I love podcasts and I recently started listening to Things Above by James Bryan Smith.  It has quickly become one of my favorites!

The name of the podcast comes from Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not earthly things.” 

Our thoughts have consequences.  Brooke Castillo describes it well with her self-coaching model:

Thoughts -> Emotions -> Actions -> Results

Every result you have in your life once began as a sentence in your mind. 

For example, I live in a townhouse in a suburb of Minneapolis with my husband, Ben, and our two pugs.  I have a master’s degree in HR and I work in payroll.  My husband and I attend a non-denominational church.  We are 100% debt-free aside from our mortgage.

None of these things just happened to me.  I created the results I have in my life, and each result is a reflection of my past thoughts.  What we think about ultimately determines the course of our lives…so our thoughts are certainly important.

Each episode of the Things Above podcast contains “thoughts from above”…thoughts that are good, beautiful, encouraging, and true.

Here are some of the most impactful lessons I’ve learned from James Bryan Smith’s podcast.

The Kingdom of This World Runs by Comparison

“The kingdom of this world runs by comparison.”  Status on this Earth is determined by how much money you have in your bank account, how nice your car is, how attractive you are, and a number of empty, meaningless things.

I find comparisons and “keeping up with the Joneses” to be an endlessly exhausting, pointless game.  This is why I find minimalism so appealing.

As James reminds us, Christians don’t need to waste their time one upping each other in a never ending game that’s impossible to win (because there will always be someone “better” than you).  Instead, we can fix our eyes on things above and remember that in the next life, status won’t matter at all.

We are ALL equally worthy as human beings who were created in the image of God.

Worry is Superstition

James says that worry is superstition.  As someone who struggles with anxiety and worry, I find this perspective fascinating.  Of course we all know that worrying isn’t good, but I’ve never heard it framed in quite this way.

James compares worry to superstitions like wearing a “lucky” outfit or not saying “unlucky” words during a big football game.  We engage in these superstitions because we’re trying to control the outcome.

We have this illogical and irrational idea that a completely unrelated action will somehow determine whether or not our football team wins a game.

We know it’s absurd, but we do it anyway.

Worrying is similar.  We worry because we’re trying to control the outcome…even though we know worrying won’t change a thing.

James makes it clear that there’s nothing wrong with planning ahead and being prepared for what’s to come, but as he says, worrying is what we do AFTER we’ve already prepared.

So, worrying isn’t actually necessary at all.  It just pretends to be.

If you’re struggling with worry, try praying.  God instructs us to worry about nothing, and pray about everything (Phillipians 4:6).

Forgiveness Leads to Freedom

Forgiveness is another thing that we know we SHOULD do, but it’s often easier said than done.  As James reminds us, we forgive other people because God forgave us for our sins.

Not only are we called to forgive others, we are also called to forgive ourselves.  So many of us struggle with self-hatred and we’re constantly beating ourselves up.  What if we had our own backs instead?

We can feel guilt for a sin we’ve committed (and we certainly should) AND still forgive ourselves.

As James explains, if you don’t forgive yourself, you are giving yourself a higher tribunal than God.

Let that sink in.

God Loves Us First, Always, and in Every Moment

You are God’s beloved, even in your worst moments.  Why?  Because God’s love is greater than your sins.  There is no sin too big for God’s amazing grace.

No matter what you’ve done, no matter where you’ve been, God loves you.  Always.

You do not need to feel shame.  As James says, shame is self-betrayal.

We are God’s beloved creation first and sinners second.  God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  His death washed away our sins.

James explains that many Christians have this false narrative about God that goes something like this:

  1. I’m a sinner.
  2. God hates sin and doesn’t like me.
  3. God only loves me because he’s God and he kind of has to.

God doesn’t like sin, but he dislikes it because we are his beloved creation.  He loves us and sin hurts us.

There is nothing wrong with feeling guilt…as Christians, we should feel guilt when we sin.  Shame, on the other hand, is not necessary.  Remember that guilt means “I’ve done something bad” and shame means “I AM something bad”.

You are 100% worthy because you were created by a perfect and loving God.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross washed away your sins.    There is no need for shame.

Pain is the Gift No One Wants

We don’t like pain, but try to imagine life without it.  Pain is a warning system that alerts us that something has gone wrong. People who can’t feel pain lack this warning system, and for that reason, they’re prone to injuries and certain health problems.

Our fear of pain protects us.  It keeps us from walking in front of oncoming traffic or touching a hot stove.

When we experience severe or ongoing pain, this typically motivates us to go see a doctor so we can find out if something’s wrong.  Without the ability to feel pain, we’d have no idea that something wasn’t right.

The worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life was from gall stones.  The severity of the pain in my abdomen and right side of my back prompted my doctor to run a gall bladder ultrasound, which confirmed the presence of gall stones.

If I didn’t have the ability to feel pain, I might not have ever known that I had gall stones.  My gall bladder could’ve become severely inflamed, which may have led to jaundice, a gall bladder rupture, or other complications.

Pain isn’t fun, but it’s also a gift from God that tells us that something is wrong.

The Kingdom is Not in Trouble

My favorite line from the Things Above podcast is this:

“I live in the strong and unshakable Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom is not in trouble, and neither am I.”

I love this because it puts life in perspective when we’re struggling.  No matter how hard things are now, there is a perfect and amazing life to come.

You are not alone in whatever difficulty you’re facing today.  You don’t have to hold everything together.  That’s God’s job.

Casting Crowns said (actually, sang) it well with this lyric:

“When you’re tired of fighting, chained by your control.  There’s freedom in surrender, lay it down and let it go…stop holding on and just be held.”

Thoughts from Above

What do you do to help set your mind on things above?  Share in the comments :)

Don’t forget to check out the Things Above podcast if you’d like to hear more thoughts from above that are beautiful, encouraging, and true!