FCC Newsletter – “Scott’s Thoughts” – Taming the Tongue (James 3:1-12)

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, has lectured throughout the country on the powerful, and often negative, impact of words. He often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a small number of listeners raise their hands, signifying “yes.” Others laugh, and quite a large number call out, “no!”

Telushkin responds: “Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue.”

The problem, according to the book of James, is that “[o]ut of the same mouth come praising and cursing” (James 3:10). Much like when people wonder, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?!” it can be, as James points out, like “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body” that “corrupts the whole person” (James 3:6-7). Yeouch!

Like the rudder on a ship, James says, even though it is small, our tongues can steer our whole lives in a helpful or a hurtful direction.

So it is crucial for the Christian that we learn to control our tongues. Our witness to the reality of God, as individuals and as a church, depends on it!

So, how can we aim our “rudders” in the direction of helping? Might I suggest we practice. Captains of ships don’t just instantly become captains and take over the wheel their first time out. They have to learn. Likewise, using our words to help and to heal isn’t natural for most of us. It takes discipline and practice… not just empty prayers that ask the Holy Spirit to magically become the “Great Navigator” of our tongues while we idly wait for a miracle from on high. That was the error many committed when they marveled at Jesus’ powers as an easy fix that didn’t require them to change. Since when did exhibiting Godly behavior not take real work or effort? It’s why Jesus said in Matthew 26:41 that the “spirit is willing, but the body is weak” and Paul admonishes us to discipline our bodies.

So, how ‘bout this? Let’s try, as a body of believers, even if for only 24 hours, to go without saying any unkind words about, or to another person. Make a conscious decision and effort to do that one simple thing. And, over time, as we increasingly give ourselves to Godly patterns of behavior by using our speech as a bandage rather than a bludgeon, God will be glorified in our church.

Then, we won’t have people questioning out of sneering surprise, “You praise God and follow Jesus?” But they’ll declare out of genuine admiration and wonder, “You praise God and follow Jesus!”

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FCC Newsletter Blurb – Why We Pursue Excellence

Figured I’d share some of what I’m writing in the church newsletter. I think I’m gonna have to use snippets from my vocational production (How stilted sounding is that?!… What the heck is “vocational production”?) in order to consistently have fodder for blogging and, at the same time, not add more time than it’s worth (i.e., drive myself crazy with yet another to-do list item that I will never get done.)

Why We Pursue Excellence
When Vince Lombardi took over for the Green Bay Packers, they had lost all but one of 12 games the previous year. They were an organization needing inspiration. Don’t worry, the metaphorical similarity to First Christian Church doesn’t begin there! :o) On the contrary, we’ve been blessed with many years of servant leadership the likes of which many churches never enjoy, and I am fortunate to begin my ministry as your preacher on the shoulders of many who have gone before. First Christian Church has been faithful to God’s calling since its formation in 1926 and, Lord willing, has many great years ahead of it. Friends, we’ve got good stuff to work with and, in many ways, there’s not a lot to “fix.”

But Lombardi did see untapped potential and, in his first speech with the new team he declared with a tone of purpose and confidence, “Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.” He paused, stepped up within a foot of the front row of players, and then he said, “I am not remotely interested in just being good.”

Wow! What challenging words for a team looking to win a few games! And while I’m certainly no Lombardi and First Christian Church is far healthier than a team coming off a one-win season, I am excited about pursuing excellence together because of the potential we have together. Not because we want to build a big church. Not because we want to be the coolest church in town… But because we want to communicate to our community and world the excellence of God. As God’s people we are called to spread a passion for the supremacy of God, and in light of that high calling, I don’t have much interest in just getting by. The glory of God is too important.

A lofty goal? Yes. But I’d rather fail trying to attain excellence than be successful at mediocrity. And while we certainly won’t always win, aiming high means we will catch excellence (and a quite a few not-yet-Christians) along the way!

    “How Fun Doesn’t This Sound?”

    A good post by Jennifer Taylor, Christian Standard blogger… “How fun doesn’t this sound?”

    From a church paper: “There will be an Easter Egg Hunt and Lunch at the church on Saturday, April 7, from 11 AM to 1 PM. There will be games, crafts, an egg hunt and lunch! All food items will be nut, chocolate, and dairy free.”

    Church signs and newsletters are classic sources for this kind of stuff. I like the comment from one guy who said, “They even have the nerve to call them ‘food items.'” Seriously.