Pearls with Kristi McLelland

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Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground

In 2007 the Lord opened the door for me to go study the Bible in Egypt and Israel. I went and learned that the Living God is BETTER than I ever knew. When the Lord gave us the Bible, He gave us a Story. It’s the best and truest Story ever told.

Each story is like a pearl, beautiful and of great price on its own. But what’s more beautiful is stringing the biblical pearls together. Through the Bible, we know who the Living God is, what He’s like and what it is to walk with Him. In this teaching podcast, we are going to string 12 of my most favorite biblical pearls together.

We do not just read the Bible - we interact with it. It is living and active and so we are we. When we sit down with the Word of God, it is life with life. The Bible is like a great feast. Great food is best experienced with great people, so welcome and please subscribe to join me at the biblical table for every episode of Pearls. We are getting ready to learn over and over that the Living God is BETTER than we ever knew.

Kristi is a professor at Williamson College and serves as a biblical culturalist. She has a Masters in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary and has dedicated her life to teaching people how to study the Bible.


Episode Date
Ep 12 - The Father’s House
00:27:47

Today is our 12th and final biblical pearl for Season 1 of our Pearls Podcast. How in the world do we finish this season? What is the biblical pearl to leave you with for now? How do we end such a rich and generous season in the Word of God together? How do we get up from the biblical table and live forward into our lives today? 

I spent quite a bit of time in prayer thinking through what the 12th pearl would be. What is ONE more thing in the “better than” Story of the Bible that I would want impart to you, bless you and wash you with today? 

In today’s final episode, our biblical pearl is located in John 14:1-6. These are words in red – the words of Jesus given to his disciples at the Last Supper right before crucifixion and resurrection. It’s about to go down and he knows it. What will some of his final words be at this final meal before the Garden of Gethsemane, arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection? 

Today we are going to learn about the beit av – the house of the father. THIS is some of the encouragement Jesus chose to give his disciples in this final meal and final hours. The imagery and metaphor, the deep meaning that these words would have held for Jesus and his disciples 2,000 years ago speaks a WORD to us in our own lives today. The promise that Jesus speaks of in these verses are a right now promise for you and me today. 

No matter what’s going on in your life, now matter how high or low, how deep into sadness, ruin and loss – we are headed to the Father’s House.  

As we end Season 1 of Pearls, I pray these words get worked into your soul like yeast into dough. Shalom to you and your families.

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Apr 18, 2022
Ep 11 - Zakhar: Remembering as Moving Forward
00:25:00

In the Bible, the Living God repeats what He cares about. If I spend time with you, I will quickly learn what and who you care about by your words. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth will speak. There is a command, an instruction unto shalom that the Living God repeats over and over throughout the Story of the Bible. It is summed up in one simple yet powerful word – remember. Sometimes its given in the reverse – do not forget

Zakhar is the Hebrew word for “to remember”. When we think of remembering, we think of looking back to something behind us. But for the Hebrews they understood remembering as a forward-moving practice and rhythm of walking with the Living God. When you hit a moment in life and you don’t know what to do, rather than striving and straining, stressing and scrambling to find the way forward, you “remember.” You take time to look back, remember God’s faithful record in your life, and in looking back and remembering you will find your way forward. 

One of my favorite things to do with teams while in Israel is to hike through the Wilderness of Zin with them. To feel the wilderness. To experience part of the wilderness where the Israelites wandered for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. In today’s episode, we will track the Israelites through some of their wilderness wanderings as they learned to zakhar, to remember in the wilderness. 

If something is going on in your life today and you feel lost and overwhelmed, sit down, breathe deep and remember. Look back over your life and remember God’s faithful record. He has not failed a person yet. You will not be the first. Be encouraged today! 

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Apr 11, 2022
Ep 10 - Jesus, Good Shepherd in the Gate
00:29:18

Today’s biblical pearl is one of those deeply beautiful truths that calms, soothes, and raises a sabbathed rest in my heart. It makes me slow down, worry less and breathe deeper. It makes me trust more, longer and wider in the person of Jesus. It stirs faith within me. It tells me that I am going to make it through this life because of who Jesus is. You are going to make it through this life because of who Jesus is. 

John 10 is one of the most well known passages in the New Testament. Jesus says that He is the good shepherd, the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (John 10:11). But Jesus doesn’t just say this out of nowhere. We often study John 10 by itself, but this moment in John 10 is actually mid-story. Jesus doesn’t just say these things out of nowhere but in response to something. In the same way that we do not go to a movie an hour late or start reading a book mid-way through, we have to go back and pick up this story at its beginning – which is John 9. 

In today’s episode we will unpack John 9 & 10 together, seeing this story through Middle Eastern eyes with its rich imagery and meaning in Jesus’ world 2,000 years ago. We are going to learn about Jesus as not only the Good Shepherd but also the Great Gate in this passage.  

I pray this teaching richly blesses your heart and deepens your affection and trust in Jesus, your Good Shepherd and Great Gate. 

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Apr 04, 2022
Ep 9 - A Word in the Wilderness
00:23:03

One of the most well known psalms in the entire Bible is Psalm 23. It is affectionately referred to as the “Shepherd’s Psalm”. The Scriptures often use the metaphor of shepherd/sheep to describe our relationship with the Living God. He is the Good Shepherd, faithfully tending to His flock. Interestingly, even in modern-day Israel you see shepherds with their sheep. The Living God was using imagery that they would regularly see to remind them often of His faithful presence in their lives.  

For years I have watched shepherds with their sheep in the wilderness regions of Israel. Shepherds know how to lead their flocks from grassy patch to grassy patch and through the dusty wilderness between. This is much closer to the imagery being taught to us in Psalm 23:2. It’s not so much “green pastures” like we see in Ireland. It’s “grassy pastures” in the wilderness. 

When we find ourselves in a wilderness season, our FIRST question is, “How do I get out of this wilderness?” The Jewish people view the wilderness very differently and they ask a much better question. We will discover their question and so much more within it today. 

The Living God does some of His best work in the wilderness. I hope today’s teaching helps you reimagine the wilderness seasons in your own life as you look for your “word in the wilderness”.

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Mar 28, 2022
Ep 8 - Defiant Joy
00:24:03

Today’s episode is another example of the ancient and ever Story of the Bible meeting us in our current, modern, right now stories and lives. Our central pearl today is found in James 1:1-2. Some scholars believe that the book of the James was the FIRST book of the New Testament ever penned under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. If this is the case, the first author of the New Testament writings was none other than Jesus’ half-brother James. 

If the first two verses of the New Testament are indeed James 1:1-2, it is interesting that both “joy” and “trial” are located in these verses. We have known both in this life. The Jewish people have a long history and rich culture of embracing celebration and lament together. The two do not need to be separated because life does not separate them. We can know moments of great celebration and joy and still feel the sting of lament and trial during it.  

While I was studying in Israel I heard the phrase, “Laughter is our protest”. We protest hopelessness and gloom with laughter anchored in hopefulness. In other words, we learn to not only experience joy, but a deeper defiant joy. 

I end today’s episode with a recent and very personal story in my own life about practicing defiant joy with my community. We had the chance for lament and celebration to live side by side with us and we shared one special night where laughter was our protest.  

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Mar 21, 2022
Ep 7 - Hanukkah as Every Day Encouragement
00:23:02

I’m so excited to share today’s episode and historical pearl with you. It is one of my favorite things to talk and teach about. We are getting ready to learn the history and wonder of Hanukkah. 

Hanukkah is NOT Jewish Christmas. Hanukkah is a deeply historical, meaningful and powerful story that encourages me every single day. It is a holiday within the Jewish calendar, but it’s story speaks to me year-round. The Hebrew word “hanukkah” means “dedication”.  

Hanukkah is known as the “Festival of Lights” or the “Festival of Dedication”. The original historical story of Hanukkah happened during the Intertestamental Period – the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew. The New Testament tells us that Jesus would have experienced Hanukkah or the Festival of Dedication during his earthly life and ministry (John 10:22-23). 

Hanukkah is a celebration of light moving into darkness. Rather than defying darkness, Hanukkah encourages us to be light bringers, light givers each and every day. We do not despise the darkness. We are people who move into darkness to ignite a flame, to ignite a light. 

I pray the history and wonder of Hanukkah blesses you today as you seek to bring light into the world around you. 

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Mar 14, 2022
Ep 6 - The 12 Disciples: Looking at Who Jesus Chose to Partner with Him
00:29:33

In today’s episode, we are going to find gospel gorgeous encouragement in a strange biblical place. A passage of Scripture that can feel rather benign will light up powerfully when we see it anchored in its historical, cultural context. Matthew 10:1-4 is our biblical pearl and it is GOOD news for you and me. This passage courages me forward. This passage causes me to take heart. 

Today we will look at a brief historical and cultural sketch of some of the 12 disciples listed in Matthew 10. Practicing the way of Jesus is partnering with Jesus. These are the 12 principle men Jesus chose to follow Him, practice His way and partner with Him. Partner with Him in what? The tikkun olam – the repair of the world.  

When Jesus chose the 12, surely He chose the strongest, fastest, smartest, etc. Today we will see that the Kingdom of God operates on a different system of “choosing” compared to the way of the world and empire. Jesus chose sons of thunder, tax collectors and zealots to walk with Him, learn His way and partner with Him in repairing the world. 

If He chose them, He’ll choose you and me. I’m praying for us all as we seek to practice the way of Jesus in the earth so that we too can partner with Him in repairing the world. 

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Mar 07, 2022
Ep 5 - Do you want to get well?
00:24:32

Today’s episode is both deeply meaningful to me and deeply personal. I’m amazed at all the ways the ancient and ever Story of the Bible meets us in our modern, current, right now stories and lives. We are absolutely getting ready to see that Jesus is BETTER than we ever knew! 

Our biblical pearl today is another well-known and often-taught passage from the New Testament but we are getting ready to look at it through the Middle Eastern lens. It’s the story of Jesus healing the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. As we look at this story anchored in its historical, cultural context, significant light will be shed on the story, as well as the intriguing question Jesus asked the lame man. 

“Do you want to get well?” This question seems strange and enigmatic to us. The man had been lame for 38 years. What was Jesus was really asking here? What was behind his question? I will share the story of when this question found me in my own life and journey, and what it meant to answer Jesus’ question with a “yes” in my own heart.

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground

Feb 28, 2022
Ep 4 - The Only Disciple That Got it Right
00:28:10

Today’s episode is loaded with goodness and I’m so excited to string biblical pearls together with you yet again. We will learn about Jewish discipleship in Jesus’ world 2,000 years ago. What did it mean to follow a rabbi? What did discipleship look like in that ancient Jewish world? Discipleship was less about simply knowing your rabbi and much more about walking so closely to your rabbi that the dust of his feet got all over you. 

We will look at the Hebraic meaning of “shalom” which is much deeper, richer and more textured than simply meaning “peace”. How does one experience shalom? By walking the path of the Living God. Shalom is found on the path. Chaos is experienced when we get off the path. 

Today we will look at one of the most famous and most familiar passages in the New Testament but we will look at it through the Middle Eastern lens. It’s another water story, yet different from any of the pearls in our previous episodes. Today we will cover the story of Peter walking on water, and we are getting ready to learn that he is the only disciple who got it right in that moment. 

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Feb 21, 2022
Ep 3 - Sabbath: Celebration of Restoration
00:32:17

Today we are going to learn about Sabbath through Middle Eastern eyes and through the historic cultural context of the Bible. Sabbath is other than, more than and better than the ways we usually think of Sabbath here in the West. The world has a way of knocking rest right out of us. The Bible paints a beautiful picture of Sabbath as running so much deeper, wider and more than merely resting after working, catching our breath in the rat race of life.  

There are 2 systems at play in the world. There is empire and there is kingdom. Empire is anchored in scarcity, and functions within striving and straining. There’s never enough and the acquisition of more is the way to make sure you have enough. Kingdom is sabbathed, functioning within sufficiency and quiet trust in the Living God as our Father. It can relinquish because it trusts that there will be enough. We are not orphans or the fatherless. We can rest because He is always working. 

The Bible tells the story of Sabbath as a celebration of restoration. Shabbat is the Hebrew word where we get our English word sabbath. Shabbat means “to cease”. What is it that we are ceasing? During Sabbath we cease our work to remember and celebrate God’s work. What work is that? That right now He is making all things new. A deep and profound restoration, renewal and repair are underway.  

I pray you will feel the Lord’s loving invitation into His Sabbath rest today. 

Feb 14, 2022
Ep 2 - Chaos to Calm
00:30:30

Many of us have grown up with some sense of daily Bible reading. Some call it a “quiet time,” while others think of it as daily Bible study or Bible reading. The Scriptures are a feast. They are meant to be experienced, taken into our hearts and lives, trusting they will do their work in us. 

The Jewish people refer to their daily ready of Scripture as the daily parashah. Parashah carries the idea of “portion.” Daily Bible reading is like eating our daily parashah or portion of biblical food. 

Today we are going to look at the water stories of the Bible within their ancient cultural context. Believe it or not we are going to string pearls from Genesis 1 all the way to Revelation 21 & 22. How did the Jewish people and ancient world view water? What were the waters in Genesis 1? What does it mean in Revelation 21 that there will be no sea in heaven?  

I am so excited to string these biblical pearls together with you today. We are most definitely getting ready to see that the Living God is BETTER than we ever knew.

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Feb 07, 2022
Ep 1 - Stringing the Biblical Pearls
00:22:33

In 2007 the Lord opened the door for me to go study the Bible in Egypt and Israel. I went and learned that the Living God is BETTER than I ever knew. When the Lord gave us the Bible, He gave us a Story. It’s the best and truest Story ever told.

Each story is like a pearl, beautiful and of great price on its own. But what’s more beautiful is stringing the biblical pearls together. Through the Bible, we know who the Living God is, what He’s like and what it is to walk with Him. In this teaching podcast, we are going to string 12 of my most favorite biblical pearls together.

We do not just read the Bible - we interact with it. It is living and active and so we are we. When we sit down with the Word of God, it is life with life. The Bible is like a great feast. Great food is best experienced with great people so thanks for joining me at the biblical table for this 1st episode of Pearls, if you haven't make sure to subscribe so you don't any of them. We are getting ready to learn over and over that the Living God is BETTER than we ever knew.

Order your copy of Kristi McLelland's new devotional at Lifeway.com/gospelontheground.

Jan 31, 2022
Introduction to Pearls with Kristi McLelland
00:00:53
When the Lord gave us the Bible, He gave us a Story. It’s the best and truest Story ever told. Each story is like a pearl, beautiful and of great price on its own. But what’s more beautiful is stringing the biblical pearls together. Through the Bible, we know who the Living God is, what He’s like and what it is to walk with Him. In this teaching podcast, we are going to string 12 of my most favorite biblical pearls together starting January 31, subscribe now so you don't miss it!
Jan 22, 2022