Week 02

Red Couch Theology Podcast

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 at 11 am on Thursdays – recorded (and sometimes prerecorded) for later, online viewing.

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:

Sermon on the Mount

“the Lord speaking thoughts from within our hearts”

(1 Corinthians 2:16b)

Feel free to ask questions about the sermon series
 — before or during the live Thursday conversation.

Questions may be sent through

Blog sites:

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

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

Red Couch Theology Podcast2024-02-03T10:43:55-07:00

Am I Just Talking to Myself?

by Bruce Hanson

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
Matthew 6:5-8

When you find yourself in the position I am in, writing a devotional, and praying that it might be impactful for someone, your point of departure must always begin with serious contemplation. My assignment for this week was to address the purpose of prayer. That’s a big task!! And it led me here.


Or Monologue?

My immediate response to the question above would be Dialogue. But far too often, I fear that not to be the case. It tends to be me delivering a soliloquy.
We all want to hear from God, but the truth is, I was not sure what that looks like. As I researched the concept, I discovered a book — not necessarily one I’m suggesting you read, but the book’s backstory piqued my interest.

Mark Virkler has written a book called Dialogue with God: Opening the Door to Two Way Prayer. It has been his life’s desire to hear the voice of God.
He memorized all the passages that reflected someone speaking audibly with God. He studied scripture endlessly. He attended and graduated from seminary.
He spent the largest part of his life trying unsuccessfully to hear God’s voice. It was always a monologue. And then this, (Mark’s words):

“The first key to hearing God’s voice, then, is learning what His voice spoken within sounds like. Rather than being an inner audible voice, I discovered that God’s voice in our hearts generally sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts. Yes, God graciously spoke to me in an audible voice once, but that is certainly not the norm. In fact, it is more likely an indication that I was too thick or too stubborn to get His message any other way! Like Paul on the road to Damascus, I had to be “hit upside the head” in order to hear what He had to say to me. The Lord will take drastic measures if necessary, but He would rather we learn to discern Him speaking as spontaneous thoughts from within our hearts.”

What I realized is this: When I speak with God, I need to enter the dialogue with the real expectation that I WILL hear from Him. Mostly, I don’t — is it a wrong mindset? Secondly, and more importantly, I need to give Him time to answer. This isn’t a task to be accomplished. It is a conversation with my Father. Give Him time. And if I do, I have a feeling I may just experience that spontaneous flowing of thoughts a lot more often. 

I pray the same for you!!

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Am I Just Talking to Myself?2024-02-03T18:23:15-07:00

Childlike Faith and Prayer

by Sherry Sommer

 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  Matthew 6:6 NIV

Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do “ All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Matthew 11:25-27 NIV

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples to keep their prayer life private and to have one-on-one conversations in a room with God. Later in Matthew, he tells them to be like little children as they seek God’s wisdom and direction.  Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount has seemed distant to me. What did he mean about going to our room?  I often pray during the day, but the idea of going to my room to pray seemed odd.

Jesus’ words came to life when I read these two passages while writing this devotional.  I realized that I had practiced Jesus’ instructions when I was a child.
I’d often read my Bible and pray in a small room in our basement.  It was cool and quiet in the summer and one of the few private spaces in our crowded house. No one told me to read my Bible, and it never felt like something I “should” do. No one knew how I was spending my time.  Reading the Bible and talking to God felt meaningful and natural to me.  I’d get comfortable in the rickety twin bed, probably propping one skinny, sunbrowned leg against the other.  The Proverbs stood out to me, especially what they taught about wisdom:

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get  wisdom
Though it costs all you have,  get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

Since the Bible said wisdom was the most important thing, I’d pray for wisdom and trust that God would answer my prayers. As I remember my past, God is helping me understand what Jesus says about prayer in Matthew. 

Pray like a child

In order to be spiritually healthy, Jesus says that we need to preserve something of who we were as children.  We learn and grow through age and experience, which is good and necessary.  At the same time, we can lose something that’s very valuable,  a childlike attitude. Children can have unquestioning confidence that God loves them, that they can trust him, and that he is able to do all that he says. Children know they can’t figure out life on their own, that they must depend on God who is able and willing to help. 

It’s important to discern how the past can help us. We just had a series on emotional health; in order to be emotionally healthy, we shouldn’t want to live in or dwell on the past; as Paul says, “leave childish ways behind”.  Even if our childhoods were cut short or were unhealthy, we can pray that God would remind us of what it was like to have a trusting and childlike attitude. He can renew us and heal us so we can come to him today with that kind of trust and confidence.  

Find a  place and  time to pray

When I read this passage from the Sermon on the Mount literally, as an adult,  I had trouble understanding it. When Jesus told his disciples to go to their room to pray privately, he wasn’t saying, “Go to your room!”, like children are often told to do. He wasn’t telling them the only place they could pray was their room. While a room can be a place where we are sent to be isolated from others, I believe Jesus is talking about something different.   Remembering myself praying in the cool basement room, I think Jesus is saying, find a place to pray where you feel comfortable and can focus on communicating with God. 

Whatever your situation, find a place where you’ll have an uninterrupted time, where the surroundings allow you to have a conversation with your Father.
Who knows, maybe that’s a quiet spot at your local library or coffee shop, or someplace you like to walk.  It could be during a commute by bus or in a break room at work.  Maybe it’s a place in your home.  In winter, I pray at home in a quiet room where I can look out a window and sit in a favorite chair.  In summer, I like to pray in my garden or when out on a walk. Find a place where you can naturally engage in prayer. Shake off any pressure you might feel that you “should” find a time and place to pray.

God provides the reward

We live in a world that’s results oriented, where we are taught that we need to create achievable goals and have a plan to work toward them.
Jesus’ teaching is different. 

Prayer is conversation with a God who is right beside us and in us. We may pray and pray without seeing the responses we asked for in our requests. I love what Tim Keller said – ”God answers the prayers we would have prayed if we knew all he does.”  We may want the reward he promises to be what we have in mind, but we ask with limited understanding.  

When we pray, the reward is spending time with God, getting to know him, and allowing him to guide and transform us. As far as specific answers to prayer, those are in God’s hands, and we know that “no good thing does he withhold”, Psalm 8:11. Let’s ask him for help so we can come to him in prayer as beloved children, trusting him for the outcomes.

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Childlike Faith and Prayer2024-02-03T18:07:27-07:00

Hypocrites – Religious Play Actors

by Carolyn Schmitt

The word “hypocrite” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word “hypokrites”, which means an actor or someone who performs on a stage. Basically it means a person who looks like a very spiritual, virtuous person, but who doesn’t live in truth what they portray in public. In more familiar terms they ”don’t practice what they preach.”  

Although the following scriptures taken from the The Message Bible don’t use “hypocrite”, I felt that the translators gave a good visual description of the word.

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.” Matthew 6:1 MSG

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for fifteen minutes of fame! Do you think God sits in a box seat?”  Matthew 6:5 MSG

He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income. Luke 18:9-12 MSG

“Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’” 
Luke 18:13 MSG

Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” Luke 18:14 MSG 

These verses remind me that God always listens to us when we come to him.

Years ago, as I was driving to church, rehearsing the words I wanted to “contribute” when the worship leaders and sound team met that morning to pray before the service. Feeling good about having something to offer, I “heard” a quiet voice in my head say, “ Child, I heard you! You’ve already prayed it to me”. It was a gentle reminder from God to not perform in public prayer anymore than in private prayer. 

Hypocrites – Religious Play Actors2024-02-03T11:22:03-07:00

Prayer Bingo

by Kathleen Petersen

When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 CSB

If you’ve played Bingo, you know multiple cards increase your chances of winning. The picture Jesus frames with the phrase, “babble like the Gentiles”,
brings to mind that same idea — covering as many bases as possible will get you what you want. 

Although “babble like the Gentiles” might bring to mind the supremely entertaining encounter between the Prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal in
I Kings 18:16-46, I think it most likely reminded Jesus’ listeners of prayer habits they saw in their Roman occupiers as they worshiped in temples such as the ones located in nearby Caesarea Philippi.

The Roman worship system was complex. Roman rulers constructed temples for idols representing an array of gods they believed controlled various aspects of life. These edifices were considered vital to maintain the peace, protection, and prosperity of their empire. A multitude of temples for public prayer and sacrifices were scattered in every country they controlled. 

Prayers to an array of Roman gods have been preserved for posterity by historians such as what Marcus Cato (234-149 B.C.) recorded in his work
On Agriculture
.* These prayers and accompanying sacrifices were designed to bribe or obligate particular gods to protect pious persons and grant explicit wishes. The Gentiles’ prayers were very detailed and carefully phrased in order to cover every possible misfortune and outcome. Worshipers of these often capricious gods found themselves using many words to increase their chances of obtaining favor for themselves as well as bringing curses on enemies. 

* “…phrased like legal documents that could [?] obligate gods for particular action and protection.”

Will our Father in Heaven be swayed by lengthy harangues or shrewdly crafted petitions in our favor? In Matthew 6:7, Jesus warned that multiplying words
only feeds imagination, not reality. Multiple card “Prayer Bingo” is an unfruitful direction.

Enough about ineffectual prayer. Read the verses below. Then take a walk and meditate on the secure, caring relationship you have with your Heavenly Father.
His resources are yours.

This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. I John 4:13-18 CSB

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Prayer Bingo2024-02-03T10:17:54-07:00

Red Couch Theology Podcast

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 at 11 am on Thursdays – recorded (and sometimes prerecorded) for later, online viewing.

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 series,
MINDSET — Emotional Health & the Way of Jesus

“Penance Is Not an Option to Messiah’s Atonement” 

(See, Can You Ever “Live It Down”? )


Questions may be sent through


Blog sites:

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

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


Red Couch Theology Podcast2024-01-14T23:09:04-07:00

Focus on the Now

by Aaron Bjorklund

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17

Surrender is a gift. It’s not just a requirement for Christian living or the posture of those who have run out of options. No, surrender is always a gift because we were not designed to carry the weight of life. Part of the reason surrender is such a gift is that it frees us from the clutches of the past and the pull of the future. A surrendered soul is a soul that is present in the moment. 

Surrender often gets confused with doing nothing. Surrender is not passive. The Colossians text here shows us plenty of things to do in the present. When we wrestle too much with the past or try to control the future, we cease to surrender.

So I’ll say it again: surrender is a gift. It’s the gift of being where and when you are, while focusing on doing everything to God’s glory. We don’t need to control the outcomes, and we don’t need to let the past wear us down. We simply do the next right thing and surrender the rest. 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Focus on the Now2024-01-14T22:53:48-07:00

Forward March

by Bruce Hanson

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:1-14

There is a verse in Romans that reads as follows:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Many moons ago, the writers of the Living Bible added the word FREE before GIFT. They did so for the very reason Paul was writing to Philippi. Those dogs he spoke of were the Judaizers. They wanted to add conditions to that free gift. Paul extols his accomplishments, which were many, and then says that as notable as they may have been, they were literally dog doo when compared to that God-given free gift.  “Dung” is the literal translation of the Greek word skubalon (garbage, refuse).

Our concern right now at South Fellowship is with our spiritual and emotional health.  It is something we cannot ignore if we are to be Jesus’ ambassadors.

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

We are sinners. The corollary to that truth is that if we are sinners, we are guaranteed to have sinned. Repeatedly!! The King of those Judaizers (Satan) wants us to carry those sins around with us everywhere we go. Backs broken. Spiritual lights dimmed.

God has given us a provision and it is one we must take full advantage of.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The wonderful result of that is this:

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

Give those judaizing dogs a swift kick!! Satan wants us to stumble around with all our baggage. Wherever we go. That is not what God intends. Paul tells us to forget what is behind, and move forward as God has planned for us. There is assuredly a cost to our sinning, but leave the sins behind. If God can forget them, we certainly ought to do the same.

Put on those white robes and . . . . 

Forward March

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Forward March2024-01-14T22:59:31-07:00

Can You Ever “Live It Down”?

by  Kathleen Petersen

Not long ago, the secular counseling profession seemed to have solid answers concerning release from personal shame and guilt. Christian counselors used some of those methods and celebrated when their clients were freed from unnecessary anguish. But the celebration now seems premature. Waves of popular culture influencers are rapidly creating new definitions of irredeemable wrongdoing. Their fiery torches, lit on social media, seek and consume too many minds and hearts.

Help us Lord Jesus! As conscientious, caring Christians, we desperately need a healthy approach to facing our past transgressions — those transgressions that have caused lasting damage.

Providentially, we have the confessions of the Apostle Paul to give us insight. During his trial in Acts 22:3-21, he gave a lengthy account of his past which included his religious inheritance, religious accomplishments, and religious sins. These two verses sum up the shameful behavior impossible to “live down”
in his life. 

“As I was traveling and approaching Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ Acts 22:6-7 CSB

What Paul had viewed as the highest service to God, arranging for severe punishments for Jesus’ followers, was, in fact, persecution of his own Messiah. His later testimony reveals he never evaluated those heinous acts lightly. Here he describes his shame in raw terms:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
I Timothy 1:15 CSB

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “shame” this way:

A painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by that of which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal.

So, our human tendency is to hide destructive past behaviors. 

How did Paul meet this challenge after recognizing he had inflicted lasting harm on so many? Although Paul realized he could never live down those harmful and murderous acts that he sometimes agonized over the memory of, he regularly turned those recollections into deep appreciation of forgiveness granted him by the death of Jesus. Here’s an expression of the Scriptural cure for shame:

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12;1-2 CSB

In Acts 2:16 Ananias gives Paul the key to freedom from shame:

Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

In Acts 22:19-21 Paul records a pivotal conversation he had with the risen Jesus: 

But I said, ‘Lord, they know that in synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in you imprisoned and beaten. And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I stood there giving approval and guarding the clothes of those who killed him.’

He said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles. Acts 22:19-21 CSB *

This conversation outlines a time honored Scriptural practice. Once you have turned your back on sinful behavior that has damaged others, don’t try to live it down, wallow in it, or over apologize (although apologies and reconciliation may be necessary). Move forward and serve him with all your heart. 

Let God speak to you as you listen to one of these beautiful reminders. the Oslo Gospel Choir or The Power of the Cross {Grab your guitar, to strum along.}

* Although Paul immediately testified to many about his dramatic conversion experience, he was not sent on his first missionary journey to the Gentiles until he had prepared for at least another 14 years. 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

Can You Ever “Live It Down”?2024-01-14T23:03:31-07:00

God Knows ALL Your Thoughts

by Grace Hunter

My frame was not hidden from you
            When I was made in the secret place;

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth
            Your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me
            Were written in your book before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
            How vast the sum of them!  Psalm 139:15-17 NIV

 I too, like Carolyn, have enjoyed and been blessed by reading, meditating, and praying Psalm 139 since I was in high school. It is one of my all-time favorite passages of scripture. Read through the above verses again, slowly. Ponder –– God saw and knew each of us intimately the entire 9 months we were being formed inside our mother’s womb. Realize –– there is not one day you have lived, or one thought you have had that God has not seen, known, or perceived.
My human mind finds that knowledge almost too much to grasp.

When I consider God’s thoughts, the vast number of them, all that He holds in His hand, all that He controls, loves, directs and wills –– that IS beyond my ability to comprehend. Read the above verses again, Psalm 139:15-17, perhaps in another version. What grabs your attention? What forces you to contemplate God’s greatness, His concern and compassion for each detail in our lives?

Perhaps you are not in a peaceful place in your current mental and emotional health. Perhaps there is turmoil in your thoughts and emotions today. I encourage you —- take a step back. Let God remind you –– He KNOWS you; He knew you from your very first day. Let God remind you –– He formed you exactly as you are and He has a purpose for you, even in this season of your life. Earlier in this Psalm David pens this,

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

You hem me in-behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.  

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”  Psalm 139:1-6 NIV

Let the truth of these verses wash over you, comfort you, hold you. God is not surprised by your thoughts.
Spend some time today reading over
Psalm 139, praying through it to God, and receive what God, through His Holy Spirit, has to say to you today. 

Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.

God Knows ALL Your Thoughts2024-01-14T23:12:29-07:00
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