63 episodes

The Things Above podcast is a podcast for "mind discipleship." It is for those who want to set their minds on "things above" (Col. 3:2). Each week James Bryan Smith will offer a glorious thought—something good and beautiful and true, something excellent and praiseworthy—to fill your mind with heavenly truths.

Things Above Apprentice Institute

    • Christianity

The Things Above podcast is a podcast for "mind discipleship." It is for those who want to set their minds on "things above" (Col. 3:2). Each week James Bryan Smith will offer a glorious thought—something good and beautiful and true, something excellent and praiseworthy—to fill your mind with heavenly truths.

    Conversation with Derwin Gray

    Conversation with Derwin Gray

    James Bryan Smith has a conversation with Derwin L. Gray about our identity in Christ and how we can learn to love and see ourselves the same way God does.

    Labels you have internalized and apply to yourself every day. Labels like Afraid. Or Addict. Orphan. Damaged Goods. Failure. Maybe even Religious. These labels might be sewn into your life with such tight little stitches that they feel like a part of you. They feel like they define you. But that’s a lie. If you let Him, Jesus can remove those old labels and tattoo new ones onto your soul. Then you’ll begin to see yourself as God the Father sees you. The limits will be lifted, and your life will be transformed.

    Dr. Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church. TC is a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community that loves God completely (Upward), ourselves correctly (Inward), and our neighbors compassionately (Outward) located in Indian Land, South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, North Carolina.

    After graduating from BYU, Pastor Derwin played professional football in the NFL—five years with the Indianapolis Colts (1993–1997) and one year with the Carolina Panthers (1998). During that time, he and his wife Vicki began their journey with Christ and experienced God’s faithfulness and direction as He moved their hearts to know Him and to make Him known.

    In addition to his role at Transformation Church, Pastor Derwin speaks at conferences nationwide and is the author of several books.

    Hero: Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart (2010)

    Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future (2013)

    Crazy Grace for Crazy Times Bible Study (2015)

    The High-Definition Leader (2015)

    • 48 min
    Grace of God

    Grace of God

    The thought from above in this episode is: “You don’t have to make it happen.” In the summer of his junior year, James attended an elite basketball camp where he learned a very valuable lesson about the grace of God.

    At the end of the camp was an all-star game that you had to be selected by the staff to play in. James goal at camp was to make the all-star team and be the M.V.P. in the all-star game. Before the game, the coach gave a speech titled “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”

    The whole point of the talk was this: you, and only you, are the one who makes it happen. You are the one who determines your future, your destiny.

    In the world of self-help slogans, it is a pretty good one. It is the kind of slogan, or mantra, one can say each morning, and perhaps several times a day, to motivate yourself.

    It is appealing because there is a part of us that really likes control, that likes to be at the center. Telling ourselves that we are the ones who makes it all happen is not only motivational, but actually a little narcissistic.

    Smith will agree that there is truth in the slogan, but it does fail when it comes to living the life “from above” as he likes to say.

    Think about some of the most important things about our lives. How about our redemption, our forgiveness, and our new birth in Christ? We had nothing to do with those incredible aspects of our lives.

    Those are all acts of grace. Grace means gift, from the greek word, charis. God in Christ redeemed us, forgave us, reconciled us, and gave us new life, life from above. All we did was to accept these gifts, which is no merit on our part. We even needed god’s grace to accept those gifts.

    James closes the episode with a story about Dallas Willard and ends with a verse from 1st Corinthians.

    “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. no, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10)

    • 18 min
    Roots in the Future

    Roots in the Future

    What will the future be like? Will it be good? What will happen to us at the end of lives? These are questions we all want an answer to. Deep down we desire a future for ourselves and others that is good. But how do we know that in the end it will be good? In this episode James Bryan Smith explores these questions and how we can find answers to them.


    Smith begins with a passage from Isaiah 65:17-25. In the passage we learn that a day will come when God will create a new heaven and a new earth. It gives us a glimpse into a world where all is well and all manner of things shall be well. A place where we will rejoice and be full of joy, a place that is without tragedy.  This passage is so beloved because it describes a kind of world we all long for. This may be hard for many of us to accept, as the world we live in appears to be broken and, in many ways, is the complete opposite of the world described in the passage from Isaiah. 


    However, Smith says that much of the despair and distress we feel comes from a failure to realize that the kind of life described in Isaiah truly lies before us. He uses two more examples from the Bible to help us understand this, Matthew (17:1-8) and Philippians (3:20). Both of these passages give us evidence that God is good, beautiful, and true. Smith goes on to explain that since God is the ultimate sustainer of the universe, then the future of the universe must also be good, beautiful and true.


    James concludes by reminding us, “Jesus is altogether good. Can there be any other ultimate end than this same goodness? And if it is so, if all is well that ends well, how shall we then live? We live with hope.  Hope, as Smith has defined it, is certainty in a good future. Not wishful thinking. Hope is certainty. I know that Jesus is real.  He is with me every day and I know him to be all powerful and all good.  So I know—notice the word ‘know’—that it ends well.”  This point underscores a powerful quote by John D. Zizioulas, who said, “Christians have their roots in the future, and their branches in the present.”

    • 21 min
    Conversation with Casey Tygrett

    Conversation with Casey Tygrett

    In this "Things Above Conversation" James Bryan Smith chats with Casey Tygrett. Casey is the host of the “otherWISE” podcast, a place for gathering wise conversations about living well on the journey with Jesus. He holds both a Master of Divinity degree and a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation degree from Lincoln Christian Seminary. He is the author of two books, Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions (2017) and As I Recall: Discovering the Place of Memories in the Spiritual Life (2019), both with InterVarsity Press. Casey has served both in rural churches of 25 and suburban megachurches of 10,000. He and his wife Holley and their daughter Bailey currently live in Chicago, IL where he is the Theologian in Residence at Parkview Christian Church.

    In this episode James talks with Casey about his latest book, As I Recall: Discovering the Place of Memories in the Spiritual Life, as well as how our memories (long term and short) impact our relationship with God.

    What if our memories are like shells we gather on a beach? According to pastor and spiritual director Casey Tygrett, "We—and all those who have come before us—pick up the experience and we sense it: we feel its edges, notice its color, we smell the distinctive character (for shells it is the sickly seafood salt smell) of the experience and we try to make sense of what it is. Is it beautiful? How would you describe the color—the tones, the shades, wrapped around the ridges and swirls? Has it been damaged? Does the hard edge scrape our hand, leaving a blemish or a mark?”

    How we hold and carry these memories—good and bad—is a part of what forms us spiritually. In this way we have a common bond with the people of Scripture who also had a sensory life, gathering shells and trying to make sense of them.

    • 56 min


    The "Thought from Above" for this episode is: "No more silly superstitions." In a previous podcast James spoke about how worry is essentially superstition. We think by worrying we will actually have an effect on a situation we are concerned about. For example, when we worry about something and then that something does not happen, we think it did not happen because we worried about it. This then reinforces the idea that our worrying can give us control over the situation. We do this because it allows us to feel in control of the problem or situation we are dealing with. This however is a false sense of control because our worrying did nothing to prevent the problem from happening.

    We see this same kind of superstition in sports. Many athletes have routines or rituals they do before their games that they feel will bring them success. While they may think this is impacting their performance, it is actually the training and hard work they have put in that brings about success.

    In this episode James addresses another superstition that plagues many of us, and it is the false narrative that God punishes us for our sins. Smith explains that Jesus never affirmed this false narrative, and in fact Jesus' actions and teachings reverse this narrative. James gives three examples from the bible (Zacchaeus, the prodigal son, and the woman at the well) where a person had sinned but was not met with punishment by God. In all three of these stories there is no punishment and instead there is forgiveness. Jesus invites all of them into a relationship with God.

    So the question James asks is, "Why do we believe this false narrative?" Smith explains that it is the same reason we buy the lie about worrying, we want control. We think that if our actions determine God's behavior then we are in control. But we don’t have this power over God and he is not interested in meeting out punishment for us on the basis of our sons. If so that would be all God would ever be doing.

    This idea that God is meeting out a punishment for all of our sins all the time has been exposed by Jesus. Jesus never affirms this false narrative. He states in John 14:9 "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" and we see through Jesus actions and teachings that he would never punish us for our sins. 

    If God is not punishing us for our sins do the sins even matter? Smith argues, yes our sins do matter, they cause us pain by turning from God and ourselves. Our sins are acts of self punishment, every time we sin we are turning away from God. That turning from God is the major act that causes us harm.

    We hold onto this false narrative because we want control. Smith closes by explaining that when we begin to understand that sin is destructive to ourselves and others we can start to turn back to God and enter into relationship with him.

    • 19 min
    Brother’s Keeper

    Brother’s Keeper

    The "Thought from Above" in this episode is: Include Jesus in all of your relationships.

    The relationships we have in our lives are amazing but also challenging. There are times where we want the other person in the relationship to make a change in their life. Even if we are well meaning in our advice, it is rarely helpful and can sometimes drive a wedge in the relationship.

    Anytime we offer advice or correction in whatever form, it is in fact a form of judgment. In Matthew 7:1 Jesus gives us the warning “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

    Think about a time when someone began a sentence “I think you need to (fill in the blank)” How did that make you feel? For most it never makes us feel good but Jesus offers us a better way to be helpful to others and that is to include him in our relationships.

    Dallas Willard writes, “Among those who live as Jesus apprentices, there are no relationships that omit the presence and action of Jesus. We never go “one on one” all relationships are mediated through Him.”

    Just as Jesus is the best person to help us, so also Jesus is the best person to help them. We may have the best intentions and be speaking out of love but it’s the wrong approach. Through prayer we can invite Jesus into our relationships with others.

    Instead of harassing those near us with judgments we stand before them with our helpless requests. While simultaneously standing before the wise and mighty King with our request for them. The most direct way to love others is always through prayer to Christ.

    • 16 min

Customer Reviews

Than i may know Him ,

Things above..wish there were more

Both my wife and I love this podcast, also, did I mention that both my wife and I love this podcast? We often listen together..love setting our minds on Christ, and things above.

James Brian Smith, love the way you speak, your choice of words, pausing at just the right places..so easy to listen to, and most enjoyable. I’ve referred this podcast to a few friends, and have gotten great feedback.

Ok, I do have one constructive critique...our favorite by far are the non intervening ones, although, did enjoy the one on the Shack, great book, great guy, great podcast.

Thank you James Brian Smith for helping to set our minds on things above...find myself often looking to see if another one has come available.

Abiding in Christ,

difficult discipleship ,

Helpful and Encouraging

This podcast has been a great source of comfort, encouragement, and faithful witness to the goodness and care of God during a very difficult season of my life. I look for this podcast each week in eager anticipation. Thanks to the Apprentice Institute and to Jim Smith for reminding me and encouraging me with thoughts from above!

Tfayter ,

Good content but...

I love the short, powerful content of this podcast, but I have to admit that I’m so completely distracted by the host’s constant lip-smacking and what appears to be perpetual dry mouth. I realize how petty that sounds but it’s SO distracting it’s hard to focus on the content. Please drink some water or get a new mic or something!!

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