Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Speak the Words Out Loud, With Expression

When learning and practicing the Scriptures, it is important to do so by speaking the words out loud. While one may find there to be hurdles to doing this, speaking out loud itself helps one to overcome barriers and increase boldness.

The first thing that happens when speaking the Scriptures out loud, is one hears the sound of his own voice. I'm not even talking about hearing a recording of your own voice, but simply your own voice. While speaking is nothing new for most people, the sound of one's voice may be heard in a new way when one hears the words of Scripture, the Word of God, coming from his own mouth.

One of the most important words of all to come from a man's mouth is the name of Jesus Christ. This is true because “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9), and “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

Before I began memorizing long passages of Scripture, I confess there were not many times I spoke the name of Jesus. This lack of confidence included even forming his name with my lips. Outside of some interaction with the Scriptures, the main occasion for me to speak the name of Jesus was when I would share my faith, and that did not happen often. A commitment to memorizing and speaking the Scriptures out loud, especially from the New Testament, helps naturally overcome this barrier. This also literally gave me things to say about Him when sharing my faith, like those just mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Speaking out loud means others may hear, including one's practice. This may sound too obvious, but again, the nature of speaking the words of Scripture can change how we see basic things like this. I live in an apartment building, and when I first started, I remember making peace with the fact that at times when I am practicing, people walking by in the hallway or even my neighbors may hear me. They may hear the name of Jesus Christ through the door from my mouth. They may hear me reference sin, or “the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” If you have ever feared what others may think of you, this can be something to overcome. The best way to overcome this, even outside this whole memorizing process, is to open your mouth and read out loud the words of Scripture, even where others may hear you.

No matter which translation one chooses, there will inevitably be words and phrases that are difficult to pronounce and speak at first. If one's commitment to learn the Scriptures is greater than his perception of this barrier, then with God's help it can be overcome, and one can learn to pronounce difficult words. While certain words may be difficult at first, with practice and patience, one can learn to pronounce anything well enough to proclaim God's Word to others.

Sometimes an extra pause is merited to literally allow our mouths to physically adjust and become ready to pronounce the next word or phrase. I had to add a slight pause recently when memorizing Job 41:14. Though it's all one question, how I pronounce “the doors of his face” is very different from how I pronounce “with his terrible teeth.” One's pacing and rhythm in how one recites a verse may be completely different from how someone else might recite the very same thing.

So much of memorizing and reciting anything is rhythm. Pacing itself can become a tool to help one remember the passage. This is why I also recommend memorizing with inflection. How one memorizes the text is near permanent in how one will recite it. This includes all of the starts and stops, ups and downs, loud and quiet ways one finds of speaking the words of Scripture in a way that matches the text. These things literally become connected to our sense of the meaning of the text. This greatly enhances the joy in memorizing the Word, and it only happens if expression is included from the outset. Practice saying the words with expression.

Sometimes where one naturally think emphasis belongs will change as one learns more of a passage. My favorite example of this is Romans 5:8. Many already know this verse, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” With this verse by itself, people often emphasize “Christ died for us,” and being a good passage for explaining the Gospel, there's certainly nothing wrong with putting emphasis there. Memorizing Romans 5:7 adds light, though, to 5:8. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.” Now, hearing, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners,” sounds completely different. 5:8 isn't just a statement, but is part of a comparison, and comparisons, especially like this one, are ripe for adding emphasis through inflection.

Not every verse is as easy to memorize as others. Sometimes when finding verses difficult to memorize, I have found the source of my difficulty to be caused by my inflection and me not thoroughly understanding the passage well enough to know where the emphasis would naturally be based on a fuller understanding of the meaning of the text.

When memorizing short individual verses of Scripture, there are valid reasons why people may not think of including much expression. I suppose some people could memorize much longer portions of Scripture without expression, too. For most people, though, adding inflection makes the process easier. I don't really have any desire to find out if I could memorize a long passage without inflection because it would be harder to re-memorize a long passage later with inflection, and it's fun memorizing with inflection and expression in the first place.

Not speaking out loud, and only memorizing something in your head misses many of these things learned from speaking the words out loud. It's easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we know the text better than we do. It's hard to notice when we skip things. One's own voice in his own head is far more eloquent than the one that comes out of his mouth. Does anyone have problems pronouncing words in his head?

On the flip side of that, one time I saw a video of a guy who had memorized a chapter or two from Hebrews. His text included a lot of vivid physical descriptions of things the Levitical priests would do in the temple. He decided to enhance his recitation with lots of physical movement including motions of his hands and arms, moving around, etc. to give people a visual to go along with the text he was quoting. It had a memorable effect. I have no doubt that he included his hand motions from the beginning of his work in memorizing the text. I expect it would also be quite difficult for him to recite the text without all of his physical movement to go along with it. For that reason, I would not recommend hand motions, unless one expects to be able to do the hand motions everywhere one decides he wants to review the text. Considering that while driving is one of my favorite and most effective times to review what I've learned, hand motions are most definitely not an option during that activity.

I prefer right down the middle: simply out loud, with expression, leaving freedom to do other things while practicing.

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