LOOK INSIDE:
Open Your Bible Commentary

Posted by on 07/20/2017 in: ,

The difficulties of maintaining a daily Bible study routine are many. Where do you start? How do you make adequate time for more than a cursory reading of the Text? How do you find the right balance of study and devotion? And the list goes on. The truth is there are no easy answers to any of these questions. But we shouldn’t throw in the towel and give up. Every Christian struggles with their Bible reading at some point in their life. Today I want to share a new Olive Tree resource whose aim is to help your daily Bible study. Let me introduce you to the Open Your Bible Commentary.

BACKGROUND
The Open Your Bible Commentary was written to encourage daily Bible study. The content of this two volume commentary began as a series of Bible Study books originally published by Scripture Union. The series’ intent was to create a resource that encouraged a greater depth of Bible study in a way that wasn’t possible with study notes alone. This format allowed the authors to give fuller discussions on introductory, textual, and background material that might otherwise be overlooked in something like a study Bible. The principal aim of the studies was to stimulate daily Bible reading as a means of personal devotion and life application.

These sensitively edited studies have been reworked into what we now have as the Open Your Bible Commentary. With this commentary you get short readings rich in content. Each passage is carefully explained, devotionally warm, and practically relevant. In its introduction, the commentary boasts four great strengths that set it apart from others:

  1. Accessible: The studies address the average, thoughtful Christian without assuming they have a prior background with the text.
  2. Digestible: No section is overly long. It is designed so that you can read one or two sections each day without feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Dependable: The commentary is authored by renowned theologians, scholars, and experienced pastors including: F.F. Bruce, Leon Morris, William L. Lane, and others
  4. Practical: The studies offer a diversity of everyday application. Sometimes you are given clear application, while other times you are left to ponder the truths for yourself.

All in all, the Open Your Bible Commentary is built for Christians who desire to engage with the Bible daily. After each section you are sure to walk away with a greater understanding of the Bible and application to apply.

OPEN YOUR BIBLE — IN THE APP
There are a few ways you can use the Open Your Bible Commentary in our app, but let me show you my favorite way to use it.

Since the commentary is conveniently broken into manageable sections for study, I prefer to use it as my daily reading plan. In the morning I read a section from the New Testament volume along with its accompanying Bible passage. For my evening reading I do the same, but with the Old Testament volume.

Unlike most times when I read the Bible, this time I have the commentary open in the main window. I then use the Book Ribbon to mark my current location so I can easily pick up where I left off next time.

Next, I tap the verse reference and open it in the split window. Now I can read the passage and the commentary text. I can also tap on any of the cross references and read them in a pop-up.

Even with the Bible open in the split window I can still take notes on what I’m studying. And, if by chance I want to do further study, I can quickly switch to the Resource Guide to explore my other resources.

What I love about this setup is it allows me to have a different kind of reading plan that still lets me easily study the Bible. I recommend giving it a try!

I’m confident the Open Your Bible Commentary will prove a great aide to your daily Bible reading. Right now, this title is 50% off!

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What’s the Difference? Study Bible vs. Bible Commentary

Posted by on 07/17/2017 in:

Have you ever nodded along to someone talking, even though you had no idea what they were saying? I often feel like I’m doing a mental head-nod when I’m scrolling through all the products Olive Tree offers. As an employee, you’d think I would understand all the different Bible study tools—but to be honest, there’s always something new that I’m learning. So, I thought I’d dedicate a blog post to the difference between a study Bible and a Bible commentary!

STUDY BIBLE

A study Bible is Scripture paired with additional notes and resources that are meant to help you understand what you’re reading. A non-digital study Bible is often formatted with the study Bible notes below the Bible text, allowing for quick reference without having to leave the passage you’re reading. Depending on the study Bible, you may see historical and contextual background information, cross references to other verses, maps, charts, and more.

Study Bibles in the Olive Tree Bible App work much the same way. While you’re reading the Bible text, the resource guide will pull in the content from any study Bible you have in your library to give you quick access to helpful information. We have a video about how this works on our YouTube Channel.

BIBLE COMMENTARY

The first major difference between a Bible commentary and a study Bible is that a Bible commentary is its own book. In fact, it’s probably more than one book. Bible commentaries usually come in massive volumes—one for each book of the Bible! The print version of the 61 Vols. Word Biblical Commentary series would take up 7 feet on your bookshelf. This is probably one of the biggest reasons I’m in love with electronic Bible resources.

There are also single-volume commentaries, but don’t let that fool you. They still contain much more information than a typical study Bible.

Commentaries also come in three different types: devotional, homiletical, and exegetical.

Devotional commentaries focus on applying the Bible to daily life. These publications are much more relaxed, written by one person, and don’t cover the entire Bible verse-by-verse.

Homiletical (homilies = sermons) commentaries focus on interpreting the Bible and then applying it. These commentary sets are written by preachers for preachers. They are also great for preparing to teach the Bible in any capacity, not just from the pulpit.

Exegetical commentaries focus on the more academic processes of uncovering the author’s original meaning. Oftentimes, these publications will explain passages from the original Hebrew and Greek, go in-depth on cultural and historical references, and address scholarly disputes.

WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU?

First, it’s important to remember that study Bible notes and Bible commentaries are both interpretations of Scripture! Just as you would prayerfully evaluate a sermon, evaluate the contents of any resource you read. No human-made book is perfect in the way that God’s Word is!

If you are looking for quick, easy insights on Scripture, a study Bible or a one-volume commentary is a fantastic place to start. Right now, we have the First Century Study Bible and the Zondervan Bible Commentary (1 Vol.) on sale.

If you’re wanting to go deeper, you may want to pick a commentary set like the Everyman’s Bible Commentary or something similar. I’m really excited about this particular set because, up until now, it’s never been sold as a set digitally—anywhere!

I hope this post was helpful to you! As always, if you ever have a question, feel free to reach out to us in a comment, email, or on our social channels.

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From Nothing to Everything

Posted by on 07/12/2017 in: ,

I look absolutely nothing like the rest of my family, sporting stick-straight blonde hair and blue eyes. My mother is a quarter Native American, my dad is an Irishman, and my sister is half African American. We always look like an odd bunch of people when we go out for dinner. I’ve even been asked by a waiter how we all know each other. I looked around the table at all our contrasting faces; “They’re my family,” I said.

Throughout my life I’ve been asked many questions about this characteristic, such as:

Do you wonder about your biological family?

If you could live with them, would you?

Do you really consider your mom to be your mom?

When you say dad… you mean your adopted dad, right?

Is it weird?

I honestly don’t mind the questions, but that’s probably because I don’t mind being adopted. Instead, it’s this one characteristic that brought about a deep understanding of God’s love for me—and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

You see, in Romans 8, the apostle Paul talks about adoption. He says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:14-15, NIV).

From my personal experience and observation, I took a few key points away from this passage. When I watched my parents adopt my little sister, I saw them dedicate time, money, and energy so that they could leave the courtroom saying, “This is my daughter. I love her. She’s mine.” And it doesn’t stop there. They then embarked on a life-long journey of caring for my sister, teaching her and shaping her. God does this for us, too. We leave the courtroom with him, calling him Father.

My personal understanding of adoption speaks volumes into my understanding of God. But it is also so important to investigate the cultural understanding of adoption during the time of the apostle Paul. The Archaeological Study Bible explains that, in the ancient Greco-Roman world, “only free men (not women or slaves) could adopt, and the adoptee was often an adult rather than a child.” Additionally, an adoptee “took the adopter’s name and rank and became his legal heir.”

When Paul embraced the metaphor of adoption, he meant so much more than receiving a new guardian. Where an adopted child may learn the new family’s customs, share in the labor, and easily fit into the new societal ranking, a grown adult may not. An adopted adult would cling to their old ways. An adopted adult would struggle to transition into their new identity. But, despite these challenges, the adoptee is welcomed in, being brought from poverty to riches, from shame to honor, from slave to free, from nothing to everything.

We, too, can welcome this change in our identity. We can rejoice in the eternal relationship we have with our God. We can call him Abba, Father, and he calls us his children.

Interested in learning more about the archaeological, historical, and cultural information tucked inside your Bible? The Archaeological Study Bible contains over 500 articles and 500 full-color photos. Best part? It’s on sale right now.

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14 Facts about Biblical Life

Posted by on 07/07/2017 in:

When you understand ancient biblical life and the culture in which Scripture was written you can more easily see how it applied to life then and how it applies to life today.

Ancient Health Practices:
1. Although there was no theory of communicable diseases, the isolation of the leper looks very much like quarantine (Lev. 13:45). The modern disease called leprosy is a particular infection called Hansen’s disease. Its symptoms are different from the leprosy mentioned in the Bible.

2. Balm is a kind of resin taken from trees by cutting the bark. It was used as a perfume and was considered effective as a medicine (Jer. 51:8). Although Gilead is mentioned together with balm (Jer. 8:22; 46:11), the substance was not produced in Gilead. It may have been transported through Gilead or sold there. Ancient pharmaceuticals consisted mainly of plant products recommended by tradition.

Ancient Food Practices:
3. The salt used in ancient times was not refined, and there was always some proportion of chemicals present in addition to sodium chloride. If the fraction useful for flavoring food was leached away by dampness, what remained was without value. It was sometimes strewn on paths like gravel, since it was “then good for nothing” (Matt. 5:13).

4. The custom of eating while reclining seems to have come from Palestine from the East. People ate from common dishes on a low table as they reclined on large couches. The banquets of the rich included musicians, fine foods, and perfumes for the guests. Ivory inlays decorated the wooden parts of luxurious furniture (Amos 6:4). Examples of such inlay survive, showing how it was carved by artisans.

5. Fasting appears in the Bible as a natural expression of feeling distress, sorrow, and guilt (Deut. 9:18). It does not play a large part in the Law of Moses, where only one mandatory fast is found – on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-31). The apostle Paul called this day “the Fast” (Acts 27:9).

Ancient Marriage & Family:
6. Jewish people regarded marriage as the natural duty of men and women. In line with Jewish tradition, Paul suggested that a person should marry in order to avoid sexual immorality (1 Cor. 7:9). The apostle also understood marriage and celibacy to be gifts of God (7:7). When he advocated remaining single (7:8), he was conscious of people’s usual expectation that adult men, and especially religious leaders, would marry.

7. A marriage was a union of two families, not just of two people. The formalities and celebrations could continue for several days, or even into the night. Jesus told a parable of a midnight procession that took place during wedding festivities (Matt. 25:1-6). One could never know exactly when someone would return from a wedding feast (Luke 12:36).

8. The status of women in the ancient world was not the same in every culture. For example, Roman women were more independent than Greek women. The Book of Proverbs describes the “virtuous wife” (Prov. 31:10) as a woman who has authority over her household economy and is free to do many different things. She is industrious (31:13-15) and resourceful (31:16-19).

Ancient Fashion & Clothing:
9. Sandals were such personal items that they symbolically represented their owner in some legal transactions. In one type of business transaction, removal of the sandal confirmed an exchange of buying and selling. Such an exchange could even include the acquisition of a wife (Ruth 4:7-10).

10. Ancient societies did not change their fashion of clothing every year. Certain garments and styles could persist for generations. At the same time, there was room for people to exercise vanity and to advertise their rank in society (James 2:2). Rings and other items of jewelry clearly had such functions.

11. A wedding party was a substantial, almost public affair. Guests wore their best clothes as participants in an important ritual of the social order. A person who attended without being properly dressed proclaimed indifference, not so much to the one holding the party, but to the people of the village and their common interests. Jesus’ hearers would sense the dishonor of a guest lacking the appropriate wedding garment (Matt. 22:11).

Ancient Music & Literature:
12. Traditionally riddles were important tests of someone’s wisdom, insight, and skill. In some cases a riddle was offered as a test whose outcome was of far-reaching importance, if not life and death. Although Samson was marrying a Philistine woman, relations between Israelites and Philistines were strained. The Philistines were serious about finding the answer to Samson’s riddle (Judg. 14:14).

13. The ancient world had wind, percussion, and stringed instruments. The main instruments of the Israelites seem to have been small harps and percussion instruments, not including drums (1 Chr. 13:8). The percussion instruments include the metal rattle called a sistrum that was a favorite in Egypt. The titles of the psalms probably include some names of musical tunes.

14. Ministers today often use sermon illustrations to help their hearers understand a sermon’s point. In the same way, ancient Jewish teachers often told stories to illustrate whatever moral principle they were trying to communicate. Sometimes these parables had one central point. In other cases, such as Jesus’ parable of the sower and the four soils (Mark 4:2-8), parables included several points of comparisons. Because Jewish parables were usually stories, we understand Jesus’ parables best when we consider them as stories.

You can learn more about the historical context of Scripture by using a resource like the NKJV Chronological Study Bible!

Blog adapted from Bibleconnectionnews.com

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Link Biblical Themes—Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible

Posted by on 07/05/2017 in: ,

Commentaries and study notes are great tools for understanding what the Bible has to say to us today. However, sometimes we forget that scripture itself can help us understand other parts of scripture. God’s inspired Word is a complex tapestry of themes all woven together, and the development of those themes can provide us with insight into the relevant message of the Bible.

Finding the pattern in this tapestry isn’t an easy task, though. I like to use the Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible, which links various themes together as they are touched upon and developed throughout Scripture. It quickly reveals thousands of thematic chains within my Olive Tree Bible App at the touch of my finger. Not only that, but this resource also contains a great study Bible, offering cross references, book outlines, book introductions, maps, and more.

Instead of simply telling you, I’ll show you how easy this tool is to use in five easy steps on my iPad.

1. PICK A PASSAGE

Pull up 1 Samuel chapter 17 up in your Bible, or any other passage you want to study. Your screen may look a bit different than ours depending on what device you’re using and the number of resources you have.

2. OPEN THE RESOURCE

Tap “Thompson Chain Reference” from the resource guide. Your split-window view will change to a list of verses directly related to your location in the Bible.

3. CHOOSE A VERSE

Select the verse you want by tapping on it in the split window. In this example we’ll choose 17:4.

4. PICK A THEME

You can now choose the theme you want to explore in the list under the verse. For example, choosing “1409 Giants” results in the following:

5. READ!

Now it’s as easy as tapping on each verse reference to get a pop-up window. There you can read verses that touch on the same topic. Now you’ve just learned more about giants in the Bible!

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The Stress of Vacation

Posted by on 06/26/2017 in:

As I write, it is 4 a.m. I’m not used to 4 a.m. It’s dark, my house is cold, and I don’t have the drive to turn my coffee pot on. You read that right . . . I am writing without coffee.

An important question you’re hopefully asking yourself is, ‘“Why? What would cause this man to be awake so early, and trying to function without coffee?’”

The answer is pretty simple . . . vacation.

My family and I are leaving for vacation today, and I don’t know about you, but the nights before I leave for vacation are historically bad nights of sleep for me. Excitement paired with the fear of forgetting . . . well, everything, is overwhelming.

As I pull together the final things I need to pack, I am thankful for the little things. I’m thankful that over the past year I have accumulated four new chargers for my iPhone and iPad, so I don’t have to disconnect the ones that are basically built into my bed frame. I am thankful for my noise cancelling headphones. I am thankful for my backpack and all its different compartments so that I can easily separate my Macbook from my Chex Mix (an imperative snack for flying).

Also, I am very, very thankful for technology. Especially this week.

You see, when I get back from vacation, I will have 10 days until I preach at my church. For me, this takes A LOT of planning—not because I’m super intellectual and plan to go 14-layers deep into the genealogy of Christ (I don’t know where 14 came from?). Rather, it’s because I only preach once or twice a year. The other Sundays I am either leading worship services or banging around on some drums. That’s right . . . I’m a drummer.

At this point I feel that it is necessary to tell my dad’s favorite drummer joke:

Dad: “Hey Kyle, how do you get a drummer off your front porch?”

Me (Eyeroll. Glare. Give in): “ . . . How Dad?”

Dad: “Pay him for the pizza!”

You can use that one this week if you’d like. If you have a drummer in your church, I am honestly curious if he/she has heard that one. My guess is that you may get an eyeroll too, but don’t let that stop you.

Anyway . . .

One essential tool to any great vacation is my Bible. I love doing my devotional reading in new, fun places. I have a spot all mapped out where we are going. There is a bench that sits under a lone tree that overlooks the beach. It’s close enough to the water to hear the waves break, but not so close that I fear a bird will swoop down and eat my blueberry scone. Perfect.

On this trip in particular, I am looking forward to some deep studying on that bench. I know the subject I’m going to speak on that Sunday, but I also know that I have a lot of work to do to prepare—work that can all be done without wifi from my iPad with Olive Tree’s Bible App.

While having my Bible is obviously important for study, I also rely on other study resources. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • NKJV Strong’s Tagged Bible (a Strong’s Tagged Bible is a MUST HAVE in the Olive Tree app, in my opinion)
  • Vine’s Dictionary
  • NKJV Study Bible Notes
  • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
  • Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Revised
  • The Bible Speaks Today OT and NT sets

Having all of these in the palm of my hand makes me confident that my sermon is going to come together quite nicely. Sure, there may be a few more beach references than normal, but it’s going to be packed with great information that will be helpful to my church community. I’m thankful that, out of all the worries I have this morning before we leave for vacation, how I’m going to write this sermon is not one of them.

Where is the most exotic place you have written a sermon?

This blog was written by Kyle Menasco, an Olive Tree Bible employee.

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Yielding to God’s Purposes

Posted by on 06/23/2017 in:

“But the wisdom that is from above is the first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. –James 3:17 NKJV

Consider this: God is perfect. Eternal. Almighty. He knows everything about everyone (Ps. 139:1-4). On the other hand, we are imperfect. Sinful. Our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know.

So why in the world wouldn’t we align our plans with God’s purpose?

We tend to think we know enough to make our own way in life.

But because God actually cares, get over that tendency. He is God. You are His. He provides the resources you need to accomplish His purpose.

Isaiah 41:10 records God’s assurance to His people:

“Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

God’s purpose for you is not mysterious – see Micah 6:6-8. This is the foundation of God’s will: to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. All of the specific decisions we make can fall under these categories.

So make every one of your actions purposeful. And know that obedience is tightly tied to how your purpose is lived out.

If God’s absolute care for you is not enough motivation, consider this: There were many times God called specific people to do specific things; and from those who did not obey He took away His hand of protection and provision (Jer. 7:13-15; Rom. 1:18-32). Even in such cases, His distance is intended to bring us to repentance and reconciliation.

David wrote Psalm 57 when he fled from Saul into the cave. Perhaps David doubted God’s purpose for him at this point. Maybe he wondered what was going on. He may have even been tempted to think God was wrong. But instead he wrote, “I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me” (Ps. 57:2-3). David did not turn away from God’s purpose for his life, even when circumstances made it difficult to see the way forward.

Jesus said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgement is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (John 5:30). James calls us to follow Jesus’ example when he reminds us that the fruit of wisdom is becoming a person who is “willing to yield” (James 3:17).

What might the Lord be asking you to yield or surrender so that you might do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly alongside Him? Think on these things.

If you are a fan of this blog post. you can read more like it by purchasing the Know The Word Study Bible, which runs parallel to any Bible in our app.

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How I Learned to Love Church History

Posted by on 06/20/2017 in: ,

If you asked me to list my favorite subjects when I was in school, history would not even make the list. While I believe those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, I still found the subject boring. Memorizing dates and seemingly random events never resonated with me. That said, I enjoy studying the Bible and all things related to it. A part of that involves studying history, the subject I loathe. What was I to do? Let me tell you how I learned to love Church history.

When it comes to learning Church history, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Starting with the Apostles, we’re looking at almost 2,000 years of history to explore. I can barely keep up with all the world events that have taken place in my 35 years of life, so how was I going to tackle learning Church history? Easy. I found a resource that gives an overview of the entirety of Church history from early Christianity to the present day, and does it in a way that’s easy to digest. The Atlas of Christian History is that resource!

Instead of tackling a thick history book that would give me far more detail than I want as a newbie, I opted for a book that would give me quick summaries of the major events and people throughout the centuries. In a matter of a few short paragraphs per section, the Atlas of Christian History gives me the high level view I need to get a broad understanding of Christian history. And, for a more abbreviated view of history, the first paragraph to begin a new section is bold and gives you a couple sentence summary of the date or event in view. As an example, here is the first paragraph under “The Arian Challenge”:

Around 318 a particularly divisive dispute flared between Arius (c. 250–c. 336), a presbyter in Alexandria, and the Patriarch Alexander (r. 313–26). Arius was teaching that, if the Son of God had been crucified, he suffered – as the supreme deity cannot do. He argued that Jesus Christ was therefore not eternal, but made by the Father to do his creative work. By dividing off the Son from God the Father, Arius undermined Christ’s status as God’s revelation and as the saviour of humankind.

The thing that sets this resource apart from other history titles is that it’s also an atlas! If there’s anything that makes studying history fun it’s lots of maps and pictures. The Atlas of Christian History does not disappoint in this department. This book has some of the best maps I’ve ever seen in a Christian resource. Quite literally, the maps are the reason to buy this book! The beautifully designed maps are what made learning Christian history fun. I’d often find myself enthralled with the maps, only to begin reading the preceding text to get the context for the data being presented to me. And guess what?! Without even trying, I was learning and loving history!

Take a look at these maps to get an idea of what I’m talking about. The first shows the spread of Christianity by AD 300. The second depicts the distribution of major denominations in the United States as of the year 2000. And along with the maps, you’ll also find stunning photographs of important Christian sites throughout history.

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think I could ever love studying history. The Atlas of Christian History changed that for me. If you’re like me, this resource is a great primer for getting a broad overview of 2,000 years of Christian history. The maps alone are worth their weight in gold. If this resource doesn’t get you excited about learning history, nothing will. No matter your level of expertise, the Atlas of Christian History will help you better understand our history as the Christian Church.

Click here to add this amazing title to your Olive Tree library today!

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Love Is An Action

Posted by on 06/19/2017 in:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” —John 13:34-35 NKJV

Faith is compelling when it is seen in action. When Jesus announced that He would be leaving, He gave one very simple and profound instruction: “Love one another.”

This is harder than it seems. We are prone to argue, hate, and fight. We default to selfishness and wanting to win. Love doesn’t naturally fit.

But we crave it.

And love is the mark of Jesus’ followers.

Jesus asked His disciples to practice the love that He modeled. If they reflected the example of Jesus’ love, they would stand out in a world that does not understand love.

Jesus explained, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35).

The distinguishing mark of Jesus followers is how faith influences their daily actions: how they work alongside coworkers, how they solve problems, how they speak to spouses and children, how they work out problems with church members. Jesus’ followers live differently, demonstrating love consistently toward others.

Jesus kept it simple. He taught and demonstrated that love is an action. As John explains, “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Faith transforms us into people of love who live differently in the world. There are plenty of distinguishing characteristics when it comes to the church. Unfortunately, and all too often, outsiders looking into the church see it as a place of hatred and condemnation. Our churches are to be oases of love. In a world where so many people feel beat down, insecure, and worn out, the behavior of a loving Christian is refreshing water for parched and weary souls.

Love is an action. What actions can you take to love more like Jesus? A helpful exercise may be to write down a list of ways you remember Jesus loving others as told in the Gospels. Not only will this help you to remember God’s love for you, but it will inspire you to be a person who loves as well.

Need help thinking through other passages of scripture? Know the Word Study Bible Notes (used in the writing of this blog!) can run parallel to your Bible in our app, helping you navigate and apply God’s Word to your life.

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