Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Bullet of Life and Life Shared: With Breath Comes Power (Part 2)

In our last post, we tried a few experiments to see some of the ways we use breath to create sound. We also noted how the Lord Himself uses sight, sound and breath to reveal His mind and heart to those who listen and watch! While there are many physical and cultural lessons to be learned from the way we speak, we can also make many interesting spiritual applications from our findings in linguistics. Here are a few:

There can be no speech without breath. Even when a person’s vocal cords are damaged and alternate means of creating sound employed, breath is involved in making sounds. Likewise, the breath that is necessary for us to live is also necessary for us to speak. Note these insights:

  1. The Holy Spirit gives us life (breath). Without breath we die, physically and spiritually (Acts 17:25).
  2. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to speak (breath) as needed (Take no thought of what you will say… Matthew 10:19).
  3. In the beginning was the Word (Word implies breath to utter) Who spoke the world into existence (John 1:1-3).
  4. We often breathe words, as in the phrase, “breathe a prayer.” Breath can refer to actions in English. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote “When you have a difficulty before you, and you are seriously perplexed, when business has got into a tangle or a confusion which you cannot unravel or arrange, breathe a prayer. It need not occupy a minute, but it is wonderful how many snarls come loose after just a word of prayer.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons, Parts 261-272, 1878, page 781, emphasis added).
  5. We refer to content of speech as being a breath, a “breath of scandal.” The power of words comes through breath. Note this definition of breath: “a slight suggestion, hint, or whisper: The breath of slander never touched her.
  6. Jesus used the Greek word pneuma for both “wind” and “Spirit” in John 3 as He shared His claims with Nicodemas. This is also the Greek word for breath. In instrument or tool circles of people we call it “pneumatic pressure” … the force we can develop by using air under pressure. Jesus spoke “pressure words” … breath with impact!!
  7. The “mouth of the Lord” is always perfect in what He says, when He says it and how He says it! (Isaiah 40:5; Jeremiah 23:16). It is perfected breath!

We do not speak “our sounds” until we modulate, manipulate, form, fashion words through control of the sound created by our breath moving through our throat, mouth and nose. Some ideas this engenders are:

  1. The more precisely we control the movement of our breath the more distinctly and effectively we speak. Spiritual precision works similarly as we seek to hear God’s Word to us, to understand His nuances and to identify with His ways. Our goal is to hear His sounds as accurately as possible. My “Graphic Theology”* idea is based on this spiritual precision. We know our Lord speaks with precision and it is to our advantage to hear with precision.
  2. Each part of our mouth, nose and throat must work in harmony to product the wide variety of sounds of which we are capable. Similarly, each part of the church (the “Body” of Christ) must work together to speak to the world with artful, compassionate and impactive unity. This can only be initiated when our own spirit/soul/body works in harmony. Unless it does, the full reality of your total heart is not expressed clearly. (Spirit + soul + body = heart.) Note how often “all your heart” or “whole heart” is used in Scripture. Precision indicates that a person’s heart attitude/disposition is created and communicated by the combined input from the spirit/soul/body. When the three are yielded to truth a person will possess one whole heart yielded to Christ! Does not the Lord seek men and women who possess His heart about things! (I. Sam. 13:14).
  3. To speak a sentence we must employ this threefold principle:

“A Mouth” – to form and shape the sounds – this is given by the Father, our Creator – We have been given a created mouth with which to create sound possibilities (Ps. 149:6).

“A Mind” – to determine which sounds to produce to make meaningful words – this is given to us by the Christ, our Redeemer – The mind of Christ will form a full heart of redemptive good. It is the ammunition of the mouth (Luke 6:45).

“A Breath” – to vibrate our vocal cords and make sound demands wind/air pressure – given to us by the Holy Spirit, our Perfecter – As we yield to the mind of the Spirit of the Godhead, we are filled with His guarantees for the future and intoxicated in the present with His affects of righteousness, forgiveness and praise. We become agents through which His perfecting energy flows (II Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 5:18; Heb. 10:13-14).

  1. There is a great variety of sounds humans can make. Languages characteristically use different sets of sounds. For example, the click and the rolled “r” are almost never used in English, but the click is prevalent in the Bushman languages of South Africa and the rolled “r” is prominent in Spanish. Similarly, Christ Believers have limited and different gifts, insights and practices. No one has knowledge, much less mastery, of them all. Few if any English words require the click or rolled r and most English speakers seldom make these sounds, so it is in the world of spiritual communication. It is not that the Disciple (or speaker) is incapable of the act, but finds it of minor importance even if he or she knows it exists. Thus it is unpracticed to any degree of perfection. The Holy Spirit breaths upon each of us the gifts, insights and directions for practice that we need, when it is needed. (See especially Gen. 2:17; John 20:22; Gal. 5:22-23; Rom. 12:1-8.) No single human being needs to be, or even can be, proficient in all gifts, insights or practices that are capable of being used to accomplish the Father’s purposes.
  2. To get the total picture of what human language/communication is all about, all the varieties of it must be considered, understood and appreciated. This is humanly impossible. The same is true of the many faceted workings of our Lord’s Body … the church. Only in valuing every Believer do we begin to grasp the true vibrancy, extent and variety of the family the Father is bringing together. All mankind, especially those of us who are His own, are moving toward that great “finale” that He has promised. He will see to it in the end “… that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:14). All that you and I can do for the present is to increase our yielding to His Voice and deepen our praise. To know we are captive to the winds of the Spirit’s process can’t help but take us to the dimension of “High Praise”! There will come a time when all of us “in Christ” will breath out nothing but His glory and praise!

*“Graphic Theology” is the term I use to describe the expression of complex ideas, concepts, insights and understandings through pictures, diagrams, drawings, symbols and other graphic elements. I use it in my Victory Visuals as well as including it in my forthcoming book on the Overcoming Journey.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Bullet of Life and Life Shared: Breath and Sound (Part 1)

Breath and sound are neither accidents nor secondary to life. They were created by our Lord for His significant purposes … to give life (breath) and to share life (sound)!

Let’s engage in an experiment: breathe out and without breathing in, close your mouth, hold your nose, now, try to hum. You will probably be able to make one or two small sounds but very soon you will not be able to do even that. Without a column of air moving over your vocal cords, sound will not be produced. Now, begin taking in air again, either through your nose or mouth, and you will be able to hum freely. You have just discovered the role of breath or breathing in producing vocal sound.

Once you are breathing normally and able to produce sound again, let us consider how we humans modify sounds in order to speak. First, let’s go back to our humming. Close your mouth and hum using the air that comes through your nose. Try varying the sound. It is quite easy to change the pitch. You do this by lengthening and shortening your vocal cords. Try the same experiment through your mouth; be sure to keep your tongue from moving as you hum. Notice the difference in resonance in the sound you make when you hum in these two different ways. Whether the air is coming through your mouth or your nose modifies the sound quality in distinct ways.

Now let’s involve the rest of the mouth in modifying sounds. Hum one note then move your tongue about your mouth and notice the subtle changes to the sound as you do so. Try humming a single note again. As you do so, move your jaw up and down. Notice the effect on the sound. (Each of these changes may be hard to distinguish, but they are there.)

You have used yourself as a test subject to demonstrate some of the basic principles of linguistics, the study of speech. The science of linguistics is very complex and may be approached from many different viewpoints. Some areas of study that employ linguistics are anthropology, clinical speech therapy, literature and medicine. But there is more to the elements of linguistics than the physical. There is also a spiritual dimension we must explore to fully grasp the meaning of breath and sound.

Take time to read the following verses for a brief glimpse of the Scripture’s use of breath and sound. Also note John’s use of sight in Revelation, “And I saw…” When we open the Bible with seeking hearts we can experience “the sight and sound show” of the Lord of all Creation! Only fools would miss an invitation like that. Remember how the Lord Jesus put it, “… the words (sounds) I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63).

Verses to read: Genesis 2:7, 3:8; John 3:8; Acts 2:2; I Corinthians 14:8; Revelation 14:2, 13 and 21:3; John 20:21-23; Mark 15:37