Lessons from the Olive Tree

Did you know there are olive trees alive today that are estimated to be between 2,000 – 4,000 years old?  There are trees at the Mount of Olives who some believe may have been there when Jesus prayed in the garden.  Pretty incredible.  Makes we want to plan a trip to visit the Holy Land!

I’ve never given olives or olive trees much thought (expect when contemplating going on a Mediterranean diet which sounds completely wonderful . . . except that anything with the word “diet” tends not get past mental contemplation for me).  But as I was doing my morning Bible reading I read a verse that stuck out to me:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.  Psalm 52:8 NIV

I love this image that David created in this Psalm.  “An olive tree flourishing in the house of God.”  I can just picture it – a beautiful tree in God’s garden.  So I dug a little deeper into this verse as well as other verses about olive trees and branches in both the Old Testament New Testament, as well as from a historical perspective.  The Bible is full of references to olives and olive trees:

  • The olive was a major agriculture product in Israel.  In addition to food, the oil was used for cooking, lighting lamps, sacrifice and anointing.
  • When Noah was on the ark, looking for dry land, he sent out a dove.  The dove returned with an olive leaf in his beak which was a sign to Noah that the flood was receding.  It symbolized that God was done with his judgement and the world was coming back to life.
  • When two battling enemies were ready to make peace they would extend an olive branch between them to show they were done fighting.
  • In Romans 11:17-21, Paul referred to Gentiles as wild olive shoots, being grafted into Israel.  He said:

    “If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”  

  • Not necessarily an olive tree, but I love this picture that Jesus creates in John 15:

    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

There are so many more verses that reference olives, trees, and branches . . . and so many lessons to be learned.

How to Be a Flourishing Olive Tree

  1.  Be Planted in Good Soil:  Jesus told a parable of a man scattering seeds that landed on different types of ground – a path, rocks, thorns and in good soil. I can relate to each of these  – sometimes I think I’ve been each of them in the span of a week! What does it mean to be good soil? Jesus explains in Mark 4:20: “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”  Read the Bible, believe it, and apply what it says.
  2. Stay in the Vine: How do we bear fruit?  Jesus says it is by staying in the “vine”. Spending time reading the Bible.  Praying.  Meditating.  Fasting.  I even love meditating on John 15 and picturing myself as branch attached to Jesus.  If I am spending time with Jesus and applying what I learn from him I will naturally bear fruit.
  3. Let your Light Shine: The fruit of an olive tree is an olive.  When crushed, olives produce olive oil.  Olive oil had many uses in the Bible, including lighting a lamp. In Matthew 5, Jesus said:  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
  4. Accept Pruning:  God is my gardener.  And sometimes I need pruned.  I need to get rid of bad influences and bad habits.  I need to cut sin out of my life.  I need disciplined.  And I need to understand that God does it because he loves me and it will help me mature as a Christian.

Let’s follow David’s lead.  Let’s become Olive Trees.  Flourishing.  Trusting God.  And going deep into the vine of Jesus.

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Putting God First

A Life Focused on What Matters Most.

God had offered the Israelites blessing upon blessing if they just followed him.  And they would . . . for a short while.  And then they would reject him.  He wanted to be their King and take care of them, but they kept walking away from him.

I can relate to this.

I could give you a million examples from my teens and early 20s, but even now in my 40s (when I am reading my Bible every day and should be more mature) I reject God regularly.  I put idols above him.  I disobey him.

God’s number one command is to love him with all my heart.  And second to love others.  If you were a fly on the wall in my house some days, observing how I spend my time, you’d think my greatest loves were Facebook, being exasperated with my kids, Word Cookies, and my career and budget.

God had offered the Israel – his chosen people – a life of peace and blessings.  But they chose something else.  They wanted another king.  A human king.  They wanted to fit in with other nations who had “real” kings.  They came to the prophet Samuel and asked him to find them a king.  Samuel was personally offended, but when he came to God, God said:

“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”  1 Samuel 8:7 NIV

Wow.

How many times have I done the same thing?  Put someone or something on a pedestal.  How often have I made it my main focus, instead of Jesus?

But the wonderful thing is, even though Israel strayed from God over and over, when they repented and turned back, God was right there waiting.  Still loving them.  Still protecting them.  Showing mercy and grace.

And he does the same thing for me and for you.

Prayer:  Dear God, Please show me areas of my life where I have put people or things above you. And help me to always put you first.

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6 Lessons on Repentance from King David

David was a man after God’s own heart.  He was chosen by God to be the king of Israel.  From his family tree came Jesus.  But David wasn’t perfect.  Far from it.

King David was a murder.  King David was an adulterer.

In today’s reading (if you want to join me in reading through the Bible comment below and I’ll be in touch!  Here is the plan I’m using this year.  It is never too late to start!), the plan including Psalm 51, which King David wrote after he was confronted by a prophet, Nathan, about his adultery.

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I think there is a lot to learn in this chapter, by David’s example, about what to do when confronted with sin:

  1. David admitted his sin.
  2. His heart was broken because of his sin.
  3. David asked God for mercy.
  4. He asked God to cleanse him from his sin.  
  5. David asked God to create in him a pure heart and to renew a steadfast spirit.
  6. He praised God.

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We have all sinned – whether its lying or cheating or gossiping.  King David’s sin was huge – murder and adultery.  But when confronted with his sin he admitted what he had done and his heart was broken.  His heart wasn’t broken because he had been caught.  His heart was broken because he had hurt God.   He asked for forgiveness.  He turned away from the sin.

God forgave him.

And God turned evil into good . . . as from David and Bathsheba’s family line came a baby  named Jesus who would save the world.

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Reading Through the Bible – 2017

In 2016 I read through the Bible in a year.  And I highly recommend it.  Without a goal and direction I find myself aimlessness reading random verses . . . which often leads me to get out of the habit of reading.  With a challenge of finishing in the year I have motivation to stay on track because I know what happens if I miss too many days.

Last year I used the Life Journal Reading Plan on YouVersion app or Bible.com.

This year I’m using the same platform, but using the BIBLE in a year plan.  So far it seems like a little less reading than last year.  The daily reading includes passages from the Old Testament and New Testament everyday and a chapter from Psalms or Proverbs every second day.

In addition to reading the Bible, I use the SOAP method:

  • Scripture Reading
  • Observation
  • Application
  • Prayer

Without using the SOAP method I tend to read . . . and then quickly forget what I read.  The SOAP method helps me to retain and think on a deeper level about what I read.

I’ll also be using this blog to track some of my Observations and Applications.

And of course, if you would be willing to join me in this challenge it will help keep me motivated and we can discuss what we are learning together!

 

Submission and Respect

When I started getting more serious about my spiritual walk over four years ago I was very focused on my career.  It took almost all my energy just to get done with my daily to-do list.  And though I hate to admit it, my husband and children were often another item on the list that needed to be tended to and maintained.  And reading the Bible was something I did if I had the time and energy at the end of the day.

Through a Bible study I felt a whisper: my priorities were all wrong and my identity was in the wrong place.  I was putting my worth in my professional accomplishments.  I needed to put God first.  Then my husband (and I needed to respect him, something I am TERRIBLE at).  Then loving my children and demonstrated to them how to live a godly life.  I’ll be really honest, the thing I was most concerned with demonstrating to my children was how to be a hard-working, driven, successful woman.  Demonstrating to them how to submit to God’s will wasn’t on my radar.  And demonstrating respect to my husband didn’t cross my mind.

Now, almost five years later, I still have the same struggle.  Today I read in Romans 7.  Most of the time, I feel like this chapter sums up my spiritual life.  I want to do good,but I don’t.  I don’t want to sin, but I do.  

So what is the answer?

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5 NIV

The answer is where I set my mind.  The more time I spend reading the Bible, studying, praying, memorizing verses . . . the more my actions change.  The more I submit to God.  The more I respect my husband.  The more I love my children.

I can’t change on my own.  But the more time I spend with God the more my life is transformed.

Overwhelmed

Most days I feel good – positive, happy, etc.  But then there are days that I feel overwhelmed.  My children don’t obey me.  My husband hurts my feelings. I yell at all of them . . . and then feel guilty and like a failure as a mom and wife.

I feel tired and distracted when I read the Bible.

I feel uninspired when I write my blog and muddled when I pray.

But then I read about Job and Peter.  These men were facing horrible experiences – the death of children, health issues, prison, murder of friends and more.  These aren’t just stories.  These were real men.  Men who ate, slept, laughed and probably cried.  Men who experienced  ups and downs in their walks with God.  From Job crying out for death and Peter denying Jesus . . . to God restoring Job’s fortunes and Peter being freed from prison by angels.

God had wonderful things in store for these men and plan for their lives beyond what they could have ever imagined.  But their lives were far from “happy” and they experienced deeper lows then I have ever experienced.  But they persevered.  They kept their eyes focused on God.  They fought the good fight, even when it was hard.

This is what I am loving about reading through the Bible – meeting these mentors through their words and experiences.  Learning from them.  Seeing the big picture.  And being encouraged to keep up the walk and the faith, even on days when I feel like my head will explode and I can’t do anything right.  Just keep walking.  Day by day.  Step by step.

SCRIPTURE

  • Job 6-8
  • Acts 2

The Divine Mentor

I belong to “small group” at church of wonderful, funny, broken people who are all in different places on our Journey of faith.

At our 2015 Christmas party we busy playing games, eating cookies and exchanging white elephant guests when it was announced that everyone needed to vote on the next Bible study we’d be doing as a group.

With my white elephant gift in tow – a bag of quinoa and a can of mandarin oranges – I checked out the options:

  1. “Effective Parenting in a Defective World” by Chip Ingram
  2. “Renovation of the Heart” by Dallas Willard
  3. To read through the Bible in 2016

I voted for the study on parenting. I struggle as a parent.  And my husband and I have very different parenting styles.

Also, I’ve already read Renovation of the Heart previously and reading through the Bible seemed like a very daunting task.  Finding even 10 minutes a day to read the Bible has often been a losing battle for me.

The group voted and we tallied up the ballots – Reading through the Bible in a year won.

Pinterest to the Rescue

I love Pinterest.  I have a huge collection of Pins – recipes to make, places to travel, great cleaning tips, DIY projects and gardening hacks.  98% are pages I like and pin, but never attempt.  I’d much rather read about  “green” cleaning techniques and how to make mason jar crafts than actually attempt any of them.

January was quickly approaching and my group had yet to come up with a reading plan.  I decided to see if Pinterest had any ideas.

Who knew how many great Bible study ideas are on Pinterest?  From color-coding your Bible to creating a war room out of a closet, Pinterest had everything!  Before getting too distracted by the ideas on creating Bible Study baskets out of shower caddies, I discovered a Pin recommending “The Divine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro.

Game changer.

The basic premise of the book is that nothing has the power to transform your life like sitting at the feet of the Savior.

The book includes a reading program – I have the app – and use the Life Journal Reading Plan.  I also use the SOAP method outlined by Cordeiro:

  • Scripture
  • Observation
  • Application
  • Prayer

Every morning I meet with Jesus.  I bring my coffee, Bible, journal, pen and “The Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie Omartian.  My phone buzzes and my You Version app tells me what I need for the day.

Every day has been a blessing. What a privilege that I have the opportunity to spend time with a Moses, David, Paul and Peter.  I have gotten to know women who have experienced so many of the same highs and lows that I experience thousands of years later.  But mostly, I have been able to read a love letter from a man who died for me.

1 Corinthians 2:13 New International Version (NIV):  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

If you are wanted to grow in your spiritual life or are struggling to find a reading plan or Bible study, I highly recommend this plan.

Will you join me in sitting with Jesus and seeing where he leads us?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV):  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Reading through the Bible Plan
The Divine Mentor

Reading PlanApp or Written Plan (there is a plan in the book as well)

Tools

  • Bible
  • Journal
  • Pen

Deuteronomy 8:1-3 New International Version (NIV):  Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.