others that they have experienced from God. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Ps. 32:1–2, KJV).

Our joy in this gift of grace keeps us from ever holding it to ourselves. This is illustrated by David having longed for a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem, whereupon three of his men risked their lives and broke through the ranks of the Philistines and brought him a drink.

He said, in effect, “I cannot drink it; it is the price of blood,” and he poured it out as an offering to God (1 Chr. 11:16–19). It is this awareness of the cost of our own forgiveness that keeps us from audacity in relation to those we are called upon to forgive. We only extend God’s forgiveness.

Thus Matthew concludes the “fourth book” of Jesus’ teachings.

LEARN MORE

The Preacher’s Commentary gives an outline and introduction for each book of the Bible. Then, story by story, it provides fantastic commentary that makes the Bible applicable and easier to understand. This resource is great for teachers, small group leaders, and preacher’s, and those looking for new input into their quiet time.

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Life Lessons: Ephesians 2:1-22

Posted by on 11/27/2017 in: ,

SITUATION

The Ephesians forgot what God did to save them and to make them a part of his Body.

OBSERVATION

God’s mercy plucks us from the destruction of our countless sins and places us in Jesus Christ’s righteousness.

INSPIRATION

When I read a verse like Ephesians 2:4, I feel I have discovered God’s roadblock on one’s way to hell—[But God’s mercy is great.] He is so rich in mercy that none need perish, but individuals must come to God in his appointed way. I adore the mercy that had lovingkindness, pity and compassion on me. . . .

Let me give you a modern illustration of mercy in action.

One day, a Christian named Paul went into a coffee shop, sat on a stool, and ordered his lunch. When he began speaking to the man next to him, he realized that Fred was in deep spiritual need. After sharing the gospel with him, Paul arranged to meet him again. It was at the second meeting that Fred was converted. Then Paul began to disciple him on a one-on-one basis, and Fred grew in grace and in knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

But it wasn’t long before Fred learned that he had a life-threatening disease. He had to go to a convalescent hospital that was sadly substandard. Paul visited him regularly, bathed him, changed the sheets, and did other chores that the staff should have been doing. The night Fred died, Paul was holding him in his arms, whispering verses of Scripture in his ear. That’s mercy. It’s a wonderful thing to see that Godlike quality in a human life.

APPLICATION

Are there some people around you who slip through the cracks unnoticed? Is there a lonely widow? An insecure junior-high student? A struggling single mother? Pay these people a visit—bring flowers or another gift; invest some time in their lives.

EXPLORATION

To learn more about mercy, look at Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:36; and 2 Peter 3:9.

THE DEVOTIONAL BIBLE NOTES

The Devotional Bible Notes — Experience the Heart of Jesus is written by Max Lucado. Not only will you have access to plenty of life lessons (like the one you read above) but also several indexes to help you find verses for certain life situations. Some of these lists that Lucado provides are “When You Feel Depressed,” “When You Encounter Discrimination,” and “When You Need to Lead.”

To learn more about this resource, visit our website.

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Un-Earned Acceptance

Posted by on 11/07/2017 in: ,

This blog post is an excerpt of C.A. Coates Commentary and Articles.

It is the privilege of every believer to be consciously in the favour of God–to be in the unclouded light and joy of Acceptance. But, alas! many who are truly converted are not in the enjoyment of this privilege. It may be helpful to consider briefly why not.

HIDDEN SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

When I speak of self-righteousness in this connection I do not mean the proud self-righteousness of the unconverted man. I refer to the very different form of self-righteousness which leads many to doubt their acceptance with God because of the imperfections which they find in themselves.

You may say, “But ought I not to have misgivings when I find my spirit and the state of my mind so contrary to that which befits a Christian? and when I am conscious of inconsistencies and backslidings?” That you ought to judge yourself, and be humbled before God about these things, is most true; but it is in no wise true that your righteousness and acceptance with God depend upon yourself, or are measured by your condition or conduct. To have such a thought in the mind is really to suppose that you could be in the favour of God by being worthy of that favour in yourself.

It is simply self-righteousness.

TRYING TO EARN ACCEPTANCE

Then souls reason in this way: “Surely if I were converted I should be very different. There must be a great change in one who is born again. And if I had the Spirit of God He would help me to gain the victory over evil habits–over the lusts and tempers of the flesh–and to become pleasing to God. But instead of this more temptations seem to come in my way than ever before, and the evil tendencies of my heart seem to have acquired greater strength. I never felt more utterly unworthy of God’s favour and acceptance”.

It is not always easy to see that self-righteousness is hidden under all this, yet such is the case. There is the thought that, either by our own efforts, or by God’s grace and the help of His Spirit, we should become in ourselves suitable to God’s favour; and we are disappointed and distressed to find that we make so little progress in this direction.

IT’S IMPOSSIBLE—ON OUR OWN

It is important to know that the effect of the new birth, and of the grace of God, is not to bring about some change in us on which we could rest, but to convince us of the impossibility of finding righteousness, or suitability to the favour of God, in ourselves.

An unconverted man may think himself worthy of God’s favour, but every converted person is made conscious of utter unfitness in himself for that favour. The awakened soul gives account of itself in such language, as, “I have sinned”; “I am undone”; “I am vile”; “I abhor myself”.

Indeed, it is a common thing for such to suppose that since they turned to God the evil tendencies of their hearts had increased rather than otherwise. The fact is that before conversion we went with the stream, and not a ripple impeded our progress; when, by grace, we made some stand against the current, we began to feel its force, and to be distressed by it, as never before.

AN ILLUSTRATION

[…]Allow me to use a very simple illustration.

I was lately in an old English city, and I observed that the principal streets were marked out in squares, and on every square a name was written in large white letters. I asked the meaning of this, and I was told that a fair was to be held shortly in the streets of the city, and that persons had paid for the right to stand during the fair in the square spaces on which their names were written.

BUT CHRIST

Now it is a blessed thing to know that Christ has secured for us a standing in that circle of light and favour where He is.

To use my illustration, there is a place in that circle of light on which, dear fellow-believer, your name is written. You are entitled to stand there, but it may be that you have never by faith occupied your standing. I feel sure that the men whose names I saw written on the ground were not content to know that they had right and title to a standing in the fair. I think I am safe in saying that everyone would be careful to appropriate and occupy his standing.

It is a wonderful moment for the soul when by faith we appropriate and occupy our standing in the favour of God–when we know that we are received by God in all the acceptance of Christ. We do not then think of ourselves, or of our worthiness, at all.

We think of CHRIST–His perfections, His suitability to divine favour, His infinite acceptance with God–and by faith we have access into the favour of which He is so worthy.

LEARN MORE

This excerpt was taken from C.A. Coates Commentary and Articles, which contains 37 volumes of his writings. Coates’ writing is extremely applicable, speaking directly to the Christian on matters of the heart. Learn more on our website.

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