Read short inspirational articles by Olive Tree staff members.
As a father I can’t help but recognize how God has used my own kids as an ongoing part of growing, stretching, and maturing me. God used the birth of my first born son to show me how selfish my own love was. While I was madly in love with this precious little baby, he didn’t and couldn’t reciprocate that same love.
The following story produced by ESPN tells the story of a father who had to face his own selfishness. It’s a tough story to hear but the honesty and reality with which it’s told is reflective of God’s redemptive heart.
From Guest Blogger: Andy Deane, author of Learn to Study the Bible
Studying the Scriptures is supposed to be exciting! That’s why King David tells us in Psalm 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Like me, I hope that you have found this verse to be true. Maybe, like me, you have also discovered that having plain honey multiple times a day can get repetitive. I’m not saying that God’s word becomes boring over time. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I love that God’s word is so diverse and continues to excite and bless the reader taste after taste. The Scriptures are not to blame if we lose our taste for them. The Bible is designed to be a continual blessing to the believer. But believers may sometimes need to mix up how they study the Scriptures to make sure to avoid the ruts that their method of extracting the honey can bring about. Sometimes when we use the same approach to studying each and every day, the approach can become repetitive. It’s not God’s word that needs new spice, it’s the method of study that needs variety. That is why I wrote Learn to Study the Bible. With forty different ways to study the Scriptures, you always have a fresh way to prepare and digest your daily manna from heaven.
I’d like to share briefly the three ways that I personally enjoy studying the Bible.
FAVORITE VERSE BIBLE STUDY METHOD:
To start, please consider buying a new Bible to use with this method, or at least a new color highlighter. Begin by reading one to four chapters of the Bible a day. Remember that reading one chapter a day will get you through the entire New Testament in a year with one hundred make up days for when you miss a day of reading. Four chapters a day will get you through the entire Bible in a year in less than 25 minutes of reading time. The key is that each day you underline only one favorite verse from each chapter you read. That’s easy when you are in Leviticus but extremely difficult when you are in Matthew! After you are finished reading the entire book, go back and circle one favorite verse from the verses you underlined in the whole book. Write a few sentences in your Bible about why that is your favorite verse for that book. After you’ve read the whole Bible, you’ll have 1,189 favorite verses underlined (one from each chapter) and 66 all-time favorite verses (one from each book). Think about how valuable that Bible will be to you because of this investment. As you turn to any page in Scripture you will remember which verse spoke to your heart the most. You might even consider putting the date next to the verses you choose to connect them to your daily journal to enhance the experience even more. These will become the verses you choose to memorize since they have meaning to you. It’s a simple but fruitful and personal way to study the Bible.
TRANSLATION COMPARISON BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Not every student of God’s word is going to have the blessing of learning the original biblical languages. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t stand on the shoulders of scholars who spend their lives steeped in these languages, and this is the beauty of the Translation Comparison Bible Study Method. Every translation of the Bible represents the understanding and choice of dozens of skilled language scholars. When you see a unique word in a verse, you can be sure an important decision was made to choose that word over another word. This method helps you notice the different word selections that scholars made when creating English translations of the Bible. You’ll also learn how to prayerfully meditate on why these words were chosen over other words and how that can impact your understanding of the text. Learn how to compare Bible translations for spiritual growth and profit by reading a chapter from the book for free by visiting this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/167983176/Translation-Comparison-Method.
DAILY BREAD BIBLE STUDY METHOD
Sometimes our biggest problem is rushing our reading of a passage of Scripture. If we simply slow down and chew on God’s word then we would be blessed by it. Slowing down is exactly what the Daily Bread Bible Study Method will force you to do. With this method, you’ll learn techniques that invite you to take the time to make sure you’re squeezing all the meaning you can out of the Scriptures. If you’ve struggled with understanding what your pastor means when he tells you to “meditate on God’s word,” then this method is for you. Read another free chapter from the book by visiting http://www.scribd.com/doc/16565590/The-Daily-Bread-Bible-Study-Method.
I hope these three Bible study methods that I use personally will bless you as you experiment with them. Remember that however you mix it up, keep it exciting—don’t let your Bible study time become dull or a duty. I hope you’ll enjoy and use one of these methods, but don’t forget that you should never become devoted to the method—only to the Savior to whom the methods lead!
Part 1: “What’s your Burning Bush?”
One of life’s most frequently asked questions is, “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?” The following questions usually ensue: “Are these ideas from you Lord, or from me? What are my giftings and where do I fit in with the scheme of doing ‘great things’ for God?”
A decade ago a good friend of mine asked me the question: “What’s your burning-bush?” The context for this question is Exodus 3:1-4; here we find Moses tending a flock of sheep (not even his own) when he comes upon the burning bush.
1Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
Factors Surrounding the Bush
Moses saw the “bush” and through that encounter received his calling for the rest of his life—40 more years. Here are some factors surrounding this event that I hope will speak to you, challenge you, and encourage you.
1. God knew who Moses was.
Moses was called by name, twice. Think about this… did Moses know God at this moment? Unlikely. Raised as an Egyptian, fled from his own people, married the daughter of a (most likely at the time) pagan priest. 40 years later… 80-year old Moses encounters the bush
Did God know Moses? Absolutely. He called Him by name twice.
2. God knew where Moses was.
He knew his physical location on the mountain (He knew where to find him). He knew his age, He knew his fears, He knew his history and testimony, his successes and failures (He was aware of his identity questions.
3. God knew how to get Moses’ attention!
For Moses it was a bush that was burning, without burning up.
4. It was Moses’ response, that drew a response from God.
Read the first part of verse 4… “Moses saw it and then turned aside. When God saw this…”
Forget Moses… What About You?!
My point is this: What is YOUR burning bush? What is it that you notice as you go to work, to school, to church, when you lie in bed at night dreaming? What is in your make-up and design that is attracted to specific things? Do you want to heal the sick and lame that you see—in body, mind or spirit? Is it a word of knowledge to reach someone? Is it the homeless, or the elderly, or the children, who always seem so obvious to you, yet not to others? Do you find yourself thinking about new businesses or new ministry opportunities before they exist?
Don’t assume that everyone else notices the things that you notice: they don’t! You may walk the same street as another person yet see completely different things. In fact, this is a strategy I often use with my own outreach teams or during ministry to help reveal gifts, calling and God-inspired opportunities. God could be trying to get your attention in a way specific to you, so stop trying to find Him the way other people have; turn aside to what He is showing you Himself. For example, He probably won’t bring you to a plant that is on fire yet not burning up!
3 Questions to Consider:
- Do you recognize what it could be that God is using to get your attention? Your heart, your vision, your desire, passion, or those ‘unique-to-you’ ideas?
- Are you looking for it?
- Will you turn aside to investigate?
One final word… Even 80 years isn’t too late. Moses was 80 years old when he saw his burning bush, and he had been through a lot of “stuff”. It’s never too late for anyone with God; He hasn’t forgotten your name.
What is your burning bush?
Read Part 2 HERE.
Jeremy West has been on staff with Youth With A Mission since 1995. He teaches and runs training programs globally in the fields of discipleship and leadership development.
By Guest Blogger: Jan Martinez
Editor’s Note: Jan Martinez is the founder and Director of Christ Kitchen in Spokane, Washington. Christ Kitchen seeks to ‘love women out of poverty’ by providing employment opportunities as a means to discipleship. Jan’s book titled ‘Christ Kitchen’ releases this week.
I’d never witnessed a beating. To this day I shudder when I remember it. I had been reading in my car before a doctor’s appointment and happened to notice a young woman leaving the hospital. She was maybe 25 years old, very thin, pale complexion, worried eyes. She wore tired jeans and a loose fitting blue and white t-shirt. Her sandal had a broken strap and slapped awkwardly on the cement walk. As she hooked her purse over her shoulder, I watched her look around anxiously scanning the parking lot. Perhaps that is what caught my attention – her apprehension attracting mine. Her body shook slightly and I saw that she was crying. As she walked toward me, the pain on her face displayed untold miseries as if she carried a horrible burden.
My heart went out to her. Had she just lost a loved one, received bad news, a fatal diagnosis? It made me ponder what my face looked like after learning I had breast cancer. Curious what we think about when viewing another’s pain. Screeching brakes startled me out of my reflections as an older model sedan came skidding to a stop behind my car. “Get in!” screamed a clearly enraged man to the woman. Her crying stopped immediately when she saw him. In that moment, I interpreted her immediate calm as relief, like finally she had someone to share her burden, her sorrow. Now I imagine that it was actually certain fear of what would follow.
As soon as she got in the car, that huge, muscled man lit into her like a prizefighter on a punching bag. He struck her again and again – powerful, closed-fist blows to her face and belly. “Who’s (smack!) baby (smack!) is it?” the maniac bellowed as her body absorbed the blows and ricocheted off the window and seat.
I screamed. A deadly, guttural, hate-filled roar welled up in me. Instinctively, I jumped out of my car spilling my book and purse onto the pavement. What did I think I was going to do? Rip her out of a moving car in Hollywood cop-story style? Save her from the clutches of a mad man? I simply screamed. I screamed at him to stop. I doubt he even heard me as he put his car in gear and drove his bleeding baby’s mother away.
Did I get his license plate and report the assault to the police? Did I check at the hospital to find out who she was and make a report to Child Protective Services? I’m ashamed to say those ideas only occurred to me later. What I did was sit down on the curb as if I’d been punched in the stomach; a groan escaping me in sympathy with hers. And then I sobbed. I cried for that woman’s beaten body, for the possibility that he had killed the life within her, for their future, for my impotence, for the violence that’s hidden in a third of all relationships in our country.
I now carry my business cards in an easily accessible pocket or wallet. These perky little marketing tools advertising Christ Kitchen gift baskets and catered fare as well as my contact information are hardly a worthy defense against bullies or crazed offenders. But under our Christ Kitchen logo it says, a place of hope for women in poverty and I pray fervently for beaten souls to find hope. I hand these cards out to women in trouble, practicing for the time I am once again up against devastating odds. I pressed one into the hand of an overwrought mom in Target who was yelling at her crying baby. “Come see us,” I offered after she let me hold her child while she shopped. I jumped out of my car downtown and slipped a card into the shirt pocket of an inebriated woman slumped beside a building, hoping she might follow my prayers for her to our ministry.
If anything, the woman in the blue and white t-shirt taught me to be ready, intentional. My mentor, Jill Briscoe, always says, “The mission field is between your two feet.” At times it comes screeching to a halt interrupting our solitude and at others we have to act on simple clues God sets right in front of us. This must be what Paul meant when he wrote Timothy, “Be ready, in season and out of season, to preach the Word.”
“Be the Word,” my Lord comforts me when this violent world assaults my sweet life with powerful blows as I watch the evening news or drive through my neighborhood. “Be hope to my lost world.”
When I think of the things I learned from my parents as a child, there were certainly things that were explicitly and directly taught to me but the things I learned that were most deeply imprinted on me as a young child were caught, not taught. What I means is there was a culture and a feeling in our household that communicated and demonstrated specific values louder than any words could. It was this family culture that impacted me far more in my upbringing than any teaching or command to obey.
Proverbs 22:6 says,
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
If you’re a parent then you know the great privilege and fear that comes with raising your children. You also know that what you say is really only as powerful and influential as what you do.
As a parent it’s easy to fall into the ‘when they’re older’ trap. We think, “I’ll teach that value or this habit when they’re older.” But right now is the best time to plant those seeds of faith, to instill a heart of generosity, or even a challenge of leadership. If we fall into the ‘when they’re older’ mentality we’ve already waited to long. The values that you teach and demonstrate your children today have the power to affect the rest of their life. Scary, I know. But also an amazing privilege.
Check out this video about how one young girl had an idea to help those in need. As you watch imagine the seeds of faith that were planted in her life as a result of her action and her parents support and what affect that may have on the rest of her life.
Video via ilikegiving
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I have a lot of memories of time spent at the beach. On one particular stretch of coastline where I grew up the sand arched down steeply to the crashing waves. I have a memory from when I was young seeing my Mom walking along that shoreline and from my (very young) perspective it looked as if the towering waves would crash over her. It looked so real that I was scared for her. Once I got closer and my perspective of the shoreline changed, I realized she was never really in danger.
Life often has moments similar to the one that I experienced as a young boy. Sometimes our experiences cause us to react wrongly and often times the reason we react wrongly is often because we have the wrong perspective.
God sees things not as they appear but as they are. If you’ve ever been to a beach and felt the sand between your toes you can confidently say you know what sand looks like, right? But in reality you don’t really know what it looks like because your perspective is limited. Here’s a picture of what beach sand looks like when magnified:
(Used with permission: sandgrains.com)
God’s perspective is not just different in regards to a vantage point but it’s also different in terms of time. Think of someone like Nick Vujicic who was born with no legs and no arms. The world sees someone like that as hopeless. What could he accomplish? What would he have to live for? But God’s perspective is different. When Nick was born, God saw both the helpless baby and the man he would become; a husband, a father, and someone who would have a global ministry that would bring the Gospel of hope to thousands.
Whether we were born into a difficult situation or not the odds are good that we’ll experience hardships at some point in our life. The Apostle Paul certainly had experienced tough times when he wrote:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
What is he talking about? He’s talking about having a right perspective. Faith in Jesus compels us to not just look at physical but also spiritual realities. This viewpoint changes everything and stretches our perspective to be long-term and even eternal. The Bible makes it clear that the world in its current state won’t last forever and so the dimension of the unseen is actually more real than what we can see.
When we allow God to change our perspective we have faith. Faith that the God who made us sees us as we currently are and also who we will be. When we get God’s perspective we also have hope. Hope that our current situation which seems impossible can be overcome. Getting God’s perspective isn’t just important it’s essential. It influences how we parent, choose our career, relate to others, spend money and so much more. When we start to see the world as God sees it we not only endure tough circumstances, we overcome them.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.“
-Jesus as recorded in John 16:33
And so one of the most powerful and challenging prayers we can pray is not for a situation to be changed but for the vision to see it how God sees it. Perspective changes everything.
In what areas of your life has God changed your perspective?