Put on a New Lens
I’ve found it helpful when reading through the Bible to have categories of thinking. This especially holds true as I’m taking in larger portions of the Old Testament. Often it seems that we get our minds and hearts pigeon-holed into one category. We automatically look to the Biblical storyline as a blueprint for our own lives. Looking for life examples works well in many places, like the book of Proverbs or even the opening chapters of Daniel. But traveling through Judges or Ezekiel with only this reading strategy may cause you some sleepless nights. So let me give you a few more sets of lenses to put on as you read God’s Word.
The God Lens. As you read through the Bible, you should always ask, “What does this show me about God?” We all seem to have enough of a background in Christian thinking (even if only the residue of Christianity in American culture) that we come to the Bible somewhat “pre-loaded.” This pre-loading can prevent us from really looking for the attributes of God. Try to discipline yourself to think afresh about God and the traits you see in Him throughout the Bible. If we consistently ask this question, we may surprise ourselves with what we find. And we may even gain brand new reasons for praising God as a result!
The Man Lens. Don’t assume you know yourself--or humanity in general. Let the Scriptures speak. I think putting on this lens may be a very underdeveloped skill as we read the Scriptures. For instance, you will see practices in the Bible that are not exactly “exemplary” ways of living or acting. In many cases, God didn’t design them to be. Often, what you’re seeing is a testimony to the deep depravity of human beings and the cultures that they build. Let these scenes remind you of who we truly are in our fallenness.
The Grace Lens. Contrary to popular belief, the God of the Bible remains constant through the ages. God did not, as so many suppose, transform from a God of wrath and justice (in the Old Testament) to a God of love and mercy (in the New Testament). If you keep your eyes open, you will see a river of grace and faithfulness flowing to the people of God everywhere in the Bible. Yes, He is a God of holy justice. But also consider His deeds of kindness and redeeming grace throughout the story. And keep an ear open to the people of God in the Old Testament. They continually praise God for the grace He showers upon them.
The Lens of Christ / Fulfillment. Be aware that the New Testament writers reference, allude to, or even quote portions of the Old Testament--a lot. They do so because the Lord had shown them how many themes and promises from the Old Testament find their fulfillment in Christ. Watch for those verses that are vaguely familiar. They’re familiar for a reason. And they’ll often lead you right to the Lord Jesus and all that He came to accomplish.
So there you go. Change your reading glasses from time to time. Some new lenses may serve you greatly.
OF CORPORATE PRAYER
A practical encouragement from Pastor Kyle on praying in the gathering. This piece was originally published in the July 11th ITC bulletin.
One of the reasons we’ve been so eager to gather in a single service is so that we might all benefit, learn, and grow together as we pray together. Corporate prayer has been a big part of our evening services for the past couple of years. But now, we’ll have many opportunities on Sunday mornings to join our hearts together in prayer.
We will often pray together by inviting any member of our church to go to a microphone (located throughout the room) to offer a prayer. But in preparation for those times, we thought it might help to give some direction and encouragement. Many times I’ve talked with people who feel unsure about how to pray publicly. Although they have a deep desire to pray, they also want to do it in a way that’s helpful and edifying for the body.
So, I thought today would be a good day to give you a quick encouragement for praying in our services. It’s as easy as ABCC:
Audible. We pray publicly so all can join in and make another’s prayer their own. This practice allows us to “Amen” a prayer with our mouth (or, at least, our heart). For this to happen, we all need to be able to hear the prayers. So, although we use microphones to help, you can serve the body by speaking a little more loudly and clearly than you might otherwise. And we’ll try to say “Amen” clearly when you’re done!
Biblical. Certainly, we want to pray consistently with the truths of God’s word. But also, using scripture in corporate prayer can be one of the most edifying ways to pray with others, especially when you’re not quite sure what to pray. We have watched God grow this tremendously in our prayer times as elders. Believers never tire of hearing the promises and purposes of God’s word applied to their lives in prayer.
Concise. To benefit from the prayers of the body, we want to create as much space for others to offer prayers as we can. Typically, we will allot a portion of the service (say, the length of a song or two) to corporate prayer. If we all intentionally pray more brief prayers, it will allow us to hear from and be blessed by more of our members during this time.
Corporate. Okay, this is a bonus “C.” I include it because we can too easily fall into the patterns we use when we pray privately as Christians each day. In private prayers, we pray about our individual and personal concerns. We use the language of “me” and “my.” But in corporate prayer, we pray about the concerns of the whole body. So, it might be more helpful during these times to use the language of “us” and “our.”
We’re excited to join in prayer together during our worship gathering. And we’d love for you to pray. So, if you’re a little hesitant, remember the ABCC’s of corporate prayer.