Inspiration

Read short inspirational articles by Olive Tree staff members.

Easter’s Over. Now What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

He is Risen!

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Today we remember Jesus victory over death!

Click here to read about his resurrection.

 

He is Risen

Jesus is the Key to the Bible

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Jesus is the Key to the Bible

By Olive Tree Staff: David Mikucki

Jesus’ followers were convinced that He was the coming King—the Messiah of Israel who would rule the nations with a rod of iron. All His disciples were severely disappointed when the unthinkable happened: Jesus was crucified. The coming, conquering King had come and didn’t seem to have conquered. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah? If He wasn’t, then… now what?

That’s the backdrop for Luke 24. With Jesus dead, His followers were distraught. They were on a seven mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about everything that had just happened, trying to sort through it all—still unaware that Jesus had been raised. Jesus met them on this road, but He kept them from recognizing Him (Luke 24:17). To them He was a stranger passing on the road. They told this ‘stranger’ that they thought Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. They said that some of their friends were telling what they thought were fairytales about Him rising from the dead.

At this point, Jesus says something that shocks everyone. He tells his followers that the prophets said all of this was going to happen: the Messiah would suffer and then enter into His glory. No one expected the Messiah to suffer! Who expects a King to suffer? Jesus says the prophets expected it. Then in Luke 24:27, He explains the things concerning Himself from Moses and all the prophets. Jesus went to each book of the Bible and explained all the things about Himself (see also Luke 24:44).

People these days have a lot of different ideas concerning what the Bible is about. Jesus has His own idea. The Bible isn’t a book of rules we have to follow in order to go to heaven (John 5:39). It’s not just a bunch of do’s and don’t’s. It’s not just a bunch of neat stories. Jesus said the Bible is about Himself. Humanity’s biggest problem is that we sin our whole lives and then we die and enter into judgment. The Bible teaches us all we need to know about our Savior—the King who suffered and died in our place and rose from the dead three days later to make us right before God and give us a new life like His.

One of the last things Jesus did before He ascended into heaven was to tell us that the Bible is about Him! Jesus is our Savior—the only Savior—and He says that all of Scripture points us to Him: the One we really need. When we study the Bible, let’s remember that it’s all about Jesus.

Olive Tree has got some great resources that explain Jesus in parts of the Bible we might not have expected to find Him. Here are some of my favorites…

Jesus washed Judas’ feet

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Jesus pouring water from jug to pan to wash feet of disciples

I’ve been reading through the Bible chronologically this year with one of The Bible Study App’s reading plans.  Right now, I’m reading the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper.  I’m struck again by Jesus.  At the last meal they would have together before the cross, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, takes off his robes, wraps a towel around himself and washes the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-20).  I’ve read this account that’s only recorded in John’s Gospel dozens of times.  Yet, like the Holy Spirit often does, this passage was made anew as I read it recently.

Here’s what struck me: Judas was heavily influenced by Satan (if not possessed) at this point (Luke 22:36, John 13:2), but Judas was present for Jesus to wash his feet.  I find this humbling and encouraging.  What?!?  Yes, encouraging.  Why?  Because even though Jesus KNEW Judas was going to betray Him, Jesus served him.  Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart.  He knew the betrayal was coming.  Jesus knew the anguish that was coming. The beatings, the scourging, the agonizing walk to Golgotha, and the ultimate torture, the cross.  Yet, even in this moment of humbling Himself, Jesus washed Judas’ feet, this man Judas who was pivotal in fulfilling the Scriptures and prophecies about the Suffering Servant.  Jesus humbled Himself and SERVED His greatest enemy.

I don’t know about you, but I have trouble serving my closest loved ones.  I find it difficult to humble myself, to serve, and to put others’ needs before my own.  I can’t fathom putting a backstabber’s needs in front of my own.

At the same time, that is what I am.  I am the backstabber, the betrayer.  I am the one who put Jesus on the cross.  It is my sin that put Jesus there.  How many times have I turned from God’s grace to live, act, be, and do what I want for my own selfishness?  But Jesus served me by going to the cross.  This is humbling because of my sin, but encouraging because of how much Jesus loves me.  Even though Jesus knows me, He served me.  Even though Jesus knew that I would betray Him, He went to the cross willingly.

John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Here is my example.  I am to serve, love, and do for others like Jesus did for me.  I am to put down my own needs, my own pride, and serve others, even those who will betray me.  Even those who will turn their backs on me.  I am to love and serve as our Lord and Teacher Jesus Christ loved and served me.

Not Recognizing Jesus

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twogirlswalkingLuke 24:13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

It’s easy to read this passage and think “How in the world did they NOT recognize Jesus?!?”  But taking into account what they said, I can appreciate what they were going through.  They were sad, hurting, afraid, and confused.  And Jesus kept them from recognizing Him.

A few days ago I ran into a former co-worker.  It had been over a year since we connected, so there was a lot to catch up on.  After the initial questions of “how are you doing” and “it’s so good to see you” small talk, the conversation turned to our former workplace.  She left about nine months after I did, and gave me some insight on how things went.  Hearing some of the stories, change, and “occurrences”, I was again reminded of the goodness of God and how I often have my eyes closed to the reality of Christ and His direction in my life.  A renewed sense of the sovereignty and grace of God swept over me during our conversation.

I don’t always recognize Christ in my daily life.  From my everyday encounters, to those monumental life events, do I truly open my eyes to see Jesus? In times where my family is sick, finances are tight, or work is stressful, do I remember to look for Christ? Fortunately, Jesus gives us “breaking of bread” reminders to gently lead, guide, and direct us.

Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

Like these two disciples, I need the jolts, nudges, and reminders to open my eyes to the risen Christ.  Thankfully, Jesus “interprets to us in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” and leads us by The Holy Spirit to open our eyes.

35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I am thankful that Jesus makes Himself known through everyday events.  It’s up to me to proclaim the risen Christ to others and remember that “The Lord has risen indeed!”

The Cross Demands Forgiveness

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The CrossBy Olive Tree Employee: LaRosa Johnson

Holy Week is a somber time of the year for me. As I look at the gospel accounts that detail the crucifixion of Jesus, I often ask myself, “What’s so good about Good Friday? Jesus died. He was brutally murdered. How can that possibly be good?” From there, I am reminded of the weight of my own sin that forced him to come and die on the cross. Ultimately, I find relief knowing that Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb, but rose again victorious. Yet, why did God do all of that? He did it to pay the penalty of our sins that we might be forgiven.

Yes, when we look at the cross, we are asked to look at the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation. The perfect place for us to turn in the Bible to look at the forgiveness found in the cross isn’t in the gospels, but it is found in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Romans 5:6-11 to be exact. In this short paragraph we see statements like: “Christ died for the ungodly,” “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and “we were reconciled to God.” Jesus Christ didn’t come to bring salvation to those of us who were already on his team; no, he came to give his life on behalf of his enemies so that we could be forgiven and found righteous in the sight of the one perfect and holy God. We were saved to be spared from the wrath of God (v. 9), even though it came at the expense of the shed blood of God’s only begotten son.

Now, just think about the cross for a moment and look at Paul’s illustration in verse 7. As a husband and father, the odds are pretty good that I’d risk my life and die to save my family. I might even be persuaded to do it for a friend. Ask me to do it for my enemy and I’d tell you that you’d lost your mind! But, this is precisely what Christ did for us, with us being God’s enemy because of our sins against him. He took our punishment upon himself. By his blood he justified & saved us, and we are reconciled to God through his resurrection life. How mind blowing is that?!

We can still take this a step further. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 tells us that we, as Christians, have now been given the ministry of reconciliation that was once Christ’s. This means that it is now our job to: 1) forgive others like Christ forgave us, and 2) tell others about the forgiveness that can be found in God. First, we should look at our own lives and how awful our sins are in the sight of God; yet, as vile offenders against his law and holiness, he chose to forgive and bring about our reconciliation. If God was willing to do that for us, how much more should we extend that same compassion toward everyone in our lives (Luke 7:41-43, 47)? Even as we’re forgiving others, it is also our job to tell them that their sins can be forgiven through the blood of Christ. Jesus didn’t die just for me, but his mission was to save so many more.

While Holy Week might indeed be a somber time, I’m glad that it can also brighten my spirit. Jesus didn’t just die; he died to pay the penalty for my sin. He didn’t just rise again, but he rose to bring about my forgiveness and righteous standing before God. As a result, the cross demands forgiveness. The cross was the stipulation of our forgiveness with God, and it is also the vehicle that demands we forgive others in the same manner that we’ve been forgiven. For me, that’s what this week is all about.

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