Read short inspirational articles by Olive Tree staff members.
Free this Friday Only! To My Sons: Lessons for the Wild Adventure Called Life by Bear Grylls
This humorously illustrated book is a collection of wisdom that renowned adventurer Bear Grylls wants to share with his sons about the risks, tumbles, and victories of a well-lived life.
Fatherhood is the greatest adventure. Mountain climber, world-record holder, and internationally known television personality Grylls knows a thing or two about adventure. The greatest adventure he’s experienced, though, is raising his three boys. In To My Sons, Grylls shares the quotes, Scripture verses, and spiritual wisdom he has learned through the literal ups and downs of an exciting life. Featuring cartoons from well-known sketch artist Charlie Mackesy, this book is a poignant primer for boys and men of all ages.
Search for this title in the in-app store or go HERE and click the “Go Get It!” button for download instructions.
Free offer expires June 13, 11:59 PM PST.
FREE TODAY ONLY! Letters to a Young Pastor by Calvin Miller
Calvin Miller has long been one of the most creative voices in the church. As a best-selling author and poet he has enabled believers to flourish. As a pastor and educator he has equipped countless thousands to know and serve God more fully. Having survived these tumultuous decades, Dr. Miller now shares his well-earned wisdom with the next generation of pastors– including you, or someone you know.
Miller acknowledges much has changed over his years of ministry, as we’ve moved from switchboards to smartphones and from big-haired evangelists to cigar-smoking emergents. But two truths remain the same: God is love and people are broken. In this honest, engaging, and humorous collection of letters, he encourages you to fight the good fight, stay the course, and keep your eye on the Author and Finisher of the faith, to serve well every Sunday so you’ll never feel the urge to resign on Monday.
Search for this title in the in-app store or go HERE and click the “Go Get It!” button for download instructions.
Today is the first Thursday in May, a day set aside by our country’s leaders as a national day of prayer. The Bible speaks of prayer often and encourages us with numerous examples of people who spent time in prayer. Examining the lives of those prayerful individuals in the Scriptures reveals that they are no different from you and me; they have their shortcomings and, in many cases, it is only through the Lord answering their prayers that they succeeded.
Learning to Pray from Moses
Moses’ example—that is, his overcoming his fear of public speaking and leadership—speaks volumes about prayer. Moses knew he wasn’t a capable leader of his people, so he spent much of his time in conversation with the Lord, often pleading for God to have mercy on the stubborn and rebellious Israelites. It was only through his conversations with the Lord that Moses was able to deliver Israel from Egypt.
Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ [God] said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’ (Ex. 3:11-12 ESV)
Moses continued to ask the Lord for guidance, and when it was clear Israel would need a new leader to take them in to the land, he appealed to God, saying:
‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.’ So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.’ (Num. 27:15-18 ESV)
God provided Joshua to be the new shepherd to the Israelites, a direct answer to Moses’ prayer. However, not all of Moses’ prayers were answered. In Deuteronomy 3:23-28, Moses pleads with God to let him enter the Promised Land with the Israelites.
And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’
But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’ (ESV)
God’s answer to our prayers, like His answer to Moses’ here, may be “no,” but the truth still remains that God is willing and ready to listen to our prayers, but we must be equally willing to speak to Him and listen for His answer.
As a Christian, prayer is an important part of spiritual life. It’s a time when we draw into the presence of our Lord and offer Him our praise, thanksgiving, supplication and repentance. We want to encourage you today and every day to spend time taking advantage of the privilege of speaking to our Lord personally and intimately through prayer. The writer of Hebrews invites us to do the same:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16 ESV)
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?
You 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.
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…
- Gospel Transformation Bible Notes by Crossway
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Free!)
- Christ in the Old Testament by Charles Spurgeon
- Christ in the Passover by Rose Publishing
- Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale
David is a front end web developer at Olive Tree. He also writes on his personal blog, And the Rest of It.