Product Reviews

These articles tell you about the many fine products available from Olive Tree.

Digging into Church History

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In yesterday’s post I showed you why the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible is the perfect resource for family and personal devotions. Much of what we looked at centered around reading and understanding the Bible, using M’Cheyne’s reading plan in conjunction with the study notes & thoughts for family worship. Today, I want to build on that and share a few more reasons why this is such a great resource for personal and family study.

Church History

While reading the Bible is vital for spiritual growth, I’m also learning that it’s worthwhile to teach my children a bit of church history and show them that our faith has a long & rich heritage. One of the great things about this study Bible is that it contains summaries of each century of Church history, from the 1st Century all the way to today. Not only will these articles familiarize you with the major events and issues that the Church faced throughout the years, but you’ll also become acquainted with many of the more important historical Church figures. This may seem like a minor addition, but it’s helpful because I’ve already seen a lot that I didn’t know.

Creeds and Confessions

When looking at Church history, some of the more valuable relics would be the creeds and confessions that have been established through the Church’s wrestling with to establish orthodoxy and reject heresy. Several of these are included in the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible including: the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. You’re given a bit of information as to its importance to Christendom and then given the text of the document. The beauty of having these available in one place is that you can see how the Church battled to stand for the truth of the Bible.

Furthermore, when it comes to learning and teaching systematic categories of doctrine, particularly from a Reformed tradition, you can make use of the catechisms that are also provided (Heidelberg and both the shorter & larger Westminster catechisms). Personally, I have found the catechisms to be a great tool for teaching my children about the Bible’s great truths because they are easy to memorize and provide several related passages. It’s simple enough to take a question or two a week and incorporate it as a part of your time of family or personal devotion. Not only will you get to know more about the Bible, but you’ll be better equipped to defend what you believe and to do so from the Bible.

Christian Living

Whether you’re a new believer or a seasoned veteran, you’ll find the “How to Live as a Christian” collection of articles to be extremely helpful. Each of these roughly page-long articles cover various topics that relate to Christian living, such as: living by the Ten Commandments, fellowship with other Christians, why & how to pray, handling criticism, enduring affliction, and being a godly spouse, to name a few. These articles are wonderful for showing how the Bible practically applies to everyday life and teaching children how they ought to live.

Standing Tall on Their Shoulders

It may be easy for us to gravitate to modern writings and resources, but we should not neglect or forget those who have walked this path before us. Those who walked before us have a wealth of wisdom that we’d be foolish to not glean from. That is why I find the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible to be immensely beneficial to the Church today. The rich history of our faith has been brought forward in such a way that Christians can learn from these great theologians without having to step into a time machine or head to a seminary library. I plan on making this study Bible a part of my daily studies for years to come. Just as it’s a resource in line with the heritage of the Reformation, I hope that this Bible becomes a heritage in my family.

Note: To access these features of the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible Notes within the Bible Study App, set your table of contents view to “List View”

Family Devotions Made Easy

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Can I be honest? When I first heard about the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible I had mixed emotions. The entire concept of this particular Study Bible was intriguing, but not enough for me to spend money on yet another print Bible to have among a plethora of other specialty Bibles. Those mixed emotions quickly turned to ecstatic joy when I found out that Olive Tree was going to make this title available in the Bible Study app because it’s a perfect accompaniment to my digital library. So, I added the title to my list of projects and worked to get it done so that I could start using it ASAP (and of course make it available for everyone else). Now, I may be on the edge of my seat about this resource, but why should you? Let me tell you why by explaining its benefit for use in personal and family devotions.

Aside from working at a Bible software company and being an all around theology geek, my greatest responsibilities in life are spiritually leading my household and parenting my three children. For the longest time I wasn’t the best at leading my family in devotions, and I struggled to get material together to make it easy and manageable. With time, I’m gradually getting better; but, a resource like the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible goes a long way in making family devotions simple and doable for all. It provides all the tools I need to ground my family in the Word of God on a daily basis.

The reading plan is the ground floor and what makes family worship/devotion happen with this study Bible. Instead of trying to figure out which passage your family is going to read each day, you can use Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s wonderful reading plan, which has been thoughtfully separated into both family worship & private readings. For example, the original M’Cheyne plan will have you read the first chapter of Genesis, Ezra, Matthew, and Acts on January 1; but, as laid out in this study Bible, you’d read Genesis & Matthew during your family devotion, while reading Ezra & Acts in your private devotion time. Over the course of the year, you will have taken your family through roughly half of the Old Testament (Genesis thru 2 Chronicles, along with Psalms) and the entire New Testament. The added benefit of using this in the Bible Study app is that you can use the built in M’Cheyne reading plan to keep track of your devotions so that you can start no matter the time of year without figuring out how it matches with the calendar they provide. Personally, it’s nice having a ready made plan that I know will take my family through the Scriptures in a systematic way. It’s much easier to prepare when you already have a plan in place!

Now, as you’re reading through these passages with your family and in your own time, you’re no doubt going to run across difficult passages. The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible excels in this area. It is truly a study Bible. Each book of the Bible includes an introduction that discusses its background and purpose, even including discussions on the difficult questions that may be faced in that book. There are also thousands of study notes that explain the meaning of individual words and phrases in their context so that you can make sense of the passage. Cross references to relevant passages are also integrated into the study notes allowing you to investigate more deeply and compare Scripture with Scripture. And even though this study Bible is based on the KJV translation, the Bible Study app allows you to use it alongside your preferred translation (such as the ESV or NIV).

One of the most important things about spending time in the Bible, whether it be in a family or private setting, is to make application of the text that you’re reading. In my opinion, this is where this study Bible is worth its weight in gold. At the end of every chapter of study notes is a section called “Thoughts for Personal/Family Worship” that assists you in preparing thoughts for your time of worship and how to use the text to grow in godliness. So, even if you’re not someone who has been to seminary or Bible college, you’ll be more than equipped to lead your family in a time of devotion. To give you an idea of what this section looks like, here are the thoughts from Genesis 1:

  1. Consider the power of God in creation. If a computer were observing 10 million stars per second, it would still take 63 million years to count all the stars! Such is the power of the Almighty. Remarkably, the stars are the work of His fingers (Ps. 8:3) but salvation is the work of His right hand (Ps. 98:1). In a wonderful way God’s work in making believers new creations in Christ Jesus demonstrates a power greater than commanding the world into existence. Let us be amazed at the wonder of creation; let us be overwhelmed with the wonder of grace. How does saving grace display even greater glory than creation?
  2. Stand in awe of the power of God’s word. God’s word is the agency of creation. God said, “Let there be . . .” Christ demonstrated this power in the miracles both with people such as raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11) and with the inanimate creation such as calming the storm (Mark 4:35-40). God’s word still is powerful today through the Scriptures. It is by the word of His power as well that He bears His created world along according to His purpose of providence (Heb. 1:3). The fact that God created gives Him the right to govern and to use His creation as He sees fit (Ps. 24:1-2; 95:5). Since creation, including man, belongs to God, all of creation, including man, is dependent on Him and accountable to Him. The theological implications of creation are far-reaching.

As you can see, these items alone provide more than enough information for someone to lead a time of devotion, whether it be in a family, small group, or personal setting. But this is just the tip of the iceberg of what this study Bible has to offer. Tomorrow I’ll share some of the other things that make this study Bible unique and worth adding to your library. I hope that my excitement for the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible resonates and makes you want to own & use it just as much as I do.

The Voice Bible in The Bible Study App

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The Voice Bible is a faithful dynamic equivalent translation that reads like a story with all the truth and wisdom of God’s Word. Through a collaboration of more than 120 biblical scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and artists, The Voice recaptures the passion, grit, humor, and beauty that is often lost in the translation process. The result is a retelling of the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works, yet remaining painstakingly true to the original manuscripts.

Features include:

Information added to help contemporary readers understand what the original readers would have known intuitively

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Commentary notes include cultural, historical, theological, or devotional thoughts

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Screenplay format, ideal for public readings and group studies

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Book introductions

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Here’s a video from publisher Thomas Nelson to give an example of The Voice in Luke 11:

Now through June 30th you can get The Voice Bible for 30% off the regular price.

All of the Bible is About Jesus

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By Olive Tree Employee: LaRosa Johnson

Growing up in church I was always taught that the most important thing to remember about the Bible was the gospel. If you didn’t remember anything else, you should know that Jesus Christ died for your sins. At the time that was great. It meant I only had to focus on four books of the Bible and could simply gloss over or ignore the other sixty-two.

Later on I began to spend more time with the other books of the Bible. As I did I saw how the history of Israel led up to Jesus via prophecy and how the rest of the New Testament taught us how to live the Christian life. It wasn’t until years later that a friend of mine challenged my cursory understanding of the Bible by telling me that all of the Bible was about Jesus. I thought my friend was blowing smoke. Sure, the Old Testament is about the history of Jesus’ family & lineage, but how is it about him? How do Proverbs and Song of Solomon relate to Jesus? Needless to say, as I thought about it and read the Bible more, my friend’s statement started to make sense. Jesus Christ is on every page of Scripture, whether we see it or not.

Gospel Transformation BibleIt’s because of my own experience in trying to understand the gospel throughout the entirety of the Bible that I’m excited about Crossway’s Gospel Transformation Bible. This study Bible is the first of its kind as it shows you how Jesus Christ and the gospel can be found in all sixty-six books of the Bible. Unlike many study Bibles that only help you understand the text based on its immediate context, the Gospel Transformation Bible notes focus on explaining passages as they relate to redemptive history and the gospel. This means that while you may have fewer notes overall, each note is composed in a way that points you to how the gospel message is communicated in light of the context. This study Bible also contains introductions for each book of the Bible that give you a window into how the gospel is found in that book as well as a thorough topical index.

Now, what if you already own the ESV Study Bible? Even if you already own it, you’ll still want to own the Gospel Transformation Bible. No matter the passage you’re studying, the two work together as perfect companions to give you the clearest understanding possible. Where the ESV Study Bible helps you to understand the passage in its immediate context, the Gospel Transformation Bible helps you relate that same passage to the gospel.

All of this puts the Gospel Transformation Bible in a unique position to help Christians everywhere understand the gospel from Genesis to Revelation, and not just in the four gospels. This has quickly become one of my favorite study Bibles and I’m using it every time I open the Bible. Don’t be like me in taking years to understand the fullness of the gospel. Pick up this resource and get there must faster than I did. In closing, I’d like to share a verse from Shai Linne, one of my favorite Christian rappers, as he explains the importance of the gospel in his song “Expository Preaching”:

Y’all should be mindful of this devout thesis//
All of the Bible is about Jesus//
The Old Testament- Jesus Christ concealed//
The New Testament- Jesus Christ revealed//
This truth of the Lord- Christ boldly proclaimed this//
In Luke 24 on the road to Emmaus//
The law, the prophets and the teachings of Apostles//
All of these point back to Jesus and the gospel//
So if the work of Christ is what the Word is about//
Ultimately, it should be what the sermon’s about//
Forget applause, you’ve got to let the cross rock ya//
All roads in the Bible lead to Golgotha//
Whatever the text, faithfulness demands//
That we should hear the echoes of nails hitting His hands//
Don’t try to be original- say the old story//
And watch your people changed as they behold glory//

http://lampmode.bandcamp.com/track/expositional-preaching-shai-linne

Here’s a short video of how the Gospel Transformation Bible notes look and work in the Bible Study App:

NICOT Review for the Bible Study App

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NICOT in Olive TreeGuest Review: Abram Kielsmeier-Jones

Ask a group of pastors, seminarians, professors, or serious Bible readers, “What one commentary series on the Old Testament would you most recommend?” and you’re likely to hear: “NICOT.” Eerdmans’ New International Commentary on the Old Testament blends scholarship with application in a readable and engaging manner. Few, if any, commentary series are consistently this good throughout the series. And I don’t know of any other series that has such broad ecumenical appeal.

NICOT in Olive Tree has 23 volumes, spanning 26 biblical books. The bundle includes the 2010 volume on Hosea. The only volume currently in print that is not here is The Book of Judges, by Barry G. Webb (2012). (Judges is not available in any other Bible software at the moment.)

General editor Robert L. Hubbard Jr. writes of the series:

NICOT delicately balances “criticism” (i. e., the use of standard critical methodologies) with humble respect, admiration, and even affection for the biblical text. As an evangelical commentary, it pays particular attention to the textʼs literary features, theological themes, and implications for the life of faith today.

As I preached through Isaiah this past Advent, John N. Oswalt’s two volumes on that book were the first commentary I turned to after spending time with the biblical text. While it was always clear that Oswalt knew Isaiah and his milieu well, the author would find himself swept up at times in praise of the God Isaiah preached. On Isaiah 2:2, for instance, he writes:

What Isaiah was asserting was that one day it would become clear that the religion of Israel was the religion; that her God was the God. To say that his mountain would become the highest of all was a way of making that assertion in a figure which would be intelligible to people of that time.

NICOT IsaiahOn that passage’s promise of peace among nations, he concludes:

Until persons and nations have come to God to learn his ways and walk in them, peace is an illusion. This does not mean that the Church merely waits for the second coming to look for peace. But neither does it mean that the Church should promote peace talks before it seeks to bring the parties to a point where they will submit their needs to God.

Oswalt is representative of the authors in NICOT, in that he loves the text (and its grammar, history, and background) and loves the God who inspired it.

NICOT in Olive Tree has hyperlinks to biblical references and commentary footnotes, which you can easily and quickly view in the Bible Study (computer) app through the Quick Details corner (by hovering over the hyperlink), or as a pop-up window (which can then also pop out and keep your place in a separate window). It’s just as easy to tap a hyperlink in the mobile app.

There are two ways I’ve used NICOT so far.

1. I use NICOT as my starting point in the main window.

After some time in the biblical text, I have made my way through parts of NICOT by starting from the commentary. I can use hyperlinks to read the verses being commented on, as well as any other references. I can keep a Bible open in the split window and have it follow me along as I read through NICOT.

Using NICOT this way, there are quite a few ways to get around, both by looking up a verse in the commentary, and by navigating its Table of Contents. You only need to use one of these options at a time, but here they all are:

(click to enlarge image)

(click to enlarge image)

Note that from the Go To drop-down menu, I can keep following the sub-menus till I get to a specific place in the commentary (Introduction to Malachi in the instance above). One could also do this from the Go To item in the toolbar, which allows for both verse searching and Table of Contents navigation.

2. I use the Bible in the main window and NICOT as a supplement in the split window.

This has the advantage of letting me use NICOT as one among multiple resources in the Resource Guide, as shown (in part) here:

Resource Guide shows relevant library results (click to enlarge)

Resource Guide shows relevant library results (click to enlarge)

In both of the above setups you can take notes in NICOT, highlight, and bookmark your place. You can also do a search on a word or phrase in the commentary, with the results appearing almost instantaneously. One may wish, for example, to find all the times Oswalt refers to the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah, which is an easy and fast search to run.

In reviewing Olive Tree I have found it to have the most versatile, smooth, and customizable Bible app I’ve seen on iOS. I write more about the Bible Study iOS app here. The fact that Olive Tree is cross-platform makes it appealing to many. Though the desktop app is well-designed, I would like to see a future update where you can create a saved workspace with multiple resources open in various tabs and windows. That, I think, would take the app to the next level.

But everything is here to help you work through NICOT in a way that you couldn’t in print. There are a couple of options (one free and one paid) for Hebrew Bibles, too, if you want to use NICOT in tandem with the original language. (NICOT uses transliterated Hebrew.)

NICOT volumes consistently top the charts of the Best Commentaries site. Preachers and professors, parishioners and pupils will all find much to mine here, as they seek to better understanding the Old Testament and to more faithfully love the God whose goodness its pages proclaim.

Abram Kielsmeier-Jones is the pastor of a great church in a seaside community near Boston, a youth ministry consultant, a husband and father, and a follower of Jesus. At his blog Words on the Word he records his thoughts on the Bible (particularly as written in Greek and Hebrew), books about the Bible, pastoring, leading worship, parenting, youth ministry, music, the Church, and more. Read more about Abram here.

 

*Thanks to Olive Tree for the New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), given to me for this blog review, offered without any expectations as to the content of the review.You can find the product here

12 Days of Christmas – Day 6

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Bible Commentaries can be an extremely valuable study tool. Many commentaries include historical and culture context, theological interpretation, and other resources like timelines and charts. The resource guide of The Bible Study App makes using commentaries a seamless part of your study.

 

In the below screenshot (click to enlarge) I have my Bible opened to Daniel chapter 1. The commentary section of the resource guide then shows me which of my commentaries have related entries to this text.

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The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary indicates seven entries so I’ll click on that commentary to see a preview of the those entries.

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Since this chapter talks about Daniel and his friends being placed in a Babylonian learning environment, I’m interested in learning more about what that may have looked like. I then click on the third entry that talks about the language and literature of the Babylonians.

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I can then read a fascinating article about historical Babylonian education that Daniel and his friends would have been exposed to. Thanks to enhanced commentaries like the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary I can easily gain some amazing insight that helps me view the Biblical text in new ways.

Several great commentaries are on special now as part of the 12 Day’s of Christmas sale.

Go here to see them!
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