Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Six More Word Principles

The sermon on Sunday was the third of a three part series within a series.  The series is "Wise Life: The Ancient Wisdom of Proverbs for the Daily Grind."  The series within (one of many), was "Wise Words."  We broke it up into three major principles: 1) The less you speak and the more you listen, the wiser you are. 2) Words can either reveal the truth or twist it; choose honesty - especially about yourself and about God.  3) You are what you say.

In "You Are What you Say," we identified six major principles of speech from Proverbs:

  1. Knowledge is the Source of Good Speech (10:14, 31-32; 11:9; 15:2; 20:15; 27:1).
  2. Death and Life are in the Power of the Tongue (11:11; 18:21; 20:20; 26:2) - addressed here is the power of blessing and cursing. 
  3. Don't Associate with a Gossip, and don't be one (11:13; 20:19)
  4. Refuse to cast insults or slander, and ignore them when cast against you (10:18; 11:12; 12:16; 19:11)
  5. Practice Gentleness and Tact (12:25; 15:1, 4; 16:21-24; 25:11, 20; 27:14; 31:26)
  6. Speak in Support of the Poor, refuse to insult them (17:5; 31:8-9)
Eventually, what you say and how you say it will shape and direct your life.  Commentator Derek Kidner says it well: 

"Superficial habits of talk react on the the mind; so that, e.g., cynical chatter, fashionable grumbles, flippancy, half-truths, barely meant in the first place, harden into well-established habits of thought." Proverbs, 68.  

Who are you? 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Words and the Charismatic Scale

For the last decade, I have walked the boundary between less-charismatic evangelicalism and the more-charismatic evangelicalism (I used to say between charismatics and evangelicals, but that is a misnomer because all groups in mind here hold the Bible in very similar esteem).  One of the goals of my journey along that boundary is to bring the supernatural to bear in people's lives who haven't been willing/able to see it before.  I suppose that means I walk the boundary with hopes of pulling people toward the supernatural power of the Spirit (the "Charismata" are gifts of the spirit).

But, there is always a tension, because people seem to prefer labels over truth; we label ourselves as people who either believe in "that sort of thing" or not.  After musing on words for the last few weeks, I wonder if their inherent supernatural power is, perhaps, a middle way.  This is my theory: if we can agree about the spiritual efficacy of words rooted in truth, then perhaps the result will be a truly powerful (and yes, supernatural) faith that is absent of mystical fiction that, in its most egregious form, leads to a "name it and claim it" mentality and other strange abuses of words that are little more than feigned supernatural power.  I have seen whole communities participate in imbalance - falling over when a spiritual leader waves his hand over a crowd and other strange occurrences.   Because words are so powerful, I have no doubt that I have participated in perversions of truth; and, as I say from the pulpit regularly, I'd prefer to err on the side of obeying God and being wrong than thinking "he never does things like that."

Theological scholars far more qualified than I have done extensive work to describe the nature of the Imago Dei, that is, the "Image of God."  Genesis 1 describes the creative process of God and sets human beings apart - while everything else is rooted in the raw imagination of the Intelligent Designer, people are created in his image and likeness.  This has manifold implications, and this blog is not the place to describe all of what that does (and does not) mean.  I would like to suggest (surely I'm not the first), that the behavior of the Creator revealed in the creation account is that he creates with words, and though there is now no possibility of creating ex nihilo as he did, human beings are to use our words to create order and steward the earth.  Words are themselves supernatural: they convert the invisible thoughts and feelings into transferable objects.  That alone is foundation enough to eventually understand how it could happen that "by the blessing of the righteous a city is exalted," or how Jesus could verbally rebuke a fever in Peter's mother and all present could watch it flee.  OR, how an accusation (true or false) can ruin one's day, or a fictional book (i.e., Uncle Tom's Cabin) can impact the norms of a nation.  For whatever reason, some people will allow for the sociological power and emotional power of words even to the point of knowing how words cause clear physical reactions, and yet have trouble with the concept of the power of a blessing or a curse, or a prayer for healing.  Could it be that the question to ask is: what is true?

The factor that will always remain a debate is the role of truth in this.  Prayers often call forth things to become true that aren't true now.  But what is true about the power of words themselves?  And about the activity of the Creator?  To what extent we're willing to hope and pray for a different version of truth is probably a good indicator of where we land on the "charismatic scale."

This is just the beginning of a whole train of thought...