home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > May > EXCUSE ME

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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SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > JUNE 3rd > UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY I have a thing for bags. Not shopping bags or lady’s handbags, but manly bags - functional bags. A few years back I became fed-up with the number of bags I was...