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The Daily

Red Couch Theology

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our podcast. We record our podcast “live” every Thursday at 11am.
What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron, and the occasional guest having a casual conversation, diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching.

Ask Questions about the Sermon, “Over Whel Med”, by texting 720-316-3893 prior to /or during the “LIVE” Thursday podcast.

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Red Couch Theology2023-01-28T12:12:04-07:00

An Unexpected Gift

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence? Psalm 139:7

When I was a child, a popular Christmas song that was used to keep us children in line was “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. Adults used the lyrics to remind us of how we shouldn’t behave prior to Christmas, because Santa Claus was constantly aware of how good or bad we were, and it might keep him from bringing gifts to us. We were told that we “better not cry” or “pout” because that would be bad. Also that Santa Claus was aware of us even when we were asleep, so our dreams might be suspect.

Thinking back, I wonder if some of my ideas about God’s knowledge and perception of me were carried over in my mind from those reminders. I know that I have been anxious over a lot of years wondering if I was being a good enough wife, parent, grandparent, co-worker, friend and neighbor. There was always something, and even someone who let me know that I was failing, and the implication was that God knew it and was disappointed with me.

Through a lot of years of Bible study, prayer, some counseling and much reading, I have learned differently, and Psalm 139 has been a major Old Testament help. Though, I continue to get frustrated and anxious about things. For instance, this week it has been about some technology that has been updated, reminding me how little I know and how stupid I feel. I know God doesn’t see me or treat me that way.

Recently I was asked, “when I felt least afraid and anxious” and I told about my experience in the hospital on Christmas Eve, 2020:

On December 16, I tested positive for Covid 19, and because we could check my oxygen level and it was low, the Dr. told me to get to emergency. I was admitted to the hospital and at 2:00 a.m. on December 20, I was taken to ICU because I needed more oxygen than I could be given where I was. I was able to let my son know, and he contacted my daughter. They talked to the Dr. and were told “that if I had to go on a ventilator, I might not make it out”. I knew that, too.

Obviously, thanks to the Lord, a lot of people praying, and the wonderful care I received from all the hospital staff, I did “make it”. There are so many good things that have come from that experience. It was not a bad thing to be wholly dependent on God for my attitude and on the kindness of the various medical staff. I don’t remember being afraid or anxious about the outcome.

By Christmas Eve night, still in ICU, I remember telling God that “if I couldn’t be where I wanted to be, I was with Him in the best place I could be with such caring people”. As strange as it may sound, the whole experience was a life changing gift for me and is a cherished memory.

Reading and pondering Psalm 139 is especially helpful for focusing on how fully we are known and cared for by God. Although verses 19-22 talk about external enemies, too often I find that my own memories, thoughts and attitudes are my “enemies’’. I am so grateful for the prayer at the end.

Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 AMP

Take some time to read Psalm 139. Perhaps use a different Bible than you usually do. Perhaps the Amplified, the Message or King James versions.

An Unexpected Gift2023-01-28T12:06:58-07:00

Praying Psalm 139

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Being anxious about our past, our present or our future, can be an intensely personal, even isolating experience. But God calls us to be in community. He calls us to be involved in each other’s lives, particularly in prayer for one another. Simply the act of sharing our anxieties with another person can lessen our individual anxieties. Also, it opens the opportunity to lessen another person’s anxieties as well. God calls us to, “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ,” Galatians 6:2 NIV

I have enjoyed reading and praying through Psalm 139 for myself over the years. A recent conversation with Carolyn Schmitt opened up a new way for me to pray Psalm 139 for others. First, take all the personal pronouns in Psalm 139 and change them to another person’s name. Then Pray through Psalm 139 for that person you want to pray for. If that person’s name is Mary – then this is how it would work in verses Psalm 139:1-6.

O Lord, you have searched Mary, and you know Mary. You know when Mary sits down and when Mary rises; you perceive Mary’s thoughts from afar. You discern her going out and her lying down; you are familiar with all her ways. Before a word is on Mary’s tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem her in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon Mary. Such knowledge is too wonderful for Mary and me, too lofty for us to attain.

You can add your own thoughts as they occur, or as the verses and the Holy Spirit prompts you to pray for that other person.

Here is an example:

“Lord, help Mary to know you, to be aware of how intimately you know her, her thoughts, her wishes, her dreams, and to know that she can place her greatest desires and anxieties in your capable hands, Lord.”

This week, pray for someone else who has a need or is anxious. Use Psalm 139 to guide your prayer.

Praying Psalm 1392023-01-28T11:49:34-07:00

Which Mirror Will You Choose?

Can we live in the present without being undercut by anxiety about who we are? We might have handicaps or simply dislike how we look.
We are told to have self esteem, but from the time we’re babies, our self worth reflects how others see us. Often (always?) the reflection we see
is distorted, like the reflection in a mirror at the fun house:

http://www.barbdahlgren.com/wp-content/uploads/Fun-House-Mirror.jpg

Even “selfies” distort the image we have of ourselves. Put those images on Facebook or Instagram and our imaginations go to work—we can tell ourselves so many versions of how others see us. We see so many enhanced images each day; it’s not surprising that we fall into comparison games that we can never win. Unrealistic expectations and lies we believe about ourselves can spiral out of control.

In Psalm 139 David shows us how to break the false images that we have internalized. He gives us the truest mirror we could ever look into: understanding that God has made us with infinite care. Regardless of what others may think of us, or what we think of ourselves, we are beautiful works of art and nothing about us is accidental:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)

It is so powerful to realize that God created us intentionally and knew us before we were born, but what about the “rest of our stories”? What about the wounds that happen to everyone in life, both psychological and physical? How does God see us when our choices or the choices of others have damaged us?

The story of Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, shows us even when we see ourselves as worthless and broken that Jesus wants to welcome us and sustain us. Mephibosheth started life as a healthy child, but became lame when his family fled from danger upon hearing of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. Later in the story, King David wanted to welcome Mephibosheth into his household, but Mephibosheth deflected. He did not see himself as worthy of the invitation:

“Don’t be frightened,” said David. “I’d like to do something special for you in memory of your father Jonathan. To begin with, I’m returning to you all the properties of your grandfather Saul. Furthermore, from now on you’ll take all your meals at my table.”

Shuffling and stammering, not looking him in the eye, Mephibosheth said, “Who am I that you pay attention to a stray dog like me?”
2 Samuel 9:7-8 (The Message)

Rather than treating Mephibosheth in keeping with his poor self image, David insists on treating him as well as he treats members of his own family:

Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the King’s table; he was lame in both feet.
2 Samuel 9:13 (NIV)

Mephibosheth was still lame, but he was welcomed in perpetuity as equal to the King’s sons. In this story, King David sees him as worthy of acceptance
just as he is.

Application

David’s welcome of Mephibosheth foreshadows how Jesus seeks us out and wants to welcome us into his presence.

Are there wounds in your life that make you feel like you’re too broken to be welcomed by Jesus? Are there ways you disqualify yourself when Jesus offers his love and acceptance? Imagine yourself in the place of Mephibosheth. What would your wounds be? How would the King respond to you and welcome you? What is your response? If your self image prevents you from accepting Jesus’ view of you as worthy of love and belonging, take time to pray for help and healing.

Which Mirror Will You Choose?2023-01-28T11:31:58-07:00

“What, Me Worry?”

When my brother and I were young teens, we subscribed to MAD magazine for a couple years and, when it arrived, eagerly devoured the whole issue. The image of Alfred E. Neuman appeared on every cover along with his “What, Me Worry” motto. MAD and other forms of comedy have had remarkable power to dispel my anxieties.

Humor was one of the primary methods my brother and I used (successfully or not) to de-escalate my mother’s OCD episodes when she entered verbal worrying exercises on behalf of our entire family. I made an inward determination to avoid that kind of emotional state – staying “cool” like Alfred E. Neuman. My resolve seemed successful because, with each extraordinary adventure I tackled, friends would congratulate me for doing “things they would never attempt”.

As I “matured”, I observed people who were overwhelmed by anxiety, and I often thought to myself…”Thank God I’m not like THAT!” My attitude mirrored this parable:

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” Luke 18:11 NIV

After I began my walk with Christ, the Holy Spirit moved me to take periodic inner peace inventories. I’ve discovered, although my anxiety might not look like THAT, I far too often obsessively review in my mind past life events and mistakes of mine or of others. Most of the time these events and mistakes are irreversible. Those thoughts unquestionably fit into the worry/anxiety category. If I go a step further and assign most of the blame to others, I occasionally find myself drifting into a desire for vengeance. As the Holy Spirit has spoken to me about these attitudes, I’ve been humbled.

I’ve recently recognized an enhanced reluctance to attempt things I imagine will end in failure. That hesitation often reflects anxiety. I may not be able to so easily identify my anxieties as I can those of my neighbor, but when I can, it is an important step in improving my relationships in God’s kingdom.

Here’s a prayer asking the Holy Spirit for a heart search. Notice that the path from the wicked or grievous way doesn’t lead to despair, but back to the Way (of Jesus) everlasting. What encouragement!

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV

Sometime today, use this link to listen to and meditate on Psalm 139:23-24 as you ask the Holy Spirit to reveal and release you from your hidden (or already known) anxieties.

“What, Me Worry?”2023-01-28T09:58:37-07:00

Red Couch Theology

Sermon Conversations with Alex and Aaron

There’s only so much we can cover in a Sunday morning gathering!
Each week, you’re invited to tune into our podcast. We record our podcast “live” every Thursday at 11am.

What can you expect? Pastors Alex, Aaron, and the occasional guest having a casual conversation, diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching.

Ask Questions about the Sermon, “Over Whel Med”, by texting 720-316-3893 prior to /or during the “LIVE” Thursday podcast.

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCWnNSTN-6XA7oYy6TBfS0LAxqxPvxVjH

Apple Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/guys-drinking-tea/id1616539767

Red Couch Theology2023-01-22T23:53:20-07:00

Seek First the Kingdom

This past week Alex talked about the anxiety we feel when we’re not sure our future needs will be met. This can show up in a couple of different ways. We can be fearful about the bad outcomes we’ll face if we don’t have enough. Or, we can artificially create needs when what we want is excessive. The word for ‘anxiety’ in Greek is merimnao, which can best be translated as “being divided”. Our hopes and fears divide our minds and make us unstable.
In Matthew 6:33 (The Message) Jesus asks us to focus on the present, telling us we can live a meaningful life and have a peaceful and undivided mind:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus points us in a direction most people would not have thought of. He tells us to take time to observe and to rest. Seeking his kingdom involves, he says, taking time to notice some of the most common and beautiful creations—birds and flowers.
Taking the time to contemplate the everyday miracles in creation can interrupt cycles of worry. Stepping back from a sense of urgency gives perspective. We can plant a seed and water it, but only God can transform such a small hard object into a plant. Opening our eyes to the world God has created, our bodies and minds can relax. We can see more solutions to problems. Observing and meditating can make us more at peace with who we’ve been created to be and the situations in which we find ourselves.
Have there been times when you’ve immersed yourself in God’s work in nature? Were you listening to music, taking a hike, seeing birds find berries and seeds?

A goldfinch feeding on a flower

Remember what has spoken to you in the past and make a point of engaging in that experience again this week. Or try something completely new!

Seek First the Kingdom2023-01-22T23:37:27-07:00

Self Sufficiency & Inadequacy – Recipes for Worry

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25

During my lifetime, I’ve enjoyed an unprecedented abundance of the two necessities Jesus highlights in the above verse. So relating to this passage is somewhat difficult.

Estimates are that 30% to 40% of our nation’s food supply is discarded, accounting for around 22% of solid waste in our landfills. Many of us regularly clean out closets, donating the contents to charitable outlets with 85% of those donations ending up in landfills. How does this happen?

Part of the answer may be that nutrition experts churn out mountains of theories leading to never ending searches for perfect foods. Also, style influencers create desires for a bevy of fresh purchases that promise to win approval from watchful connoisseurs. It’s calculated that each of us encounters thousands of advertisements per day that encourage these inclinations.

Dig deeper into today’s scripture. A careful re-reading reveals Jesus’ words aren’t really aimed at starving people who lack warm clothing in winter. His message is most pertinent for those living a life of material adequacy, even abundance.

As Jesus’ followers, we’re challenged with simplifying what’s essential, keeping in mind that God cares for us. Then we’re set free to concentrate on issues he considers important. How should we view cultural standards of excellence considering the Kingdom of God doesn’t pivot around right eating or meticulous outward appearances?

Do you struggle with food and drink in such a way that making a wrong choice induces distress in you?* Or are you touting your eating habits to the point you irk others with implications that their choices are inferior? Do you fear that hairstyle, clothing, or decoration blunders will isolate you from true acceptance and friendships? Conversely, are you self-absorbed with your sense of cutting edge fashion?

Take a short inventory. Do you find yourself nervous because, in spite of your self-sufficiency, you might lose it to an unanticipated future event like an illness? Conversely, do you experience inadequacy anxiety because keeping up with the latest trends eludes your grasp?

Today, notice the times you’re tempted to ponder something attractive you don’t want or need but promises you an improvement or security. Analyze one or two commercials that seem to guarantee ridiculously more than the advertised product can deliver. Thank the Lord that he’s given you power to resist a temptation that could consume your peace or has the potential to separate you from the conscious presence of God.

*Note: Certainly it is unwise to ignore food sensitivities that cause either discomfort or medical emergencies.

Self Sufficiency & Inadequacy – Recipes for Worry2023-01-22T23:21:32-07:00

Worst Case Scenario

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 NIV

I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. Luke 12:4 NIV

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Luke 12:25-26 NIV

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 4: 33-34 NIV

When I was in high school, I spent entirely too much time dreaming, planning, even scheming about my future. I found my present so distasteful and often wished I could go to sleep and wake up 10 years later. Alex Walton said in a previous sermon that, “we fill our imagined future with continual threats of impending doom or with perpetual dreams of unending success.” Rarely does our present situation or our future correspond to how we have imagined them. Can we control our future? Does worrying about it lessen our anxiety about the future at all?

Perhaps – instead of worrying about the future, we could try a little exercise. Think about the worst thing that could possibly happen to you in the future. It could be – losing a job, experiencing divorce, having a child with a disability, losing a spouse or another loved one, having to live miles away from friends or family, or something else? Once you have thought of what your own “worst-case scenario” in the future could be, then ask yourself, “if that thing actually occurred, would I still be alright? Would I be able to be content in that situation, if I was still sure of God’s love, of His presence, of His continued direction and involvement in my life?”

If you are not sure of how to answer that question for yourself, I suggest you look at one or more of these people’s lives, and how they were able to experience God’s presence and provision – even in the midst of their “worst-case scenarios” – Joni Eareckson Tada, Corrie Ten Boom or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Joni has been a quadriplegic for over 50 years, Corrie Ten Boom survived living in a Nazi concentration camp, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer was persecuted, imprisoned and eventually martyred by the Nazis. All 3 of these Christians knew God’s presence in the midst of their darkest hour – when everything they had hoped and dreamed could have come true – but had been stripped away from them.

Read the above scriptures. Ask yourself, “where is my treasure? What have I placed my hope in? Would I be ok, if all I had was God’s presence, God’s assurance of His love?” If the answer is yes, then worrying about the future can simply fade away; it will no longer consume our thoughts, because we will have an eternal perspective of the future.

Worst Case Scenario2023-01-22T23:15:01-07:00

Embrace the Journey

Our passage this week (Matthew 6:25-34) lands in the middle of Jesus’ famous ‘sermon on the mount’. It is Jesus’ longest public address at around 2000 English words and, assuming no interruptions, would have taken only 12 minutes to deliver, making it somewhat shorter than most modern sermons! It is yet another place where God delivers profound wisdom in a delightfully concise manner. Ten ‘words’ for the Ten Commandments, 57 Greek words for the Lord’s Prayer and a whole way of living in just 2000 words.

Matthew introduces the sermon on the mount with the words of chapter 5:1-2:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

In amongst Jesus’ listeners on this Judean mountainside are two clear groups. There are ‘the crowds’ and ‘the disciples’. Matthew implies that Jesus’ teaching is primarily for the second group. He is teaching them what it is to walk ‘in the way of Jesus and with the heart of Jesus, a phase that will be familiar to you that call South Fellowship home. We, his modern day followers (or disciples), are striving by his power to live in the way he would have us to live.

The conclusion of the ‘sermon on the mount’ is found in Matthew 7:24: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” The crowds are in awe at his teaching, and as a group, they serve as a reminder to us that the way of Jesus lived out in our daily lives is inspirational to people that see it in action. We are invited to take hold of his words in Matthew 6:25-34 and to live them out. We can only do this with his help.

Which of the two groups do you identify with? The Crowds? Or the Disciples?

Read this week’s passage. Do you read Jesus’ teaching as ‘good advice’ or a ‘way to live’? What is the difference? How do you read Jesus’ words on anxiety? How can we surrender our way of living with anxiety to embrace his way of living by faith?

If you have chosen discipleship with Jesus, how is the Holy Spirit currently asking you to obey his teaching? How are you seeing yourself grow more like Jesus?

If you haven’t chosen discipleship, what holds you back from joining in the ‘Jesus journey’?

Embrace the Journey2023-01-22T22:56:56-07:00
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