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How many of you have ever felt the pressure to perform, to succeed, to measure up to someone else’s standard?
I think that is a universal pressure. Many of us live under this stress or anxiety that wells up, particularly when we take on a new endeavor. Maybe it is a new job, a new relationship, or a new ministry effort. Once the initial excitement fades, what often replaces it, at least for me, is this feeling of pressure. You start thinking about everything that can go wrong and who will be disappointed in your failure.
The baptism of Jesus comes at the launch of His public ministry. It is encouraging that God picks this moment to bestow the Holy Spirit and to announce to Jesus and the world that Jesus is God’s child and God is pleased with Him. This all takes place before Jesus has done ANYTHING to earn God’s love and pleasure. God loved Jesus and was pleased with Him simply because Jesus was His son.
This is true of you as well. In baptism, God calls you His son or daughter. He proclaims His love for you. He announces His pleasure in you before you have done anything to deserve it. He gives you His Holy Spirit.
The implication of this is that the pressure to succeed is a burden that is not yours to carry. As a child of God, your success is guaranteed. Maybe not success as the world defines it, but the only success that really matters: the pleasure of God.
This is a success you already have attained, simply because you are God’s child.
In what area are you feeling the pressure to succeed?
Passage: Genesis 2:15-18
I grew up as an only child, and there were some great things about that. I had my parents’ undivided attention (which was great until I got in trouble). I didn’t have to share my toys or my bedroom. Being an only child is not without its downsides, though. When my parents got divorced, I didn’t have siblings to share the burden with. When my parents have a health need, it often falls to me to help address it. I lived by myself for stretches of time and would develop bad and unhealthy habits. I am not complaining about these things. They were just my reality until I got married.
It is interesting to me that it is not until God gives His first command to Adam that he makes it clear that Adam’s aloneness is not a good thing. It’s almost as if God knew that Adam had no chance of following God’s command if Adam tried to do it on his own.
As we live as everyday followers of Jesus, one thing is certain: we need each other. We need encouragement, support, and accountability to keep our eyes on Jesus and our feet on the path of following Him. Of course, this is no guarantee that we won’t fall off the path. Adam and Eve had each other, and we know how that turned out. The benefit, though, of community is that when we do fall we have others to pick us up, remind us of who we are in Christ, and walk with us as we follow Jesus in the everyday.
Who is walking with you as you seek to follow Jesus in the everyday?
Passage: 1 Kings 18:25-29
One of my favorite shows to watch with Laura during our first few years of marriage was American Idol. But towards the end of its run, we lost interest. This was partly to do with having kids, but I also think it was in part because the promise of the show to produce the next big pop star, more often than not, went unfulfilled. For every Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson, there was a Lee Dewyze or Kris Allen. The Idols often failed to deliver.
This is what is going on with Elijah and the prophets of Baal in the text, but this goes on with us, too. We are not without idols. An idol is simply anything other than God that is our primary object of devotion. We make idols of success, jobs, relationships, even our children. We expect them to deliver for us, to give us significance, and while they may seem to deliver for awhile, eventually they fail to live up to the standard of an idol that is to be worshiped. The only god worthy of worship is the one true God, revealed in Jesus Christ.
What “idols” have you put in the place of God as the primary object of your devotion?
Passage: Joshua 24:13
A few years ago, President Obama got in some trouble by saying in a campaign speech that if you own a business, “you didn’t build that.” What I think he was TRYING to say was that all of us benefit from the efforts of others, and we need to acknowledge the role of others in our own success. But of course, the sound byte got picked up and was used to clobber him in TV ads and in the debates.
I’m not looking to debate the politics behind that, but he wasn’t entirely wrong, just not in the way he might have intended. IN Joshua 24, God is reminding the people all God had done for them to bring them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land and all the benefits they had enjoyed as a result.
The Kairos for me is that no success I achieve can truly be accomplished without God. That is true for you, too. Let’s take farming, for example. The farmer doesn’t create the seed, or make the sun shine or the rain pour (we learned that pretty clearly this summer). That’s not to discount the hard labor the farmer puts in, but the farmer’s success is almost totally reliant on the provision of God.
This is true of any pursuit in your life, and God is calling us to open our eyes to the ways in which He has blessed us, to give him glory for it, and to serve Him as a result of it.
In what ways has God blessed you so that you have been able to achieve success or good results in what you are pursuing in life?
Passage: Psalm 19:1-4
It occurred to me in reading this text that how one describes creation depends on one’s starting point. If you are like the writer of Psalm 19, who operates from the standpoint that God is the Creator, you will say what the writer of this Psalm said. If you are like some others who deny the existence of God, you will say other things. You will turn scientific descriptions into explanations and rationalize how all of this happened by accident.
The problem with that approach is that there is so much in nature we CAN’T explain. Science is a great thing. I know scientists who are devout Christians specifically because they experience first hand the majesty of God as they study creation. I’ve heard them say that for every new discovery or understanding, two or three new things emerge that they can’t explain. To them, this is the evidence of God.
The starting point of creation is not a matter of science but a matter of faith. Faith is not something that can be manufactured or created through argument. I cannot convince you that God is real. So if you are struggling in your faith and doubting that God is real, ask Him to reveal Himself and to create faith in you to believe. An appropriate prayer would be our prayer from Sunday, “I want to believe, help me in my unbelief!” The Bible says that if we seek Him, we will find Him if we seek Him with all our heart.
In what ways do you see the invisible qualities of God in nature?
“Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” – Mark 4:8-9
As someone with no background in farming and absolutely no clue how farming works, it’s probably unwise for me to blog about a parable rooted in this line of work. But I’m a brave soul, so here it goes.
The natural inclination is to read this parable, compare the soils, and say, “I want to be the last one? How do I do that?” We all want to be good soil. We want to yield a good crop. There is a problem, however.
Soil can’t make itself good, and neither can you.
Soil has to have both the benefits of nature and the hard work of the farmer to be good. So if we are the soil in the parable, and we want to be good, what do we do?
The danger in reading Scripture is that we tend to take it in chunks that were never meant to be separated from a longer dialogue. This is one of those cases. This parable is situated amidst a larger dialogue, and it is helpful to look at the rest of the conversation to get at what Jesus is trying to say.
In the same dialogue, Jesus talks about a lamp, a growing seed, and a mustard seed. He tells the disciples (and us) that truth will not be kept hidden, that a seed will grow in ways mysterious to the grower, and that even the smallest of seeds yields a massive harvest.
According to Jesus, this is also how it works in the Kingdom.
Simply put, if you want to be good soil, seek the truth of the Kingdom. It will reveal the kind of soil you are. Trust that this truth will go to work in ways you will not understand and that even the seemingly insignificant events of your life can be orchestrated by God to have significant impact on you and your world.
You cannot make yourself good soil, but through Christ, God is already at working preparing you for the fruit that will bring a harvest for the Kingdom.