Nine Months of Blogging

So ends my ninth month of blogging.

I originally started this blog for two main reasons: to encourage others and to “find my voice” in terms of writing style.  I didn’t know where it would be in one month, let alone nine, but I’m grateful for the positive feedback that I’ve received.  Thank you so much for reading!

There were some weeks that I had absolutely no idea of what I wanted to say.  Other weeks, my mind was bursting with ways of wording and explaining things.  What I’ve learned is that, if you’re willing and if you’re patient- God can speak to and through you.

When I blog, I’m taking something that I enjoy and trying to use it for God’s glory, and it feels good to be proactive.  I strongly encourage it.  What interests you?  What do you get really excited about?  How can you use that thing to share the gospel?

I definitely have not completely mastered the idea of using your gifts entirely for Christ, and I have other skills and interests that I’d like to pursue more for God’s glory.  But blogging has been really great for me, and I hope that my readers can find something just as great to work to radiate Christ through.

Even though I’ll be taking a break until September, please don’t hesitate to go back and read old posts.  My mom often directs me back to my own blog.  “Who was it who wrote about [whatever]?” she’ll ask me.  “Meeee,” I’ll usually respond begrudgingly.

Here’s a few recommended posts (I tried to pick at least one from each month):

Represent! from September 10, 2009.

Time… and Gifts from October 1, 2009.

The Love of God from October 22, 2009.

Pretty much every post from November- that was a good month for blogging. =)

A Personal Jesus from December 17, 2009.

Others’ Expectations from January 28, 2010.

Valentine’s Day! from Feburary 11, 2010.

Dustin’s A Call to Higher Standards from March 19, 2010

(and similarly) All the Lovely Ladies! from April 8, 2010.

I have sinned.  Sinned! from May 6, 2010.

Several of the above posts have wound up encouraging me or serving as a good reminder even months after I’d written them, and I hope they do the same for you.

Let me know if any of my posts have really jumped out at or spoken to you- I love feedback!

Keep an eye out for random posts over the summer, and I’ll be back regularly in September!  May God bless each and every one of you.

Marissa

Amen!

One of my family’s favorite movies to watch together is “Lilies of the Field,” starring Sidney Poitier.  Poitier’s character, Homer Smith, befriends several nuns who want to build a chapel.  Homer and the nuns disagree on a lot of things, one of them being the pronunciation of the word “amen.”

“A-men!” Homer says after the chapel is finally done.

“Ah-men,” all the nuns say, correcting him.

This, of course, leads into a classic song titled…. Amen.

“Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen,

Sing it over!

Amen, amen, amen, amen, amen!”

That song will probably be stuck in my head all day (look it up on YouTube!), but that’s certainly not the only place we hear amen.  We say it after prayers, and in some churches, people say it as a way of acknowledging and agreeing with something a pastor has said.  Some people just say it in almost the same way they might say “phew!”

According to PreceptAustin, a database I often reference when I come across a verse or chapter in the Bible that I’d like to learn more about, says that “amen” means “so be it.”

I’m not sure where I first picked that up, but at some point, someone told me that it meant “let it be so,” which is basically the same as “so be it,” and so that’s what I’ve meant when I said “amen.”

I realize that I may have just made prayer significantly more difficult for you.

God probably doesn’t think you’re just kidding when you pray something and skip the amen, but for me at least, saying “amen” really hands the matter over to Him and encourages me to let go.

“Your will be done, Lord.  Let it be so.”  I think that’s one of the hardest prayers to pray.  “Your will be done” sounds so ambiguous, and I think that when we say “Your will,” we have a pretty good idea of what we think that should be.  But when I add this confident “let it be so,” things change.

Hold on just a second.  So, God just heard me complaining about this and that.  And He has a pretty good idea of what I want because I’ve been fairly vocal about it.  Then, I handed the entire matter over to Him and said that I want His will to “be so.”

I’m not God.  So when I say something as epic-sounding as “let it be so,” I’m not breathing the earth into existence and controlling what’s happening next.  In fact, I’ve just acknowledged that I have absolutely no control over this will of His that I’ve just willed to “be so”!

This is a bit frightening, especially since, as I’ve discussed on this blog before, God’s plan for my future isn’t always quite in line with mine.  It in fact has a history of going in precisely the opposite direction.

For me, the word “amen” is about agreement when I’m speaking with others, but it’s also about trust when I’m speaking to God.

It’s a final reminder at the end of my prayer that God is in control, and His will is perfect and good.  It also leads me to take my prayers more seriously, and to actually mean what I say instead of being tempted to half-heartedly confess or ask for something.

This may all seem a little heavy, but I don’t think that “amen” is meant to be the stamp of doom on the end of a prayer.  It’s rooted in trust, but it resonates with hope.

One of my favorite Biblical prayers ending with “amen” is actually here on my blog in part in the “About” section.  It’s the prayer for the Ephesians and comes from Ephesians 3.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”  So be it!!

I trust You, Lord, and I’m excited to give praise to You and to see what You’re going to do next!

Something exciting and hopeful is always a good note to end something on, and that’s actually how the Bible ends.

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon,” the end of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, says.  “Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.  Amen.

The greatest hope that we have loves us and is coming for us.

So this ends my little series on “those words Christians say.”  If you have any questions about any other words or phrases, don’t hesitate to email me at sumparakaleo@gmail.com.  I’m no Greek or Hebrew scholar, but I can tell you what I know or what I’ve researched.

This also ends my second-to-last post for a few months.  For the months of June, July and August, I’ll be taking a break from weekly postings.  I’ll still be dropping by and looking at comments and things, and occasionally posting songs or links that I’ve found encouraging, and I’ll be back to weekly blogging the first week in September.  There will be more on this, along with a post, next week!

Child of Mercy and Grace

One of my favorite songs is Legacy, by Nichole Nordeman.  I’ve likely quoted it here before.  Today I’m looking at the chorus:

“I want to leave a legacy.

How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?

Did I point to You enough

to make a mark on things?

I want to leave an offering.

Child of mercy and grace

who blessed Your name unapologetically-

to leave that kind of legacy.”

Including the words “mercy” and/or “grace” in a Christian song isn’t an incredibly uncommon practice.  Sometimes they even seem interchangeable, though such is not the case.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of mercy and grace is “thank you.”  It’s automatic- mercy and grace are very clearly, in my mind, gifts, so I’m instantly thankful for them even if I get them mixed up.  And while both are definitely gifts, they are significant in different ways.

As one friend explained it, mercy is when you don’t get a punishment or consequence that you were supposed to get and grace is when you do get something pleasant that you really don’t deserve.

It’s merciful of some of my professors to drop a few of my lowest grades.  Journalism professors especially can be pretty harsh with that red pen, and when they’re done, I may deserve the very poor grades that they’ve given me.  But instead of letting me suffer, they forgive the rough day that I had, or a lesson that went completely over my head, and disregard those few lowest grades.

My school is really into giving out free t-shirts.  I got one just yesterday, actually.  Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time to get one.  I didn’t really do anything to get some of those shirts.  I was just standing around, maybe even having a bad attitude about my classes or school, and then I received a free shirt from them- that’s an example of grace.

But “grace” and “mercy” and just fun vocabulary words that you can use to describe your overwhelming academic life- they play a large role in the grand scheme of things.

As I mentioned last week, we are a sinful people and deserve punishment from a just God.  But He is loving while still being just, and is willing to show us mercy- to spare us from the entirety of His wrath by giving it to Jesus instead.  What makes it even better is that He doesn’t take a grudging attitude towards it- once we’re His, we’re His for keeps.

Instead of saying, “Well, fine.  I won’t send all my wrath on you- you won’t go to hell.  Well, enjoy a crummy life!” God is full of grace.  Not only does He show us mercy, but He also blesses us abundantly and gives us the gift of eternal life.

A lot of people see Christians as judgmental, and our God as angry and punishing.  One “Christian” character on a popular comedy cheered, “My angry God is punishing them… it’s a Christmas miracle!” in a line that represented his “revived” faith, which I believe he had lost after a wrongdoing went unpunished.

But mercy and grace remind us that God is just, but He is filled with a very great love for us.

Romans 5:15-17 and 20-21 says, “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ

“The law was added so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Being a “child of mercy and grace” truly is a blessing and the greatest gift that I believe we can receive.

I have sinned. Sinned!

The wages of sin is death.

People usually agree that “bad people” should be punished.  And that especially bad people should be condemned to hell.  But most of us, according to the general idea, are pretty good people.  We make some mistakes- we mess up.  But we’ve never killed anyone or anything.

Unfortunately for that mentality, we’re not the ones calling the shots.  God is.  And He said that the wages of sin is death.

This death-inducing thing called “sin” is anything that goes against God’s will.  So yes, things like killing and stealing are sinful.  But so are seemingly more innocent things, like lusting, telling white lies, or acting as if God doesn’t exist (which I actually believe is the worst of them all- see Mark 3:29).

As I wrote last week, Jesus [saved] us from sin.  But it’s still something that surrounds us, that fills our minds, and that we commit on a daily basis.

For the Christian, this creates a great deal of conflict.  We want to follow Christ, but we’re sinful beings, so we have to depend on God’s mercy and grace.

For the nonChristian, it means that everything you do is sin.  If you’re not acknowledging that He exists, you can’t possibly be doing anything for Him or in the line of His will.

These words are hard to write.  Sin is one of those words that gets tossed around both inside and outside of the church, and is typically used to mean “something bad.”

I remember that a friend from high school said that he fell asleep while watching “Across the Universe,” to which another friend responded, “I’m pretty sure that’s a sin.”  The latter friend likely wasn’t serious, but this is the way the word “sin” is used.

So when I say that we’re constantly sinning and that nonChristians do nothing but sin, it sounds pretty offensive.  But when you think about it, we’re not the ones being offended here.

In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund messes up.  He betrays his family and all of Narnia.  In the movie, the White Witch dramatically marches into Aslan’s camp, looking icily at Edmund and saying, “You have a traitor in your midst, Aslan.”

“His offense was not against you,” Aslan (the Narnian equivalent of Jesus) firmly responds.  Our offense is against Jesus.

“One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to.  I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins,” C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity.  “Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic.  We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself.  You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you.  But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money

“Yet this is what Jesus did.  He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people who their sins had undoubtedly injured.  He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences.

That’s one of my favorite quotes- it’s an incredible reminder.  When we “sin,” we’re going against God in His perfection and glory.  It’s not a small thing, so it’s not a small punishment.

But it all comes back around to an equally important truth.  “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.”

God knows we sin.  But when we are willing to work to give up that sin and turn away from it and towards Him, He is willing to forgive.  And He doesn’t just forgive us- He blesses us, and does immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.