It feels straight-up impossible to live up to the call of God on my life. Especially as we conclude the podcast discussion of "Crazy Love," I'm kind of overwhelmed by my inadequacies as a follower of Christ. I still have so far to go. At the same time, though, I'm reassured that God promises, if I abide in Him, I'll bear fruit in my life. This truth gives me a lot of hope. I pray it does the same for you. As we continue to process what we've learned from "Crazy Love," I pray we're more inclined to look to the Lord to do in us what we cannot do in ourselves. Thank God, He promises to bring forth fruit in the lives of those who remain in Him.
In Chapter 9 of our reading, Francis gave us real life examples of people who "really live that way." Listen to discussion of this reading in this week's episode of the podcast.
Sorry for the delay in posting this episode (link in black box above)! I uploaded it to soundcloud/itunes on Monday, but never got around to posting it on the blog. Next week's podcast should be posted on Monday as usual!
In our reading this week, Francis wrote, "When you are truly in love, you go to great lengths to be with the one you love. You'll drive hours to be together... You don't mind staying up late to talk... You'll willingly spend a small fortune on the one you're crazy about." Our love for God, however, often feels more like an obligation than an overflow of our hearts. Why? And how can we change? It is possible to love and serve God with genuine passion instead of out of fear or guilt? Podcast discussion below.
Does God really have free reign in our lives? Or do we limit how much access He has? Will we follow Him, but only so far? What if He asked us to do something crazy? Would we be willing to obey? Listen (below) to the podcast discussion of Francis Chan's Crazy Love, Chapter 5, "Serving Leftovers to a Holy God."
How has our faith affected our lives? Are we noticeably different because of our faith? Are we consistently being challenged and changed - conformed into the likeness of Christ? No one wants to describe their faith as "lukewarm," but many of us have lukewarm characteristics. In Chapter 4 of Crazy Love, Francis Chan lays out the profile of a lukewarm Christian, and challenges us to take inventory of our own hearts. This challenge isn't meant to discourage us. Instead, it should encourage us. If God is showing us some areas where we can improve, sacred Scripture tells us that means He loves us. Listen to podcast discussion by clicking link below.
Words, words, words...
It seems ironic to add to this statement with more words. After all, even this very true and worthwhile observation by Francis Chan adds to the barrage of words we are bombarded with in our culture. Still, recognizing a problem like this can be very helpful in taking steps in the direction of healing and freedom. Many of us are overwhelmed by the messages being streamed at us. Who do we listen to? What ideas are worth considering? Where are we being fed lies that cause discontentment? How do we break the cycle? Or perpetual state of distraction makes it hard to even focus in prayer. We often dump on God with words rather than allowing Him to speak to us, and without taking time to worship Him for his majesty. This week on the podcast, we discuss Chapter 1 of Francis Chan's book, Crazy Love. This chapter, entitled,"Stop Praying," thoughtfully addresses these issues, and aims to help us enter into a more meaningful and reverent relationship with our Creator.
Before we start calling out changes we think others need to make, we've got to take a hard look at the changes we need to make personally. "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan aims to help us do just that. Read along and join the podcast-led book club. Link to listen directly below and reading schedule under the "Resources" section of this website.
Today, the podcast-led book club kicks off our reading of Francis Chan's book, "Crazy Love." Even if you've read this book before, consider reading along and listening to discussion of this life-changing book. If you've never read this book, it's one you won't want to miss. It's not too late to grab a copy and get started!
Listen by clicking link directly below. You can also view the Reading Schedule and order a copy of "Crazy Love" under the "Resources" section of this website.
My interview with children's book author, Traci Dunham, continues on this episode of the podcast. Traci discusses more of the difficulties special needs families encounter at church and at home. Listen and learn how to love special needs families well.
May 15th is coming up! If you'd like to read along, go to the Resources section to order the book and/or to view the reading schedule :)
Children's book author, Traci Dunham, joins the podcast this week to discuss some of the joys and difficulties she's experienced raising her daughter with special needs. Though it hasn't always been easy (at first, Traci was mad at God and felt personally responsible for her daughters condition), Traci shares how, though the years, God has used her sweet daughter to help her and others see Him.
Recently, a writer I respect became the subject of twitter beef. The virtual crowds were starting to circle this guy like prey, and I looked on with grief. I wasn’t involved in this beef, mind you. I was just watching it go down. But instinctively I felt my defenses start to rise. Though I’m not connected to this man directly (and wasn’t even sure if I agreed with him on the issue in question), I felt the heat of the accusations hurled at him. I identified myself with him, so there was a sting in every blow. His pain felt personal.
Until I realized... it wasn’t. Those darts were directed at him, I reasoned. No one knew me. And no one knew I respected him. It was upon this realization that a new instinct kicked in: survive! Distance yourself from this dude and shapeshift. Become someone else, anyone else. Align with the crowd! Evolve!
Eventually, I registered how fickle I was being and, basically, it felt gross. Here was a guy who was regularly putting himself out there, stepping out in courage and often giving a voice to my truth. But at the first sign of his humanness (his possible fallibility), and especially when I saw the crowds start to salivate, I was ready to drop him like a bad habit on Tuesday. Who was this guy anyway? Or perhaps, more fittingly, who was I?
On issues big or small, aligning with the crowd can feel safe. It promises affirmation, acceptance and even peace and justice. But, in reality, the crowd is capricious and cruel. You might be leading the crowd one day but, eventually, the crowd is over you. The crowd feeds off of fame and then delights demise. The crowd will celebrate you, align with you and even worship you. But then, at the slightest turn of popular approval, the crowd will most certainly deny you, shame you and leave you - alone.
Who are you apart from the crowd? What do you believe? Who do you love? How do you love? How will you live? These are good questions, and should be revisited, reviewed and revised regularly. But these are questions we need to ask ourselves in quiet spaces, because the crowd will give you no time to think about it. The crowd celebrates chameleons who conform and change along with each whim. You’re on this side! Now you’re on that side! Forget that person! Embrace this one! And eventually, given enough transmutations, the chameleon will blend in so well they won’t even be able to find themselves.
According to the Gospels, less than a week before Jesus’ crucifixion, crowds gathered and spread their cloaks and leafy branches on the road as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt. They went before Jesus and came behind Him shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
Then, within a week, the crowds were surrounding that very same Jesus, accusing Him falsely and calling for his murder...
Jesus’ murder was gruesome. He was physically tortured. He was struck in the head. He was spit upon. His clothes were taken. He was exposed. I can’t overstate (or even comprehend) the severity of His physical agony before and during his crucifixion.
But something I’ve been especially aware of this year, in light of my own fickle heart and struggle to be accepted by the crowd, is that physical torture wasn’t the only kind of torture Jesus endured. His suffering went much deeper than His flesh being ripped and His blood being spilled. Jesus suffered the torture of rejection.
Jesus was rejected by the people He loved. Everything, from his trial to the crucifixion, was a spectacle for all to see. As His body was broken, He wanted to gather those around Him as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they mocked Him. They intensely hated Him. Even the most reviled criminals alive condemned Him. His disciples, those closest to Him, were gone. No one defended Him; He had no one in his corner. Jesus was forsaken.
Though not nearly as intense as Jesus’ experience, I think we can all relate to the very real pain of rejection and loneliness. It causes pain that goes deeper than a flesh wound. It seems to seep out of our hearts, or someplace in our center that we can’t quite identify. It can cause us to physically writhe, to disconnect, to eat, to drink, to shut down, to self-destruct...
But even in our darkest moments, we who are in Christ, will never know the degree of rejection and loneliness that Jesus knew when He bore the sins of the world. That’s because Jesus was not only physically tortured. He was not only rejected by the crowd and those closest to Him. Jesus was also completely and utterly forsaken by... His Father.
The crowd today isn't much different from the crowd who welcomed Jesus with a parade one day, and then, days later, cried out for his crucifixion. The crowd today still loves to celebrate a savior and then make a sport of shame. The crowd today is certainly still thirsty for blood.
But, when it comes to us, the mercurial crowd can never completely cut us off. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we’ve tweeted. Even if the crowds compel all of our friends to split, we will never be utterly forsaken. And that’s because Jesus (who was utterly forsaken for us) has promised never to leave us or forsake us.
So this Holy Week, with grateful reverence, as we remember all that Christ endured for us, let’s not worry too much about the crowd, virtual or real. Sometimes the crowd is spot on, and sometimes its seriously misguided. But whichever way the crowd goes, let’s love and respect the individuals who make up the crowd. Let’s speak with love and boldness, remembering those forsaken, and refusing to forsake. Because, after all, the crowd is made up of people. And people need Jesus. So let’s be brave enough to follow Jesus’ example - loving Him and loving others in and out of “the crowd.”
Amy Hill lives in New Jersey with her husband and three daughters. She is a lawyer and the owner of fairsourcegoods.com. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Seeds of Hope Ministries in Camden, NJ. And she writes/podcasts at amyonthehill.com. Follow her on twitter and instagram @amybxhill.
I think sometimes we're afraid to press into hard questions about our faith. Maybe we're afraid our faith will crack under the pressure. But it won't. There are many logical, historical reasons for believing the resurrection of Jesus Christ actually happened. So we don't need to exercise our faith apart from our brains. Instead, by engaging our minds, our faith and hope will actually grow.
In this podcast (link directly below), we aim to celebrate the actual, historical resurrection of Jesus Christ (not just the "story" we've heard 1,000 times). To benefit fully, after listening to the podcast, please also check out Tim Keller's talk, "Jesus Vindicated." You can find it on this website under the Resources Section.
Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting." That sounds crazy, but its true. Its healthy for us to go into a house a mourning because in a house of mourning you think about real things. You consider your own end. You take what’s important to heart.
Today on the podcast (link directly below), we go into a house of mourning. We take to heart what Jesus did for us. Without a house of mourning, we don't appreciate a house of feasting. Today we attempt to digest the great sacrifice of Jesus Christ, so we can better appreciate the feast of His resurrection.
Although life isn't always easy, we rarely describe ourselves as "desperate." Usually, we can get by on our own. We figure something out. We do what it takes and we survive. But many people living on earth today are unable to get by. They are literally not surviving.
We don't like to think about that, do we? In fact, if you're like me, you probably want to stop reading this now. Maybe you're thinking about searching for another blog or another podcast to play. Please don't.
Admittedly, today's podcast is a little uncomfortable, but it is intended to help us get healing. When you're sick, sometimes the medicine tastes yucky. But it helps you feel better. I'm praying, as you listen today, our discussion will have a similar effect. I'm praying we all start to heal in those places where we really are "desperate," even if we don't yet realize it.
Click the box directly below to listen or download.