Reading the Old Testament

At New City, we’ve been preaching through Exodus, the 2nd book of the bible. This past Sunday, I shared a few general thoughts about how we read Old Testament narrative. This is not all that needs to be thought of in reading passages of the OT but just a general starting place to understand how we interpret and apply these books.

1. All the bible, including the OT is about Jesus. From Genesis 3 we see God working his plan to bring redemption to his people which culminated in the person and work of Jesus. Keep that in mind – even if it’s hard to understand – that God was drawing a people to himself whom he would be in relationship with him.  In the gospel of Luke, we read that Jesus, after the resurrection, was walking along the road with two men as they were trying to understand what happened with the death of Jesus. Luke tells us, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27)

2. Be careful not to read every story in the scripture as if it could be applied directly to you.  We can’t just insert ourselves into a bible story and apply what happen there to our current situation. For example, in 2 Kings 2:23-24 Elisha called down curses upon a group of youth who made fun of his bald head. God then sent bears out to attack the youth. Does that give me license to call down curses on those who make fun of my bald head? NO – of course not. Because God acted in a certain way in the past doesn’t mean he will repeat that action now. God doesn’t work in accordance with our agenda. He works with his agenda and timing which is always good.

3. We learn from the OT about the nature of God and the nature of humans. And we can apply some of these principles to our current lives because God doesn’t change; the bible teaches that God’s the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). And honestly, human beings don’t change that much either. In the bible you will find people filled with anger, jealousy, depression, questioning their faith. And now we see people today with problems of anger, jealousy, depression or lack of faith. There’s no iPods, cars or TVs; but honestly, does the human heart really change that much. No – technology does change, circumstances change, cultures change – but the core human emotions – the core human values systems – they are consistent over the years.

Read the Old Testament. Soak up the stories of God faithfulness. And know that he is still faithful, he is still working his plan of redemption and he is still drawing people into a relationship with himself and then sending them out on his mission.

A life well lived

Yesterday I attended the funeral of Clinton, a Shepherd’s Bush man I met over four years ago at the Silver Screening, a local film club for over 60’s which Josephine and I have helped with the past few years. I stood in the back foyer of the church because it was packed out with over 200 family and friends who had come to mourn and celebrate his life.

An Australian woman next to me said, “That was a life well lived” which was exactly what I was thinking. The overflowing crowd was a living testimony of Clinton – a humble man who touched the lives of many.Photo on 11-22-14 at 8.47 AM

Clinton was born in the Caribbean in1924 and came to London after World War II. At almost 90, he was twice a widower but still had a joy about him whenever we talked. Even in his late 80’s, Clinton enjoyed baking and would regularly bring a cake or other treats to share with those at the film club. Earlier in his life, he had helped with an after-school educational program for Caribbean children in Shepherd’s Bush and was an active leader in his local church.

Death is never easy as we mourn the loss of our loved ones. But yesterday, I understood Psalm 116:15 a little better: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

Clinton is home now with his Lord and Savior. It seems to me that is a good thing for he used the life he was given well.

His was a life well lived.

 

Watching God Work in our Messiness

This post is from Cindy Hylton and first appeared at Serge.  Cindy leads the London-based Cindyprogram our New City apprentices go through which you can find out more about here: MAP London

When Chris, the pastor of our church plant, asked me to lead worship, I picked the first Sunday in Advent. I had already asked the apprentices to pray for me as December approached, because I know how easily I get caught up in the things that need to get done before Christmas and do not take the time to be quiet, to focus and meditate on the great truth of Emmanuel—that God is with us.

I worked pretty hard preparing that worship service. Tried something new by rearranging the service. Read a lot of Isaiah. Prayed over where to put the songs. I so wanted the service to strike a lovely invitation to experience our personal and collective need of a Savior, and of our hope in the wait for His reappearance. I was pleased with my order of worship: it was something our eclectic and diverse little church plant could do together to begin the Advent season.

But what I had so carefully planned soon morphed into something quite messy. I arrived before church to find our usual meeting room was unavailable. Instead we were set up in a back corner of a cavernous old sanctuary with no heat. As the 20 or so of us gathered to begin the service, we stayed bundled up in coats and gloves.

The unraveling of the plans for quiet, reflective service continued. While we worshipped, people wandered in and out of the building for various reasons. Two elderly ladies sat in the other corner out of the cold having a conversation as they wait for their lift somewhere. (From the volume of their conversation, I concluded they were somewhat deaf.)

A toddler screamed while another jumped on a bench and sang. Loud voices from the sidewalk carried through the walls. A man who comes to us through the homeless film club outreach had a hard time sitting still. He talked to himself and others; sometimes he wandered around a bit before returning to his seat. At one point he warmed his hands over the Advent candle.

Chris preached and we carried on with our songs and Scripture reading. But clearly we did not strike the peaceful, intimate, worshipful atmosphere I was aiming for.

As Joel, Leah, and I walked to catch the Tube home, we were convinced that our service might have reached a new level of messy. What had just happened in there? Then as we talked, we realized that while our plans were torn to shreds, God was bringing His together in a beautiful way.

In the midst of distraction, worship was lifted to our King.

In the midst of the mess, the power of the gospel was preached.

In the midst of our brokenness, the goodness of God was on display—to our little church and the community we live in.

God was with us, showing us His grace at the fray.

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