National Day of Prayer

Posted by on 05/01/2014 in: ,

PrayerToday is the first Thursday in May, a day set aside by our country’s leaders as a national day of prayer. The Bible speaks of prayer often and encourages us with numerous examples of people who spent time in prayer. Examining the lives of those prayerful individuals in the Scriptures reveals that they are no different from you and me; they have their shortcomings and, in many cases, it is only through the Lord answering their prayers that they succeeded.

Learning to Pray from Moses

Moses’ example—that is, his overcoming his fear of public speaking and leadership—speaks volumes about prayer. Moses knew he wasn’t a capable leader of his people, so he spent much of his time in conversation with the Lord, often pleading for God to have mercy on the stubborn and rebellious Israelites. It was only through his conversations with the Lord that Moses was able to deliver Israel from Egypt.

Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ [God] said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’ (Ex. 3:11-12 ESV)

Moses continued to ask the Lord for guidance, and when it was clear Israel would need a new leader to take them in to the land, he appealed to God, saying:

‘Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.’ So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.’ (Num. 27:15-18 ESV)

God provided Joshua to be the new shepherd to the Israelites, a direct answer to Moses’ prayer. However, not all of Moses’ prayers were answered. In Deuteronomy 3:23-28,  Moses pleads with God to let him enter the Promised Land with the Israelites.

And I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying, ‘O Lord God, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’

But the Lord was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan.  But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’ (ESV)

God’s answer to our prayers, like His answer to Moses’ here, may be “no,” but the truth still remains that God is willing and ready to listen to our prayers, but we must be equally willing to speak to Him and listen for His answer.

As a Christian, prayer is an important part of spiritual life.  It’s a time when we draw into the presence of our Lord and offer Him our praise, thanksgiving, supplication and repentance. We want to encourage you today and every day to spend time taking advantage of the privilege of speaking to our Lord personally and intimately through prayer. The writer of Hebrews invites us to do the same:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16 ESV)

To help equip you for this day, all of our prayer titles are 25% off through May 5th!

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Look Inside: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary Series

Posted by on 04/30/2014 in: ,

We just released the Anchor Yale Bible Full 86 Volume Commentary Series! Watch the video below to see how these great resources look and work within The Bible Study App:

Get the Anchor Yale Bible Full 86 Volume Commentary Set at 40% Off now through May 5th!

Also Available:

Anchor Yale Bible Commentary New Testament Set (26 volumes) 42% Off Now through May 5th!.

Anchor Yale Commentary Old Testament & Apocrypha Set (60 volumes) 40% Off Now through May 5th!.

Individual Volumes 25% Off Now through May 5th!.

Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 volumes) 40% Off Now through May 5th!.

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A Well-Rounded Bible Study Library

Posted by on 04/25/2014 in: , ,

Digital Library Tablet

People sometimes ask me what I would suggest for their Bible study library.  While this is a difficult question, many Bible teachers point to the same basic resources to make a well-rounded library.

1. Bibles

Sorry to be Captain Obvious here, but you need a Bible.  The most important component of a Bible Study library is a solid Bible text. I also suggest two or more translations to allow for a “Bible Translation Comparison” Bible Study method.

Here’s a short list of Bibles available for The Bible Study App:

2. Cross References

After you’ve thoroughly read the scriptures for yourself, read all of the related verses for that text.  The Bible Study App has some great resources to help you find all of the cross references.  These are helpful because they will save you tons of time and effort just looking up the references.

Recommendations:

3. Bible Concordances
Concordances are great tools that give you a list of verses that contain that root word in the Bible.  However, be careful that you do not JUST use a concordance in your preparation.  Concordances are a great place to BEGIN, but are never the END of your Bible Study.

With that “don’t try this at home” disclaimer, I do suggest using a digital Bible with Strong’s numbers integrated into the text for your Bible study.

Recommendations:

4. Bible Dictionaries
Dictionaries give you more explanation and meaning for specific words.  They also help us to keep our Bible Study on track.

Recommendations:

5. Bible Study Notes
There are multiple Bibles that have study notes written by scholars and trusted authors that will assist you in better understanding the Bible.  I recommend choosing one that corresponds to your preferred translation (KJV, ESV, NIV, NLT, etc.)

Recommendations:

6. Bible Maps & Atlases 

We are far removed from Biblical times.  Bible maps and atlases help us visualize locations, actions, and events in the Bible.

Recommendations:

7. Bible Handbooks & Bible Commentaries
After you’ve studied the Bible for yourself, it is often helpful to read trusted Bible scholars to see how they explain the text you are reading. These resources are also helpful to explain difficult passages or clarify the meaning behind Bible customs and events.

Recommendations:

Olive Tree’s Bible Study Collections

To make it easier, Olive Tree has bundled collections of resources to help you dig deeper into God’s word.  These bundles give you the basic tools that you need like the study tools mentioned above. All of these wonderful resources are designed to be integrated into the Resource Guide within The Bible Study App for a seamless and easy-to-use Bible study experience.

Bible Study Essentials 

  • Choose from the following Bible Translations: NIV, NRSV, NKJV or HCSB
  • A Study Bible that corresponds to your Preferred Bible Translation
  • Bible Dictionary
  • Cross-References
  • Maps

Bible Study Standard 

  • Everything in the Essentials bundle
  • Strong’s Tagged Bible
  • Essential Bible Companion
  • Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
  • Expanded Maps

Bible Study Expanded 

  • Everything in the Standard bundle
  • Key Word Commentary
  • Expository Dictionary
  • Bible Concordance
  • and even more Maps

Bible Study Premier

  • Everything in the Expanded bundle
  • More Commentaries
  • Bible Encyclopedia
  • More Cross-references
  • A Bible Atlas

Using these and tools will deepen your Bible study and further prepare you to present God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).

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Free Resource Friday

Posted by on 04/25/2014 in:

The Story Of Jesus As Told By His Friend John is the the Gospel of John put into contemporary English and told as a first-person account. Where John uses the pronoun “we/us/our” he is referring to himself and the other disciples. Let John be your narrator. He was there when it all happened and will tell you the story in his own words.

Find this great title to read in the in-app store of The Bible Study App!

Don’t have The Bible Study App? Get it here!

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Technology and the Gospel

Posted by on 04/23/2014 in:

At the end of 1998 I traveled with a small group of people into a country closed to the Gospel. We each brought a few paperback Bibles and we also brought the Bible on audio cassette. We knew that in one area we would traveling to that bringing a printed Bible wouldn’t be enough because many couldn’t read.  Not only that but they didn’t have access to current technology (at the time CD’s were current technology!) which is why we brought audio cassettes.

15 years later and it’s now estimated that more people have access to a smartphone than decent sanitation. What does this mean for missionaries and the advancement of the Gospel? It means that we live in a time where the Gospel can be transmitted like never before!

As the picture above demonstrates, we can now store over 1,600 Bibles on a Micro SD card that is smaller than a penny. If you’ve ever picked up a box of books, you know how significant the idea of being able to store an entire library’s worth of books on a memory card is. That one cassette box I hid in the bottom of my bag years ago could hold enough Micro SD cards to resource thousands of pastors.

We live in a unique time and it will be exciting to see how technology continues to be utilized in the spread of the Gospel!

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14

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Celebrate A.W. Tozer’s Birthday!

Posted by on 04/21/2014 in:

The Young Tozeraw tozer
Aiden Wilson Tozer was born April 21, 1897 on a small farm in Western Pennsylvania, the third of six children. And although he would inspire millions with his preaching and writing, he was given very little education during his childhood. Instead, he was needed at home for physical labor. In 1907, when his brother left home to work for the Goodrich Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, Tozer was called upon to do the difficult work of a farm-hand. At 15, his entire family moved to Akron and Tozer went to work at Goodyear. One afternoon walking home from his job, he heard a street preacher say, “If you don’t know how to be saved . . . just call on God.” When he got home, he climbed the narrow stairs to his attic and gave his life to God. Within a few years, Tozer would gain a reputation as a “20th-century prophet.”

His First Pastorate
Tozer joined the Missionary Alliance Church shortly after his conversion, where he met Ada Pfautz, whom he married at the age of twenty-one. In 1919, ordained, married, and without formal education, Tozer was called to pastor a small storefront church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. Able to express his thoughts in a simple and forceful manner, Tozer’s preaching began bringing the power of God to hungry souls, and people couldn’t get enough of him. That humble pastorate in West Virginia sparked Tozer’s 44 year ministry with The Christian and Missionary Alliance. He spent most of those years at Chicago’s Southside Alliance Church where the congregation, captivated by his preaching, grew from 80 to 800. In 1950 Tozer became the editor of the Alliance Weekly, and its circulation doubled almost immediately. His ministry was fueled by constant prayer, and he would often be seen walking the aisles of a sanctuary or laying face down on the floor, praying. He noted once that, “As a man prays, so is he.” An early biographer noted his consistent prayer life: “Tozer spent more time on his knees than at his desk.”

His Continuing Legacy
A. W. Tozer was 66 when he died of a heart attack on May 12, 1963. His tombstone simply and appropriately reads, “A Man of God.”
He left behind many books that continue to give Christians encouragement and guidance. His writings are as fresh today as when he was alive because, as a friend commented, “His books reach deep into the heart.” His honest and colloquial humor has been known to sweep up congregations in gales of laughter. And his wisdom has left them silent and stunned. For almost 50 years Tozer walked with God, and even though he is gone, he continues to minister to those who are eager to experience God.

To celebrate A.W. Tozer’s birthday, we’ve put our top A.W. Tozer titles on sale.

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Easter’s Over. Now What?

Posted by on 04/21/2014 in:

The community outreach events are completed.  The music hit home.  The preaching connected.  Lives were changed forever.  Everything you’ve worked towards and focused on the last several weeks has come to fruition.  Now what?

seven days of week from Monday to Sunday in isolated vintage letYou knew this moment would happen, but the hustle and bustle of preparing for the most important service and sermon of the year consumed your every waking thought.  Now it’s Easter Monday and the next Sunday sermon is only 6 days away.  Maybe you had the forethought to plan the next series, but haven’t had the time to actual prepare.

Not to worry.  There are plenty of themes to discuss.  Here are a few questions to help you brainstorm and get the ideas flowing:

Consider your Easter Sermon.  What was the main point (beyond the obvious)?  What are some secondary points that could be used as a sermon series?  Could you take the bullet points from your Easter sermon and create a series of sermons to drive the point home?  Were there things you left unsaid because of time constraints? Perhaps you can take that sermon and use it as a launching pad into the next few weeks or months.  You spent a lot of time preparing for that Easter sermon.  Use those resources to your benefit.

Consider your Calendar.  What is coming up next on the calendar? Some of the obvious answers would be Pentecost Sunday and Mother’s Day.  But what else could you bring a biblical perspective to?  What about Tax Day, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, or Memorial Day?  Okay, maybe Tax Day is a stretch.  Take a look at your local calendar as well.  Is your church celebrating a significant event?  What is going on in your community in the upcoming weeks and months?  What can you point out and use as a bridge to your community?

Consider your Context.  What are the issues going on in your community right now? Are there social justice issues that need to be addressed from a biblical perspective?  Are there positive outcomes in the local government or law enforcement that you can affirm?  What are the heart concerns of the community?  How can you speak to these issues?  Take a few minutes to feel the pulse of your context.

Consider your Church.  How’s your church doing?  Are there aspects of disunity, bitterness, or un-forgiveness to be confronted?  On the other side of this, who do you need to say “thank you” to?  Who needs to be encouraged, affirmed, strengthened, and appreciated for all the hard work they did on Easter Sunday?  How can you champion the volunteers in the nursery, Sunday school, small groups, greeters, ushers, worship team, and all of the various aspects that it takes to make a service happen?

Consider Christ. Perhaps the most overlooked sermon prep tool is prayer.  How is Jesus speaking to you?  What is Jesus saying that needs to be preached?  How can you point people to Jesus and use their felt needs as a starting point?  We have to remember that Christ is more concerned about people than we are.  It’s easy to fall into the trap that we alone are responsible for bringing the Word of God to people.  However, it’s Jesus who said that He will build His church (Matthew 16:15).  Let’s remember to ask God for His help in bring His Word to His people.

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What does Hosanna mean?

Posted by on 04/19/2014 in:

Cross Cropped

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey he fulfilled prophecies that had been made hundreds of years before. His entrance was greeted with the laying down of palms and shouts of ‘Hosanna’.

Hosanna was a cry of hope from an oppressed people living under Roman rule and it means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’. They had been waiting generations for the Messiah and he was finally here! Just a week later Jesus would save them, but not in the way they ever would have imagined.

He wasn’t a King like David whose rule and reign was only for a limited time. He is a King forever, and his life, death, and resurrection are just as powerful today as they were 2000 years ago.

Hosanna!
In an age where we have continual access to the news from around the world, it only takes a moment to see that the shout of hosanna is still needed.  At this moment there are people living in poverty, oppression, and hopelessness. While they may not say the word hosanna, they are certainly in need of saving and many do cry out on a daily basis for some glimmer of hope.

What do you need to be saved from?
You may or may not live in a country where you are oppressed by a ruling party like the Jews were.  You probably aren’t waiting for a king or savior to come and make things right for you and your family. You may actually have all the food, shelter, and security you need. But this cry of hosanna may still be one that you can relate with. When were separate from God – our creator – we can have all the things of the world and still be as lost and hopeless as ever.

Jesus was the only one who could fulfill the cry of hosanna. His saving supersedes circumstances and physical needs and reunites us with our creator. It’s this kind of saving grace he displayed on the cross. We didn’t deserve it or earn it but he so desperately loves us that he died to save us. His was and is the only answer to the cry of hosanna.

As you remember Jesus resurrection this weekend be reminded that the saving grace of Jesus has the power to change everything!

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
– Jesus in Luke 19:10

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Jesus is the Key to the Bible

Posted by on 04/18/2014 in:

Jesus is the Key to the Bible

By Olive Tree Staff: David Mikucki

Jesus’ followers were convinced that He was the coming King—the Messiah of Israel who would rule the nations with a rod of iron. All His disciples were severely disappointed when the unthinkable happened: Jesus was crucified. The coming, conquering King had come and didn’t seem to have conquered. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah? If He wasn’t, then… now what?

That’s the backdrop for Luke 24. With Jesus dead, His followers were distraught. They were on a seven mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about everything that had just happened, trying to sort through it all—still unaware that Jesus had been raised. Jesus met them on this road, but He kept them from recognizing Him (Luke 24:17). To them He was a stranger passing on the road. They told this ‘stranger’ that they thought Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel. They said that some of their friends were telling what they thought were fairytales about Him rising from the dead.

At this point, Jesus says something that shocks everyone. He tells his followers that the prophets said all of this was going to happen: the Messiah would suffer and then enter into His glory. No one expected the Messiah to suffer! Who expects a King to suffer? Jesus says the prophets expected it. Then in Luke 24:27, He explains the things concerning Himself from Moses and all the prophets. Jesus went to each book of the Bible and explained all the things about Himself (see also Luke 24:44).

People these days have a lot of different ideas concerning what the Bible is about. Jesus has His own idea. The Bible isn’t a book of rules we have to follow in order to go to heaven (John 5:39). It’s not just a bunch of do’s and don’t’s. It’s not just a bunch of neat stories. Jesus said the Bible is about Himself. Humanity’s biggest problem is that we sin our whole lives and then we die and enter into judgment. The Bible teaches us all we need to know about our Savior—the King who suffered and died in our place and rose from the dead three days later to make us right before God and give us a new life like His.

One of the last things Jesus did before He ascended into heaven was to tell us that the Bible is about Him! Jesus is our Savior—the only Savior—and He says that all of Scripture points us to Him: the One we really need. When we study the Bible, let’s remember that it’s all about Jesus.

Olive Tree has got some great resources that explain Jesus in parts of the Bible we might not have expected to find Him. Here are some of my favorites…

David is a front end web developer at Olive Tree. He also writes on his personal blog, And the Rest of It.

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