Understanding the Bible

John 9: 1 – 5

And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Which Bible translation should you use? In my study, I use many translations. In some passages, they can all be very similar. At other times, different translations pick up on different nuances of a word. The first thing we must fully appreciate is that the Bible was not written in English. You know that, but it slips our minds as we read. It makes a difference, though, because someone had to take all those words and translate them into English. If you have ever tried to translate an idea or phrase from another language into English, you appreciate that there is not always a perfect word which fully captures an idea that is found in other languages.

Then, of course, languages change over time. Just read the Canterbury Tales. You see how the English language has changed. In fact, English is changing before our very eyes. The word I have known all my life as “yea” is now being spelled “yay” and no one even seems to have noticed the change. The word “invite” was a verb only. Now people are using it as a noun in place of “invitation,” a word which will, likely, soon vanish. So, what is my point and why this scripture to make the point?

Notice the two italicized words in the passage above. The New American Standard Bible is my choice of Bible for several reasons. It is one of the most precise translations but also, the editors were good at indicating where they made editorial choices. This aids our understanding. You should also know that the original text did not have punctuation. So, the first thing I want you to do is to take your NASB and, with a pencil, line through all italicized words. You will receive a huge revelation when you do. The editors added words to make the sentences flow. In this case, as in others, their additions actually change the meaning. Look at this passage without the edits:

“It was neither that this man sinned nor his parents but in order that the works of God might be displayed in him we must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day night is coming, when no man can work while I am in the world I am the light of the world.”

Now punctuate it yourself. I suggest Jesus was saying, “In order that the works of God might be displayed we must heal this man.” What these verses specifically are not saying is that God caused or allowed this man to be blind in order that God can show off. It also does not say that he was born blind because of sin. God does not strike people because of sin. If so, we would all be blind. Second, how much sense does it make for God to make someone blind and Jesus heal him. We cannot honestly believe they are working at cross purposes. Some would argue that God made him blind so that He and Jesus could show their healing prowess. Okay, that is just sick. This isn’t a game. God wants people healed and saved. He is not trying to wow us with His healing power and miracles. In fact, they are not even miracles to Him. Healing and miracles are simply putting things back in proper order. Therefore, in order that God’s works in the earth be displayed, we must lay hands on the sick and pray. We are the agents of God’s works in the earth.

So, when you read the Bible, line through all italicized words. Choose a Bible like the NASB with references because the references also include editor notes. Also, when you ponder a passage or study it, read it without punctuation thinking about how that might change the way you think about it.

Gentle Speech

Proverb 15: 1, 4

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.

This is such an important lesson to learn and I know many of you have. For the rest of us, it is an easy way to fail. I have learned that the same message can be conveyed abruptly or gently, harshly or mildly. It often takes more words to say something gently, but the message is received more easily when it is offered in tender words.

I am the kind of person who likes to just say what I am thinking and move on with life. I don’t like taking the time to craft a sentence with fifteen words when I can say it with five. However, I am learning that gentility of speech is a major leadership skill. The time it takes to make the message more palatable is worth the effort in the way your hearers receive it.

Tone of voice is important too, as you know, and we all need to learn to take the time and effort to speak with one another in gentle tones and with soothing words. Many household arguments could be avoided by answering in a gentle way. It is guaranteed that if you answer your spouse with a harsh word that you are going to stir up the hornet’s nest.

You can make your same point and have it received more readily when you use soothing language, gentle speech. People are able to hear your message rather than conflict with the means of conveyance. When we are short with people, they have already stopped listening from the start. It seems like a waste of time and energy to use flowery speech when two or three words can get the job done but when you consider that the communication involves two people you can also see that not alienating one of them will make our communication more effective.

There is no value in stirring up anger. The value we have for our listeners really demands that we consider the wrapping our message is cloaked in. None of us wishes to crush the spirit of the listener and even though it may feel like a waste of your time, the spirit of the other person weighs more heavily in the calculation. I wish everyone would let me communicate in my communication style but is it obvious from this proverb that there are effective and ineffective ways of speaking to people. If we want to be a blessing, then we have to learn to use gentle language rather than harsh and abrupt. Just consider it a part of your own personal growth and a way to bless God. In the end, you may find that you are the one most blessed by your gentle turn of a phrase.

Fruit that Satisfies

Proverb 18: 20

With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.

A friend of mine says that I should write a Word of the Day about the power of the tongue at least every month. Well, I should, perhaps, be reminded even more frequently than that. I am amazed at how little we guard our mouths. Even the secular world recognizes this spiritual law. Read self-help books or listen to PMA teachings and you will hear these teachers over and over again educating people that their mouths determine their futures. If secular instructors recognize this spiritual law, how is it that we Christians continue to spew doubt and negative confessions out of our mouths day and night? We really should know better.

I think part of the answer is that we really do not pay attention to what we say. Listen to yourself for a day. Then take every single thing you say literally. For one day do not give yourself poetic license. Presume that when you are “tickled to death” you are going to die. What if you were literally “blown away” (one of my personal favorites)? Now those are some examples of the innocuous things we say but what of the more significant ones? Do you constantly say that you are having senior moments? Guess what, if you keep saying that you are going to have more. Do you ever make negative statements about yourself or your future?

I know some people argue that words are not really that important, that they will not carry out the purpose of their meaning. People say, “Well, I didn’t mean it literally or I didn’t mean it like that.” Well, how did you mean it? If a word has a specific meaning then why does it not mean what it is supposed to mean?

Now here is the point. Why even use those negative or fruitless expressions? Will you die if you stop saying that you were tickled to death? Is there no other way to express that you thought something was funny?

That is the negative side of the coin. The positive side is that you can improve your present and your future by changing your language. Your business is inspired by positive affirmations, not negative. That is why God tells us that our stomachs will be satisfied by the fruit of our mouths. He is trying to teach us that we can fill our stomachs and even our pocketbooks with the fruit of our lips. And here is the thing, this is a free service. It costs you absolutely nothing to speak well of yourself, your business, your family and even your church and pastor. You can even talk yourself into happiness. Watch what you say. Police your language and then thoughtfully speak. Make a determined choice about the things you let come out of your mouth. Listen to what you are about to say before you open your mouth and let it fall out. I promise you that you can change your life.

One last thing, if you have already passed this class, then begin to watch what you think about yourself, family, etc. Begin to police your thoughts. You can fend off depression, worry and a whole lot of other negative experiences if you will watch what you say to yourself internally.