U is for Us

Up in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan, “Yoopers” have a distinct dialect. They greet visitors with, “How are yous guys today?”

Down in Texas, where the southern drawl is thick, guests are welcomed with, “How are y’all today?”

I regret that my Midwest English (and the English translations of our Bibles) doesn’t distinguish between singular and plural when it comes to “you.” The northern Yoopers and the southern drawlers might have a real advantage there.

One thing Americans are known for, whether from the north, south, east or west, is an independent, go-it-alone, self-reliant, individualistic mindset. So we often make a mistake when reading the Bible. As Lois Tverberg points out,

English speakers have a habit of reading every “you” in the Bible as if it’s addressed to “me all by myself” rather than “me within God’s larger community.”

In the Jewish way of thinking, faith is built around doing life with people and is inherently communal. In other words, the “you” is almost always plural. They think in terms of “we” instead of “me”.

When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He started with “Our Father”, not “My Father”. He used “us” and “our”, not “me” and “my”. The early church was famous for its devotion to fellowship, communal prayer and sharing meals together in each other’s houses. The New Testament writers continued the theme:

  • But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)
  • If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)
  • For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
  • See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

Yes. Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so.
But we mustn’t forget that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Eph. 5:2)

I’d sure like to do something about all those plural “you”s in the scriptures. Perhaps a new translation of the Holy Bible is in order. It would sound something like this:

Yous guys are the salt of the earth.
Y’all are the light of the world.
y'all

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “U” is US.

T is for Time

time

Due to lack of time this week, I will not be posting on “T is for Time”.

I had great plans —
— to reflect on the words of the wisest man, Solomon.
“There is a time for everything.” (Eccl. 3:1)
— to ponder the words of King David.
“My times are in Your hands.” (Ps. 31:15)
— to think over the words of Jesus.
“It is not for you to know the times or dates.” (Acts 1:7)
— to consider the words of Paul.
“Make the best use of your time.” (Eph. 5:16)
— 
to contemplate the words of Jim Croce.
“If I could save time in a bottle.” (Not really)

But I ran out of time.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to on the New Earth is
no clocks, no schedules, no timers buzzing, no deadlines,
no time limits, no delays, no due dates, no cut off point,
no being late, no calendars, no hurry, no push to finish.

We’ll have all the time in the (new) world.

clock

S is for Said

God is a talker.
In the first chapter of the Bible, we read the phrase “God said” eleven times.
We literally have the very words that God spoke.
At our fingertips.
In quotations.
Selah. (Hebrew for “stop and think about that for a while.”)

said

God’s people are talkers, too.
The word “said” is found 3, 071 times in the scriptures.
Words are the method of choice to get the gospel out to the nations.

world

For those of us who are not such great talkers, there’s a promise:
“The Holy Spirit will give you the words to say at the moment when you need them.” Luke 12:12

Psalm 119 was David’s long love song about the
extraordinary,
astonishing,
miraculous
record of what God said.

Musicians have been writing songs about the same thing ever since.

Back in 1975, the Heritage Singers recorded an album. The group was made up of men dressed in powder blue leisure suits and women wearing puffy sleeved maxi dresses. Ah, the 70s. Their big hit was titled, “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It For Me”. Pretty good theology.

Going back farther, in the 1700s, a song was published by an anonymous lyricist identified only as “K”. Pastor John Rippon included it in a compilation of hymns he put together for his church. “K”, whoever you are, thanks for writing such masterful words.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

What more can He say than to you He has said?
He said it, I believe it.

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “S” is SAID.

R is for Ran

There is a lot of running in the Old Testament.

Abraham ran. (Gen. 18:7)
Rebekah ran. (Gen. 24:20)
Esau ran. (Gen. 33:4)
Joseph ran. (Gen. 39:12)
Moses ran. (Ex. 4:3)
Aaron ran. (Num. 16:47)
Samuel ran. (1 Sam. 3:5)
David ran. (1 Sam. 17:48)
Elijah ran. (1 Kings 19:3)
Jonah ran. (Jon. 1:3)

In the New Testament, there’s more running.
Mostly to Jesus.
The demon-possessed man ran to Jesus. (Mark 5:6)
People who needed healing ran to Jesus. (Mark 6:55)
Large crowds ran to Jesus. (Mark 9:15)
A rich young man ran to Jesus. (Mark 10:17)
Zacchaeus ran to see Jesus. (Luke 19:4)

Once, Jesus told a story about running.
Only this time, God the Father was the Runner.
“But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him
and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son,
threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20

My favorite verse about running is in John’s Gospel. Mary had gone to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran to where Peter and the disciples were hiding out and told them.

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. John 20:3-4

They ran.
(John, the “other disciple”, pointed out who won the race. Really, John?)

peter

We’re supposed to run, too.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Heb. 12:1
Not stroll, not strut, not saunter — run!
So we can say someday,
“I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.”
1 Tim.4:7

running

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “R” is RAN.

P is for Paul

Although I’ve chosen a proper noun for my favorite word that starts with “P”, I’m well within the bounds of the rules I set for myself. (Use only small words, 4 letters or less.)

“What’s the big deal with all these rules?” you say.
Well, the Apostle Paul and I are both #1s on the Enneagram scale.
We like rules.
We like to make the rules.
We like to obey the rules.
We like to make sure everyone else obeys the rules.

rules

Paul is my Bible Buddy.

Before he was Apostle Paul he was Pharisee Paul, a devotee to all things rules and laws. So much so, in fact, that he set out to arrest, imprison and seek the death sentence for all rule-breakers. In Acts 8:1, we see Paul’s dark side as he gave approval to the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

Characteristics of unhealthy Ones:

  • Highly critical, both of self and of others
  • Picky, judgmental, perfectionistic
  • Self-righteous, intolerant, inflexible
  • Corrects others, badgering them to do the “right thing”
  • Is the only one who knows what the “right thing” is

But then Paul met Jesus and God began the transforming work of bringing health into his personality. God redeemed Paul’s temperament and used him to carry the gospel to the Gentile world. The man who was determined to destroy the church became the man who built it.

Characteristics of healthy Ones:

  • Inspiring, hopeful and wise
  • Conscientious with strong personal convictions
  • Fair, objective, and ethical
  • Values truth and justice
  • Self-disciplined, mature and moderate in all things

Enneagram1WM-819x1024

I have been known to go into a business to inform them that a word is spelled wrong on their sign. Sometimes I correct PB when he puts the silverware in the dishwasher the wrong way. I shake my head at those who fold towels improperly. And I refold them. So far, I haven’t made any citizen’s arrests or breathed any murderous threats (Acts 9:1).

God is still at work in me,
transforming my not-so-healthy side of my personality
into a more grace-filled person, both toward myself and others.
Me, Mary Poppins and Paul.

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “P” is PAUL.

O is for O

Not many letters get to be words.
I can only think of three: A, I, and O.
As in, “O Lord, I have a problem.”

O!

We usually write this word with an “h” (oh!) but it means the same thing with or without the “h”. The original biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek don’t include the word “O”, but there are markings in the text that indicate intense emotion, which translators express as “O”.

Every time you come across an “O” in your Bible reading, give your voice a little oomph, a small burst of energy, a bit of zing. The Holy scriptures are not monotone. They are full of power and life, so read them with zest and zeal. Especially the “O”s.

It can mean awestruck wonder.
O Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” Ps. 8:1

It can mean spirited approval.
O Lord my God, you are very great.” Ps. 104:1

It can mean desperation.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” Ps. 13:1

It can mean urgency.
“Arise, O Lord, in your anger.” Ps. 7:6

It can mean exasperation.
“Answer me when I call to you, O God.” Ps. 4:1

It can mean joy.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul.” Ps. 146:1

Jesus said it.
“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Matt. 8:26

Paul said it.
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Cor. 15:55

The angels in heaven say it.
“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was.” Rev. 16:5

Oh, such a versatile little word that packs a punch with just a breath!
My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “O” is “O”.

N is for Now

How frustrating it was as a kid to hear,
“Maybe later, but not now.”
When was “later” going to arrive, exactly?
Did “maybe” mean “probably not gonna happen”?

How thrilling it was as a kid to hear,
“I have time right now. Let’s play!”

Now.

It’s a short word that packs a punch.
It appears in over 1200 verses in the Bible (NIV).
But Romans 8:1 is my favorite.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.

What would that verse sound like without this powerhouse syllable?
“Therefore, there is * no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
When, exactly? Maybe later? What about now?
See? Aren’t you glad there is no condemnation NOW?

now

Perhaps you remember my favorite word that starts with “B”.
Team that word up with this one and you’ve got a potent duo.

“Once you were alienated from God,
BUT NOW he has reconciled you…”
Colossians 1:21-22

“Once you were not a people,
BUT NOW you are the people of God.”
1 Peter 2:10

“I was blind,
BUT NOW I see.”
John 9:25

“For this son of mine was dead,
BUT NOW he is alive;
he was lost,
BUT NOW he has been found.”
Luke 15:24

It has been said that we live between the “already” and the “not yet”. The Kingdom of God has come in Jesus, but the complete fulfillment of the Kingdom is still in the future.

John said it like this,
“Beloved, we are God’s children now,
and what we will be has not yet appeared.”
1 John 3:2
Now and not yet.

How thrilling it will be to witness the moment the God of the universe says,
“NOW!”.

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thess. 4:16-17

Not maybe.
Not probably.
Not now.
But soon.

one-minute-to-midnight-5549171

M is for Maker

I am breaking rule #2 today.
2) Use only small words, four letters or less.
And I am invoking rule #3.
3) Change the rules when necessary.

I sure am glad I left that loophole open, because I sure do love this word.
My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “M” is “Maker”.

I’ve noticed lately that artists of all kinds are calling themselves “makers”.
The Original Maker was, indeed, an artist.
But the term is nothing new.

“Come, let us bow down in worship before the Lord our Maker.” Ps. 95:6
“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Ps. 121:2
“He is the Maker of heaven and earth and everything in them.” Ps. 146:6
“Let Israel rejoice in their Maker.” Ps. 149:2

maker

God is a Maker with a capital “M”.
We have been made by Him.

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
Ps. 139:13

The Hebrew word for “knit” is similar to our word for “embroidered”. In other words, He didn’t print off a copy and slap us together with some scotch tape. No! He used the very finest of handiwork, creating detail upon detail. Each stitch was an artful expression, resulting in a one-of-a-kind. Our word “embryo” comes from this beautiful root word “embroidery”.

stitch

The Bible opens with the Lord making one thing after another.
“So God made the expanse…”
“God made two great lights…”
“God made the wild animals…”
He made the seventh day holy.
He made a man from the dust.
He made a woman from the rib.

It was good.
For a little bit.
Until it wasn’t.

So the Maker kept on making.
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife.” Gen. 3:21

Then the Maker kept on making.
God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things by
“making peace through Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross.” Col. 1:20

And the Maker will keep on making.
“I am making everything new!” Rev. 21:5

new

We have been made in the image of God.
Let’s be like Him and make something good today.

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “M” is MAKER.

L is for Love

It’s the obvious choice.
“Love” is my favorite word in the Bible that starts with “L”.
It may be my favorite word in the whole Bible.
It might be my favorite word in the English language.
But I’m not a good enough thinker or writer to do this word justice.
Today, I defer to the Apostle Paul who wrote the consummate essay on love.

You know it well
You’ve heard it at weddings.
You’ve seen it on coffee cups.
But today, read it like it’s something brand new
that just landed in your inbox.
Go ahead.
Read it out loud.
Today and every day.

If I were to speak with eloquence in earth’s many languages, and in the heavenly tongues of angels, yet I didn’t express myself with love, my words would be reduced to the hollow sound of nothing more than a clanging cymbal.

And if I were to have the gift of prophecy with a profound understanding of God’s hidden secrets, and if I possessed unending supernatural knowledge, and if I had the greatest gift of faith that could move mountains, but have never learned to love, then I am nothing.

And if I were to be so generous as to give away everything I owned to feed the poor, and to offer my body to be burned as a martyr, without the pure motive of love, I would gain nothing of value.

Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.

Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten. Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away. When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.

For now we see but a faint reflection of riddles and mysteries as though reflected in a mirror, but one day we will see face-to-face. My understanding is incomplete now, but one day I will understand everything, just as everything about me has been fully understood. Until then, there are three things that remain: faith, hope, and love—yet love surpasses them all. 

1 Corinthians 13, The Passion Translation

 love2

J is for Joy

“J” may not have many pages in the thesaurus (only 81 words), but it’s a different story in the Bible dictionary. There are 244 proper names in the good book that start with “J”. Here’s a sampling: Jesus, Jacob, Judah, Job, John, Joshua, James, Joseph, Joanna, Judas, Josiah, Jonah, Jezebel, Jeremiah, Jabez….. “J” was very popular in Bible times. Of course, in Hebrew these names started with “Yodh”.

Since I’m going to stick with my self-imposed rules, my favorite word that starts with J is JOY. It’s a happy word. I think we all could use a happy word right now.

I’ve heard it said that there is difference between happiness and joy. Some believe happiness is based on external happenings while joy comes from within. Maybe. But in the original Biblical languages there isn’t a delineation between the two. Joyful people are happy — happy people have joy.

Here is one of the best definitions of joy I’ve  heard:

Joy is the settled assurance
that God is in control
of all the details of my life,

the quiet confidence
that ultimately everything
is going to be alright

and the determined choice
to praise God
in every situation.”
(Rick Warren)

Did you get that?
Settled assurance,
quiet confidence,
determined choice.

That’s what joy looks like while we’re on this side of eternity.
We can get help from the Holy Spirit to cultivate this fruit of joy.

But just you wait.
We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

“Those the LORD has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Isaiah 35:10

We’re gonna sing with joy!
We’re gonna wear joy-crowns!
We’re gonna be carried away with joy!

joy

My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “J” is JOY!