Alliteration: Helpful or Not?

I have a love-hate relationship with alliteration. Mostly hate. I am talking about when alliteration is used in sermon outlines and Sunday school lessons. I see the value in alliteration in poetry—when applied by a skilled writer.

Meaning

Typically we think of alliteration as the use of the same beginning letter for the points in a message. This can be a consonant or vowel sound, though most of the time it is a consonant sound. Also, alliteration is usually related to the sound of the words. It is not necessary that the letters themselves be the same.

Memory

One of the benefits to alliteration is that it can actually be helpful in remembering the points of a message. There have been studies that show there is greater and quicker recall of information when paired with alliteration.

Manhandle

However, if words are manhandled to make them fit an alliteration scheme, then the whole idea usually does not work as well as the speaker or writer would hope. An example of this is the Sunday school lesson I am studying for tomorrow. There are 14 pages of notes! The short version of the notes—which will be handed out to the students—has 4 big points and 4 sub-points under each one. All of these points are alliterated to each set of 4 on their outline level. That makes 16 words that are alliterated. With that many words that are supposedly important, I doubt anyone will walk out of class tomorrow with the ability to remember even the 4 big points.

Manipulate

In my recent study of the book of James I looked at outlines written by various authors. Many of them had an alliterated outline. Certainly there is nothing wrong with alliteration if it stays true to the text. But some of these outlines seem to manipulate the meaning of the text so that the author can keep his cute alliteration.

Multivocal

Alliteration is also not helpful as a memory tool when the speaker uses an obscure or marginal word that the listeners aren’t going to remember anyway. By the way, multivocal means “having more than one meaning.” The fact that I had to look the word up and then have to explain it should be a sign that it is a terrible word to use for alliteration purposes.

Main Message

I am not totally against alliteration. I use it myself sometimes. But it should not be forced to the point that you obscure the meaning of your message. And certainly the meaning of the Bible text should never be manipulated just so that it will fit with your alliteration.

[Yes, I intentionally did some bad alliteration with my paragraph headings. I would be curious as to how you might alliterate the points in this article: either better or painfully worse. Leave a comment below with your alliteration or comments on the subject.]

James: Key Verses

Each chapter in the book of James has a two to four themes. If you want to learn the content of the book of James you can learn the themes along with key verses which will help you know what is contained in each chapter and in the book.

I would encourage you to commit these verses to memory. Learning key verses for books of the Bible will help you know what is contained in the book. And, in this case, each of these verses will give you a greater idea of what is in each chapter.

James 1

Greeting — James 1:1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

Trails and Temptations — James 1:12

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Doers and Not Hearers Only — James 1:22

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

James 2

Partiality — James 2:1

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

Faith Without Works — James 2:14

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

James 3

Controlling the Tongue — James 3:5

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

Wisdom — James 3:17

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

James 4

Worldliness — James 4:4

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Judging One Another — James 4:11

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

Boasting About Future — James 4:14

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

James 5

Warnings to the Rich — James 5:1

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.

Patience in Afflictions — James 5:8

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Prayer — James 5:16

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Wandering Christians — James 5:20

Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Image with link to a memory course for the book of James.While I have listed these as the key verses to help you learn the topics in each chapter, there could be other verses that you may find to be better in helping you remember each chapter’s content. If you do have another verse that you prefer, post that in the comments below. I am curious as to what stands out as important to others.

For the most part, this list came from a memorization course on the book of James that I am doing. Check out the Master of Memory course if you would like to memorize the book as well.

Why Memorize Bible Verses?

Memorizing Bible Verses: Why is it important?

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Joshua 1:8

Here are seven areas where memorizing the Bible can help us to grow spiritually. You don’t have to memorize whole books of the Bible to benefit from Bible memorization. You should always be learning new verses that God can use in your life.

Aids in Spiritual Growth

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

God’s Word will help you grow spiritually mature when you allow it to permeate your thinking.

Helps When Fighting Temptation

Matthew 4:1-10

Our Lord Jesus quoted verses from the Old Testament to resist the various temptations of Satan.

Fills Our Mind With Spiritual Thoughts

Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8

Our minds are transformed by thinking on the pure Word of God.

Shows Our Love for the Lord

John 14:15, 21

We show our love by obeying His commands. We must learn God’s Word and make them a part of our life so that we know what it is He expects of us.

Keeps Us From Sin

Psalm 119:9, 11

Hiding God’s Word in our heart will keep sin from staining our hands.

Prepares Us to Speak for the Lord

1 Peter 3:15

The world is seeking an answer for the hope that we have. It is transmitted when we are able to share God’s Word with them.

Teaches Us to be Mature Christians

2 Timothy 3:15-17

The list started with spiritual growth and ends with spiritual maturity. God’s Word in our hearts and minds is what brings that transition in our lives.

Ask the Lord to help you in memorizing verses. Learn what they mean and you will be surprised as to how often the Holy Spirit gives you opportunity to apply those verses in you life.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16

I’ve been reading The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee lately. It is a very readable commentary of the book of Romans, though it is not intended to be comprehensive nor verse-by-verse. Nee has practical illustrations which make biblical principles of living the Christian life come alive. After each illustration (of which some people complain are too numerous in Nee’s writings) I sit back and think, “why haven’t I seen the simplicity of that before?”

To give you a taste of the book, here are a few passages that stood out to me as I read chapter 8 today. The chapter is about the indwelling and empowering on the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.

Because the Lord Jesus died on the cross, I have received forgiveness of sins; because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, I have received new life; because the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Father, I have received the outpoured Spirit. All is because of Him; nothing is because of me. Remission of sins is not based on human merit, but on the Lord’s crucifixion; regeneration is not based on human merit, but on the Lord’s resurrection; and the enduement of the Spirit is not based on human merit, but on the Lord’s exaltation. The Holy Spirit has not been poured out on you and me to prove how great we are, but to prove the greatness of the Son of God.

Book cover, The Normal Christian LifeSome time ago a young man, who had only been a Christian for five weeks and who had formerly been violently opposed to the Gospel, attended a series of meetings which I was addressing in Shanghai. At the close of one in which I was speaking on the above lines [Acts 2:32-36], he went home and began to pray earnestly, “Lord, I do want the power of the Holy Spirit. Seeing Thou hast now been glorified, wilt Thou not now pour out Thy Spirit upon me?” Then he corrected himself: “Oh no, Lord, that’s all wrong!” and began to pray again, “Lord Jesus, we are in a life-partnership, Thou and I, and the Father has promised us two things—glory for Thee and the Spirit for me. Thou, Lord hast received they glory; therefore it is unthinkable that I have not received the Spirit. Lord, I praise Thee! Thou hast already received the glory, and I have already received the Spirit.” From that day the power of the Spirit was consciously upon him.

As soon as we see the Lord Jesus on the cross, we know our sins are forgiven; and as soon as we see the Lord Jesus on the throne, we know the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us. The basis upon which we receive the enduement of the Holy Spirit is not our praying and fasting and waiting, but the exaltation of Christ. Those who emphasize tarrying and hold “tarrying meetings” only mislead us, for the gift is not for the “favored few” but for all, because it is not given on the ground of what we are at all, but of what Christ is.

In the same way, you can pray and wait for years and never experience the Spirit’s power; but when you cease to plead with the Lord to pour out His Spirit upon you, and when instead you trustfully praise Him that the Spirit has been poured out because the Lord Jesus has been glorified, you will find that your problem is solved. Praise God!

It is wonderful to know that my relationship with God does not depend on my ability. Rather, the benefits He has promised are mine because of His faithfulness.

This is the first Watchman Nee book that I’ve read (as far as I remember). I have been pleased with his ability to explain things in a simple manner. You can find many more Watchman Nee titles at the Amazon author page for him.

[Some of the word capitalizations have been changed in the quotes above to reflect my preference capitalizing pronouns for deity and not capitalizing certain nouns.]

I am attending the Our Generation Summit that is hosted by Vision Baptist Missions. The sessions are all focused on missions. I attended a session title “Introduction to Creative Access Countries” and gained some insight into this that I want to share.

creative access country is also known as a closed country, limited access nation, restricted access nation, and various other names. Primarily the term refers to countries that do not allow missionaries to come into their country as a missionary, but may let the missionary enter through some other means. Usually this is through being a businessman or teacher. These are countries that are primarily Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Communist.

A map graphic of what is referred to as the 10/40 window. Countries that are not typically open to missions.

The missionary, who works in North Africa, talked about various ways missionaries get into these countries legally and how they stay. He mainly focused on the effectiveness of the creative ways we get into these nations. Many of these countries can be entered by being a businessman or teacher. But much of the time–certainly not always–missionaries go in these capacities and don’t fulfill the work for which they are called. He did not say it is wrong to use these methods. In fact, he is in the country he serves by being a businessman. However, it is also easy to get wrapped up in the work for which you legally get your visa and not actually do the work of the ministry.

He said that only about 5% of missionaries who go in a tent-making capacity to a field are actually involved in church planting. Yet, 80% of them are supported by churches for the purpose of winning souls, making disciples, and planting churches. Many missionaries get caught up in the day-to-day work that they think they have to do to justify being in the country without doing the work for which they were sent.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with being a businessman or a teacher and working in another country for the purpose of evangelism. But if you are a missionary, then your focus should be on missions and not only your business.

Here are his sub-points under his topic of why many missionaries have a problems staying on track when entering the field as businessmen. I know that some may disagree with a few of these points, that’s between you and the missionary I got this from. I simply share what I thought was some good material.

Often we begin with the wrong goal — Acts 17:1-10

We think the goal is to stay in the country. Yet the goal should be to win souls, make disciples, and establish churches. Keep that as your focus and then figure out the other in light of that. Don’t make the sole goal of your work to stay in the country.

There is an acquiescence to the commands of men — Acts 4:18, 19

We ought to obey God rather than men. Obey Him first, then let Him help you work out the details of how to do it.

Consumes the time of the missionary — 2 Timothy 4:2-5

Does your access to the country require that you spend 40+ hours a week in a job? When do you have time for winning and discipling people and establishing local churches? You don’t need to be dishonest in your reason for being in the country, but that also (often) does not mean you have to work 40 hours a week in your job. In this brother’s case, he has started a business and employs others to actually do the work. He spends 30 minutes a month managing the business and even pays taxes on what the business makes. But, he admits that the business isn’t the most successful. No one said you had to be a successful businessman to get a visa.

Inadequate training for ministry — Acts 16-24

Many who go with the idea of being a businessman or teacher train for that job and ignore their ministry training. Again, you don’t have to be the most successful businessman, but if you are taking mission money from churches you ought to be a well-trained missionary.

Creates a false sense of accomplishment — 1 Thessalonians 2:19

In these closed countries, it is easier to teach English than it is to make disciples. Most of us want to invest time in the endeavor that is easier and more successful. Don’t get wrapped up in thinking a booming business is the reason you are in the country.

A successful business is the logical consequence of a weak theology of suffering — 2 Timothy 4:2-5

The people you reach will learn that it is good to be a good worker and avoid conflict with the government. Western Christians like us think that it is horrible to suffer persecution. Yet, we know that God’s grace and presence is most evident when there is persecution. God is glorified and His Word is spread in a powerful way when persecution is present. A rich American businessman is hard-pressed to preach to people–who may lose their lives for conversion–that suffering for the Lord is a worthy price to pay.

Takes the local church out of the center of missions — Ephesians 4:19, 20

Drives away gifted evangelists, pastors and disciples makers

The work of missions desperately needs these types of ministers. The work on the field needs these men and women more than it needs a new coffee shop.

Hides the biblical identity of Pastor — Romans 1:1

Paul identified himself as a servant and apostle for the work of the Gospel. He did not identify himself as a tent maker. Did he make tents? Yes, but that was not his identity. And, apparently he did not engage in the work of making tents enough to make it part of his identity. It was something he did. But who he was was a missionary. Don’t hide the need of pastors and other ministry workers from the people on the field. They ought to see an example of soul winning, training others, and establishment of local congregations.

Sets the wrong example — 2 Timothy 3:10-12

Paul suffered persecution. The people knew it. How do people know the missionary engaged in teaching English? If it is simply as an English teacher who happens to know the Lord, then I think we have missed being the example that Paul is to us.

A survey of national Christians in some of these countries asked what the nationals learned from the missionary. The number one answer was: we learned how to be afraid. Oh please, don’t let that be our legacy on the field! A full-time, church planting ministry may not be possible in every country, but church planting is biblical and necessary. Use creative ways to get into the country, but don’t make that your sole purpose and focus when you go to the field.

 Page 1 of 23  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »