Over Whel Med

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 have a casual conversation, diving deeper into ideas related to last Sunday’s teaching.

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Red Couch Theology2023-01-22T23:51:52-07:00

Paul: Prisoner, Preacher, Practitioner

For I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. Philippians 4:11b AMP

The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you. Philippians 4:9 AMP

Some of you reading this may remember a newscaster named Paul Harvey who had a radio program from 1951-2008. My favorite part of the program was called, “The Rest of the Story.” During his broadcast, he would tell the backstory of some headline news that gave a different perspective on an event and the people involved. What he said was verifiable truth. I enjoy reading and learning about the people in the Bible in the same way and especially their relationship with God.

The Apostle Paul is one of my favorites. His back story is traumatic and I wonder what kind of memories may have haunted him over the years, which awes me that he could write the two verses above and others like them in most of the epistles.

In Philippians 3:4-6, Paul gives a brief description of his early life of his confidence in his nationality, education and Pharisee zeal in persecuting the church, as well as his faultless obedience to the law. Acts 9 tells about Saul (Paul’s) conversion and Ananias being sent to restore Saul’s sight and what the Lord’s call would be on his life. When Ananias is reluctant, the Lord said,

“Go, for this man is a [deliberately] chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will make clear to him how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15-16 AMP

I wonder how I would have responded if I had been told beforehand what I would live through to follow Jesus.

What I see in and appreciate about Paul is that he “learned to be content”, which indicates he practiced the very same things he told other followers of Christ to do. He was in prison in Rome when he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, and in all of them he gives thanks for the people in those locations and encourages their growth in Christ Jesus. Though Paul was in chains for preaching and living the gospel of Christ, he was not chained-up inside himself. He practiced what he preached.

Along with me, take some time to read Philippians and find out more about how Paul encourages us to keep going in releasing our anxieties in Christ Jesus.

Paul: Prisoner, Preacher, Practitioner2023-01-15T00:10:34-07:00

Press Stop on the Replay Button

My husband and I have attended and facilitated several 13-week series of GriefShare classes. This is an amazing program, and I encourage anyone who is in a season of grief to look into these classes, as they are well worth attending for the learning and for sharing experiences. South is starting a new GriefShare series on January 29th. Every loss of a loved one is different, and all loss involves pain. Some losses include the added trauma of the particular way a person died, or from someone actually witnessing or participating in an unsuccessful attempt to resuscitate a loved one. It can be common for the grieving person to “replay” the death scene in his or her mind over and over or the last painful days of a loved one – because of the trauma of that particular death.

One of the helpful things I learned in attending GriefShare was that so much of our grieving takes place in our thoughts, in our minds, and in our emotions that those thoughts trigger. For me, I came to see Philippians 4:4-9 as an extremely practical method of learning how to stop replaying that tape in my mind.

Paul first encourages us to, “rejoice in the Lord always,” Philippians 4:4 NIV.

Second, he reminds us, “The Lord is near,” Philippians 4:5 NIV.

Third, he tells us how to pray, “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God,” Philippians 4:6 NIV.

Fourth, Paul assures us, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:7. NIV

In the above verses Paul lays out the plan how to leave those unhealthy tapes we replay in our minds, whatever we worry about, at the feet of Jesus. But I know for me, that if that was all I’m doing, those tapes would keep flooding back in a jiffy. I am glad Paul includes the next section. He tells us to replace those not so healthy thoughts with, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things,” Philippians 4:8. NIV

If you also find that an “unhealthy” tape is on replay in your mind, then

  1. Recognize the unhealthy tape is on replay
  2. Decide to stop
  3. Make a conscious decision – to focus on, to concentrate on, to think about something that is lovely, excellent or admirable, etc. (My amplified version)

When we shift our mental focus to what is true, noble and right in any situation, our anxiety and worry, and even the trauma we have experienced can lessen. We gain a healthier perspective in our current situation, and can take a step forward toward healing, even if we are on a grief journey.

Press Stop on the Replay Button2023-01-14T23:55:36-07:00

Growing Out of Anxiety is a Process

The Stranded Goldfinch

It’s said that opposites attract. This is certainly an excellent way to describe the pull I felt toward Jesus, even at a young age. I was high strung, “too sensitive” and prone to over thinking; he was calm and steady. When I thought, “Hit the panic button!” he said, through his gentle presence and the Bible, that he was near and that his peace could overcome my fear and the threats that caused me to worry:

5 The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:5b-7 (NIV)

The freedom from fear Jesus offers has made me want to rid myself of anxious and awkward habits. I want to walk with him and to walk like him:

…. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (Message)

Wanting to change did not automatically lead me to becoming calm and composed. There have been times when I’ve been able to internalize this pattern of not being anxious and to pray and petition with thankfulness, but this hasn’t always been the case. Sometimes I’ve been too anxious to be able to work out this discipline in my life, and my prayers and petitions looked a lot like worrying. I had been trying and trying to pray, and ending up doubling down on worry. I had felt too far away from Jesus’ steady and gentle presence. I had been believing his promises, but I wasn’t able to find a way back to his presence.

What I’ve learned, through trial and error, is that there are many more ways to get closer to Jesus and his unforced ways than I realized, that his nearness can come in many forms. For me relief has come listening to music I love, comedy on Youtube, and online sermons; getting out for a long walk. taking the time to soak in the beauty all around. I’ve been getting enough sleep, seeing a counselor, and finding a medication for anxiety that works for me; gardening, baking, and simply sitting still and watching dust motes float in the sunlight—the list is not limited to a few “spiritual” activities.

I continue to believe that opposites attract, and I certainly have so much to keep learning from Jesus. For me to consistently become less anxious and more at peace, has taken decades for me. But at the same time, Jesus has woven himself into so much of what is good, beautiful, and helpful in my life, from prayer, to adequate sleep, to the guidance of a therapist. He has been near, and he has brought peace, more and more with each passing year.

Growing Out of Anxiety is a Process2023-01-18T10:47:56-07:00

Three Possible Goals

At the beginning of a new year, some of us will renew or orchestrate our efforts to achieve desired outcomes for our lives. The next few verses reveal how we might frame our dreams around the possible.

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:4-5 (AMP)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (ESV)

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Matthew 6:27 (ESV)

Thinking about the above scriptures, what should we reasonably attempt to control? What must we relinquish to gain the peace we desire?

As I think about what generates anxiety in me, most of the time it’s the small stuff like needing to reorganize the dishwasher after other household members have once again misunderstood how dishwashers function. On the other hand, anxiety generators are just as likely to be stuff I can’t control. For example: “Don’t those politicians in Washington D.C. have a clue they’ll trigger WWIII?” or “This town is full of crazy drivers…someone’s going to get killed!”

The more I focus on correcting the shortcomings of others, the more anxious I become. Likewise, striving after living a longer life or nourishing expectations that I deserve praise, have the same result. A critical, overly ambitious spirit cannot generate graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, or patience. Only the Holy Spirit can nudge me away from self-centered nitpicking or aspirations, to gentleness of spirit.

As we remain confident that Jesus intends to provide his servants with every resource needed to serve him well in this life and that he will keep his promise to reward us in ways we cannot measure, our security in him is enhanced. Concentrating on the generous character of our Master leaves us free to rejoice in him, even in adverse circumstances.

So resist overestimating the adverse impact of mistakes (yours or of others) or setting your sights on unattainable or selfish ambitions. Simple reminders from the above scriptures can take the edge off looming anxiety. Embrace what you can control:

Rejoice in the Lord always.

Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.

He cares for you!

Write these three reminders on separate cards or sticky notes and place them in locations you frequent during the day. Then tell others about how the Lord has made himself known in unexpected ways.

Three Possible Goals2023-01-14T23:02:52-07:00
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