Praxis – Watch your Mouth

Sunday night, our Echo High Schoolers continued their series called Praxis. Praxis is the practical application of a theory. When it comes to faith, it is faith in practice. It is not just believing something, but living it out. The book of James has a heavy emphasis on praxis, arguing that if your faith does not reveal itself in your priorities, your attitudes, and your lifestyle it is not genuine faith.

One of the areas that true faith is revealed, according to James, is in the way we speak. James takes an entire chapter to talk about the significance of our words. James understands that words have power. Proverbs says that “the power of life and death in the in the tongue.” In a culture where people are always getting in trouble for speaking too soon or too sloppy, this truth should give us pause. Your words can add worth or subtract it, build up or tear down; but they can never be taken back once they are spoken. This reality makes communication dangerous in the digital age, when every status update, photo upload, tweet, text or sound bite can live forever in cyberspace. Now more than ever, people need to learn to harness the power of the tongue.

We talked about the words we speak that subtract worth from others and tear down: gossip, discouragement, criticism, sarcasm, complaining, and bad attitudes. Life is hard enough without having to endure the negative and hurtful words of others. We can wound the people around us, deflate their dreams, and crush their spirit with harsh or critical words. We can drain the joy out of any situation with enough complaining. Teens sometimes believe they can say anything they want, regardless of how cutting or insensitive it is, and cover it over by saying: “I was just kidding.” Joking or not, your words can wound. James compares the destructive potential of words to a consuming fire. We are dealing with a real danger.

Words also have the power to build others up, lend them courage, or ascribe great value to others. Encouragement, genuine compliments, sincerity, and laughter are just a few of the ways you can give life through communication. We challenged our teenagers to ADD to others and not SUBTRACT from them through the way they talk. We have already seen a response from our students in this area. As I type this, there is affirmation being poured out from teen to teen on facebook. One youth leader commented this morning that an “epidemic of niceness” has been started. This will have a more lasting impact than the usual complaining and sarcasm for sure.

Our words are significant because they reveal something about our character. Jesus said: “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Jesus taught that what comes out of a person’s mouth was direct evidence of the contents of his or her heart. If there is evil in your heart, your words will reflect it. It there is love in your heart, your words will reflect it. We live in a culture that is very free with expression, and we need to understand that we are responsible for every bit of communication we release into the world, good or bad.

***Food for thought:
-How are you using words to communicate life to your teenager?
-If you kept track of your words, weighing the negative against the positive, which would win the majority?
-Do you model positive communication to your teenager?
-Do you think that negative words or positive words have more power? Which comes most naturally?

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Praxis

Praxis is the practical application of a theory. When it comes to faith, praxis is faith in practice. It refers to what you live out, not just what you believe. It is one thing to know something, but it is another thing to live it. It is something remarkable that our culture has such a profound disconnection between knowledge and practice. For example: I know all about physical health. I know about eating healthy and exercising. I know how to get into “fighting shape.” That theoretical knowledge actually does nothing for my actual physical health unless I put into practice. People for the most part understand good financial planning. They know that if they spend more than they make, they will go into debt. They know that it is bad idea to live beyond their means. They know that if they do not save any money for retirement, they will not have any money with which to retire. All of this knowledge does them nothing, because the average American household has thousands in consumer debt and nothing saved for retirement. It doesn’t really matter what you know if that knowledge does not translate into action. Your theoretical knowledge might be impressive, but it is worthless, practically speaking. This is especially true in the area of faith. People come to church to learn more about Jesus, who He is, what He did, and what He asks of us. Yet for all this knowledge, sometimes it seems like nothing actually changes. We know that God asks us to love others, but do we love them? We know he asks us to be just, but do we practice justice? We know God asks us to worship Him above everything, but do we do it?

Series Graphic for PraxisJames is a book of the Bible all about praxis. James teaches that faith is something that needs to be lived out. The only kind of faith that matters is faith that is practiced: faith that you can see “evidence” of. Faith is an internal reality, a change from the inside out – starting in the heart and surfacing in changed priorities, affections, attitudes, and actions. James argues that if people cannot see a change in action, your faith probably doesn’t exist.

This month, our Echo High School students will be exploring the book of James and examining where our lives need line up with our beliefs. We will look at practical expressions of our faith in areas like social justice, our handling of money, and what comes out when we open our mouths. We no longer want to miss the path between knowledge and action, faith and charity, piety and moral proof.

Questions for you and your teenager:
*What does “praxis” mean to you – how do you put your faith into practice?
*Some people would say that Christians have a reputation for being hypocrites. What do you think James might say about this, based on what you read, heard, and discussed at Echo?
*Do you think people that “practice what they preach” are rare? Why or why not?
*What are some beliefs you hold that are tough to practice?

From Cooties to Booties

One of the clear requests from parents at our Echo Parent Summits last spring was for some age appropriate teaching on sexuality and God’s plan for our Middle School students. This is something we talk about often in Echo High School, but it is not something we openly address in Echo Middle School. Consistently, the parents of our Middle Schoolers asked us to rethink that approach.

So, starting this Sunday, we will begin a two week teaching series on God’s plan for sexuality for Echo Middle School. The series is called “From Cooties to Booties.” We are going to be careful to be age-appropriate, focusing on God’s plan for sexuality in a funny and light hearted way. This is not going to a “health class” talk, it is not going to be a “birds and the bees” talk, and it will not replace what should happen early and often at home with mom and dad. We will focus on what the Bible says and what Christ-following young teen should think and practice on this subject.

August 8th – From Cooties to Booties – Justin will teach with guys and gals together. This message will address some of the negative/false messages that are sent every day to our students from a sex-obsessed and misinformed culture. We will talk about what God has to say about it and see what our response to the truth should be. You can be sure that we will talk about these issues with honesty and grace, never guilt.

August 15th – Guy Talk/Girl Talk – The guys and gals will meet in separate groups to talk about some gender specific issues. Justin will teach the guys and Jamie will teach the ladies. Here we talk about treating the opposite sex with immeasurable value, as well as recognizing our own immeasurable value in the eyes of God.

Topics we will include: Crushes and middle school romances, the hurry some students are in to grow up or to appear “mature,” the best places to go when you have questions, the dangers of pornography, what is appropriate affection for a middle schooler and what is not, etc. God’s plan in a sentence: God gave us sex as something wonderful that build intimacy between a husband and a wife: purity now paves the way to intimacy later, while experimenting now erodes and damages that intimacy someday.

If you are not comfortable with your student attending these services, please feel free to hold them out (you know your child better than anyone). If you have any questions for me, feel free to email me or call me this week or next.

One last thing: this is a great opportunity to bring up some tough topics that parents often find uncomfortable. Leverage this at home! Talk about this with your kids, even if it isn’t comfortable.