No Words

I have no words today.
Maybe we don’t need more words.
Perhaps we just need The Word.
Let’s just pause and think a while. (Selah)

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God by believing in Christ.

Selah.

This is because all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Selah.

You have put him on as if he were your clothes.

Selah.

There is no Jew or Gentile.

Selah.

There is no slave or free person.

Selah.

There is no male or female.

Selah.

That’s because you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Selah.

Galatians 3:26-28

So also we are many persons.
But in Christ we are one body.
And each part of the body 
belongs to all the other parts.
Romans 12:5

I is for In

in

“In” is such an itty-bitty word.
We use it hundreds of times a day without thinking.

“In” was a key word in Jesus’ teaching on the vine and the branches.
“Abide in me
and
I will abide in you.”
John 15:4

We are in Jesus
and Jesus is in us.

When Jesus prayed for all of us in John 17, He said,
“…that all of them may be one, Father,
just as you are in me
and I am in you…
…that they may be one as we are one
I in them
and you in me.”

God is in Jesus
and Jesus is in God
and Jesus is in us
and we are in Jesus.

Paul used the phrase “in Christ” over 160 times in his letters.
It’s an important little word.
Nevertheless, it’s a hard concept to get the mind around.

Here’s some help from Bible commentator William Barclay:

When Paul spoke of the Christian being “in Christ”, he meant that the Christian lives “in Christ” as a bird in the air, a fish in the water, the roots of a tree in the soil. What makes a Christian different is that he is always and everywhere conscious of the encircling presence of Jesus Christ.”

We often hear that the life of faith begins
when we invite Jesus in —
into our hearts, into our lives.

But it sounds to me like Jesus is inviting us in —
into His life, into His power, into His presence.

Maybe it’s both.
Jesus is in me.
I am in Jesus.

May we always and everywhere be conscious of His encircling presence.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “I” is IN.

in christ

Teth

Teth (also written as Tet) is the ninth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Teth has the same sound as “t” as in “trouble”, but it means “good, better, or best”. Every line in Psalm 119:65-72 starts with this letter. Teth looks like this:

teth

 There are two very different ways to interpret this letter.

First, it is a picture of an open container in which something good is hidden. The first use of the letter Teth is in Genesis 1:4, “God saw that the light was good (tov).” The world was birthed day by day and each new creation was declared to be good. Truly, God’s goodness is all around us, hidden in creation.

Some Rabbis teach that the letter represents the womb, where for nine months, something good is hidden. Therefore, as the ninth letter in the Aleph-Bet, it is connected with spiritual birth or renewal. In the New Testament, there are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit that are planted into the soil of all believers’ hearts. That seed is hidden until it produces fruit and grows as we continue to mature in Him. The Christian life is “pregnant” with God’s goodness.

The letter Teth also looks like someone bowing in prayer, opening their heart to God’s hidden treasures of the Holy Spirit and the Word. The left side of Teth is a Zayin, the seventh letter, that shows Jesus as the crowned man. Believers are portrayed on the right side, bowing before the Victorious Savior.

The second interpretation, in drastic contrast to the first, sees the letter Teth as the serpent, coiling into earth and injecting evil into the world. This strange duality in one letter makes a profound point.

“Will we choose to surrender our lives, offering ourselves as living sacrifices or will we inwardly rebel and live in selfish pride that marks the devil? (hebrew4christians.com)

“There is a famous optical illusion (shown below) which depicts both a beautiful young woman and an old woman with a wart on her nose. Some suggest that whichever image you first see indicates something about how you think and perceive the world. But, whether or not this is true of this image, it is a good illustration of the Teth. Like the image of the two women, Teth is the letter with two messages – two Judgments. And what you spiritually see in Teth is determined by your own personal experience and choice regarding Yahweh.

illusion

For those who choose Yahweh and abide in Him, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit are given – that is the JUDGMENT that we receive! Beautiful thought!

God is the Judge, but I decide what my judgment will be. He sets before me the choice – ‘I set before you this day blessing and cursing, life and death. Therefore choose life.’ (Deut. 30:19) The Teth shows the two-fold nature of Yahweh’s Judgment.” (www.lightedway.org)

What do you see when you look at Teth?

Open my eyes, that I may see Your goodness.

tet

Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “I”.

Long Song Study, part I

bstud

The author of Psalm 119 (presumably David) wrote eloquently about the goodness of God’s law and his desire to keep it with all his heart. Occasionally he wrote about adversaries who were making his life difficult. In the next section, David took these two realities and put them together into one truth: God’s goodness is best known in affliction. “The affliction God gives is His good gift to His people…to draw us into, and keep us in, the Word.” (Christopher Ash)

Verse 65
You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.
David began the ninth section of his long song by looking back and acknowledging the goodness of God in his life. He wasn’t referring to his extravagant palace, or his table of fine food, or his closet full of regal robes. David saw that the promises of God had proven to be rock solid words of truth that gave his soul both help and delight.

Verse 66
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
Even though he had been walking with God for awhile, David stayed teachable. His experience of God’s goodness only made him want to know more, so he asked for knowledge and good judgment. The word “judgment” in this verse means “a taste for” — so David was asking God to put a craving for good and wise living in his heart. “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” David wrote in Psalm 34. The ability to discern, or “taste”, God’s goodness in the middle of suffering is a mark of spiritual maturity.

Verse 67
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
What was David’s affliction? Apparently, he was persecuted for staying loyal to God’s law and choosing the way of faithfulness. (See verses 21-23, 39, 42, 50-51, 61) Taking a stand to uphold God’s law in the face of persecution only made David more resolute to keep it. He saw affliction as the thing God used to bring him back into right relationship with Himself. When life was easy and comfortable, he didn’t sense his need for God.
C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” God often uses times of trial to get our attention and bring us back to Him.

Verse 68
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
Because of the affliction, David had a new-found taste of God’s goodness that was present during his time of trial. In fact, David recognized how valuable it was, so he said, “If this is the only way for me to learn to walk in Your ways, then afflict me whenever You need to. Keep teaching me, whatever it takes.” David understood that if he never went through hard trials, he would never experience the depths of God’s goodness.

Verse 69
The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
Smear campaigns are nothing new, although with social media, our culture seems to have taken it to a new level. Keep in mind that David was experiencing this adversity because he took a stand for God’s law. We can get ourselves into all kinds of trouble on our own for saying and doing stupid things. Suffering for being a believer is different. The prosperity gospel teaching that God will give you a comfortable life and make you healthy and wealthy is a false gospel. If even Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Heb. 5:8), we should expect to as well.

Verse 70
their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.
“A greasy heart is something horrible,” said Charles Spurgeon. Yuck — I agree. This is the only place in the whole Bible this word is used, so different versions interpret this verse in various ways: “Their hearts are unfeeling, like blubber.” (CEB) “Their hearts are cold and insensitive.” (GW) “Their unfeeling hearts are hard and stubborn.” (NIRV) “Their heart is as fat as grease.” (ASV) It seems that too much ease causes heart disease and a greasy heart becomes proud and arrogant. Instead of delighting in the law, they were repelled by the law. Greasy hearts and living water don’t mix.

Verse 71
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
David saw that he was on the path to a greasy heart, too, until affliction did its good work in him. He would never have become a man who delighted in God’s word otherwise. He was convinced that the gracious hand of God was all over his trials because they trained him to walk in the ways of the Lord. Suffering and God’s goodness were not two separate experiences for David — they were closely tied and they compelled him to love the Word. Of course, it’s difficult to see the benefits of going through painful trials when in the midst of them. David only saw in retrospect that he was better for having gone through them.

Verse 72
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Some people try to buy their way out of discomfort, inconvenience, and tests of faith. David realized that he couldn’t put a price on the lessons he learned in adversity. He may have been the wealthiest of kings, but the riches of God’s word were far more precious to him.

And so we have here a deep truth. No man will love his Bible until God has afflicted him. He may be intrigued by it. He may have an intellectual affection for it. He may have been brought up to have a cultural affinity with it, or an aesthetic love of its verbal resonances. But he will not delight in that word above all the wealth of the world until he has been afflicted, until he has felt the fragility of this world, this age, this mortal body. But when that happens he will cling to the word as the only tie to the age to come. ~Christopher Ash

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Things I know for sure from this passage:

  • When things are going good, we tend to wander away.
  • Those who wander too far for too long can become calloused and heartless.
  • God often uses difficulties to woo us back to Him.
  • Anything that drives us closer to God is good.
  • The word of God is priceless.

Next: Teth

Stanza I

Welcome to week 9 of the Long Song Study which is based on Psalm 119 and the Hebrew Aleph-Bet. We are on the letter “I” this week. If you’re new here, I invite you to scroll back to the beginning of this journey.

Along with the Psalmist let’s pray: “Teach me, O Lord.”

Psalm 119:65-72

I know You are good to me, Lord;
     Your word tells it just like it is.

Instruct me to learn and discern,
     for I take in all that You say.

In the past I wandered away,
     but trouble taught me to obey.

Indeed, You and Your acts are good.
     Keep teaching me, I want to learn.

Insolent liars attack me,
     yet I hold on tight to Your truth.

Inside, their hearts are hard and cold;
     Your law keeps my heart soft and warm.

It was good for me to suffer;
     it caused me to pay attention.

Incredibly dear are Your words,
     they are better than piles of cash.

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Next: Long Song Study, part I

A Million Words

Do you know where were you on June 10, 2009, at 10:22 a.m.?
Something momentous happened at that moment.
It was a big day in the world of liguistics.
(Linguistics: the science of language.)

Give up?
The English language passed the million word threshold.
As of January 1, 2020, the official count was 1,057,379 words.
(www.languagemoniter.com)

3D animation

That’s a lot of words.

Unfortunately, the most current Oxford English Dictionary only contains 171,476 of them. And the average English speaking person only uses about one eighth of those. Just think of all the things we could say and write and sing about if we made use of all those lovely words.

In contrast, the Biblical Hebrew language had 8,000 words stemming from 2,100 root words. That’s 992,000 less words to work with than contemporary English.

Paradoxically, the richness of Hebrew comes from its poverty. Because this ancient language has so few words, each one is like an overstuffed suitcase, bulging with extra meanings that it must carry in order for the language to fully describe reality. (Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life) 

Unpacking those suitcases full of extra meaning
is what makes studying the Bible so interesting.
Thank you for studying with me.

suitcase

H is for Help

I like it when complex theology
is boiled down
to simple truth.

According to author Elizabeth Goudge,
there are three necessary prayers
and they have three words each:
Lord, have mercy.
Thee I adore.
Into Thy hands.

Still not basic enough?

According to author Anne Lamott,
there are three essential prayers
and they are three words:
Help.
Thanks.
Wow.

help

Of these three prayers,
I tend to use one most often.
Help.

As a parent, I loved hearing the words “Thanks mom!”
On occasion I even got a “Wow!” — usually when baking cookies.
But the thing that got my attention quickest
and caused my heart to beat hardest
and made me run fastest
was when my child yelled,
“Help!”

The Psalm writers seemed to use that prayer a lot, too.

“Arise to help me.” Ps. 59:4
“I am worn out calling for help.” Ps. 69:3
“Come quickly, Lord, to help me.” Ps. 70:1
“I cried out to God for help.” Ps. 77:1
“Help me, Lord my God, according to your unfailing love.” Ps. 109:26

The Psalm writers also seemed to get answers to that prayer.

“You are my help and deliverer.” Ps. 70:5
“You, Lord, have helped me.” Ps. 86:17
“The Lord is my helper.” Ps. 118:7
“My help comes from the Lord.” Ps. 121:2
“I would have died unless the Lord had helped me.” Ps. 94:17

Wow, am I ever thankful we have a Father who runs
when He hears His children call for help.
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.”
Ps. 46:1

The great theologians, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, put it this way:
“Help me if you can, I’m feeling down.
And I do appreciate you being ’round.
Help me get my feet back on the ground.
Won’t you please, please help me?”

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with H is HELP.