Read short inspirational articles by Olive Tree staff members.
“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 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 a piece of Styrofoam. 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!
To hear one amazing perspective about hope despite the circumstances of life, check out the story below. If you are in a season that has tried to steal your hope check out the book 365 Days of Hope or check out some other great books on hope here.
Every week employees at Olive Tree gather to pray and reflect on God’s word. Last week we were reminded about the importance of prayer and before our devotional time we watched a short video by John Piper which we thought we’d share with you today.
Some of us have a little trouble starting our prayer engine in the morning. Some like exercise, some coffee, and for the rest of us, try this video to inspire you to connect with God in the morning.
Here is the text from the video:
Just before the day gets started, take time in the morning to connect with God, the source of our life and our strength. He is the one to strengthen us through the whole day.
Consider these encouraging Bible verses on prayer in the morning.
Psalms 55:17—“Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.”
Mark 1:35—“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”
Jesus really liked the morning time for prayer and Bible reading.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things 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 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.
As the year comes to a close, 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.
Olive Tree employees had the opportunity to participate in a Spokane-area Christmas tradition this year called the Tree of Sharing. The non-profit organization aims to serve the “often-forgotten” members of the community by supplying 60 local agencies with Christmas presents and other aid throughout the year. My coworker and I picked out 30 tags before Thanksgiving on which 30 individuals of all ages had requested Christmas gifts. The gifts Olive Tree employees could buy were varied, to say the least, from hats and gloves to board games to monster trucks and John Deere tractors for kids. I particularly liked these guys:
For three weeks, Olive Tree employees brought their gifts in, some wrapped and some unwrapped, and piled them around the Christmas tree in the Olive Tree kitchen. By the end of the three weeks, we had quite the stack of presents!
This morning, two men from the Tree of Sharing organization came to pick up the gifts. Several of us helped them carry the gifts out into the gently falling snow to a car that would deliver the gifts to the families and individuals.
In this Christmas season, it has been such a blessing for me and the other Olive Tree employees to follow Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew: “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (25:40). Praise God that Christmas reminds us to give with bold generosity as we pattern our lives after the King of Kings who “though he was God, did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Phil. 2:6-7) and “so the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only son” (John 1:14).
Praise be to Emmanuel, God With Us!
Question of the Day: Does your family or workplace have a giving tradition at Christmas? Tell us about it.
What do you really know about Christmas?
The music, decorations, and retail sales are the most poignant indicators that the Christmas season is in full swing. All of these things have become an integral part of our culture and the feeling of this holiday season. It’s a challenge for those of us who strive to keep Christ the center of Christmas to separate the true meaning of this season from all the cultural expressions that have nothing to do with it.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with embracing the fun and festive aspects of these weeks ahead as we go to tree lightings, Christmas parties, or other events. Here’s the funny thing though; whether we realize it or not the one story from the Bible that we think we know best – The Christmas Story – has actually been told to us more from songs, nativity scenes, and Christmas plays than from the Bible. As a result we may not have all of our facts right about what really happened on that night over 2,000 years ago.
So, how familiar are you with the Christmas story as it’s presented in the Bible? We’ve put together a fun little video quiz that you can take HERE. Check it out, pass it onto your friends, and take some time this Christmas to read through the Gospel accounts of Jesus birth found in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.
The Bible in 29 Seconds
If you were to explain the Bible to a friend in 29 seconds, what would you say? Check out our attempt to do this and tell us what you think. When we boil the Bible down to 29 seconds we just end up with the top Bible points: creation, sin, Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection and eternal life.
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