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A PICTURE IS PAINTED BY A THOUSAND WORDS

Communication experts tell us that the words we use only constitute around 30% of how we communicate. While I’m not sure how they arrived at that figure, it’s easy enough to see what they’re saying from how we communicate without words. For example, we often use our hands to communicate. When a hand is used to wave or make a fist it is communicating two distinct things. A finger on a hand can point at something or another finger can say something not quite as helpful. A frown or a smile also communicates quite different messages. A kiss can communicate different things depending on whether it’s your Grandma or your three-year old daughter or your spouse. Because communication and language involves around 70% non-verbal speech, it is quite tricky to master—and especially so if you want to develop some close relationships. In fact, if you want to learn how to get along with anyone, you must learn how they communicate. And to state the obvious, if you have committed, or ever will commit, yourself entirely to another person, you will soon discover that you both have a “language” that will be at the heart of all of your conflicts. 

We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us;
whoever is not from God does not listen to us.
By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
First John 4:6

I’ve been language learning for a number of years. This has included learning Biblical Greek; then, as my theological enquiries have deepened and broadened, I began to learn German some time ago (as many of the most influential theologians in the world are German). If you’ve ever tried to learn a foreign language you’ll soon discover that each language has strange expressions that sound nonsensical when translated word-for-word into English. This is certainly the case in both Biblical Greek and German. These odd expressions are known as idioms. The German idiom – “Die Nase voll haben” which in English literally is, “Your nose is full.” But this German expression has nothing to do with having a head-cold, flu symptoms, or even a snuffly nose. It actually means that someone is frustrated and fed-up! This highlights that even if language only consisted of the words we use, it would still be difficult to always understand what someone might really mean when they use an unfamiliar idiom!

“‘This people honors Me with their lips,
but their heart is far from Me’”
Matthew 15:8

 

GOD HAS A LANGUAGE

For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

The Bible contains the language of God. It also reveals how God communicates – through the world He has made, the lives He has transformed, and His plan of redemption revealed in the Bible. If you want to communicate with God you need to learn God’s language – because language is the means by which you get close to anyone. Perhaps the greatest lesson anyone in a relationship with another person can learn though, is that language is not just, and is far more than, words. When two become close and learn each others language, they recognise that even a look can communicate a lot. God invites His children to look to Him (Ps. 123:2) and as we do He will “counsel us with His eye” (Ps. 32:8). 

¶ I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
Psalm 32:8-9

 

EVERYONE HAS A WORDLESS LANGUAGE

Communication experts tell us that there are five levels of communication. Only three of the five levels are word-based and even though words are used in the other two, they are not based on these words. To understand these two particular levels of communication involves being able to read facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and reactions. But it also involves being able hear and understand what is being communicated. From my experience this requires a minimum of 25 years to begin to be able to communicate at these two levels with one other person. It requires patience, trial and error, and a willingness to learn how to apologise. 

¶ Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
First Peter 3:7

 

THE GREATEST PROBLEM YOU’LL THINK YOU’LL EVER FACE IN LIFE

The most difficult challenge you’ll ever have to deal with throughout your life is others. They’ll make you angry, get you frustrated, and hurt you. At the root of these challenges will be miscommunication with others and communication breakdowns. Your ability to understand how language and communication really works could save you from much of this heartache. But the most unrealised — and by far the potentially greatest source of — heartache may eternally shock untold numbers of poor souls when they realise too late that they did not respond to God’s communications.     

 

THE SOLUTION TO OUR GREATEST COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

Communication is not merely about the words we use. The language used in communication often takes the form of our actions, our choices, our attitude, and how we treat others. Our greatest communication breakdown is when we refuse to communicate with God and deliberately choose to distance ourselves from Him.

¶ Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened,
that it cannot save,
or His ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden His face from you
so that He does not hear.
Isaiah 59:1-2

If we pause and reflect on how God has reached out to us, we see that He has sent His Son into our world as a zygote who became a baby. This tells us that God was has taken every effort to us know that He is keen to connect with us with intimidating us. As we reflect on how the Christ-child grew up into manhood in a small village, we see that God was patient in how He communicated with us and not frustrated with us. As we consider how Jesus conducted Himself in defending the vulnerable, the poor, women and particularly widows, we see that God is deeply caring and compassionate toward us. And, especially if we listen to Jesus the Christ and what He taught about God and how to live for God, we will hear that God is kind, merciful, just, willing to save, and our Heavenly Father who offers to adopt us. 

You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
Deuteronomy 13:4

Perhaps the clearest thing we would hear from God by reflecting on Christ’s actions, choices, attitude, and how He treated others, is that God invites us to come to Him (Matt. 11:28) and accept His offer of forgiveness and reconciliation. All of our objections to accepting His invitation fade away as we come closer. All of our doubts vanish in the light of the truth that gets brighter as we continue toward Him. 

¶ “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 THE MESSAGE

Language is not merely about words. We’ve all heard the expression that a picture paints a thousand words — and while Dr. F.W. Boreham could tell you that a picture can inspire a thousands words, there is actually something uniquely precious about being able to precisely express yourself with just right words. This is why I think this saying needs revising because sometimes it takes ‘a thousand words to paint a [mental] picture’ and a thousand conversations to learn the language of your child or your spouse, and a good deal of time in God’s Word to become familiar with God’s language. If we can begin to learn each other’s language, we might find that each other’s communication picture becomes clearer and easier to see and in the process we may also find those conflicts we’ve become so used to aren’t as common as they once were.

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. Lydia

    I have frost on my lawn. This is a very broad subject, communication, Andrew. Many things come to mind. Looking back over the years communication is indeed the key to solving many problems or potential problems. For instance, if couples both bend the knee before the Lord ‘together’, than irrespective of their differences, they can find unity in Him and then this will naturally flow throughout their lives together. Also. much can be non-verbal as you pointed out. Its not for nothing that Scripture says to not let the sun go down on our anger. In other words, communicate! If you don’t ask you can go every which way with that…The study of another person, the personality of a person, can also throw a spanner in the works unless you take the time to get to know them for yourself. From watching The Chosen, it has made me think deeper of how Jesus worked, how He zeroed in to what was really important. He didn’t worry about what another said or didn’t, he was only concerned with the spiritual state, the heart of the individual. I used to tell my beloved students that we are ALL unique, not two of us on this earth (thankfully), therefore as God’s children we are ALL special in His sight and as you pointed out Andrew, His eye is upon us. I love that quote from The Message…are you tired, worn out etc…come to Me. That is where it is at….And then it says “Keep company with Me and then you will (present tense) learn to live freely and lightly”. Never a truer word spoken. I’ll do my best. Thanks.

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

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It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

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