To Assert is to Enter a Commitment

In many ways, making an assertion is like letting everyone know that you are committed to a certain idea, and beyond just being committed to a certain belief, you are committed to truth. For example, when you assert that this speaker is the best in all the land, you commit yourself to the truth in that statement.

This is why the Scriptures tread gently on the waters of assertions. This applies in many areas of our lives, but on the topic of making assertions about Biblical doctrines, Paul goes on to say:

3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. 5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:3-7)

We need to learn to be careful about making assertions, as doing so makes it that we are staking a claim and really, in a sense, seemingly fighting for a certain truth that we hold. There is danger in making assertions only to be found false. People can make assertions very confidently and end up speaking that which is not true. In fact, it is usually those who appear to be unashamedly sure of their stand that end up being proven wrong about it somewhere down the line.

 

Warnings about false teachers and prophets fall under this area. We have seen plenty of teachers and preachers claim something that appears to biblical, only to find out eventually that they are wolves in sheep’s clothing and were actually deceiving multitudes simply because they appeared so sure of themselves. Here enters the value of knowing how to discern that which is true from that which is not.

 

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How to Make Assertions

People who do not agree on the same thing tend to find themselves in the same situation, and you probably have experienced this yourself too. It’s certainly common, especially if you are so passionate and grounded in your beliefs. But Scripture reminds us that there is a way to go about this:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and

always to be gentle toward everyone.

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. (Titus 3:1-9)

 

We are in fact to avoid what the Bible calls foolish, unprofitable, and useless. This is not to say that you no longer speak up if you know it will cause friction, as we are still called to speak truth, though always in grace. There is a time and place to have discussions about these things, and when such is done smartly and gracefully, then you know that your assertions will be heard, listened to, and properly considered by the other party.

 

When they refuse to listen, then be peaceable and considerate. Be gentle even to those who go so far to disagree with you.

Remember that at one point, we were just like them who are hardheaded and refuse to listen to the truth. Surely, I’m not the only one to roll my eyes when I was being preached to, thinking that I knew it all and that such things were irrelevant to me. We were deceived, foolish, and blinded to the truth. While you probably hope that your assertions will bring others to light, we all know it isn’t really as easy as just saying it. People have to be willing to believe what you believe, people have to be willing to listen to and receive what you are asserting.

We are not called to argue with others or debate with them with our assertions. We are called to assert that God is kind and it is because of His love for us that we are saved. Our assertion shouldn’t lie on the basis of us knowing more than others. Our assertion lies on the basis of Christ and what he did for us. Our certainty isn’t our knowledge, our certainty is Christ.

And it is in asserting this way that others will be brought to Christ. It is in knowing what the truth is and how to go about speaking this truth, hoping that in speaking this truth, we will get to see the action of lives being surrendered to his Lordship and hearts being transformed by the knowledge of Christ.

 

 

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The Word is Made Flesh Through an Offer

We have all received and presented offers in our lives. On a day-to-day basis, we may have offered to open the door for someone, carried a bag of groceries, or shared a cab ride. We have also been at the other end, receiving an offer that we may or may not have accepted. It is usually judged based on the person’s intent. A big factor in the acceptance of an offer would be the

 

sincerity shown in the act of offering, because there is also an act of commitment involved. Generally, it is human nature to be helpful towards each other in society. It is an altruistic trait that we have to aid someone in need. The concept of offering shows one’s willingness to do something and leaves the decision to the recipient to decide whether to accept or reject it. It is simply conditional upon the recipient’s acceptance.

 

The beauty of the speech act of offer is that it is tied to the speech of act of request – except this time you are on the receiving end. For someone to offer you something is like them requesting that you give them permission to give you what they are offering. While we do have instances where we question the intent of the one making the offer, at the end of the day it is as if they are leaving something in your hands that is up for you to decide.

Should you find the one making the offer guilty of trying to buy your affections, then you have the choice to turn him away. However, if you are honestly interested in the offer being presented to you, in spite of the probable motives, then you are at liberty to accept it.

Let’s take sales people, for instance. We encounter a lot of them and sometimes just tend to straight up ignore them if what they are offering is not of value or interest to you. But if you find yourself being attracted to what they are saying as they describe the benefits that you can get should you accept their offer, then you would really stop and take your time discussing everything with them.

Such is the power of words and the power of stating an offer, knowing that the recipient will also find it enticing and beneficial to them. Even if we know that the sales people are just trying to meet their quotas and earn a living amidst the spiels and statements that they just want to see us not miss out on something, we also believe in the value of what they are offering and know that as they gain something from it, it will also be of gain to us.

 

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Christian Speech-Acts of Request

After Jesus delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount, he came down from the mountain with a multitude of followers (Mt. 7:28-29). The gravity of his authoritative speech astonished the people because he spoke to them with soul-penetrating power. He was not like the religious leaders of their day – the Scribes and Pharisees – who, through their hypocrisy, betrayed their religious belief. Jesus was a man of great moral and spiritual integrity. There’s something within him that gave divine validation and radiation to His words and action. He said in John 5:19,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

In other words, the authority of Jesus’ speech-act comes from his genuine relationship with the Father. He was indeed the Son of God. We listen and obey him because of who he is. Thus, when it comes to our relationship with him, our speech- act expression should be characterized with submission. In fact, after his Sermon on the Mount, there was a leper who came to him. Matthew 8:2-3 tells us the story. It says,

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

 

Do you see that? The leper was one of those who listened to Jesus during his sermon. He knew and felt the divine aura from the way Jesus spoke the manifesto of the heavenly Kingdom. Thus, when he approached Jesus, he worshipped him. Of course, he had an intended request in his heart. He wanted to be healed. But the realization that Jesus was not a mere man or a common religious leader, moved him to bow down before Jesus. This is a demonstration of genuine submission. When we request something from the Lord, we ask it with a heart of humility and praise. In fact, this is the essential difference of the Christian speech-act from the speech-act of the world. Whenthe people of the world request something of us, they usually express it with a hidden, selfish motive or agenda. Of course, they delicately express it with kind words of “please” and “can you do me a favor?” But at the bottom of their motives, they are manipulating us to give something for their benefit (Prov. 23:7). When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, this ought not to be case. Like the leper, our requests should come from worship. Right requests come from sincere worship. We worship God not because we want Him to grant our requests. Worship is not an art or speech of flattery. Worship is giving something that is of worth to the object of its expression. Thus, we worship God because we know, like the leper, that there’s something within Him – His Person – that is worthy to be praised. And so, when we lift our requests to the Lord, we bring them with an attitude of humility and trust that whatever His response is, it’s for our own good. Like the leper, we say, “Lord, if you will…” That’s the speech of Christian prayer, and how wonderful it is that God acts with dramatic goodness to answer such kinds of requests.

 

 

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The Power of Presenting Our Requests Before the Lord

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

 

Just like the characters that we’ve read in the Bible, we all have our own specific requests to God. What’s truly comforting to know is that God Himself has asked us to “let our requests be known to Him.” And if God can make huge miracles happen to Moses, Sarah and Abraham, then we can expect those beautiful wishes to happen in our own lives, as well. All it takes is to understand and believe that prayers are powerful. The Book of James declares, “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Before making any requests to God, we must examine and ask ourselves, “Have I been truly faithful to God’s Word?” How can God fulfill His promises to us if we have been neglecting to read Scripture and listen to His teachings? It is all about being righteous in His eyes that allow our prayers to be authoritative and effective. James also reminds us that when we present our requests to God, we must not have seeds of doubt. Such a person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Which is not to say that the big heroes of faith did not have their moments. Abraham and Sarah at a certain point became

impatient in waiting on God and they took matters into their own hands. As such, Ishmael came into the picture, which did not come without consequences and heartache. While they did eventually realign themselves to God and His plans, they had to go through the process of seeking His heart for them yet again. The same is true with us. It is when we are convinced of God’s faithfulness and kindness towards us that we can trust how He answers our prayers and requests – even if His answer was not what we wanted.

So then how do we start requesting of the Lord? We need to state our requests specifically and clearly, just like in the speech act of request. Writing our requests down is an effective way of being detailed in our requests, and at the same time, it lets us visualize what we truly want from God. We also need to claim God’s promises through His Word and use those declarations as affirmations that our requests will be granted. Pick out your favorite promises, read them and pray them over and over. Prayer knows no limits. God can see what is truly in our hearts. So, don’t be afraid to leave yourself vulnerable in front of God, for He knows what is best for us and He hears our prayers.

 

What makes the Lord so kind is that He actually wants to hear our requests. We can see this over and over in His Word. Jesus himself says to his disciples, 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend. You go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. 6 A friend of mine on a journey has come to stay with me. I have no food to give him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked. My children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, that person will not get up. And he won’t give you bread just because he is your friend. But because you keep bothering him, he will surely get up. He will give you as much as you need.

9 “So here is what I say to you. Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 10 Everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find. And the door will be opened to the one who knocks.

11 “Fathers, suppose your son asks for a fish. Which of you will give him a snake instead? 12 Or suppose he asks for an egg. Which of you will give him a scorpion? 13 Even though you are evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:5-13)

God actually wants us to not be ashamed to ask. And, as if that’s not enough, He invites us to keep asking. He wants us to be persistent and know that it’s okay to ask. Sometimes, we may never get until we ask. I know of Christians who hate asking God, because it makes them feel selfish and they think that when God wants to give them something, He will at all cost. But the Bible begs to differ. We wonder why other people have a lot, while we do not; we wonder if God loves them more. Maybe, it’s simply this:

2 You want something, but you don’t have it. So you kill. You want what others have, but you can’t get what you want. So you argue and fight. You don’t have what you want, because you don’t ask God. 3 When you do ask for something, you don’t receive it. That’s because you ask for the wrong reason. You want to spend your money on your sinful pleasures. (James 4:2-3)

So, it’s good to come before God, not just with our requests, but with our hearts pure and ready to submit to whatever the Father may want to give us. Nonetheless, how can you expect an answer if you don’t ask?

 

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God Doesn’t Disqualify Requests

The great thing about God is that He doesn’t qualify which requests are important and more urgent and which are not. He pays attention to each and every one and encourages us to do the same for others as well. He wants us to pray not just regarding our own needs but also the needs of others. As James puts it:

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Then that person should pray. Is anyone among you happy? Then that person should sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then that person should send for the elders of the church to pray over them. They should ask the elders to anoint them with olive oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer offered by those who have faith will make the sick person well. The Lord will heal them. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 So confess your sins to one another. Pray for one another so that you might be healed. The prayer of a godly person is powerful. Things happen because of it. 17 Elijah was a human being, just as we are. He prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain. And it didn’t rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Then he prayed again. That time it rained. And the earth produced its crops. (James 5:13-18)

How amazing God is. Whether we’re in trouble at work, at our home, if there is sickness, if there is sin, we can lift it all up to Him. As such, we shouldn’t hesitate and second-guess whatever it is that we want to ask of the Lord. If it matters to us, it also matters to Him.

 

 

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Biblical Requests

 

Making requests not only applies in our work and home environments, it is also relevant in our relationship with God. Every day we pray and thank God for a day well spent, and then we ask Him for things that we want or need to happen in our lives. We usually ask for a sign or for His answer, but what is the best way to present our requests to God?

 

There are several accounts in the Bible that we can use as examples. One of the greatest characters in the Bible that sought for God’s provision was Moses. Moses was one of the greatest leaders in the Bible, speaking for God and leading His people to the Promised Land. In his earlier journeys, Moses had already asked God to make His ways known to him, so that he may be able to serve Him better and find favor in His sight. In Exodus 33:18, Moses said, “’I pray Thee, show me Thy glory! and the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you,

 

and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’” God granted Moses’ request to show His glory and goodness. This meant that God was to show His graciousness to the Israelites by providing “good things” for them, despite the Israelites’ lack of faith and rebellion against God’s sovereignty. God showed Himself to Moses as an answer to his request, because Moses had been truly faithful to Him.

Another account in the Bible is the story of Abraham and Sarah. In the New Testament, Sarah has been praised two times, once for her faithfulness, and once for her submissiveness to her husband Abraham. Their faith was tested time and time again, especially when it came to their issue of not being able to bear a child.

 

When Abraham was a hundred years old and Sarah was about ninety, God delivered a message that they would have a son. Imagine wanting something for so long and after living a full life of not getting it, God presents it to you with confidence. They had seeds of doubts about this promise, because physically, Sarah was unable to get pregnant, especially at a very old age. But God rekindled their faith by simply asking, “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen.18:13-14). Their faith became steadfast, and Sarah gained the ability to conceive her son. This was a testament to God’s miracles in times of impossible circumstances.

 

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What is it you’ve wanted for so long? Have you made a request for it in your prayers?

 

Speech Act of Request

In an ideal world, our objectives and goals get accomplished as planned. Unfortunately, there are delays and hurdles that we go through before we get to that stage of success. Things may not be moving as fast and as effective as we would like them to be. Because of this, in a work environment for example, we are inclined to make requests to “hurry up” the process or “get things done.” But of course, these must be said in a manner that is received positively in order to be effective.

 

The speech act of request is something that we do almost every day, without even noticing it. It is a famously studied and evaluated speech act that involves the speaker asking the hearer to do something that benefits the speaker.

Learning how to make proper requests might seem very elementary, but in actuality, this allows us the opportunity to get what we wish. Most of the time, when we don’t get what we expect, we blame the people around us for “not doing their job” or “being lazy.” What we don’t realize is that we can only blame ourselves for the inefficacy of the request. There are various ways of making a request, from being straight to the point, to adding some supportive moves that modify the request to being more pleasant and easily digestible. We tend to make offhand comments and, in our heads, we have an idea of what we expect to happen. It is also a matter of being precise with our requests that creates the chance of getting what we expect to be done.

 

To make a request is to utter a sentence or a question that would lead to a probable future action. Again, we can make requests without others knowing, so the listener will think that it does not necessitate a response. A request could be a direct proposal. We can take an actual marriage proposal, for example. The question, “will you marry me?” falls under this category, as it creates the probability of a future that did not previously exist. In order to make proper requests, we must take note of three elements: we must be specific about what we want, when we want it, and from whom we want it. Before making a request, ask yourself, “What do I want to happen after saying this request? This will not only create a sense of purpose in your statements, but also create action. Making these requests is also a manner of how you say them. It must be in accordance with how you relate with the person who hears them. Is it in alignment with your goals as a team? Are you saying it with respect? Making these requests is only one side of the conversation. The hearer must be able to receive it openly and with a proper response.

 

This is the framework that would prove to be most ideal when making a request. While we normally would not want to appear as if we are demanding with the way we request, there has to be clarity about the actual action we desire to come to pass. There also has to be clarity regarding when you expect the request to be fulfilled. As such with the marriage proposal, the implication would be that there needs to be a corresponding action immediately. Similarly, we have certain prayer requests that we put a time frame too. Healing of a loved one or provision for a conference you want to attend would fall under that. There is a time limit, so to speak.

However, not all requests necessitate immediate action. Asking your parents for a dog usually would not be bound by time, in the same way asking the Lord for the salvation of a parent is not. Whether the requests are to be answered or not is up to the one you are requesting, but at the very least, you have to know what you are asking for.

 

 

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How can make your prayer a request to the Lord?

What You Say Matters

Your words produce not just action, but action that leads to life and death. A declaration said out of anger or bitterness can have dire consequences. A promise said in love will surely bring about hope and joy. We see examples of these in our daily lives, to the people around us. It’s not so much rocket science, as it is overlooked, belittled, and undermined.

 

What you say matters. How you say it matters. As sons and daughters of the living God, the very same way the Lord’s words had the ability to put themselves into action, so is the weight that our words are able to carry. It matters that we know how, in the wisest man’s words, we will eat the fruit of what we speak. We will be the ones to face what we create with our words. Whether this will be a paradise, like Eden, or a mishap, like Babel, is up to us.

 

 

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Power of Words

  1. H. Robins, well-renowned linguist and author of General Linguistics: An Introductory Survey, cites 3,000 B. C. as the time, which is as far as we can go in linguistic history. Amazingly, this timeframe coincides with when the Babel incident would have happened.1 With such findings and evidence, we can say that what the Bible says about language and the ability that it has is true.

Words have the terrifying power to create and unite, but whether that is for better or worse is up to us. Here we have a group of people united with one goal and vision, and they all speak the same language. The words and sentences they exchanged with each other passed on an idea that was embraced by many.

 

And yet, for all their teamwork and harmony, the words they exchanged was meant to unite them all against God. Instead of creating something that the Lord can declare as good, they wanted to create something that would make them as if they are God. And so, the Lord decided to mix up the languages of the world, and while the words and intonations vary, the power does not. Used properly as God did in the creation of the universe, we are able to see wonderful things come to pass. Used wrongly, we see entire civilizations come to ruin.

For truly, as King Solomon said:

 

4 The words of a person’s mouth are like deep water. But the fountain of wisdom is like a flowing stream.

6 What foolish people say leads to arguing. They are just asking for a beating.

7 The words of foolish people drag them down. They are trapped by what they say.

8 The words of anyone who talks about others are like tasty bites of food.

They go deep down inside you.

20 Because of what they say a person can fill their stomach.

What their words produce can satisfy them. 21 Your tongue has the power of life and death.

Those who love to talk will eat the fruit of their words. (Proverbs 18: 4, 6-8, 20-21)

This is the true extent of what our words are able to create – in any language. All languages are the language of creation; it is a matter of what you say in that language.

 

 

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In the Beginning

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth didn’t have any shape. And it was empty. There was darkness over the surface of the waves. At that time, the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 God said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good. He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day.” He called the darkness “night.” There was evening, and there was morning. It was day one.

6 God said, “Let there be a huge space between the waters. Let it separate water from water.” 7 And that’s exactly what happened. God made the huge space between the waters. He separated the water under the space from the water above it. 8 God called the huge space “sky.” There was evening, and there was morning. It was day two. (Genesis 1:1-8)

It’s pretty amazing how the first words of the Bible demonstrate to us the power of words and how the mere act of speaking translates into action. For God, in the creation of the universe, it was as easy as saying “let there be,” and so it was. It all began with a word.

 

We can let our words create not just thoughts, but actions and new possibilities. As such, the story of Babel happened:

The whole world had only one language, and everyone spoke it. 2 They moved to the east and found a broad valley in Babylon. There they made their home.

3 They said to one another, “Come on! Let’s make bricks and bake them well.” They used bricks instead of stones. They used tar to hold the bricks together. 4 Then they said, “Come on! Let’s build a city for ourselves. Let’s build a tower that reaches to the sky. We’ll make a name for ourselves. Then we won’t be scattered over the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 He said, “All these people are united and speak the same language. That is why they can do all this. Now they will be able to do anything they plan. 7 Come on! Let us go down and mix up their language. Then they will not be able to understand one other.”

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over the whole earth. And they stopped building the city. 9 There the Lord mixed up the language of the whole world. That’s why the city was called Babel. From there the Lord scattered them over the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)

 

Linguists back this up. There is still mystery surrounding the evolution of language, as there is lack of scientific evidence backing up the claim that all languages came from one language In fact, we can only trace the history of languages only up until around 10,000 years ago, and no further. Following the account of Babel, we can see that from that day stemmed a number of languages that only continued on to develop into the many languages that we have today.

 

 

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Language: Describing vs. Performing Acts

Language plays an integral part, particularly in social settings. It achieves a responsive flow between or among people, affecting their feelings while getting our points across. It is definitely more complex than just a string of words put together. It aids in showcasing our personality, attitude, opinions, and intentions towards society. We perform these acts by declaring, promising, requesting, offering, assessing, and asserting ourselves.

 

 

Classification of Speech Acts

To understand how we are to utilize the ability of speech acts, we must first understand how they are classified according to framework.

We have:

  • The Speech Act of Declaration
  • The Speech Act of Promise
  • The Speech Act of Request
  • The Speech Act of Offer
  • The Speech Act of Assessment
  • The Speech Act of Assertion

Let us dig deeper into the heart of this book, language, and where all these variations came from.

 

 

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