JJ – SDG

27 08 2014

Johann Sabastian Bach is one of the greatest composers in history. His writings shaped and transformed the music of his day, and continue to inspire us today with their beauty. Living in the late 17th and early 18th century, he wrote several hundred pieces, many of which were written to draw people closer to God.

A peek at his musical manuscripts reveals something interesting. At the top of his compositions, we find the letters “JJ” written in the corner. At the completion of his musical manuscripts, he penned “SDG” as the concluding statement to his music. A little lesson in Latin helps us understand Bach’s intentions. The letters that Bach wrote at the beginning and end of his music are prayers. JJ is an abbreviation for “Jesu Juva,” which translated into English means, “Jesus, help me.” At the beginning of every work, Bach beseeches the Lord to guide him. The SDG at the end of his music stands for “Soli Deo Gloria.” Here Bach prays that each piece of music will humbly proclaim “To God Alone [be] the Glory.”

You may not be a classical music fan, but Bach sets a challenging and inspiring example for us all. He encourages us to begin every day, every task with the prayer, “Jesus, help me.” Bach didn’t write one note without seeking God’s blessing. In the same way, I want to cover each piece of my day with the same prayer. Bach also wanted to the world to know that anything he accomplished, he did so that God alone would get the glory. What a powerful reminder that how we complete our tasks is just as important as how we begin them.

My Jesus Resolution today is to learn to follow Bach’s example. I am going to write “JJ” at the top of my to-do list. It will serve as a reminder to seek His wisdom, walk in His way, and surrender to His purpose as I move through my day. I am also going to write “SDG” at the bottom of my list. I want everything I do, even washing dishes and packing lunches, to reveal God’s glory and point people to Jesus. I love how Bach used simple letters to remind himself, and us, about who we serve and who is sovereign. I want to do the same. SDG

 





The Cup of Water Challenge

25 08 2014

The ALS Ice Bucket challenge has gone viral. Social media is saturated with videos of people supporting a good cause and getting ice water dumped on their heads. For the few of you out of the loop, in the challenge someone is nominated to either donate money to support ALS research or submit to having a bucket of ice water dumped on them. They then have the privilege of nominating three people to complete the same challenge within 24 hours. To date, the ALS Foundation has raised awareness of this crippling disease and over $50 million dollars.

Watching video after video of my friends getting wet has been fun, but has also gotten me thinking. What impact would it have on our nation if Christians flooded the internet with videos, tweets, pictures, and status updates about kindnesses done in the name of Jesus? In Mark 9:41, Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” Instead of pouring water over people’s heads (or maybe in addition to it), we could commit ourselves to offering a cup of water or any type of kindness to somebody in the name of Jesus.

Here is your three-step challenge: First, in the next 24 hours, do something deliberately kind for someone else. You can bake cookies, pick up trash, help someone to their car, donate to a charity, send a card, give a hug, or offer someone a cold drink of water. Use your imagination and creativity. Second, use social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. – to share your act of kindness with others. I’m not talking about bragging or being proud, but of encouraging others to join you in doing a kindness in the name of Jesus. Third, challenge three of your friends to do their own act of kindness in the next 24 hours.

My Jesus Resolution today is to accept Jesus’ cup of water challenge. I am going to go out of my way to show kindness to someone in the name of Jesus. I nominate and challenge you to do the same. How fast do you think a tidal wave of kindness can spread across this country?





Baggage

22 08 2014

I was driving today and saw an interesting sign. It was an advertisement for a storage facility and in big, bold letters it said, “Do you have extra baggage? Store it here.” I know that the sign is appropriate for the business, but to be honest, it touched a tender place in my heart.

Do you have extra baggage? Me too.

The truth is that we all carry around baggage. It comes in all shapes and sizes. The baggage that we carry weighs us down, steals our joy, invades our peace, and disrupts our contentment. Guilt, shame, disappointment, and discouragement have a way of piling up, settling in, and squeezing our faith in a vise. We pick up our baggage in the morning and it influences how we see ourselves and our day. We lug our baggage with us, bumping into our opportunities and choices where it colors everything with a tinge of fear. We tuck our baggage in with us at night. Exhausted, we lay awake worrying about our baggage.

There are moments when we long for freedom from our baggage. What if we could set it down? What if we could let it go? But our baggage tenaciously clings to our hearts. I am just not strong enough or brave enough to break its grip on my soul.

God doesn’t want us to store our baggage. He wants to carry it. He wants to lift it off your shoulders and free you to experience all of the abundance and joy He has planned for you. Instead of storing our baggage in our hearts, souls, minds, actions, and relationships, God wants us to bring it to the cross and leave it there.

My Jesus Resolution is to take my baggage to the cross. At the cross, Jesus shows me His willingness to carry my heaviest loads. At the empty tomb, He unleashes the power that I need to break free from my heart-numbing burdens. I don’t have to drown in guilt or suffer with shame. In Christ, I am set free.





Ordering My Ways

20 08 2014

I have to admit that I sometimes skim through the Old Testament kings. After a while, they all start sounding alike. This one did evil while this one did what was right. This one ascended to the throne while on the other side of Israel this one died and was buried. I am not saying that I am proud of my skimming. I’m just being honest.

Today, though, I didn’t skim. I slowed down and let the images of kings serving the Lord inspire me. Even those who walked away from God have lessons to teach me. A good king named Jotham captured my attention. He isn’t famous. His entire reign is summarized in nine verses in 2 Chronicles 27. Jotham is king in Judah. He is the grandfather of Hezekiah. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. We have a record of building projects, battles, and the people’s continued heart for idolatry. In the middle of the description of Jotham’s reign, it says this – “So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God.” (2 Chronicles 27:6)

This one sentence about Jotham challenges and inspires me. He ordered his ways before the Lord. He let the things of God shape his priorities, activities, and accomplishments. What if I did the same? What would happen if I brought my to-do list to God and let Him order my day? What would God add to my list? Take away? (Makes you nervous, doesn’t it?) It takes courage to let God have control of my laundry, work deadlines, and grocery shopping. I might find that He adds rest, laughter, and celebration to the list. He would remove the superficial, giving me opportunities to be touched and transformed. Mostly, I think He would want me to open my eyes to His presence and be more aware of His movement.

My Jesus Resolution today is to follow Jotham’s example and order my ways before the Lord. Ordering takes deliberation and investment. Things don’t become ordered by accident or chance. I like what happened in Jotham because he ordered his ways before God. He became mighty. I want to be mighty. I want to be mighty in praising His name, mighty in telling others about His love, mighty in lifting up the cross, and mighty in imitating His Son.





One Percent

18 08 2014

One percent. It doesn’t sound like much. A one percent change in economic indicators or political polling is considered inconsequential. One percent is easy to dismiss because one percent doesn’t seem like it could make any difference.

That is what I thought too, until I saw a billboard that captured my attention and challenged me to look at one percent with new eyes. Here is what it said: “When 1% of the church shows up, abortion stops.” One percent can change somebody’s life, save somebody’s life. Perhaps one percent has more power than I realized.

It got me thinking. What else might one percent be able to accomplish if we committed, as God’s people, to showing up? Showing up means leaving our comfort zones and stepping into the messy brokenness of the world. It is hard. It is scary. We like the safety of our bubbles. It requires time, sacrifice, and a willingness to make our hearts vulnerable. It means that we stop complaining about the problems in the world and develop a willingness to be a part of the solution. For ninety-nine percent of us, we are content to gripe about a problem on Facebook or with our friends. How might God work if one percent of us showed up, committed to bringing grace, mercy, and hope into the darkness that fills our world?

My Jesus Resolution today is to step out of the comfort zone of the ninety-nine percent and be a part of the one percent that shows up. Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” There is power in the one percent because God’s power flows through those dedicated to bringing Jesus to the hard, messy, broken places in our world. And when God’s power is at work, hope blossoms, grace flows, and transformation is unleashed. Ninety-nine percent or one percent? Do you have the courage to show up?





Upside Down

15 08 2014

Did you ever hang upside down as a child? I used to climb up the swing set, looking at the world with my legs wrapped around the top bar and my long hair dangling toward the ground. Upside down, everything looked different. The sky stretched out like a blue field. The clouds looked like stepping stones into adventure. Even the grass and the dirt that now formed my sky looked wonderful and new upside down.

In many ways, God’s kingdom is an upside down kingdom. It stands in such complete contrast to the ways and values of the world that being a part of His kingdom is a call to live an upside down life. Here are ten upside down ways Jesus calls us to live.

1. Love your enemies.

2. Be humble.

3. Be a servant.

4. Last place can be the best place.

5. The surest way to live is to die.

6. There is victory in surrender.

7. Maturity means having the faith of a child.

8. Be still.

9. Live transparently.

10. There is more joy in giving than receiving.

My Jesus Resolution today is to live upside down. The world tells me that self-interest, power, possessions, and status are the goals to which I should dedicate myself. Jesus calls me to live so radically different from my culture that it will feel like I am looking at things upside down. But maybe, just maybe, when I live like Jesus wants me to live, I am looking at the world as it was really meant to be seen.





New Heart

13 08 2014

I need a heart transplant. My physical heart is beating fine, but the heart that makes up the heart of who I am is a mess. It is infected with sin, stuffed with selfishness, and weighed down with worry. My heart has open wounds inflicted by pride, greed, and personal ambition. Guilt and shame fill my heart, squeezing it in a vise of despair.

I have tried cleaning up my heart. I make resolutions, determining to work harder, be stronger, and make better choices. My will power, however, isn’t strong enough to overcome the darkness that has a grip on my heart. I try, fail, and hear that little voice telling me that nothing will ever change.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26

A heart transplant is the only answer, and that is exactly what God has promised to do. He knows that my heart is so infected with sin that it must be removed if there is any hope of saving the daughter that He loves. He takes out the heart that has become hardened and calloused, and replaces it with a heart that is tender to His touch, sensitive to His presence, and responsive to His will. It is the heart that I have always wanted, but could never have on my own.

My Jesus Resolution is to trace the scars that opened the way for my heart transplant. I don’t have a scar on my chest. The scars for this heart transplant are found on the hands and feet of my Savior. He paid for the transplant. By His wounds, I have been healed.








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