The New, Holy Standard of Love

Posted by on 03/23/2016 in:

John 13:33-35
Little children, yet a little while I am with you.
You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you,
‘Where I am going you cannot come.’
A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another:
just as I have loved you,
you also are to love one another.

By this all people will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.

Detail closeup of New Testament Scripture quote Love One Another

Supper had been eaten. The cup had been blessed. Fellowship had been shared. Betrayal had been foretold.

After Judas left Jesus and the other disciples at the table in the upper room, some of my favorite parts of the Holy Week narrative take place. They are common, familiar, lowly, home-centered—perhaps that is why they prick me especially poignantly, as I am a full time homemaker and homeschooling mama of four small children. I am daily surrounded by the common and the lowly. Morsels of bread, washing off dirt, and commands to love one another are tools of my own trade.

What Jesus says to His disciples grabs my attention: not just love one another, but prefaced. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Was this shockingly new to the disciples? Had they not known that Jesus was preaching a gospel of love during His ministry? Did they not see Him loving others already? How was this new? And why does He take the time to say this now, when chaos is about to ensue? When squabbles arise or tempers begin to bubble, this is actually a phrase I speak over my children—love one another. I whisper it in little ears at the table, I call it out loudly from the kitchen window to kids running on the grass, I repeat it to each one of these little people around me who are image-bearers and baptized members of Christ. They too are little disciples of this Lord. How quickly they lose sight of what it means to love one another… how quickly I lose sight of it… how quickly even the inner circle of Jesus lost sight of it.

Had the disciples ever not seen Jesus act in love? Had they not been taught the Golden Rule? Of course the disciples knew that Jesus had love for others, and that they were to have acts of love as they followed Him. Even in the law of Moses, they were told to love their neighbor. But the standard seems to be clarified, if not changed, here in the book of John. Rather than loving their neighbor as themselves, according to Leviticus 19:18, the standard for sacrificial love is now no longer the standard of self—rather, it has become the standard of Christ. He said in John 13:34, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Is this what makes the commandment new?
No longer love others as you love yourself.
Now, love others as Christ loved you.
Post-crucifixion and post-resurrection, we can see plainly how tall an order that is.

How will you embrace this commandment today?
How will you raise the standard of loving your neighbors, so that it isn’t about you, but rather about Christ?
Where is God asking you to give of yourself?
What cross is Jesus asking you to pick up, as you follow Him?
And what is the foot-washing that you will do, in His image and for His glory, during this Holy Week?

Melissa Joy seeks to grow in grace and wisdom alongside her husband Steven (Olive Tree’s VP of Operations), while pursuing joyful domesticity by nurturing her home and family. The joy she finds in her family, homemaking, music, writing, ministering to those in grief, and seeking to be a pillar of loving strength in her home can be seen unveiled at Joyful Domesticity.

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Free NIV and NKJV!

Posted by on 03/21/2016 in:

Thanks to our publishing partners we are now able to offer both the New International Version, (NIV) and the New King James Version (NKJV) as a free download for the Bible+ App!

Free NIV and NKJV!

There are two ways to add these translations to your account:

-> Update to the latest version of Bible+ which is now available for mobile devices. At launch you will be given a brief walk-thru to add them to your account.

-> Or, search for them in-app on Bible+ and add them to your account. (Don’t have an account? Create one easily in-app or by going HERE.)

Click the appropriate link below for additional instructions on how to download your books: 

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Palm Sunday

Posted by on 03/18/2016 in:

palm sunday

Today we remember Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and – depending on your tradition – it is usually called Palm or Passion Sunday. All four gospels record this significant and prophetic event and I highly recommend you read them for yourself. You can find them in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. As I reread each account myself here are four things that stick out about this historic event that we still commemorate today.

Jesus Fulfilled Prophecy
Not only was Jesus the long awaited King, which the Jews had been longing for, but his very entry into Jerusalem was just how it had been prophesied over 500 years earlier.
Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

What’s with the Palms?
The imagery of palms was a part of the Jewish culture and often reflected honor and nobility. 1 Kings 6 and 7 record how Solomon had them as part of the sacred carvings of the temple. In Mark’s account of Jesus entry, people are spreading palm branches out on the ground along with their cloaks in what I imagine would be a sort of ancient red carpet that probably helped keep the dust down.

The significance of this honor paid to Jesus also foreshadows what is to come. In Revelation 7:9 there’s an incredible description of worship that – you guessed it – includes palm branches. So we see that Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah and also pointing forward to an even greater scene of worship that is to come.

Hosanna
The chances are pretty good that at some point you’ve sung a song at church with the word ‘Hosanna’ in it. As Jesus made his entry there was definitely worship going on but what does Hosanna actually mean? Hosanna was a desperate cry from an oppressed people living under Roman rule that means ‘Oh save’ or ‘Save us now’.  Jesus would certainly save them but not quite how they imagined.

Where’s the Victory?
The Jews had been waiting and their King was finally here! Sure he was riding on a baby donkey and didn’t have a sword, armor, or an army but he was there none the less. As the shouts of Hosanna went out, everyone anticipated what this long awaited Kings next move would be. How would he save them? Would he be like David and his mighty men? Would he be like Solomon with wisdom and riches? “Save us now”, they cried!

One week later, many of these same people who had shouted ‘Hosanna’ would be shouting ‘Barabbas’ . They would trade their long awaited King for a thief and a murderer. He hadn’t fulfilled their image of a King or brought about their idea of salvation and so they turned on him.

But God in his sovereign grace had a plan that included a vastly different idea of what salvation was to look like, one that we’ll be celebrating on March 27.

I’ll leave you with these words from Revelation 7:9-10:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ” Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

That’s my King!

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Look Inside: Calvin’s Institutes

Posted by on 03/17/2016 in:

Our content formatting team at Olive Tree has put a lot of work into a new edition of Calvin’s Institutes for Bible+. In this post, I want to show off some of the things we’ve done to make the Institutes more accessible and perhaps convince you that it’s worth having a copy in your library.

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Regardless of your opinions about Calvinism, it might interest you to know that Jacobus Arminius (yes, the fellow after whom Arminianism is named) once said that Calvin’s works are some of the most valuable books written in church history. Many today who are strongly opposed to Calvinism still find Calvin’s Institutes and commentaries to be extremely helpful in their studies.

Calvin was clear and passionate about much of what is important to evangelical Christians today: including justification by faith alone and the supremacy of the Scriptures. For this reason and many others, I personally believe it would be beneficial for every Christian to read and reference Calvin’s Institutes.

Of course, one of the problems with old books is that they are often not easy to read. What Christian authors of old writeth, modern Christians wot not. We have a hard time with the King James-style English that we see in many of the reformers and Puritans. This edition of the Institutes should help with that.

Calvin’s Institutes were originally not written in English, and some of the translations that have been made are so old, they barely look like they’re in English. A more recent version, translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill makes Calvin’s Institutes readable to just about anyone. In comparison to other translations I had used, I personally found that I was able to read this translations almost twice as fast, enjoy it more, and feel like I understood it better.

If you’re new to theology and just looking to read through the Institutes, you might find a Theological Guide helpful, too.

Features in the Olive Tree Edition

Although I’ve read through the Institutes once (and many parts twice or more), I still find it very helpful to use as a reference. Using this resource as a reference gets pretty cumbersome in most eBook apps and requires a lot of flipping around in the print version.

When you open our version, the first thing you’ll notice is that even though the Institutes were written in four books (and is often spread across 2–3 volumes when printed), Olive Tree combines everything into one resource. This makes it easier to use the search feature.

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In these screenshots, I have the Institutes open on my iPad Pro right next to a Bible (the way, I’m sure, Calvin would have wanted his writings to be read).

The next thing you’ll notice is how easy the Institutes are to navigate in our app. Everything is arranged hierarchically and you can drill down to go straight to the section you want.

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Of course, if you highlight something on your tablet, the highlight will be there waiting for you if you open the book on your phone later.

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I’ve saved the best feature for last. With Bible+, we’ve made the indexes at the end of the resource link to actual sections in the book so that you can quickly find what Calvin had to say about various Scripture passages, subjects, and where he quoted other authors.

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All of these features, plus the readability of the translation, make this a really great deal—whether you want to read through the Institutes, or just use them as a reference.

Get The Institutes

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What is Apologetics?

Posted by on 03/15/2016 in: ,

Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the Christian faith. The simplicity of this definition, however, masks the complexity of the problem of defining apologetics. It turns out that a diversity of approaches has been taken in defining the meaning, scope, and purpose of apologetics.

Communication Breakdown

The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used as a speech of defense. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense (apologia). The classic example of an apologia was Socrates’s defense against the charge of preaching strange gods, a defense retold by his most famous pupil, Plato, in a dialogue called The Apology.
The word apologia appears 17 times in noun or verb form in the NT, and can be translated “defense” or “vindication” in every case. The idea of offering a reasoned defense of the faith is evident in Php 1:7,16; and especially 1 Pt 3:15, but no specific theory of apologetics is outlined in the NT.
In the second century this general word for “defense” began taking on a narrower sense to refer to a group of writers who defended the beliefs and practices of Christianity against various attacks. These men were known the apologists because of the titles of some of their treatises, but apparently not until 1794 was apologetics used to designate a specific theological discipline.

It has become customary to use the term apology to refer to a specific effort or work in defense of the faith. An apology might be a written document, a speech, or even a film. Apologists develop their defenses of the Christian faith in relation to scientific, historical, philosophical, ethical, religious, theological, or cultural issues.
We may distinguish four functions of apologetics, though not everyone agrees that apologetics involves all four. Such opinions notwithstanding, all four functions have historically been important in apologetics, and each has been championed by great Christian apologists throughout church history.

The first function may be called vindication or proof, and involves marshaling philosophical arguments as well as scientific and historical evidences for the Christian faith. The goal of this function is to develop a positive case for Christianity as a belief system that should be accepted. Philosophically, this means drawing out the logical implications of the Christian worldview so that they can be clearly seen and contrasted with alternate worldviews.

The second function is defense. This function is closest to the NT and early Christian use of the word apologia, defending Christianity against the plethora of attacks made against it in every generation by critics of varying belief systems. This function involves clarifying the Christian position in light of misunderstandings and misrepresentations; answering objections, criticisms, or questions from non-Christians; and in general clearing away any intellectual difficulties that nonbelievers claim stand in the way of their coming to faith.
The third function is refutation of opposing beliefs. This function focuses on answering the arguments non-Christians give in support of their own beliefs. Most apologists agree that refutation cannot stand alone, since proving a non-Christian religion or philosophy to be false does not prove that Christianity is true. Nevertheless, it is an essential function of apologetics.

The fourth function is persuasion. By this we do not mean merely convincing people that Christianity is true, but persuading them to apply its truth to their life. This function focuses on bringing non-Christians to the point of commitment. The apologist’s intent is not merely to win an intellectual argument, but to persuade people to commit their lives and eternal futures into the trust of the Son of God who died for them.

(The above article was written by Kenneth D. Boa and taken from the Apologetics Study Bible)

apologeticsstpatricks

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Free Resource Friday

Posted by on 03/11/2016 in:

We love Bible study and know you do too!

27706_largeThanks to our friends at David C. Cook you can get 1 & 2 Thessalonians of The Wiersbe Bible Study Series for free to use in the Bible+ App today only!

The Wiersbe Bible Study Series delivers practical, in-depth guides to selected books of the Bible. Featuring insights from Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s Be Ready commentary, this eight-week study includes engaging questions and practical applications that will help you connect God’s Word with your life.

Download this title for free to use in your Bible study with the Bible+ App by going HERE.

Also make sure and check out some of our other great Bible study titles on special this week!

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This Week’s Specials!

Posted by on 03/08/2016 in:

This week get 8 Bible Study Titles at 70% off starting today! These titles will not only save you money, but will also make your Bible study quick and easy.











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Justice is a part of discipleship & ultimately our worship of God

Posted by on 03/03/2016 in:

Worship and Justice

Guest Blog by Eugene Cho

Over the years, I’ve been given by some the mini-reputation as a leader in the field of justice. At first, I took it as a compliment and  of course, I still do because I care a lot about justice. I know that people mean well. But I care about justice not  just for the sake of justice. I care about justice…because I care much about the Gospel.

And sometimes, when I hear folks talk about justice in the church, I cringe…

I cringe because if we’re not careful, we’re again compartmentalizing justice rather than seeing it as part of the whole Gospel; We need to see justice as a critical part of God’s character and thus, our discipleship and worship.

Just like we shouldn’t extract the character of “love” or “grace” or “holiness” from God’s character, such must be the case with justice.

People often ask me, “What’s the most critical part about seeking justice.”

My answer:

We must not just seek justice but live justly. Justice work and just living are part of our discipleship. Justice contributes to our worship of God.
Justice is worship.

You will know a tree from its fruit. 
In other words, you will show evidence of where you are rooted if you produce fruit that is close to the heart of God. To that end, I believe you cannot credibly follow Christ unless you pursue justice.

I know that a lot of people will push back on that statement. Some say that salvation hinges on whether or not you believe in Jesus, and that is true. But do you really believe in Jesus when there is no evidence that you are doing what He compels us to do?

Early in Jesus’s ministry, He boldly proclaimed His revolutionary vision for the kingdom of God in a synagogue on the Sabbath, and the religious authorities surrounding Him stood amazed at His teaching. He stood up to read, and someone handed Him a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

He found these defining words and read them:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
(Luke 4:18–19)

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

This was a proclamation of justice for the poor, the blind, and the prisoner, fulfilling a kingdom vision that included “the least of these.” A kingdom vision that even His closest disciples did not fully understand at the time. Shortly after this time, Jesus was rejected.

There was confusion. There was anger. The religious leaders listening to Jesus got angry, and their curiosity and amazement turned to apprehension, even fear. They believed that this humble arrival of the King was not how it was supposed to be. So an angry mob chased Him out of town and tried to run Him off a cliff (see Luke 4:29).

Biblical justice often does not make sense from our human perspective: The last shall become first. The weak will become strong. The poor will become rich.

What paradoxes!

How can you read the Scriptures or examine the life and ministry of Christ and not sense that mercy, justice, and compassion—particularly for those who have been marginalized—aren’t dear to the heart of God?

When we read through the Bible, it is clear to me that God cares about justice. The Word of God is God’s revelation for the world, showing how the world can be set right. We see that Jesus is not some mere historical figure—Jesus is the Son of God; He is God incarnate. His words and actions testify to the kingdom of God, where things will be restored, where there is justice, mercy, and compassion.

All of this matters because we are not just talking about ideas. We are not just hypothesizing about a “what if” scenario. This matters because justice involves people and their lives and their value before God. When justice happens to the least of these, God celebrates.

As Christians, we know and understand justice beyond secular definitions. It is not peripheral. It is not external. It is not secondary. It is critical. It is part of our identities. It is part of our discipleship. It is an important part of our witness to the world.

Eugene Cho is the founder and Lead Pastor of Quest Church – an urban, multi-cultural and multi-generational church in Seattle, Washington – as well as the founder and Executive Director of the Q Café, an innovative non-profit community café and music venue.

The Above Excerpt is from Eugene Cho’s Book Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than actually Changing the World?
For today and tomorrow only you can get this book for free! Get it HERE.

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Improve Your Highlights, Improve Your Bible Study

Posted by on 02/26/2016 in:

Portrait of a young attractive girl standing with a touch tablet

Highlighters, crayons, markers, and pens are staples for personal Bible study. When you find a passage you want to memorize or remember for later, you mark it up in some kind way that makes it stand out from the rest of the text. When it comes to digital Bibles we often neglect using highlights as a part of our study methods. Sure, we may highlight a favorite verse or passage, but most don’t go any further than that. Today, I want to open up a world of highlighting possibilities for you in Bible+ that will hopefully improve your Bible study.

How to Highlight

Before we dive into the ways you can use highlights in Bible+, first let me give you a refresher on the two ways to make a highlight in Bible+.

Verse Highlights

The most popular way to make a highlight in Bible+ is to highlight an entire verse, or a group of verses. To do this, you tap the verse number and select “Highlight.” If you want to highlight a range of verses you can increase the range to your desired selection, then choose your color. This method is useful if you want to have your highlights appear across various Bible translations. Since these are tagged on a verse level, they will appear in all your Bibles.

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Word Based Highlights

You also have the option to make word based highlights that are resource specific. To do this, simply select your desired text, and then follow the same steps to highlight as above.

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Make Your Own Highlighter Styles

One of the advantages of Bible+ is that you are not limited to default highlighter styles or colors that come with the app. You have the ability to create your own highlighter colors & styles to suit your needs. This is the first step in making highlights more useful in your study.

There are a couple different ways you can get to the new highlighter menu. First, you can go to the Main Menu, select Highlights, tap Edit, then choose “Add Highlighter.”  Alternatively, you can reach this menu by selecting a verse or text to highlight, tap Highlight, select the “More” icon, then choose “Add Highlighter.”

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Once you’ve reached this screen you are presented with a few different options. First, you can give your highlighter a name in the Label field. You can either name it the color you’re going to create, or you can get creative and give the highlight a specific meaning. For example, you can have all references to the Holy Spirit or Jesus use this highlighter, and then name it as such. The choice is yours. From there you can select whether you want it to be a traditional highlight or underline. Then you have the ability to customize how that highlight or underline will appear by selecting intensity, thickness (for underline), and the color.

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Once you’ve made all the highlighters you need, you’re ready to start using them in your study. And, remember, it’s just as easy to make new highlighters as you need them; just follow these steps.

Add Notes to the Mix

Another way to highlight and emphasize key passages is to use the notes functionality within Bible+. This works just like highlighting, except you choose “Note” instead of “Highlight” when selecting a verse or text. One of the cool things about notes in Bible+ is that you can select a cool icon to go represent what the note is about. This is cool for when I’m taking notes on sermons, but it’s also useful for calling out a part of the text. If something is extra important you might want to add a “star” or if it’s puzzling you can select the “question mark” icon. Even if you don’t put anything in the note, these icons will appear in your Bible & can serve to as an additional layer of highlighting & meaning.

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Great for Inductive Study

While the purpose of this post is to show you the possibilities for highlighting instead of a specific method, there are some Bible study methods that are centered around highlighting. One of the more popular methods is the Precepts Inductive Bible Study method popularized by Kay Arthur. While the Precepts method involves some fairly complicated highlighting models, with the infinite highlighting possibilities that you can create in the app you can certainly adapt it for your needs. Click here to learn more about the Inductive Bible Study method from Precepts Ministries International.

Experiment with highlights & notes icons to create a Bible study method that works for you. Also be sure to check out the Bible study titles we currently have on sale.

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