Free Resource Friday!

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Throughout the book of Psalms, believers are admonished to lift their voices and offer praises to God. For centuries now, the faithful have composed “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” to express their trust in God and their love for Jesus Christ. Included in Hymns of Praise are a short introduction and the complete words to ten best-loved hymns, to offer inspiration and encouragement in your daily walk with God.

Find this great resource in the Bible Study in-app store or go HERE for install instructions.

Please note that a Free Olive Tree account is required to access this Free Download.

How I Commune with God on my Morning Commute

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From Guest Blogger: Ashley LaMar

In about 15 minutes I’m going to be starting my weekday commute to work. My commute looks like this: a 5-minute walk to the train station, waiting 5-10 minutes for the train to arrive, a 25-minute train ride, waiting 5-10 minutes for the bus to arrive, a 15-minute bus ride, and a 5-minute walk to my office. My total morning commute time is 1 hour – 1 hour and 15 minutes and approximately 45 minutes of that is spent either riding the transit system or waiting.  What do I do during the time? I read. I used to read a novel on my Kindle but ever since I’ve discovered the free Olive Tree Bible App I use this time for Bible study.

Note: This is not a sponsored post by Olive Tree, I just love their app and really wanted to share it with you.

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I have two faith-based apps on my iPad that I use in the morning. The first is The Christian’s Daily Challenge. I read it in the morning when I first wake up before I shower, eat breakfast, and start my day. I ruminate on it and let it sink it while I’m getting dressed for work. Then, when I head out on my commute I open Olive Tree, read the same verse that The Christian’s Daily Challenge referred to, and delve deeper into study.

The other day on my commute I was reading through the book of Matthew again and, while reading about the immaculate conception and the birth of Jesus I noticed something that I hadn’t paid much attention to before and that was the frequent references to the Angels of God communicating with Joseph and the Magi through dreams. Every time I noticed the reference to an Angle communicating via dreams I highlighted it using the Olive Tree highlight tool. It’s actually really cool because you can set different color highlights to mean different things such as highlighting quotes or passages to memorize in yellow and verses about grace and love in pink.


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Did you notice the little green arrow at the bottom of the page? Well…there is a ton of special hidden features down there! Just swipe the arrow up and you are able to access related verses, expanded detail on the people, the places, and the topics discussed on that page. You can also click through to check out maps, images, sermons, videos, etc on the people, places and topics. I admit I’m kind of a sucker for Bible maps and I love seeing how the regions discussed in the Bible correlate to the world as we know it today.

If you click on one of the topics the app will bring up a list of other places in the Bible where the same subject is discussed. That is one of my favorite features.

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Plus there is a built-in store that you can access from within the app to buy books on theology and Bible history, Christian eBooks, Devotionals, Prayer, and Marriage & Family. A few of my current favorites are:

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I love that you can buy the books from the in-app store and, in many cases, the books are cheaper than if you bought them on Amazon.

It’s an amazing app for Bible Study and it’s perfect for my commute. It allows me to commune with God in the morning as I start my day and again in the evening as I am drawing my day to a close and heading home to my family. I have noticed that I have developed more patience on my morning commute and been less irritable with crowds and delays as I start my day off in a peaceful place. I have also noticed that I return home at the end of the day less stressed and frustrated because I’ve spent time with the Lord, laid my stresses and cares upon Him and returned home with a joyful heart.

As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t a sponsored post and the app is free on all devices iPhone, iPad (like I used it) and Android. It’s both Mac and Windows compatible and it is, hands-down, the absolute BEST Bible Study app I have found. If you’re interested you can get it here.

What do you think? Think you’ll check it out? What tools do you use for your Bible Study?

Learn More about Ashley at foreverashley.com

New Lent Reading Plan Available

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Lent begins this with Ash Wednesday—February 18 this year—and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. To many people, it is a 40-day period—not including the six Sundays—devoted to reflection, repentance, fasting, and preparation prior to Easter.

Unlike Christmas, Easter is not a fixed date on the calendar; it is sometimes described as a “moveable feast.” The Western church decided long ago to set Easter as the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). Since the date of Easter varies widely (from March 22 to April 25), the dates of every other holiday related to Easter vary as well. The week before Easter is referred to as Holy Week. It begins on Palm Sunday, which recalls Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Thursday of that week is known in some traditions as Maundy Thursday because it memorializes Jesus’ final instructions and last meal with His disciples. The term “Maundy” is related to the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment,” which is the first word in the Latin version of John 13:34 that records Jesus’ new commandment to His disciples that they love one another. Since Jesus washed his disciples’ feet that fateful evening, Christians often do as Jesus did and wash one another’s feet. Good Friday follows. It is the day that commemorates the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Calling the day “good” seems ironic since Jesus died such a horrid death that day. However, what Jesus’ death accomplished for the redemption of the world is the greatest good the world has ever seen. The Sunday following Good Friday ends the season of Lent and is designated Easter. It may be the most celebrated day on the Christian calendar, for it commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the beginning of the new Kingdom. - Adapted from The Voice Bible.

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Lent is a great time to think about starting a new reading plan. To help you get started, we’ve added a new reading plan especially for Lent! Adapted from The Voice Bible, this plan starts on Ash Wednesday, February 18 and continues until Easter Sunday. This is a great way to prepare your heart for Easter.

Tap the ‘My Stuff’ icon in your app and select Reading Plans. At the bottom of the list of reading plans, tap the ‘Get More Reading Plan’ button. You’ll see a list of reading plans that are available to download here.

Once you tap the install button, the reading plan will be available to start.

Why Lenten Discipline is a Good Thing

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter in which many Christians observe a form of self-denial as a way to identify with Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. It’s easy to relegate Lent to a time of “giving something up,” maybe chocolate or Facebook or fast food. While our waistlines might affirm these Lenten fasts, our spiritual nature begs for something more. Throughout Church history, Christians have turned to classic spiritual disciplines during Lent. But human nature can’t seem to make up its mind about the virtues of discipline. Sure discipline is a good thing. I brush my teeth every morning and evening. I drive safely. I read my Bible every day. But let’s face it: Discipline is hard. Why do we need to practice discipline in a season like Lent anyway?

In essence, discipline helps us to be more like Christ. As Jesus himself taught, denying oneself is integral to the Christian life and necessarily tough. Even Jesus’ discipline of obedience to the Father led to Calvary. As Christianity Today’s editorial from March 1960 puts it, Lent is a time in which we “follow the battered path to Calvary” and recognize our need to “yield ourselves afresh to God…” Just like we discipline ourselves in the care of our physical bodies, we must also do the necessary work of discipline in order to be healthy spiritually.

In this Lenten season, we encourage you to spend time with God each day as we approach the heart of the Christian faith in the agony of Good Friday and the glory of Easter. Along with the Bibles and Study Bibles that Olive Tree offers, check out the Lenten devotionals 40 Days with Jesus by Sarah Young and Walk with Jesus: A Journey to the Cross and Beyond by Charles Swindoll at OliveTree.com. We pray that the discipline of reading a devotional and your Bible daily will help you become more Christ like this Lenten season.

God Is Passionate and Poetic – The Passion Translation

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From Guest Blogger: Dr. Brian Simmons, Lead Translator for The Passion Translation

God Is Passionate and Poetic.
It may surprise some of us to hear God described this way, as passionate and poetic. Yet the heart of God is filled with holy longings, passions which he expressed in creation and through redemption. And we would never discover such passions completely without the gift of God’s poetic Word, spoken to us in our own language. The Passion Translation is committed to translating the Word of God with all of its poetic nuance, flavor, passion, and truth—without compromising accuracy in any way. It expresses God’s passion for people and His world by translating the original, life-changing message of God’s Word for modern readers; it is every bit reliable as it is relevant.
God’s Word is potent, it has power to transform lives. As you read the Bible in this new, modern English version, expect to be delighted by The Passion Translation with new insights and a fresh understanding of all that God wants to say to our hearts. This is a heart-level translation, from the passion of God’s heart to the passion of your heart. Written by passionate men, the Bible is unlocked and understood more fully when passionate people read it.

God is a Poet—the Poet of Poets.
I’m so thankful for the poetic books found in the middle of our Bible. There is something about the Psalms and the Proverbs that keep our lives fueled with praise and guided by wisdom. It would be hard to imagine the Word of God without poetry, parables, and proverbs, because they unfold an entirely different dimension of the wonderful heart of God!
I have cherished the Psalms for over four decades. I contemplate them almost daily, for they have been my comfort and joy, leading me to the place where worship flows. When discouraged or downcast, reading these divine poems has given me new strength. They charge my batteries and fill my sails. In fact, the older I get the more powerful they grow: their thunder stirs me; their sweet melodies move me into the sacred emotions of a heart on fire like never before! The dark rain clouds of grief turn to bright rainbows of hope, just from meditating on David’s soul-nourishing songs.

The Psalms find the words that express our deepest and strongest emotions, no matter what the circumstances. Every emotion of our heart is reflected in the Psalms. Reading the Psalms will turn sighing into singing, trouble into triumph. The word praise is found 189 times in this book. There is simply nothing that touches my heart like the Psalms. Thousands of years ago my deepest feelings were put to music—this is what we all delightfully discover when reading the Psalms!

God’s Wisdom Is a Fountain—Come, Drink Freely!

Then there are the divine words of wisdom from Solomon, the book of Proverbs, written by the wisest man (well, maybe second wisest man) to ever walk the earth! Imagine reading a 2800-year-old book of wisdom: How many secrets would be uncovered? What kind of wisdom would be revealed? How would your life change as you drank in its advice? That’s Proverbs! These powerful words are anointed to bring you revelation from the very throne room of God—the wisdom you need to guide your steps and direct your life.

When you read Psalms and Proverbs, you’re engaging your heart and mind with the greatest book of wisdom and the greatest book of praise ever written, penned by two kings full of sage advice and God’s favor. God has given away his secrets in these books and he longs for you to read and receive them deep within. The Passion Translation seeks to express them in a way that would unlock the ‘passion’ of God’s heart, change your life, and launch you into the kind of life God has destined for you.

Dr. Brian Simmons is a former missionary, linguist, minister, and Bible teacher. As a missionary, he and his wife, Candice, pioneered church plants in Central America. As a linguist, Brian co-translated the Kuna New Testament for the Paya-Kuna people of Panama. He and his wife have birthed numerous ministries, including a dynamic church, Gateway Christian Fellowship, in West Haven, Connecticut. He is also a gifted teacher of the Bible who has authored several books and serves churches worldwide through his teaching ministry.

You can find Psalms and the Proverbs from The Passion Translation here.

A season of Lent

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By Olive Tree Staff: Molly Van Ryn

I still remember the first Lent that I was really considered old enough to give something up on my own.  It was jr high, and like just about everything at that age it quickly turned into a contest.  For weeks lunchtime conversations revolved around Lent: who was giving up the hardest thing, who had been successful the longest, who had fallen off the wagon and whether they were going to try again.  Most people gave up some sort of food, like candy or soda.  Some brave souls even went so far as to give up television, to exclamations of “No way!  That’s so hard!  You’ll never make it!”

I don’t remember what I gave up that year, or whether I carried it through until Easter.  But I vividly recall the jockeying for position.  The people who were giving up something that was perceived as more difficult exuded a sense of smug superiority, only to be replaced by people who had picked something easier and stuck with it.  I learned a lot of lessons from that about setting realistic goals, but hardly any about being in relationship with God, or what the season of Lent is actually about.

Since then, my relationship with Lent has evolved.  There was the year that I realized that not all Christians participate in Lent in the way that I always had.  I was just beginning the long journey of understanding how many ways there are to be Christian and starting to take ownership of the path I had chosen.  This was the year that I first did Lent as a conscious choice, instead of just as something that everyone did.  Then there was the year I came to the conclusion that I could add a spiritual discipline to my life, such as a more dedicated time of prayer in my day, instead of picking something to give up.  It was immensely freeing to have this whole other set of options I hadn’t considered before.  It really helped me to focus on the idea that Lent isn’t about getting rid of bad habits, a sort of 40 days of self-help, but an opportunity to grow closer to God and focus on preparing myself for the celebration of His passion.

I look forward to Lent these days.  It’s no longer about picking the most difficult thing I can think of.  I don’t feel particularly comfortable anymore telling people what I’ve chosen to do for a given year, unless I want them to help keep me accountable.  But there is something very meaningful to me in having those 40 days of discipline set aside each year.  It is an annual reminder to evaluate my relationship with God, to dust the cobwebs out of the corners of my prayer life and be mindful of ways in which I am not prepared to receive the gift that was offered on the cross.  It gives me a reason to set aside resources that I might otherwise consider indispensable to the other areas of my life, a boost to drop the excuses I surround myself with.  And I know that there is a community around me, waiting and anticipating as Easter approaches.

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