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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LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT

home > Pastor's Desk > 2021 > June > LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENTLOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT For anyone who is a fan of aviation, the movie Sully (2016) is one you will have probably enjoyed watching. The storyline is biographical drama based on the 2009...

THE BENEFITS OF A DAILY DOSE OF VITAMIN R

The Greatest Exponent of what vitamin R can achieve within a person was the One who introduced vitamin R in small doses to His twelve followers. There initial dose came from simply complying with the request to, “Follow Me.” This they did for some three years or so. After watching Him intently, they then got a larger dose when they were told to, “Go…and proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” And as every example of those who have ever received a near maximum dose of vitamin R bears witness, just before they received their ultimate dose vitamin R they felt two universally common sensations: inadequacy and inability. Yet, as everyone who has received such high doses of vitamin R from the One who gives the ultimate enabling strength found in vitamin R, somehow they were supernaturally enabled to do the very thing they felt both inadequate and unable to do!

THE BUSY FOOLS ARGUMENT WITH THE BUSY WISE

What makes our busyness wise busyness? It’s when our busyness is doing what Christ wants for the reasons that He wants it done. It’s when we are busy without neglecting the priorities of spiritual disciplines and our obligations to those we are responsible to and for. This is why, when Christ calls someone to take on a greater responsibility in His Kingdom it is almost certain that they are already busy. I am not at all suggesting that a Christ-follower needs to be frenetic in their busyness for Christ, or that they should never sabbath (two points I have tried to make clear in this Pastor’s Desk by contrasting the busy wise with the busy foolish). But I am hoping that those who have been following and serving Christ for some seasons will recognise the doors of opportunity that Christ will enable them to walk through wisely. And as they do, and we do together, may we begin to see glimpse of the Great Commission being fulfilled in our valley-city.

IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY

“That I may know Him!” Fancy that! The apostle who was struck from his horse by the radiant glory of Christ while on the Persecutor’s Road to Damascus; the apostle whom the resurrected Christ appeared to in a vision and spoke directly to him (Acts 18:9-10); the apostle whom Christ used to raise people from the dead and to heal many people miraculously; and, the apostle who testifies that he was caught up to heaven and saw things too wonderful to reveal — this apostle gets toward the end of his life and states that he doesn’t yet know Christ the way he should! This apostle, the apostle Paul, toward the end of his life begins to see his life and his troubles in the light of eternity. And I am thus assured that in this light many of the problems that we face today will fade from our gaze and vanish as we fix our eyes on the Source of eternity’s Light.

EXCUSE ME

The essence of an excuse is the word, no. If we get invited to a party that we don’t to go to and we make a polite excuse to decline the offer, in essence we are saying “No, I will not come to your party.” This is the gist of the parable that Christ told in Luke 14 about His Father who sent His Son as His Servant to personally invite those who had already received an invitation to come to a great banquet. (It’s interesting how Jesus describes His Father’s heaven as a great banquet.) By saying “No” to the great banquet invitation those who were declining this invitation were saying that they had a better offer. What offer could be better than dining with the Source of Life, Joy, Peace, and Power, as His special guest in His luxurious mansion? What happens next in this parable also says a lot about how God feels when people make excuses to decline His offer to dine.

BELONGING

I’m not sure about you, but one of my great wrestles in becoming more Christlike is that sinful tendency to see my time, my resources, my life as belonging to me. I like to control it. I like to own it. I like to decide what happens and when.

God, in His great grace and wisdom, seems to work in our lives reminding us how little we truly control and that it all truly does belong to Him. So often these reminders come in the way of hardship and loss with the call to surrender ownership and control.

If our Heavenly Father was a despotic God, a cruel, tyrannical God who acted arbitrarily and selfishly for His own ends, knowing we belonged to Him would cause us to tremble and live in fear and apprehension.

But praise Him that this is not our God!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies your with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:2-5

ROOFS AND DRAGONS – THE VALUE OF PLANNING

ROOFS AND  DRAGONS – THE VALUE OF PLANNING
John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”  J.R.R. Tolkien said, “It does not do to leave a live a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” Having a plan is generally a strategy that will help us to get things done, or respond correctly when things go wrong. A plan may help us to find a solution and a way through an adverse situation that we are experiencing. A plan also helps us to know what resources we might need for dealing with situations that we can foresee.

When it comes to thinking about the importance of planning, a statement that is worth considering is one that I like to get my Maritime Passage Planning students to contemplate:

‘The best thing about failing to plan, is that disaster comes as a complete surprise that is not preceded by hours or days of stress and worry associated with the planning process.’

SOMETHING FOR SLUGGARDS TO CONSIDER

There are those who look busy but are not very productive. There are those who are busy but are highly productive. Often these people have learned that busy needs to be managed so that their time is focused on maintaining their important relationships, taking regular sabbaths, prioritising the important over the urgent, and cooperating with others. These busy people have learned to recognise God’s open doors and have confidence that the Apostle Paul had that it is God who gives them supernatural energy to toil, struggle and work to get things done when no-one else thought it could be.

WHAT COVID DID TO CHURCHES’ MOMENTUM

The Covid pandemic and its effect upon Churches has caused many church leaders and their teams to reevaluate what it means to be the Church. This leads into some really healthy questions that challenge what many had previously unquestionably accepted as “Church”. What ‘should’ a church do when it meets together for its weekly gathering (especially if it can’t actually ‘gather’)? How should the leaders and members of a church contribute to the issues confronting society and culture? Or should the Church be disengaged from ‘the world’ and treat its Christianity as purely ‘private’ matter between the worshiper and God? What do the ministries within a Church within a church — especially that of an evangelist — look like it the Church can not actually meet due to ongoing Covid lockdowns? Perhaps several of these questions might never have even been asked if it wasn’t for Covid. But one thing is for sure, the answer to these questions can be found within Scripture and the lessons from Church history and require that we prayerfully seek the Spirit’s guidance as we apply the best answers. Perhaps it will be then that we can build some fresh momentum and reach the current and next generation for Christ.

CONSPIRITUAL CONSPIRACIES

This is why we can have great confidence in the accounts given in the Bible. Two of the four evangelists (Matthew and John) who wrote Gospels were eye-witnesses to many of the events they describe – particularly and critically – the resurrection appearances of Christ. Rather than appealing to a “trust me when I tell you…” approach, the Biblical writers of the New Testament invite readers to examine the evidence for themselves and consider carefully what they have presented. They do not present their accounts anonymously or in an only share this after I’ve died memoir approach. When the apostle Paul could say that the physically resurrected Christ was seen by up to 500 people at one time and that most of these people are still alive (1Cor. 15:6), he was inviting verification of the facts that he presented (and we have no record of anyone ever refuting Paul’s claim). This made the claims of Christianity verifiable and it therefore makes the further claims of Christianity about a spiritual new birth testable and verifiable today.

¶ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:30-31