Episode 137: Discerning Christ in the Old Testament with Chris Green (Part 2)

In this episode we pick up our conversation with Dr. Chris Green on discerning Christ in the Old Testament. This is part 2 of 2. If you missed last week, catch it HERE. You can follow Chris on social media – @cewgreen (Twitter and Instagram) and cewgreen.substack.

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{ON PSALM 23}

The first point on Psalm 23 would be that when we say “shepherd” we mean Jesus… Jesus is teaching us in it… he is “the Lord” who is also “my shepherd…”

We need to also notice how we start the psalm with a claim in the first person… but then suddenly we are in the valley of the shadow of death… if the Lord is leading me, how did I wind up here?!

The key is in the text… the shift from the third person to addressing God directly… and we are now at a table in the presence of our enemies, and because we know him, we know what to do at this table: we serve our enemies…

I started as a little lamb under the care of the Shepherd, to being a co-shepherd in his house… and this is the movement of discipleship, of sanctification…

{ON NUMBERS 17}

If we scan out, we see a series of stories of rebellions… judgment falls, but in every case, without exception, what comes next is an outbreak of a worse sin… 

This story follows Korah’s rebellion, and so we know what SHOULD come next… but instead, we see God taking a new tack… he brings “resurrection” out of a dead branch…

This sets a new trajectory for Israel: that God’s response to rebellion is not condemnation but resurrection… and Jesus is the culmination, the embodiment of it…

{THE FLOOD}

The first thing here to remember is to remember who is teaching us… Jesus says things to us to put us in a position of discernment… for instance, in the parable of the unjust judge, he compares God to a wicked judge… so he often says things that make us stop to think, “Is this true of God?”

This is another story where the judgment doesn’t work… the floodwaters recede, and yet nothing has changed… Noah is described as a “man of the earth”, which is the same phrase used for Cain… the text is telling us that even if all your wicked neighbors are removed, the trouble is still in you… 

There is a sense in which the Old Testament is a photo negative… we often feel like there’s something that “should be there”… the “what should be there” is Jesus… 

Episode 136: Discerning Christ in the Old Testament with Chris Green (Part 1)

In this episode we sit down with our friend Dr. Chris Green to talk with him about what it means (and how!) to discern Christ in the Old Testament. This is part 1 of 2. Be sure to catch part 2 next week!

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One of the real tragedies of the American culture wars is that the Bible is divided as we have been divided… there are texts that are too “progressive” for some and too “conservative” for others…

You can often tell where we are aligned politically and socially in the culture wars by which texts of the Bible trouble us… which do we find difficult to handle or tough to swallow?

We’ve all been conditioned to believe that the truer something is, the simpler it is… but when you read the church fathers, you start realizing that we have an allergy to difficulty… traditionally, Christians have embraced the difficulty of the text…

When we’re teaching people the faith, we often say, “Jesus was a simple teacher…” but when you read the Gospels, you realize that isn’t true… we need to realize that God teaches us the way we need to be taught, not the way we want to learn… 

The demand of the Old Testament is that God is riddling us… we’re not used to that… 

Our relationship to Jesus as our rabbi requires that we search for him in the Old Testament, because he is using these texts to teach us… he is giving himself to us in these texts… 

Not only was Jesus raised in and trained in these texts… but these are always his… he is the one who inspired them in the first place… that’s where you have to begin… these are his words… 

The right reading of Scripture always has “salt” in it… often the plain reading will meet the “rules” of interpretation… but that’s not yet Jesus… and when Jesus speaks, he’s never “plain”, it’s “salty”, it has an edge or a burn to it… that’s how we discern if we’re reading in the right spirit or not…

There are lots of readings of the Old Testament (and the Bible in general) that we can justify but don’t actually sanctify us… if our reading of the OT doesn’t cripple our self-righteousness, we haven’t yet touched the Spirit of Christ…

We need to acknowledge that we come to these texts as guests… these are Israel’s texts that God has invited us to read… if I ever lose that sense of having been shown hospitality, I will go wrong… 

Episode 124: Intentional Rhythms

In this episode Sarah Jackson sits down with Glenn and Holly Packiam to talk about having intentional rhythms as a family. (Watch for the book Glenn and Holly are writing on this subject—releases next year!)

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Early on in our marriage, I would say yes to certain things, and then realize that our spring break or summer went out the window… we started wondering why we were making plans that way…

We can have good ideas, but without intentions, those ideas never take shape… without intentionality, autopilot kicks in and life just kind of passes you by…

The pandemic really destabilized us… we’re not used to that… one thing that’s interesting to notice is that the monastic movement—with its intentional rhythms—happened during a destabilized time… we need to reclaim that… 

If we only live with a rhythm or order that is imposed from the outside, that may not be a godly rhythm… and it may not be producing the kind of flourishing life that God invites us into… 

Identity is a key part of this—who we are becoming… habits that are built around identity stick… we need to ask what kind of a person our habits are leading us to become…

Years ago, an older couple told us about how they would get away once a year to review their rhythms as a family… we started doing that… 

It’s evolved over the years… now, we start with a dinner, and then the next day is an exercise in looking back over the past year, both to give thanks and also to repent… 

The other thing we do is listen for a word, phrase, or scripture verse for the coming year, and then think through the rhythms we need to have to make that possible… 

For me, if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have any built-in times for friends… I was good at planning time for work and spiritual disciplines, but I didn’t have time for friends… 

When we started doing this, I became more aware at how reactive I had been with my schedule… giving space to reflect on my schedule helped me be more proactive with things like prayer… 

It’s like a ship out in the ocean—if you don’t set a course, you won’t get anywhere… 

I’m going to guess that for many pastors and leaders, the area they lack is that there is no intentional rhythm for friendship… you need to make time for friends… 

Episode 123: Emotionally Healthy Discipleship

In this episode Glenn sits down with Sarah Jackson and Holly Packiam to talk about Pete and Geri Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Discipleship curriculum and how it can help churches lead people on a path towards spiritual and emotional maturity. You can find out more about the entire EH curriculum series here.

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What I love about this material is that it gives you the fifty-thousand-foot view, along with really practical skills for you to embrace the lifelong journey of discipleship… 

Many of us learn spiritual disciplines but haven’t been taught how they connect to emotional health and maturity…

This material isn’t just for beginners or people who have been through trauma… it’s for anyone who wants to grow in their emotional maturity and deepen their relationship with God… 

This isn’t a counseling session… but it will require the challenge of digging into our inner world, which is something that we don’t often do a good job of in evangelicalism…

It’s really helped me see Jesus in a different way… I think I had downplayed Jesus’ humanity… but Jesus taking on our humanity in the Incarnation has helped me see that whatever’s going on in my own humanity is part of how I discern God’s work in my life… 

A refusal to pay attention to our past, our trauma, or our hopes and dreams is to miss out on an opportunity to be blown away by the work of God in my life…

Many people grow up feeling like they’re not allowed to feel the more difficult emotions… but I see EH helping people understand how God is speaking in those places… 

Emotions are a mode of perception; they are a way of seeing the world… so part of what we’re trying to do with spiritual formation is learning to use our emotions as modes of connecting with God… 

Emotions are signposts… if we use them appropriately as signposts, we can use them to help us turn to God… which is why we need to pay attention to them… 

The strength of this material is that it pulls together ancient practices with insights from the world of counseling psychology, set within a biblical framework… 

Episode 095: A Conversation on Church Discipline

In this conversation, we sit down to talk about the issue of church discipline, what it is, and why it is so important.

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I have children who are now 19 and 21… I can’t imagine what kind of human beings they would now be without rules and safeguards, without discipline…

When I was a young pastor, we had to subject a man to church discipline… when we came back to church the next Sunday, there was a palpable shift in the air… we had regained the ethos of our community…

Let’s not be surprised: if we start treating people like customers, they are going to start acting like customers… we have a sacred responsibility to make sure that the atmosphere inside our congregations is as healthy as we can make it…

Two of the lenses we can use to think about church discipline are: is it threatening the unity of the church, and is it threatening the witness of the church?

Everything is highly relational and gentle, as the Holy Spirit is with us… we’re not talking about coming in with an iron fist, but about loving one another enough to keep people from going off the cliff…

Jesus doesn’t say “get behind me Satan” because he hates Peter but because he loves Peter… this is part of the ministry of Jesus…

To be holy is to be healthy, so if we’re not concerned with holiness, we’re not concerned with health… church discipline needs to be a ministry of healing…

What we want is our congregation to take ownership of this… this is the Matthew 18 model… it’s not until “step 3” that the church gets involved…

I want 98% of the correction in the church to happen within relationships where trust has been forged… the elders are called in when grassroots correction doesn’t work…

No matter what size of church you have, there is a core group that is helping you lead… your core is like the engine of your car: if your engine is broke, your car is useless…

I believe the reason that most church leaders don’t get involved in church discipline is that they know that the first person to be judged will be them… so they ignore the topic altogether…

Episode 073: Discipleship and Spiritual Formation

In this episode we sit down with Sarah and Jason Jackson to talk about discipleship and spiritual formation and what we can do in our churches to encourage it.

Spiritual formation language can be helpful because it helps direct our attention to the holistic aspect of discipleship…

In my mind, I see discipleship as the process which you avail yourself to that helps to you know God more fully and make him known… spiritual formation is the lifelong journey of surrendering to the love and will of God, which includes the practices that help us conform to the image of Christ… 

One of the things that hurts the cause is that we tend to see this [only] as a mechanical process… that if we just do the right things or tick the right boxes, we are producing real Christians…  

I think what I wish for in the church is a better integration of spiritual and emotional maturity, emotional health and physical health…

The paradox of all of this is that it feels like hard work… it would be easier to silo our lives… but to really be sold out to the love of God, that’s harder…  

I picked through the Emotionally Healthy Discipleship (EHD) material with a fine-toothed comb, and couldn’t find anything I’d want to remove… they really do a good job boiling down discipleship and spiritual formation… what I love about it is that it helps us with integration…  

The whole idea behind the EHD material is that we cannot be spiritually mature but emotionally immature… this is a revolutionary idea for many… this material helps us to attend to our emotions in an integrative way… this isn’t just information, it’s about practices, too…  

The big recognition for our people has been that there is a space in their personal lives where Jesus wants to come to meet with them and speak to them… when people have opened up those spaces to Jesus, something has happened…  

Find out more about EHD at https://www.emotionallyhealthy.org

Episode 065: Be Merciful to Those Who Doubt

In this episode Glenn Packiam and Andrew Arndt sit down to talk about how to walk wisely, compassionately, and pastorally with people experiencing a crisis of faith.

I want people to know when they come to me that they are okay and that they are not the first people to wonder about these things… that it’s okay to be where you are, and that’s why we need one another…

The struggle with faith is itself a good struggle… Christian faith grows out of the root of Israel… Jacob wrestles with God and God blesses him and changes his name to Israel which means “he struggles”… 

I always want to bless the struggle for people, because for me it has led to some of my greatest breakthroughs and insights, and has led me out of small ways of thinking about God and into the wide open spaces of who God is…

Many times people aren’t rejecting what is central to Christianity but they are rejecting the trimmings or the packaging [without realizing it]… 

At every stage of our lives, we have mental containers to try to hold the ineffable reality of God… the deeper we go with God, the more those containers will start to buckle and quake… pastorally, we need to be able to bless that process… 

One of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes when we think about faith we think about it purely as a cognitive act where if we don’t believe it at a certain level of intensity, we aren’t truly in the faith anymore…

What happens when we surrender to Jesus is that we are bound together in the cords of covenant love, which means that not just on a cerebral level but on a bodily level, we are bound to him… sometimes the feet can fill in where the mind is failing… 

Most people belief that the church has a lot of institutional arrogance, so when a leader comes to them and sits with them in their pain and says, “We didn’t do a good job” or “I didn’t do a good job,” that is so rare… but we should be good at that… we believe that we are being sanctified and that we have a lot to repent of… 

There are some versions of the faith that do need to be deconstructed, and if it means rebuilding on the rock Christ Jesus, then yes, let’s do that… 

Pastor Glenn’s Article – https://www.missioalliance.org/radical-hospitality/

Pastor Andrew’s Article – https://www.missioalliance.org/holding-faith-and-doubt-in-community/

Episode 043: Why Church?

In this episode, we sit down to talk about the role of the local church in the life of the believer. In a time when many people see participation in the local church as optional, we try to answer the question, “Why Church?”

 

 

I don’t know how we got here but it certainly is a different day… many feel that they can practice their faith in other ways [than being part of a local church]… and it didn’t used to be like that… it used to be that this was the neighborhood and this is where we go to church…

 

The church used to be the place that held many community concerns together, and as a society develops you have more groups that handle parts that the church held… which then reduces the things that the church feels specifically responsible for…

 

It’s our job to ask the question whether we are teaching people accidentally whether their physical presence with us is not necessary…

 

There are so many reasons why the research says people go to church… but the reason that’s never listed is, “Because I am a Christian” or “Because I got baptized…” we need to recover the sense that the church is a PEOPLE… what we offer is not a religious product, but what we offer is OURSELVES…

 

We’ve taught people to say that church is about YOUR relationship with God, YOUR experience with God… instead of saying that “Church is how God forms US as a family…”

 

The church has the unique opportunity to restore a sense of family and village and comradery that has been lost in society today… it is the place where we can call out names in a depersonalizing and lonely world…

 

We need to tell people what the church IS… people come with their own paradigms and conceptions… we need to say to people that the church is a whole different kind of thing and help them practice it…

 

Pastors need to draw attention as often as possible to the common life of the community of faith as the place where the sermon lands… the church rising up in the uniqueness of its common life is what makes the church interesting in the first place…

 

We live in a world that wants to talk about the omnipresence of the divine… and the church stands up and says, “Yes, God is present everywhere, but he is particularly present here… Come home to the Father’s house…”

Episode 042: Creating Robust Community

In this episode, we sit down to talk about the practical challenge of creating a robust sense of community in our local churches.

 

 

The American church is getting drawn into a culture that celebrates celebrity and entertainment and entertainment-type gatherings… a lot of [pastors] fall into the trap of trying to attract customers rather than building community…

 

Most pastors are struggling with building small groups and community inside their churches, no matter the size… we’re facing some headwinds…

 

The first headwind is that we’re becoming very tribal… to find places where you belong is challenging if you don’t believe like everyone else… it’s taken over so much that pastors are afraid to disagree even with their own congregation…

 

The second headwind is that we’re all transplants… we don’t live around family any more… America has become very mobile…

 

The third headwind is that we’re busy… and the fourth headwind is that we’re hurt… many of us bring pain from past church relationships with us into our new church and have made inner vows that we’re not going to get close to church people anymore…

 

One of the things we need to do is just greet people well… BE NICE… we work really hard at greeting people… the initial greeting can break down walls…

 

We also need to help people find friends and be known in the church… people often don’t get what they need in the church because they don’t know who to ask… they need someone that they can talk to if they are struggling…

 

Finally, we need to help people find mentors… the generational gap in our culture is growing… one of the beautiful things that we’re working at is creating intergenerational connections…

 

Every gathering needs to be relational… create space for “linger” moments where people can connect… create fuel for ongoing conversations… and then invite and train people to lead…

 

Leading for community requires margin and space within your calendar to be relational… the moments sneak up on you… and if your calendar is so full that you can’t be interrupted, then you’re too busy as a leader…

 

At the end of the day we have to remember that we are not the administrators of a large program… we’re entering into life with people… we’re trying to be a community that is running at the purposes of God…

 

This is not easy… it has to be intentional, and it can’t be programmed… friendly, relational pastors produce friendly, relational churches…

Episode 031: Developing a Discipleship Culture

Before His ascension, Jesus gave a Great Commission: to go and make disciples. In this essential conversation, we talk about how discipleship happens and what it looks like for us to help people become disciples of Jesus. Join in as we discuss what the long journey of discipleship unfolds in the lives of the people around us.

 

To me, discipleship is becoming cruciform, becoming like the One who spread his arms out on a tree… you know you’re becoming a disciple when you’re learning to lay down your life in the journey to be like Jesus…

 

Discipleship happens painfully slowly, it happens over conversations and meals… that’s why you have to pace yourself… it’s a long obedience in the same direction… if you’re trying to get everything fixed in six weeks, you’re going to be disappointed…

 

One of the things we’ve gotten wrong in the American paradigm is that we’ve made this a solo project, discipleship becomes a do-it-yourself kind of thing… and it really just doesn’t happen that way…

 

If you pay attention to what Jesus was doing, he was always telling people to “come and follow me…” it has be relational… for all of us, we need to put ourselves in spots where we can do “come and follow me…”

 

I can’t call everyone into the depths of my life as a pastor, but one of the things I can do, maybe my principle task, is to create the right kinds of conditions where the Spirit can do what the Spirit characteristically does…

 

At some point, all of us as pastors have to think about how we’re multiplying our ministry… and not in the American business sense, but in the sense of investing in people who will become disciple-makers…

 

The corporate worship gatherings are absolutely part of discipleship… it’s never been easier to show up to church and hide… I want to lead my gatherings in a way that makes people bump into each other in ways that make discipleship possible…

 

Is the goal of discipleship for people to look like me, or to look like Jesus? We need to be able to distinguish between what is just personal preference and what is Jesus…

 

In the New Testament, what you see is the Apostles speaking to the whole people of God together… they assume that the living Christ himself is discipling all of them, together, through all the instantiations of the church’s life…

 

QUESTIONS FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM

  • Think for a minute: how do you and your team describe the “bullseye” of discipleship?
  • What kinds of “seedbeds” or environments have you created to help people grow into the stature of Christ? Are they sufficient to the task? Why or why not?
  • How much of your ministry is devoted to making disciples who will make disciples? What can you do to grow in this?