The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Angry Birds, and Angry Words ~ James 3

silence-1225624-639x1314On Sunday we looked at James 3. This is a very famous passage on the power of the tongue. How our words can destroy like fire, or how a little piece of our bodies can control our destiny. James wants us to control our tongues so we can gain control over every other area of our lives. James puts it this way, “We all make mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way”. And that’s very true, as we gain self-control in this area of our lives, it spills over into all areas of our lives.

And to help us gain control, James wants us to envision a life without a wasted word. Can you imagine how much better your relationships, your friendships, or your family would be if you never said a word or phrase you regretted. James realizes that learning to control your words will bring a huge benefit to you and to the entire world.

So we landed on a really obvious main idea: Control your tongue. Not a new idea but a necessary and needed idea. All of our lives, careers, and relationships would be better if we could actually learn to control our tongues.

So we spent the majority of our time on some practical ways to gain mastery over this one area that causes so much difficulty.

The first point was to slow or stop our words. So often we speak without thinking, our thoughts simply flow out without any checks or balances. Very rarely have I ever regretted not saying something, often have I regretted saying something. So the first step is to stop or slow our words if we want to control our tongues. The truth is more than likely we can always go back and say things that were left unsaid, but never unsay something that was said. So that was the first step.

The second step was to actually choose our words. So often we don’t’ think through “will this help”, “will this change anything”, “is this the right time to share”. Instead, we respond to our feelings and reactions and rather than choosing our words carefully, regret our words frequently. So the second little step was to choose our words carefully when speaking. We do this in every important interaction in our lives, but forget it in our everyday lives. We choose our words carefully at job interviews, at important meetings, or in presentations – and then forget to choose them carefully with our spouses, friends, and kids. This is what needs to change.

Lastly, we looked at an amazing little video by Pixar called “For the Birds”. This video shows really well the danger of groupthink and how communication is more than words. I reminded us that in groups it is particularly important to be wary of what we say. Because it is so easy to slide into peer pressure and scapegoating others. We also need to be wary that communication is bigger than words, and that we need to watch not only our words but our actions as well.

With all of this we ended with a simple and clear challenge: to review how we spoke once a day. I challenged everyone to put a reminder into their phones to go off once a day for them to review how we are doing with controlling our tongues. As long as we remain unaware we will remain unchanged. So my challenge was this: slow your words, and choose your words. And this will make not only your world better, but the world around you too!



Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Control your tongue.

Teaching Points:

  • The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick – Hardest Tongue Twister
  • We love sharing everything about ourselves but have trouble editing what we say.
  • When you gain self-control in one major area It spills over into every other area of your life.
  • Control your tongue.
  • Rarely have a I regretted something not said.
  • Slow or stop your words before speaking.
  • Choose your words before sharing.
  • Groups can bring out our worst, so be wary.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you like about the movie? When have you regretted saying something? Why do you think it’s hard to control your words? What are some good reasons to actually put effort into this? What relationships might be changed quickly if you really worked at this? Who can help you work at this?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today simply watch your words with your kids. Did you know that kids on average receive 7 words of criticism for each word of affirmation. Flip that today, and focus on affirming, and see how that changes things!

Challenge for the Week: Slow your words, and choose your words.

Angry Birds, and Angry Words

On Sunday we are looking at a really well known passage in James. It’s all about the tongue and its power. This is something we all know, but so often we don’t actually do anything about. We know that our words can give life, or steal life. We all know that once something is said it’s impossible to get back. We all have moments where we wished we had said less.

So James is really not relaying anything new. But just because something isn’t new, doesn’t mean it’s not needed. Because I believe in our day and age, with instant communication, public comments on Twitter or Facebook – learning to control our tongues might just be the biggest relational skill necessary to survive in today’s day and age.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday, but to prep, why not watch this awesome short Pixar movie called “The Birds” because we are going to jump off it on Sunday.

Broken Little Hearts, and Bruised Kidneys

11407280_10155868352175643_5698444874264892180_nI’m totally biased, but I think my kids are great. Like I mean so are yours, but well mine are…well let’s just leave that there J

But even my totally amazing kids, occasionally drive me nuts, and do really wrong and dumb things.

The other day I was wrestling with our closest friend’s son, and all of sudden my oldest Hudson wants to “rescue” him. So while I’m not looking on the floor, he gets a running start and kicks me as hard as he can in my side. A perfect kidney shot.

Now I must say that my soccer coaching skills for how to kick have really payed off because that one little kick from a 5 year old hurt, like hold back tears, don’t say anything, take time to recover hurt.

Here’s the thing though – when he knew he hurt me, like really hurt me, he knew he did something wrong, he knew he did something bad. But I turned after regaining some strength and wanted to make sure he knew how wrong it was. I said, “You don’t ever do that again”. And my wife, Krista came and then took Hudson to bed.

I came in a little while later, after I was feeling better and I walked into the room and I had a choice.

I could remind Hudson of how deeply he failed me, and how we don’t kick friends – or anyone for that matter. I could have sat down and said how that wasn’t a wise choice. I could have focused in on the “wrong” and how he “broke the law” of our household. I could reinforce judging his wrong, or I could focus on healing his little heart.

Hudson felt terrible at hurting me. I could reinforce how much he hurt me, and how disappointed I was in him. Or I could teach him about love, grace, forgiveness, and healing a little hurt heart.

Because here is the thing: when we’ve been wronged we really want the other person to either suffer for it, or show deep understanding of how they  hurt us. But we always go overboard. We force the issue too long and too much. And the law, guilt, and judgment doesn’t change anyone. It sets a standard, but is not a motivator for transformation. Only grace and forgiveness are.

And so one look at my son showed me this was not the time to press the law and guilt more. This was the time for love and forgiveness. So I gave him a big hug, and he squeezed me so hard and I said I forgave him. He broke down and said how sorry he was, and I assured him that no matter what I’ll always forgive him and love.

So he went to sleep with a healed relationship, reconciled connection with me, rather than a deep feeling of not living up to my expectations and guilt. And I think that small difference makes all the difference.

Relationships are meant to be mended, not guilted into change. Relationships are meant to be reconciled, not broken under law. Relationships are to be healed through forgiveness, not through demanding judgment.

So the next time you have a chance to show judgment or grace and healing, stop for a moment, and think about your choice. Because there is always a choice to show forgiveness, or holding onto judgment. And sometimes that little choice is the difference between someone going to bed with a sore heart, or healed heart.

And of course I went to bed with a sore back, but my heart was happy with Hudson.

Parenting in the Modern Age

I was reading about C.S. Lewis and came across this quote from his wife Joy.

She writes this:

“Provoke not your children to wrath” (Eph 6:4) Easily said; but how are we to avoid it? Strife between old and young seems inevitable. Today the world changes fast and inconceivably fast; in pastoral and agricultural times, what a man knew was of use to his son, but in the industrial age Father’s knowledge is out of date before the son is half grown up…Our problem, then, pending the reconstruction of the world, is to reconstruct our own lives so that we give our children as much warmth and attention and time and teaching as the present world will allow…and let us remind the innumerable Americas who don’t seem to know it that begetting and rearing a family are far more real and rewarding than making and spending money.”

All I can say is that this stopped me and made me think. I also think I’m going to stop blogging for today and go and play and be with my boys…

Gluttony ~ Seven Deadly Sins

856673_20062383So on Sunday we looked at the sensitive topic of gluttony. We started in an odd place, a discussion of math, statistics, and the inverted U curve.

Here is how Malcolm Gladwell discusses what an inverted U curve is:

Inverted-U curves have three parts, and each part follows a different logic. There’s the left side, where doing more or having more makes things better. There’s the flat middle, where doing more doesn’t make much of a difference. And there’s the right side, where doing more or having more makes things worse.

We used this framework to begin to talk about gluttony. Gluttony is really about too much of a good thing that becomes a bad thing. So, for example ,some food is good, a middle amount doesn’t really help or hurt, too much gets unhealthy. But the inverted U works for than just food. It also works for working, stress, and a whole host of things. Working is good for health, but too much work (i.e. being a workaholic) becomes incredibly unhealthy for physically and relationally. A little stress is helpful to stay motivated and in the “flow” – too much becomes an ulcer.

The point of the inverted U is things that are good in small to moderate amounts can have really negative consequences in large amounts. And this is actually the same thing we learn from Solomon, the wisest man on earth. He says this, “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. (Proverbs 25:16)

A little honey is good, it’s sweet, it’s delicious, and it’s good for you. Too much honey will make you vomit. The logic of Solomon is really clear: gluttony is really about too much of a good thing. It’s about a lack of moderation and balance. Most things in life are only good in moderation, overabundance or overconsumption leads to difficulty. This is true in all sorts of things. Work is good, being a workaholic isn’t. Being flexible and saying yes to things is good, being a doormat isn’t. Watching TV is relaxing, watching 16 hours in a row is a rut. Having some “me time” by yourself is great, doing it so much you disconnect from your family is a bad thing. Buying new shoes can be fun, buying 100 pairs and drowning in debt isn’t.

The point is that gluttony isn’t just about how much we eat, but how we live. And there are things in our lives that are a good thing, but that without discipline, quickly become a bad thing.

So on Sunday to make this personal we asked ourselves one question: Is there a good thing that has become a bad thing in our lives? Is there something good that has become too much and become bad?

  • Are we working too much?
  • Are we texting and spending too much time on phones?
  • Are we spending too much?
  • Are we too busy – connecting with people?
  • Are we saying yes to too many things?

And as we asked that question we simply collectively said a one word prayer: help. Help God for me to find balance. Help God for me to find strength. Help God for me to find moderation in this good thing that’s gone a little bad.

So that’s what we learned on Sunday but hopefully it isn’t something that we just learn about – but practice. Because the truth is we feel better when we are in the middle – enjoying a little honey but not so much that we throw it up.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Gluttony is about a lack balance and moderation

Take Aways…

  • Ground Rules #1: Posture of Grace not Guilt
  • God convicts of sin, but he doesn’t shame us for our sin.
  • Ground Rules #2: Personal Introspection
  • Sin leads to unhealthy lives
  • Ground Rules #3: Safe and Transformational
  • Rather than rooting out our sins, we try to keep them under control. Micahel Mangis
  • Gluttony believes that if a little is good, a lot will always be better. Michael Mangis
  • Gluttony is too much of a good thing that leads to a bad thing.
  • Is there a good thing that has become a bad thing?
  • God Help me in this…

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?Have you ever thought of gluttony not just in terms of food? What are maybe some “good things” that have become unhealthy things? How can you start to get some more balance in your life? How can God help you find moderation? Last but not least – can you give it up for Lent? If so who can help to encourage and cheer you on?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about the sin of gluttony. Why not actually act out the verse? Have the kids taste some honey and how good it is. Ask them what might happen if they were to eat the entire jar of it right now. Share with them how Solomon says they’d throw it all up – and how there is a lot of good things – that too much becomes a bad thing.

Challenge for this Week: Give up on good thing that has become a bad thing

We’re All Gluttons

1400423_72410429On Sunday we are looking at one of the most “personal” of the 7 Deadly Sins – the sin of gluttony. This is a hard one to actually discuss because it’s so tied to personal identity, and image. So I think we often refrain from talking about it because it is such a difficult thing to talk about well. Also, I think it’s easy for people to feel a tremendous amount of guilt when we talk about this topic. So in general we don’t discuss this issue ~ even though it is an issue for us all.

That’s right I said for us all.

Regardless of whether you are skinny or not, eat a lot or not, gluttony is an issue for every single one of us.

So what I want to do is to approach this topic from a different angle on Sunday. What if rather than looking at gluttony through the lens of “food” – what if we look at it from the Biblical perspective of unrestrained desire? What if we look at it from the perspective of overconsumption? What if gluttony isn’t just about eating too much at Thanksgiving – but having too much of anything that leads to difficulty?

This is why I think we all struggle with this sin – in some shape or form. Some of us work too much, others watch TV too much, spend time on our phones too much, spend too much, or worry too much. On Sunday we are going to explore those things that we do simply “too much”, that don’t help us but hurt us. Because that’s actually what the sin of gluttony is about ~ overconsuming a good thing so it becomes a bad thing.

So that’s where we are going – but Lent is about reflection. So why not spend some time and reflect on your life now? Is there anything that is good but has become “too much” in your life? Is there a good thing that you need to cut back on? Work, spending time with friends, shopping, reading – or even as we’ll see on Sunday, praying?

So spend some time reflecting and maybe even changing.

We’re All Parents – Some of Us Just Have Kids

65294_10200932839150099_1427605294_nOn Sunday we are going to look at a major issue for all of us as Christians. We are looking at parenting.

You might actually want to push back a little bit. You might be asking, “Is it a major issue for all of us? What about those of us without kids? What about those of us with grown kids? What about those of us who never want kids?”

Well I hate to be the one to tell you…but if you are a follower of Jesus you are a parent.

That’s right. As followers of Jesus in a community we all matter in ensuring that the next generation launches well. You are a model and an example, even if you aren’t a biological parent.

Stanley Hauerwas writes it this way: Christians, single and married, are parents. “Parent” names an office of the Christian community that everyone in the  community is expected faithfully to fulfill.

And he is absolutely right. We all have a responsibility with the youth we, as a community, have been entrusted with. Kids matter. Youth matter. And you matter too in developing a caring community that launches them well. So yes parenting is a major issue for all Christians.

And come Sunday we are going to look at how to launch our kids well. I’m going to share with you three things that I think are really key. But before we get there what about you? What do you think is key in raising kids as a community? What did your parents do – that worked so wonderfully? What have you learned not to do from your parents?

Because the reality for good or bad, we have all been shaped by parenting. Whether that’s good parents, bad parents, or non-existent parents. The question we want to discover is then for those in our care and community how can we raise them well. How can we launch them well? What do you think?

Disciplining with Devotional Books

541684_10152743540730643_546879791_nI have recently run into a new parenting problem. So for all you who have been parents longer here is my problem. Our little boy Hudson does not want to go to sleep recently. Instead, when I go upstairs to bed he is often still up, with a little light on in his room reading. And when I walk in he says, “Daddy go away, I reading, I be quiet, it’s okay”.
Now normally when he is reading we would just take the book away and be done with it. But here is the issue: he’s reading his devotions.
That’s right, my little boy is breaking his bed-time by reading about God. Can you tell he’s a pastor’s kid? I mean how do you discipline someone who is reading his devotions? He says, “Daddy I just reading my devotions for a little bit [which is actually like 1.5 hours]. Daddy it’s okay”
Do I like having a sleepy and cranky boy in the mornings? No. Do I want to discourage him from this amazing habit? No.
So here is what I’ve learned. That it is sometimes wise to see the bigger picture. Paul says, “Dad’s don’t aggravate your kids” in Ephesians. And Paul is right. It is so easy to aggravate our kids, to win a little battle but miss the bigger picture. I could make this into an issue, but I’d be losing out because I want my son to feel so connected to God that it permeates his entire little life and spills out all over the place. And I think this matters, because so often we see the little issue but not the bigger picture. We ground our kids, but miss the fact that in us yelling they feel unloved. We take away their toys when they do something bad, but can actually squash their independence and creativity. The point is to see the bigger picture before making decisions.
I am not someone who thinks we should just let our kids do anything for fear of “squelching their development”. Instead, I want to guide, raise, and train up my son in the best way possible. I want him to go to bed on time, and read his devotions. I don’t want to win with one issue and lose the other.
So when as parents we have these odd moments here’s what I do. I wait before I make a decision, try to see the bigger picture, and try to make the best decision that has the best results long-term.
So in my bed-time breaking devotion reading boy – what did we do? Simple we put him to bed earlier. That’s right earlier. If he wants to read his devotions in bed, awesome! So now we put him to bed earlier so he can read his devotions, and still make it to bed on time. This is a win-win. Paul’s right, don’t aggravate your kids, raise them. The difference is often subtle but it matters a lot.