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 131: “Where the Light Fell” with Philip Yancey

In this episode we sit down with one of the most prolific authors of the last hundred years, Philip Yancey, to talk with him about his new memoir Where the Light Fell.

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I knew that the version of Christianity I had been given—racist, angry, legalistic—couldn’t be right, and yet I also knew there was something worth salvaging…

I’ll often tell people that I grew up thinking that God was a scowling super-cop in the sky… it took me a long time to realize that the heart of the universe is not a scowl but a smile… the story of history is the story of God’s love…

Many “exvangelicals” have wistful memories of their youth… I wrote this book because I wanted to reach those people… my reasons for becoming an “ex” were stronger than most of theirs… and yet I emerged having discovered the love and grace of God…

My father was a victim of polio… he was 23 and he and my mother had planned to go on the mission field… after he died, my mother made a vow to God that me and my brother would replace him as missionaries to Africa… when we didn’t fit the script, the vow became a kind of curse… it was a theological error… 

My brother and I took different paths in relating to our upbringing… he became one of Atlanta’s original hippies… I saw what that did to him… it was a living illustration of what happens to us when we have nothing to go toward… 

Pain redeemed impresses me more than pain removed… often, it’s the hardest things we go through that are most important as we look back… 

We are at a hinge time for the future of the evangelical church in the United States… we need to adjust to the fact that we’re not the home team anymore… this is new, and a lot of people don’t like it…

We are always called to live both in the city of God and in the city of humanity… we don’t take our marching order from political parties but from God… but there’s such an atmosphere of partisanship that it can be hard for people to know what to do…

The dialogue has gotten so crass and adversarial… Christians need to stand up against that… I want pastors, whatever they believe, to show the style of Jesus… our country needs this…

Episode 126: All Things Beautiful with Dr. Chris Green

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Chris Green to talk about how Jesus reveals himself to us through the arts. This conversation is an engagement with Chris’s book All Things Beautiful. Grab a copy here.

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My encounter with literature and the arts is what led to my becoming a theologian… I grew up in a Pentecostal church, but didn’t read the Bible with any artfulness… but after my encounter with the arts, the Bible became something entirely different…

Too often, we read the Bible for the way it affirms and confirms our ideas… we need to learn to give it the kind of attention Jesus gives to us… not looking for confirmation of our ideas, but receiving it for what it is, and marveling at it…

Proverbs, for instance, opens with a call to the young to learn wisdom… but to do that, you have to attend to “the dark sayings of the wise”… 

This is striking to me because the churches I grew up in put pressure on the preacher to make the truth plain… we didn’t want to do the difficult work of interpretation… but I think what Israel knew and what Jesus embodies is that we need to do the difficult work of interpretation…

The artfulness of the artist is to make art difficult in all the right ways… 

Artfulness opens us up to the way that God saves us… Emily Dickenson tells us to “tell the truth slant”… which speaks to the way that God saves us… God is sometimes startlingly direct in the Bible… but most of the time is like the road to Emmaus—God is there, but not obvious…

We need to recognize the good of difficulty… when something is demanding, it summons parts of yourself you didn’t know were there… so God is demanding in a way that summons out of us gifts we didn’t know we had…

Another part of this is our brokenness… the universe seems “riddled” to us because we are the ones who are “riddled”… in our brokenness, God teaches how to become truthful… 

The arts also give us the skills we need to turn to others… when give our attention to the arts and they surprise us, it teaches me that the next time I’m with a person, if I’ll give them my attention, they will surprise us…

Episode 122: An Interview with Dr. Gregg Okesson – Witnessing To A Complex World (Pt. 2)

In this episode we pick up our conversation with Dr. Gregg Okesson to talk with his book A Public Missiology: How Local Churches Witness to a Complex World and what it looks like for local churches to witness to the reign of Jesus Christ in all of life.

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Sending is an important function for the church… but historically one of the most radical things that Christians have done is to gather… we need to think of local congregations as people who gather in ways that are different from the world…

People talk about the problems of people bringing their politics and ideologies to church… but that happens all the time… we need the sacraments, worship, and preaching to challenge those ideologies…

This is where we need to be a people of difference—we worship the King of the universe… all ideologies need to be challenged at the foot of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

One of my heroes is Lesslie Newbigin, who said that the cross is a profound “no” to all ideologies… they all need to come to the foot of the cross and die… just like individuals, even “publics” need to come and die…

But Newbigin also said that the resurrection is a glorious “yes” to God’s creating and reconciling work… we need to go out into the fullness of God’s world saying “yes” to politics and economics… 

If we take public witness seriously, we will discover the gospel of Jesus Christ… there’s a lot of preaching out there that has nothing to do with the gospel, or is so thin that it has no ability to speak to the public realm…

To preachers I would say that while it’s wonderful to get into all kinds of exegesis, we need to tell the full story of the gospel over and over again… the world is “storying” us one way, and we have the greatest story of all… we need to tell it to our people… 

Every congregation is different and pastors need to know their congregations… they need to know where and how to affirm the good… but if we are not regularly calling into question the reigning assumptions of our day, we are not fulfilling our role as preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ… 

Pastors need to spend time with people and live in the “publics” around their congregation… we need to do strong biblical exegesis and strong cultural exegesis at the same time…

Episode 121: An Interview with Dr. Gregg Okesson – Witnessing To A Complex World (Pt. 1)

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Gregg Okesson to talk with his book A Public Missiology: How Local Churches Witness to a Complex World and what it looks like for local churches to witness to the reign of Jesus Christ in all of life. This is the first of two episodes.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

The challenge for me while planting churches in Tanzania was trying to witness not just to individuals but to large, complex social needs…

In the process of allowing my understanding of the gospel to enter into the day-to-day public realities, I actually found the gospel…

Christ is reconciling all things to himself… so the challenge for us is to enter into complex public spaces with a gospel of salvation that is big enough for the whole world… 

The gospel is good news, but we’ve often made it bad news… it’s about the inauguration of Jesus Christ as king and lord of the whole universe… 

Historically, evangelicals have opted for simplicity over complexity… but when you look at the story of God, it is a complex story… across time and space and ethnicity… 

I use the language of “thickness”—God is weaving a “thick” witness in a “thick” world and too often we have tried to witness to the thickness of the world with a too-simple gospel… 

We need to start to practice the discipline of intentional inconvenience in our churches… if we’re not inconvenienced in our churches, the gospel will become captive to our culture… 

The public realm is drastically shaping the way that we live… from cell phones to music to television to streaming video… we are immersed in it…

“Publics” are spaces of togetherness where humans form life and build community that also have “open weave” in them… 

We tend to think of these “publics” or “domains” as discrete, but they are actually overlapping each other every day of our lives… 

The problem that we face is that we don’t realize how all of these overlapping “publics” are impacting us… it is forming us and shaping us… we need to spend more time exegeting the ways that it is forming us… 

Episode 120: A Church Called Tov (Pt. 2)

In this episode we pick up our conversation with Dr. Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer to discuss their book A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing.

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The first thing I would say to young leaders is that every pastor needs to become self-aware through a battery of psychological tests, to try to expose traits of narcissism… 

We also need to restore to the pastoral calling the centrality of character… just like culture eats strategy for breakfast, so character eats culture for breakfast… a bad character will form the culture… 

We have so valued the platform and performance gifts… pastors on the platform exude a persona… people think that is the real person… they are responding to a persona… 

We need to start putting persons of character on the platform more than just persons of gifts… 

TOV is the Hebrew word for good… God created everything good… this word is used in the Old Testament hundreds of times… it is master moral category… God is TOV, everything he makes is TOV, and he wants us to be TOV…

We found seven elements of TOV that flipped the script: empathy, grace, putting people first, telling the truth, nurturing justice, nurturing service, and nurturing Christlikeness…

We could do ourselves a world of good by giving our budding pastors a test, for instance, on how empathic they are… 

Power physically changes the brain… all of us have power at some level… when we have unbridled and uncensored power, it is damaging to the person who has it along with those who are on the receiving end of it…

The people that have wrecked churches and ministries over the last twenty years had power without boundaries… it never ends well…

Leaders need to learn the habit of being in touch with people in pain, and watching how they are responding to them… 

If power is something that changes the brain, we need to practice the habit of losing power and having people over us who have more power than we do… 

We also need to learn to invite people to the platform who are better than us… the pain of wondering if people like someone else better than you is a good thing… 

Episode 119: A Church Called Tov (Pt. 1)

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer to discuss their book A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing. This is a two part episode.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

It was a disorienting experience to have our church covering up the truth… it launched a series of conversations about how Scripture was not being interpreted the way it should… 

Around the same time, I read a book on the German pastors and how they responded to the Holocaust that shocked me… it showed the power of sinfulness of Christian leaders… when confronted by the truth, they didn’t confess their sins… 

Pastors have an enormous power over people… and have the capacity to assume a platform and narrate a story that trusting people are going to believe… when the narrative is distorting, cynicism arises in the church…

I found the way that Matthew 18 was being used irritating… they were using that text to say that if a woman thinks that a leader abused her, she has a responsibility to tell him… that will protect a pastor every time…

We need to ask, “Who has the advantage?” when Matthew 18 is being used… it is never appropriate to require a victim of abuse to confront their abuser privately…

A sign of institutional narcissism is when you shift from thinking that your church is helpful to thinking that your church is the best church in the world and where you think that all other churches are inferior…

This isn’t just an issues with megachurches… small churches are impacted by it too… thinking that you are the true people of God is insidious and dangerous… 

Since writing this book, we’ve gotten tons of letters from people who have been impacted by power-through-fear cultures…

Power is a very interesting phenomenon that is wielded wisely and recklessly by the same people in the same churches, and we need to be more conscious of it…

There’s such a thrill for people to be in the pastor’s inner circle, that it becomes like a shield of pride… but it’s a double-edged sword—you can both welcome people in and kick them out… it’s like a drug for many people… 

Episode 118: The Power of Place

In this interview we sit down with Daniel Grothe and talk about his new book The Power of Place: Choosing Stability in a Rootless Age. Snag a copy of The Power of Place HERE.

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The question of “what is the good life” has bugged me for a long time… as I pay attention to people who are living good lives, all of them have lived lives of stability in place…

This was actually the first book I wanted to write… I think that wisdom looks like a rooted life in place… 

Summers in my childhood were spent in Idaho with my family… they worked the land hard and were tired at the end of the day… I don’t get to live exactly like that, but as a pastor I’ve tried to live that way…

With the Gerasene demoniac, this is the first time Jesus tells someone, “You can’t follow me…” Jesus sends him home… when Jesus finds him, he is on the fringes, he is place-less… Jesus heals him and sends him back into his life, to live settled… 

When we look at the Bible, see that place helps us find security… place helps us find identity… and place helps us learn skilled mastery… 

God is not the God of abstraction… he doesn’t bless us out in the ether somewhere, but he blesses us in place… the story of God ends with the new Jerusalem descending to earth which gives life and security to the nations… creation itself is re-placed, re-homed…

We need to remember that Jesus is Jesus OF NAZARETH… he comes to us in our particularity… he comes into the story to put together heaven and earth, flesh and spirit… 

Adam and Eve started wondering what they were missing out on, and it led to their looking outside of the limitations of the good life that God had given them… when we live at the edges, we miss out on the gift at the center…

When people leave our churches for silly reasons, I always think to myself, “You’re going to have a stranger bury you? I should be burying you… or if I go first, you should be at my funeral… you’re going to throw that away?”

Sometimes you can’t stay in a place… even then you can live by certain principles… Jeremiah 29:1-10 helps us… wherever you are, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which you’ve been sent into exile… God will bless you there… 

Online church is a great tool, but it’s not a congregation… it will never replace the body of Christ, the local congregation of the saints… 

Episode 111: An Interview with Lucy Peppiatt – Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women (Pt. 2)

In this episode (part two of two) we sit down with theologian and New Testament scholar Lucy Peppiatt to talk about her book Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts in which she unpacks why and how the biblical texts traditionally used to support the subordination of women to men might not be saying what we think they’re saying.

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With Genesis 2, people will say that because the woman was made after the man, she is subordinated to him… but I don’t think that’s warranted by the text… 

But with Genesis 3:16, it’s very interesting… human beings have eaten of the fruit, and God speaks over them the world that they have now created for themselves… God is revealing to them what they are going to have to live with… 

There are traditions that would say that God is speaking curses over them, but I see it as God saying, “This is what I told you would happen…” So his words to the woman encapsulate the dysfunctional relationship that now ensues between the man and the woman… 

Household codes were a normal part of the ancient world, and were normally addressed to men… Paul is making any great and different claim by calling the male of the household the “head”… it is descriptive not prescriptive… 

But what is fascinating about the Christian household is that the texts address the woman directly… women, slaves, and children are all addressed, along with the men… this is really powerful, subversive teaching…  

The apostles are saying to the men that their wives are their only sexual partner, which is radical for the ancient world… the men are called to a much higher standard than any other men of their time… they are called to a monogamous, loving relationship with their wives, in front of everyone… 

We might have wanted Paul to go further in overturning oppressive systems, but when we look at his letters, we can see that the seeds of revolution are planted… 

Ephesus was a place where the cult of Artemis was central… many wealthy women in Ephesus were priestesses in the cult, and it seems that some converted and came into the church, and became the false teachers…  

Once you realize this, you can construct a picture [of what Paul was addressing in 1 Timothy 2]… it helps make sense of Paul’s words…