Tag Archives: Sunday

Obstacles to Worship 2: Sick and Tired

Part two of the obstacles to worship series comes on the back end of my sick week.  Last week I had the respiratory bug and lost my voice for the weekend.  I can’t even put to words how frustrating and discouraging this was.  By Sunday morning I felt better except that I was a little tired and my voice  made me sound like Lurch from the Adams Family; only shorter.

I was forced to offer worship to God without using my voice. No Singing! If I tried, very little came out.  I did not feel so bad that I could not attend worship, so I came to worship.  Physically I was present, but I had to engage myself into worship in a different mode.  I believe that scripture is very clear in that we are all to “sing our praises to the Lord.”  Sunday morning I longed to sing at the top of my lungs but it was not to be.  I felt chipper, joyful, but no joyful noise would come forth.  Could I really lead worship without a voice?

I could and I did with the help of my team.  Here’s how;

  • The early service was, in some ways a easier and in some ways more difficult.
  1. I was able to hand of the congregational leading to a faithful choir member.
  2. I could still direct the choir special – (my voice loss hadn’t affected my arms.) However–
  3. In the traditional setting where only two instruments play the accompaniment and the congregation’s only mode of participation is “stand and sing” I was unable to worship out loud.  I could lead the choir and that was it. So I was only actively participating on that one song.  Clapping isn’t a regular practice in that setting, so my hands were useless as a praise instrument.  I stood on the front row and smiled.  If the bass part descended into my range I grunted a few notes.
  • The second service also had it’s limitations and opportunities.
  1. I handed off the song intros to a praise team member. And another praise team member was already carrying the melody. (A team of vocalists is effective at leading worship and is also a built in back up plan when I can’t lead.)
  2. I could still play guitar and lead the band on all the worship music.  This was very close to full participation to me.  I really felt like I was worshiping even though my voice wasn’t a part of the offering.  (Were I not playing guitar I would have been clapping.)
  3. I smiled.  When I think about the Lord, He makes me smile.  I can’t help it.  Smiling leads people in worship.  Even when I’m not singing, I can communicate the joy of the Lord with a smile.  I’m always preaching to the choir that they need to smile, so I made certain that my discouragement about not having a voice didn’t derail my heart from worshiping.

Worshipers and worship leaders, what do you do when you aren’t quite yourself on a Sunday morning?  Do you give up and go home or come and observe as a non-participant?  How do you find ways to join God’s people in praise when you just don’t have it?

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Obstacles To Worship: The Unfriendly Face

Worship leaders face many obstacles when leading worship.  These obstacles can deter us from setting our hearts on Christ.  Obstacles can also derail our focus from leading His followers in worship.  One such obstacle reared its ugly head (pun intended) for me recently. Let’s call it the Unfriendly Face.

If you lead worship or lead a team of worship leaders, you are constantly reminding your worship team to smile, show joy, make eye contact, let your light shine!  I’m sure I make this reminder to my choirs and praise team weekly or at least every other week.  A simple friendly smile from the worship team or choir can melt away the pride that sometimes keeps a congregant from joining the song.  Sure, we should all be ready to jump right in to praise singing on Sunday morning because God is good.  He has commanded us to sing his praises, and we are his obedient and thankful children, right?  Unfortunately, we are seldom ready to just jump right in to singing His praises.  Life is hard, and we get distracted.  We have doubts.  We need encouragement.  This is why we need the friendly smile from our worship leaders.  It encourages us in the Lord – most of the time.

The Unfriendly Face I’m speaking about is not one from the choir or praise team.  Not that we have mastered smiling – we haven’t.  I continue to be amazed at how slowly a smile can evolve on some faces.  People who smile all the time open their mouths to sing, and that delightful smile disappears into the abyss.  We’re working on it, but that’s not the obstacle to which I refer.

Unfriendly Face is a person in the congregation who refuses to participate.  Their posture implies that singing God’s praises is somehow beneath their dignity.  And the look on their face communicates that they wish you would hurry and conclude this silly singing business and get to the important stuff.  I’ve learned over the years that I can’t look at these people and not have it effect me as worship leader.

I’d prefer to look at those who smile back.  The way they sing praises to God and smile encourages me.  I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I often need to be encouraged by psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19.)  Those in the congregation whose praise singing shows in outward enthusiasm often lead me in worship. But then Unfriendly Face…

I’m not complaining.  That’s not what my blog is for, so please hear me. I’m NOT complaining.  We have great participation almost every Sunday morning at my church. I know that I have brother and sister worship leaders who have dozens of those Unfriendly Face worshipers weekly.  I’m NOT complaining.  Also, it is not my place to judge what goes on in the hearts of other worshipers, but sour faces have their effect on worship leaders.  So what do we do about it?  Here are a couple of my things that I do.

  • First, realize that you can not force anyone to smile or open their mouths to sing or stand or sit up straight.  Each individual is responsible for their own action (or inaction) when it comes to worship.
  • Second, don’t get pious and think “Thank You, O Lord, that I am not like that man or woman who refuses to offer You praises.”  This opens a whole other obstacle to worship leading – Humility or the lack there of.
  • Third, pray for that person – by name if you know who they are.  It just might be that their silence is not a refusal to praise but an opportunity to reflect.  God is doing a work in them and it is different than what he is doing in you.
  • Fourth, pray for yourself – you know who you are.  You know the times you have failed to worship through action during the past week.  Confess it.  Repent.  Worship is more than just singing.  Singing loudly and smiling big does not mean that your worship is complete.
  • Lastly, seek out that person after the service.  Perhaps they need a more personal, one-on-one encouragement.  Our broadcast-style worship leading effort is an attempt to lead a large group  from a stage.  Get off the stage.  Go get to know that unfriendly face; encourage them.  Don’t stop leading worship when you leave the platform.

Have you been distracted by  Unfriendly Face while leading worship?  How do you overcome your distraction? As a worshiper do you ever feel like you just don’t want to sing?  When tempted to withhold your praise, what do you do? 


Evaluating Our Personal Worship

Pastors and Worship leaders evaluate the Sunday morning worship hour each week.  Many times that evaluation is intentional and facilitated by a list of evaluation questions.  Other times the pastor enters his office on Monday, sits behind his desk, buries his face in his hands and mutters, “Well that didn’t go well!”  Clearly, intentional evaluation, done well, can be used to guide leaders to make necessary adjustments and improvements.  Reactionary evaluation, however, offers little or no building blocks for the leader to improve the plan.  There is no opportunity for the evaluated one to discover “a better way.”

I have been a part of many conversations on how to evaluate worship.  All of these discussions have been from the perspective of the ones who plan or lead worship services.  But I have not aware of many conversations which our own personal worship.

Worship leaders can attend conferences, enjoy conversations with fellow worship leaders, participate in webinars on worship leading, all in an effort to be better worship leaders.  But what process is there for disciplining all believers to become better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks?  Sometimes I wonder if we just expect that developing and training better worship leaders will automatically translate into having churches full of better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

If Pastors and worship leaders don’t intentionally guide their evaluations process, the default will takes us to the ABC’s of Sunday morning evaluation.  Attendance, Baptisms, and Cash – though these are important to the church’s ability to continue to grow and function, they are not very good indicators that Spirit and Truth worship has taken place.  So what is?

In our modern church cultural, we tend to ask questions like:

  • “Was there and attitude of excitement?”
  • “Did we enjoy ourselves?”
  • “Did I sing all the notes correctly?”
  • “Did I sing harmony?”
  • “Did the sermon move me?”
  • “Did the prayers motivate me?”
  • “Did the leadership inspire me?”
  • “Was twenty dollars enough? Should I have given more? The usher kinda glared at me.”

I won’t say that I’m a divinity expert, but I don’t think that there is a biblical standard for these kind of questions.  In fact, when I read through them a second time, they seem rather self serving.  These questions, however represent the unwritten worship rules in most church worship services.  Perhaps there’s a good reason they are unwritten.  If we were to examine ourselves using the gift God has given us – His Word – then we would commit to a completely different standard for evaluating our own personal worship.

  • Did I present myself with HUMILITY  -Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.(James 4:10 ESV)
  • What about my worship offering communicated to God that I am COMPLETELY HIS?    -I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(Romans 12:1 ESV)
  • Did I offer HONEST CONFESSION or try to deny and justify my sin to God?     -Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. (Psalm 24:1-4 ESV)
  • Does the LOVE I claim to have for God in this moment overflow to the other areas in my life?     –Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
  • Are others encouraged and uplifted in Christ, because of my TESTIMONY?       – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)
  • Did I express my THANKFULNESS to God or merely complain about all my misfortunes?     –Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)
  • Do I SUBMIT myself to everyone else within the family of faith?         –Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 ESV)

What if we began evaluating worship using the second list of questions? What it that became our new normal?  Would it reform the way we think about worship?  Would it bring revival to our own walk with God?


Evaluating The Hour on Sunday (part 2)

Last week I posted the standard questions we ask when we evaluate the worship PLAN from the previous Sunday service.  As promised I am putting up our questions we use to evaluate the PRESENTATION layer of Sunday morning worship leading.  The reason we distinguish our questions between PLAN and PRESENTATION is because the work is done by different individuals or teams.  Therefore, the solutions to problems that arise will be handled by different teams.

The regular evaluation is done by the pastors and the creative planning team (the ones who create the PLAN.)  The PRESENTATION is done by the worship team (worship leader, choir, band, vocal team, drama team, sound team, video team.) They are the ones you follow and execute the plan.  I know it can sound kind of sterile to use these terms, but Christ is our center as we plan and we always seek to follow the Holy Spirit throughout the process. He works in Monday planning team just like he works in Sunday worship team.

When we evaluate the PLAN we want to know if it was a good plan?  Did put the pieces in place that allow and encourage biblical Spirit-and-Truth worship to be offered.  When we evaluate the PRESENTATION we want to make sure that we did everything we could do (or not do) on Sunday morning to engage the worshiper and invite them to join us in worship before the throne of God.  Here is our non-exhaustive list of questions;

Evaluating the PRESENTATION

MUSIC

  • Was the music presented at a high level of quality? Introductions? Transitions? Song Endings?
  • Were the transitions in and out of the singing portion appropriate? Clear? Well executed?
  • Did the musicians work well together? Did the band gel? Did the singers blend?
  • Was the volume of the music appropriate? Individual instruments and voices? Too loud/too soft? Overall?
  • Were the songs achievable and enjoyable to sing? Complicated melody? Key too high/too low? Too fast/too slow?

DRAMA

  • Was the drama presented with a high level of quality? Actors well prepared? Enough time given to prepare? Where actors believable?  Was the scene believable?
  • Was there smooth transition between drama and the elements surrounding it?

VIDEO

  • How was the transition into and out of the video?
  • Was it introduced (if needed) or set up properly?
  • Was the volume set well from the start? Was a special sound check performed for the video before the service?
  • Were the lights adjusted to an appropriate level during the video?  Was the sound person prepared/informed?

For follow worship leaders reading this, I hope this will help you the way it helps our team.  Feel free to use any of these evaluation questions for your teams.  If you don’t lead worship, but are a worshiper yourself, I hope this list helps you feel that worship is such a high priority for you church that we spend a lot of time making sure that we do our very best to steward the hour on Sunday.  Speaking for myself and many other worship pastors out there, we have a passion to see that the body of Christ worships the person of Christ for His benefit and for the encouragement of one another.

Do you have additional evaluation questions that aren’t covered in our non-exhaustive list?  Feel free to bring them into the conversation in the comment section below.


Evaluating The Hour on Sunday (part 1)

Most worship leaders and pastors have a process of evaluating the Sunday morning service.  For some it may be as simple as sitting down Monday morning and reflecting on the events of the previous day.  For others, they have a group of people they trust who will give loving, honest feedback.  These people have a healthy understanding of what the goals are on Sunday morning.  They also have a nurturing and encouraging relationship with the worship leader or pastor.  There are also those worship leaders who have a set list of questions they go over, from time to time, to make sure their worship planning efforts are focused and balance.  As worship pastors, we continually want to make sure that we plan and lead worship from a healthy perspective – one that makes it easy for the church to focus her attention on Christ .

I am fortunate enough to have all three evaluation mechanisms in place. 1) Time on Monday to reflect on Sunday. 2) A team who I trust to give loving and honest feedback. 3) A list of questions to help us evaluate the planning and leading efforts for the hour on Sunday.

My list of questions used for evaluation has two sides; On the left side are questions to evaluate the Plan and on the right side are the questions to evaluate the presentation.  In essence; 1) Was it a good plan and 2) Did we successfully carry out the plan?  Following is the list of questions we have used to evaluate.  We don’t keep the list in front of us like we used to because we have developed the practice of asking ourselves these questions as a part of our evaluation procedure.  It took a few years of evaluating for this list to take shape and all the members of my team contributed, but it  hasn’t changed much over the last five years.

Evaluating the PLAN

MUSIC

  • Were the song lyrics biblical? relevant? appropriate to the sermon topic? encouraging? enriching?
  • Was an appropriate variety of songs utilized? variety in instrumentation? variety of tempos? balance of new and old?
  • Did we rejoice AND adore AND reflect AND commit AND pray?
  • Did we reinforce the essential truths about Jesus AND the cross AND the trinity AND eternity AND our sin?
  • Was the music portion too long? too short?
  • Did the music portion lead to meaningful congregational participation
  • Did the overall service have a logical flow? Did the order in which we progressed make sense?

DRAMA

  • If we used drama, was the message of the drama piece relevant?
  • Did the sketch set up the theme? Was it applicable?
  • Could seekers with the theme and characters?
  • Was the content of the sketch appropriate with the theme and audience? Too juvenile or mature? Too abstract or simplistic?

VIDEO

  • What was the purpose of the video? Prepare worship? Present the theme? Highlight upcoming event?
  • Were appropriate backgrounds used for songs and theme?  Was background motion too busy? Did theme art help the listener understand what the sermon was about?
  • Was video relevant for the way it was applied?

As stated, all these questions help us evaluate the PLANNING aspect of worship leadership.  I have a separate list of unique questions specifically geared to help us evaluate the PRESENTATION aspect of worship leadership.  I’ll share that list next week.

As a worship leader, do you have a process for evaluating the hour on Sunday?  Worshipers, do you evaluate your personal worship offering or do you expect that since worship was lead well, then you must have worshiped well?  Do you have any questions you would add to evaluate your worship service PLAN?  Please leave a comment.


The Day After The Day After Easter

Twas the day after Easter? No, the day after that, folks returned to the lives they had lead.

For the most part, all life settled back to its norm and many or most felt their hearts were still warm
from Sunday and spiritually fed.

They let their minds wander toward worry and pleasure forgetting the power of Christ’s precious treasure,
they settled for luke warm instead.

“Easter’s alright.  It does have its place” said a red-headed boy, chocolate still on his face.
Said a sweet little gal “The people looked swell; men in suits and ladies in lace.”
“But when it’s all done, I’ve a business to run,” said a gent as he packed his briefcase.

Seems the world had moved on and forgotten the song ’bout victory over hell, sin and death.
“Those words that bring cheer don’t apply to us here, on Tuesday” said Lori and Seth.

“Could there be a way” another did say “to keep Easter alive all the year?”
Then he turned up the show with his TV remote to drown other sounds from his ear.
Another repined, “Lord just give us a sign…” as she helped her son on with his jacket,
“…that You still care when life isn’t fair, falls apart and I’m caught in a panic.”

Easter’s crescendo flew out through the window as they sped through the tasks of their day.
The Sun overhead brightly shined, but instead no one noticed and busy they stayed.
Rather than hope, their souls would still grope for the something they’d let slip away.

Then the voice of a younger cried out much like thunder, “He’s Risen! He’s Risen, indeed!”
“But that was on Sunday, the day before Monday. On Tuesday that’s not what we need!
So mellow, young fellow.” said Art with a bellow, “Don’t be a fanatic, I plead.”

But the voice of the younger cried out even stronger, “He’s Risen, He’s Living again.”
Repeated and then, other voices joined in with “Alive, Forever, Amen!”

Remember to live out the faith that you sing out.  It matters on Tuesday the same,
as it did, when on Sunday, you said “Jesus Loves Me.” Don’t forget you’re the reason He came!


Make Way For The King!

The People Seek Jesus to Make Him King

The People Seek Jesus to Make Him King (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Palm Sunday we remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem to the praises of His followers.  They placed the branches of palms on the road to make a path.  Most even took the cloak off their back and placed that on the road to make Jesus’ path. (Matt. 21:8) Would you do that?  Would you ruin a perfectly good cloak to make way for your Savior?  Do you know how hard it is to get out donkey stains?

Remember what happened next? Jesus went to the temple and found the place full of greedy selfish people. They were “helping” outsiders – guests – by changing their foreign currency into the proper form so that they could buy the animal for sacrifice.  They were ripping people off!  The church was full of guests.  But the scribes and chief priests could think only of profiting off of them.  After all, these people only come to the Temple once a year.  Jesus – in righteous anger – dumped over the tables and drove those crooks out of the temple yard.  Temple was to be a place to spend time in prayer and to know the Father.

If it troubles you to think about Jesus’ show of anger, just remember that in a few days he would die for the sins of these money changers.

When guests show up for Easter services next week, let us be humble.  They are not here so we can be proud of how full building is. (Not for our profit)   They are here to seek and to find the Savior, the Redeemer.  They are here at the invitation of the Father. Take off your cloak and lay it down to make a path; a path that leads them to Jesus.   Let’s all humbly serve our guests next week and every week.  In the name of Jesus.


December 16, 1983

December 16, 1983 is a date, for my family, that will never be forgotten. My first memory of that day was at 5th grade recess.  Our school principal came outside to give me a message that my brothers and I would need to get on the bus to go to our papa and granny’s after school.  It seemed strange to me that he, The principal himself, came out onto the playground in the cold to give me the message personally, instead of just sending a message through my teacher.  In his demeanor there seemed to be something more that he wasn’t telling me.  But as a 10-year-old, I shrugged it off and went back to playing with my friends. We were digging tunnels in the snow which had drifted against a hill.

So after school, my two younger brothers and I boarded the bus to Granny’s, still unaware of the life-changing news that we would soon hear.  We arrived at Granny’s and were instructed to begin our homework. Mom wasn’t home yet from her doctor visit. (She was pregnant with the youngest of us 5 brothers.) I think Granny sensed our worry, or at least our curiosity as to the reason why we weren’t taken home after school.  If Mom wasn’t home yet, then Dad would have been there on the farm to greet us. I did wonder why, but I couldn’t have imagined this. She assured us that Mom was just fine after her doctor visit and that she would be coming soon to let us know what was going on.  I think Granny knew that we needed to hear about such a tragedy from our own mother.  I guess after that, we did some homework, played and caused the usual trouble.

When Mom arrived, I wasn’t ready for the news. How could I be? Mom sat us down and said, “Boys, I have some bad news.”  My first thought was about Dad.  Was he okay?  The she said the words that I would never forget.  “Our house has burned to the ground. Everything’s gone.”  We began crying as the weight of these words sank in. I still recall the pain and hurt that I felt then.  We all hugged Mom tightly and cried with her. My youngest brother cried with us, but I wondered if he really understood or if it just upset him to see all of us so emotional.  My first thought for him was about his beloved pink blanket.  In my 10-year-old mind I couldn’t imagine how my 4-year-old brother could survive one night without his pink blanky.When faced with this kind of loss, so many thoughts swirl around in your mind.  And it’s interesting how kids think of these things so differently. I thought of the money I had been saving in a Hershey’s cocoa tin in my closet.  I think I had saved about $20 from birthday money and money I had gotten from Dad for picking up walnuts.  I was saving for some Star Wars action figures to add to my collection. A collection which was now destroyed by the fire. And my $20 had burned up in the fire.  But Mom and Dad had money – no, their money burned up, too. How much had Mom and Dad lost?  I was too young to understand their loss, but I knew that it was bigger than my $20.

Later in the evening, Dad arrived covered in soot and ash.  I had never seen my dad cry until that day.  He hugged us and Mom and assured us that God was going to take care of us.  When I smelled the smoke on him, I pictured our house in flames.  I knew that he had fought the fire for his family.

The memories get further apart after that but I know we stayed the first couple of days with Granny and Papa.  The very next day Granny and Mom went to town for some shopping.  We’d lost everything.  Now, in my mind we needed everything. What store do you go to to get everything?  I remember my papa had given Mom some money to make sure each of us had nice clothes to wear to church.  We were still singing “What Child Is This?” for the service on Sunday, and he knew we that would need something nice to wear.  A few days later we moved in with my other grandparents.  They had more room and the extra bathrooms necessary for our big family.  We celebrated Christmas there, and I got the Star Wars toy that I wanted – the toy version of the hoverbike from Return of the Jedi. (By design, it broke into 3 pieces on impact, just like in the movie.)  I appreciated that toy so much and the giving hearts of my parents.  It was strange to celebrate Christmas in a home that wasn’t our own.  Our home was gone now.  Or was it really?  Words like “home,” and “family” now took on a bigger meaning than ever before.


Using Technology to Deepen My Sunday Experience

Each of the last two weeks at FSBC, we have tested out the YouVersion app as a compliment to the worship on Sunday morning. If you haven’t heard of this app, it is available on any smart phone or iPad as a free download. It’s a new experience for me as I stated, so I thought I could take this opportunity to layout how I intend to make use of our live events, should we continue to provide them. The above pic is from my laptop, but the examples listed below will demonstrate the iPad since that’s what I’m using as I follow the sermon.
Before the pastor begins His sermon, I open the app and search for a live event. Since I have my app set to recognize my location it finds that live events closest to me. There’s only one and, of course, it’s our live event; FSBC Lawrence. So, I select it and it opens in the drop down bar you see below, on the left.  Each of the scripture texts the pastor is using are in the sidebar but beneath them is a link to turn to that page in my digital YouVersion Bible.  Selecting that link will take me to the corresponding verse in the specific translation being used.
This shows the drop down with scriptures and outline.
I can close the sidebar and
view the scripture separately.
 You may noticed in the above right picture that there is line in the drop down, highlighted in blue.  It says “Add your notes.”  Selecting this takes me to another drop down box where I can add my own notes and thoughts to the Pastor’s.  I tend to write tips to myself for later application.  It looks something like this;
I add my own notes to the drop down window.
At the top of the “added notes” box is a place for my email.  I won’t enter that until later.  As of right now, our live event is kept open until Saturday.  So I can go back and add more notes later, before sending a completed copy to myself.
Once I vote in the poll I can see the results.
The poll included this week allows me to consider the main reason behind what keeps me from showing more love to those around me.  I pray for Jesus to help me conquer this in my life, so that I  can get down to the business of “Loving Deeper.”
After the service, at home, I open the live event again, add a couple more thoughts to the “Add your notes” option and then I email it to myself.  I chose to email it straight to my Evernote account.
I email the notes to my Evernote account
The email includes everything that was in the drop down bar; all scriptures, the outline plus my added notes.  I don’t make any changes before I send it.  I can do all that easier once I open it in Evernote.
Here it is. (pulls out the dish prepared before the program)
In Evernote, I select a folder
3 different tags means 3 ways to
find this note at a later date

Once I open it in Evernote, I create a folder called sermon notes and tag it with the themes.  This time it it tagged “love” since the title of the message is “Love Deeper.”  Additionally, I tagged it with our pastors name and our series Title.  Now I know I’ll have at least three ways of finding my notes later.

After I create the folder and add the tags I decide to make some adjustments for easier reading. I bold the scriptures and italicize the notes I added so the stand out from the rest of the text.  I could delete the poll since now it just appears as text.  But instead, I chose to leave it and create bullet points for the five options.  Looking at those later might remind me of what I still need to overcome.
This is still new to us at FSBC Lawrence.  I may change the way I’m using this tool later on, but for now, I expect this will deepen the impact of the message for me and allow me to think about my action response throughout the week.
Have you tried the YouVersion live event feature?  Do you find yourself coming back to it later in the day?  Do you add your own notes and email yourself?  What do you do with that email afterward?

The Tongue (caution! hazardous when in use)

Beware of the backhanded complement.  Yes, I mean you… and me… and all of us.  This is a caution to anyone with a tongue.
Pastor Joe was right on Sunday! Boy, do I need to hear that sermon everyday!  Note to self; Speak Sweeter!  I’m not saying that I’m a foul mouth, though I could have said that about my old self would.  And I’m not saying that I’m prone to insult others either.  I’m sure I have been insulting, but it’s not a regular practice.  All things considered, I think I hold my tongue rather well.  But, on the contrary, I am only deceiving myself because James 3:8 say that “No man can tame the tongue.” It’s hard It’s impossible for all of us.
My mom always told me; “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all!”  She was right!  And I’m ashamed of the times when I didn’t heed that wisdom.  I’ve become more skilled at holding my tongue.  You know; keeping it on a leash.  But keeping the tongue on a leash is not the same thing as “taming” the tongue.  I need to graduate from those wise words and use my tongue to encourage and build up others.
A tame animal does not need a leash to keep it from attacking others.  Leashes are for animals that can not be trusted to behave. (The tongue is one such animal!) If the leash breaks, then LOOK OUT!  And if no man can tame the tongue as James claims then it will take more than a man.  It will require the intervention of the God Man, Jesus.  Only Jesus can tame our tongues.  He is the only one who can be trusted with such a powerful weapon.
Let me explain what I mean when I say I hope to graduate from the “don’t say anything at all” set of guidelines.  I want to be good at the art of the compliment.  If my tongue is under Jesus control, then he will use it to build others up and to encourage them.  When I try to do this on my own, my natural gift of sarcasm tends to take over.
  • Me to self:  I want to compliment this person.  They’ve really been doing a great job!
  • Sarcastic self says to me: Great idea, I’ll take it from here
  • Me:  Thanks for wiping down those tables.  It make such a nice impression on people and shows that we care.
  • Sarcastic self:  You’re really good at that, ever consider a career as a bus boy?
WHY does this happen?  Because “no one can tame the tongue.”
2 Reasons we fail to give genuine encouragement.
  1. Sarcasm – We really want to say something nice, but our pride talks us out of it. Somehow we think that building others up will lower our worth in their eyes.  Our desire to “build others up” gets polluted by our “tear others down so we look smarter” strategy.  So Pride sends Sarcasm to the front line and allows us to safely give a compliment (sort of) and at the same time protect our “I’m better than you” falsely inflated ego that we can’t seem to live without.
  2. The Backhanded Compliment. Another detour from a real heartfelt compliment is the “backhanded compliment.” It’s a loophole in the “if you can’t say anything nice” strategy.  It goes something like this; If you must say something rude at least disguise it as a compliment.  Here are a few examples; “You really sound good when you just sing” “You look so pretty today, I almost didn’t recognize you.” “You clean up nice.” “You know, you’re pretty smart for a liberal arts major.”
whywhywhy(shakes head) – Okay, James we get it. NO ONE can tame the tongue.  We try and try, but we just come up with sarcastic, backhanded, what’s in it for me?, half-hearted efforts that fall far short of our goal, which is to offer real encouragement.
Lord, save us from our tongues.  Save others from our tongues!  Have mercy on us when we try and fail to tame our tongues.  May our words be Sweeter.  Give us Your words to speak, to build, and to encourage others.
Have you ever been the victim of a backhanded compliment?  Can you share it with us?  What is your favorite backhanded compliment?  Perhaps it would help if we laugh at ourselves and our stupid tongues.  Leave a comment below.  This could be interesting.