That Magic Moment

Remember that moment….

When you got that grade you never thought would be possible? You worked so hard all semester long, hoping and praying to just pass the class. And then, miracle of miracles, you earned a B! You’re excited, elated, ecstatic; all your hard work actually paid off, and you can’t help doing a dance for joy—even though everyone in the library is watching.

When you open your locker to find it filled with balloons, a teddy bear, and an obnoxiously large handwritten note from your long-term crush asking you—yes, you!—to the prom? You let out a delighted squeal and bowl over two freshmen (oops!)  as you rush to tell your best friend! She’s not going to believe it! Or (for you guys out there) when that beautiful girl in your physics class, the girl you’ve liked since she moved to town in sixth grade, says she’d love to go to the Homecoming dance with you? You want to do a cartwheel down the hallway, but instead play it off and simply ask, “Pick you up at 6?”

When it’s Christmas morning and you’ve been up since 4 a.m. counting down the minutes until your parents wake up. You rush to the tree and—lo, and behold!—the gift you’ve been wanting since the day after last Christmas, the one you’ve thought about every day since then, is sitting there with your name on it. You dash across the room, snatch it up, and jump around in circles, unable to contain your excitement. Oh, and your family definitely got it all on video.

Remember that moment. Even if you’ve never experienced one of the moments I just described, my guess is that you’ve had at least one of “those moments.” Those moments when the world suddenly looks different, all the colors become brighter, and your joy literally flows out of you. No matter how hard you try, you can’t keep your excitement inside, but it doesn’t matter because you don’t want to keep it bottled up. No, you want the whole world—or at least everyone in your five-foot radius—to know about it. Because it’s that amazing.

Those moments are both incredible and incredibly rare. Their rarity makes us appreciate them even more; however, it also leaves us longing. If only we could bottle up that feeling and save it for a rainy day. If only it would last just a little longer. If only, if only. But alas, that’s impossible. Or so I thought.

Pause for a subject change. But don’t worry; we’ll come back.

This week at the Kanakuk Institute, we learned about evangelism. In case you don’t speak “Christianese,” let me translate for you. Evangelism simply means telling others about Jesus and sharing the Gospel (to be explained later.) In multiple places in the New Testament, Christians are commanded to go and share the Gospel. It’s not optional; rather, it’s arguably the most important thing we are each called to do as believers. Having said that, I should be great at evangelizing. I should love to share my faith with others. I should be chomping at the figurative bit for opportunities, right?

Wrong… At least until last Thursday.

You see, I never wanted to share my faith because, well, I wasn’t enjoying it. Yes, I knew on a cerebral level that God is good and faithful; I’d even experienced it several times. Yes, I knew I would spend eternity with Him and that this would be awesome. I understood theoretically that Christianity was the answer to all of my—and the world’s—problems, but my reality didn’t seem to line up. Although I knew Jesus and had Him as my Savior, I still felt lost, like I was missing something, but I had no idea how to find it… or even what it was. And if I, as a Christian, wasn’t experiencing freedom, wasn’t full of joy and peace and contentment, if I wasn’t “feeling it,” so to speak, why would anyone else want to become a Christian? And why would I want to share my faith? It’d be like trying to sell a product that I had never used or with which I wasn’t fully satisfied. Simply put, it would have felt like a lie. So instead, I kept my faith to myself, trying desperately to get my life on track in the vain hope that one day, if I tried long enough, if I worked hard enough, if I was good enough, I would find what I was looking for. And maybe I wouldn’t feel so empty anymore. Hopefully.

So now we’re going back to where we left off with “those moments.” When I was in 8th grade, I had the most important “that moment” of my life. I understood the truth of the Gospel—that Jesus loves me, He died for me, and His grace saves me—and it was incredible, like passing a test, getting asked out, and Christmas morning all rolled into one and then times infinity! I felt joy, peace, excitement, contentment; all of a sudden I was alive. And it was AWESOME! I loved Jesus and wanted everyone to know about Him.

But then something changed. I started to grow in my faith, but as I did, I began to believe that my faith was dependent on things I did rather than what Christ did for me. I needed to “make God happy” by how I lived my life rather than by simply giving Him my life. I got sucked into the trap of religion and, as a result, misplaced the relationship. As Revelation 2:4 says, I had forgotten my “first love” and, what’s worse, I didn’t know what to do about it.

Cut to last Thursday night. When I rediscovered the Gospel.

You’re a mess. You can’t fix yourself. But even though you’re a mess, Jesus loves you. Jesus died to save you. Only He can fix you. His grace alone can save you.

Wow.

So what does this have to do with evangelism? And why does this matter? Well, it has everything to do with evangelism. And it’s the only thing that matters.

You see, God created us for a relationship with Him. His greatest desire is that we would desire Him. But we are sinners and not capable of a relationship with God on our own. So God sent Jesus who brought the Gospel. Jesus loves us, He died for us, and we are saved and brought into a right relationship with God though His grace alone. That’s not just the “Good News;” it’s the best news ever. And because it’s the best news, and because God desires a relationship with everyone, we shouldn’t just keep it to ourselves. On the contrary, we need to tell everyone all the time!

Now we return once more to “that moment.” If you’ve never experienced “that moment” with Jesus, if you’ve never taken hold of the Gospel and received this grace Jesus offers, then I encourage you—nay, implore you with all I am—don’t miss this! Ask Him to be your Savior and give your life to Him. It will be the BEST decision you ever make. Guaranteed.

And if you have experienced “that moment” but, like me, have lost sight of it, then run to Him; run back to His Gospel. Ask Him to make it new to you again. And then (I know this sounds crazy, but believe me that it’s awesome), go share it with someone.

You can’t fix yourself. But Jesus loves you. And Jesus died for you. You are saved by His grace alone. Not just for “that moment” or “this moment,” but for every single moment of every day for eternity. And in case you were wondering, that’s a lot of moments. 😉

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A Bit “Wordy”

Words are spiffy.

Yes, I know it sounds a bit nerdy (okay, really nerdy), but I love words. A lot. Like, they make me super happy. I become almost bizarrely excited when I learn a new word. I become even more bizarrely excited when I manage to use that new word correctly in a sentence. Although I enjoy many different words, some of them hold very special places in my heart for various reasons.

Some words are awesome because they are really fun to say. “Onomatopoeia” is the perfect example. For those of you who are a bit removed from your freshman year English class, onomatopoeia (pronounced “on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh”) is defined as “the formation of a word, as cuckoo  or boom,  by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.” In my opinion, though, onomatopoeia is the best example of onomatopoeia. No, there is no specific action or thing that sounds like this word, but if there were, it would be the coolest thing ever. So I think onomatopoeia should be granted honorary onomatopoeia status.

Others words are cool because of how they are spelled. My current favorite is “awkward”. A “k” surrounded by two “w’s”—don’t you imagine that the “k” feels cramped and out of place? Like he accidentally showed up at the “w” party that he wasn’t invited to and the “w’s” just kind of stare at him like he’s a moron. Or maybe the “k” is on a trans-Atlantic flight, and he got stuck sitting between two oversized letters that are taking his elbow room. I bet he feels awkward. See? The spelling perfectly matches the word. I love it.

Still other words are nifty because of their ability to accurately express their meaning. One of my favorite examples, though, doesn’t come from English. In German, the word for “hug” is “Umarmung” (pronounced “oo-mar-moong”). It literally translates to “around-arming.” And that’s exactly what hugs are! How fun would it be if your friend were to say, “Has it been a rough day? You look like you could use an around-arming.” I think it could catch on. 🙂

Unfortunately, although I definitely have an affinity for words (isn’t “affinity” a cool word, by the way? I thought it deserved a shout out), I don’t always use them correctly. In English class my sophomore year of high school, I wrote an essay about one of my all-time favorite books (the abridged version, at least) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I was trying to say how the poor people in France were destitute and had been deprived of the things they needed to survive. So I expressed this idea by calling them “depraved,” which actually means that they were morally corrupt. Although that might have been the case (as the Thenardier family in the story demonstrates), my teacher responded with a big red question mark. Oops.  Recently, I discovered the word “proverbial”, and I now try to use it on a daily basis, but I’m honestly not sure if I use it correctly. But as Abraham Lincoln proverbially said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” A few weeks ago, I realized that stigma and astigmatism are not synonyms. Thus, there cannot be an “astigmatism” associated with being in a sorority. Eye problems are not endemic to Greek life. Ha ha.

My love for words also surfaces in my relationship with God. For example, I enjoy mulling over and pondering the various names of God. Or when I discovered the Greek word Splagchnizomaito, it completely changes my perception of compassion. Overall, the more I learn about the original languages of the Bible and the shades of meaning in the words, the more I am blown away and left completely and utterly in awe of God and who He is.

There is, however, one exception.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be blasphemous, and I don’t want to be excommunicated or burned at the stake as a heretic. But I think there’s one particular instance in the Bible where the word choice wasn’t quite, well, up to par. And unfortunately, this deficient phrase is one of the most common in all of Christianity.

The Good News.

Yes, this the phrase that we use as synonymous with “the Gospel.” The word “Gospel” in the context of Christianity refers to the truth that Jesus Christ—the Son of God and God Himself—came down from heaven, lived a sinless life, and at the age of thirty-three chose to endure the most painful, excruciating, humiliating death on a cross as a replacement for our punishment. In essence, He died so that we could live. But more than that, He rose from the dead three days later, conquering the Devil and Hell and death itself once and for all. He loved us so much that He gave up everything, so we could belong to Him. And we call that “good news”?! Good news? That’s the understatement of eternity! What we really should say is “unbelievable news,” “incredible news,” “earth-shattering news,” or “news so amazing that it deserves to be shouted from the rooftops and proclaimed in every single aspect of our lives.” This isn’t just good news; it’s the news that has the power to change everything. It’s the only news that’s worth your life, your everything. No, “good” doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Today is Easter, which is the holiday when we celebrate Jesus’ victory on our behalf. What better day to pause and ponder what this (grossly understated) Good News actually means.

Yes, I know I just called it the “Good News.” Okay, so maybe “good” isn’t such a terrible description after all. It’s on the right track; it just doesn’t go quite far enough. It’s not just the “Good News;” it’s the BEST NEWS. Nothing, not even onomatopoeia or a really great Umarmung, can compete with that. 🙂