Happy New Year!

One of the Christmas gifts I received from my daughter, Danielle, was a book. Books as gifts sometimes reveal a subtle message. For example, imagine opening a book gift entitled, “Ten Ways to Be Less Snarky” or “How to Become a Person People Actually Like.” Bet you could read between those lines.

So the book Danielle gave me is: “The Pressure’s Off: Breaking Free from Rules and Performance” by Larry Crabb. Subtle, right? However, my precious daughter and I tend to trip over the same things in life and this is a read she is thoroughly enjoying so it seemed good to share it – and I am glad she did; I have been reading it all day.

A quote from the back cover probably best summarizes what Dr. Crabb addresses in his book:

“Is the pressure getting to you? Do you try to make everything work, only to find that your best efforts are largely ineffective? Christians have unknowingly embraced two errors: that following the rules guarantees a good life, and that God is important because He dispenses blessings. When God’s blessings seem to taper off and when life doesn’t work out, people take it upon themselves to make things work. And that creates pressure that we are all too familiar with.”

Y’all probably connect on some level with that paragraph; I know I sure do. Dr. Crabb calls it “the Old Way.” The rest of the back cover is the good news that makes the book worth reading:

“God does not guarantee ease or convenience – or even a good outcome as a result of your obedience. But He does promise Himself, no matter what the circumstances of your life. When you seek God and nothing else, the pressure is truly off you.”

I’ve included this book title and excerpts for two reasons. First, I hope it is enough of a teaser that you, too, might join me in reading it as we enter 2017, a new year. But there also is a more personal, ministry related reason that springs from one more quote in the book (bold type added by me):

“Counseling, even Christian counseling, too often tries to relieve self-hatred and to promote self-love. To do that is to work at making the Old Way more comfortable. It involves neither brokenness – the realization that my self-hatred is too weak – nor repentance – a change in my thinking that shifts the focus from how I feel about myself to how I feel about Christ or, more to the point, how He feels about me.”

Please pray for me and with me that the journey with people in 2017 will include brokenness and repentance, both for them but also for me. Formulas rarely work. Even obedience is no guarantee of results. But Jesus never fails.

May your walk with Jesus in 2017 be intimate, revealing, challenging and full of hope.

Pastor Jim