I love books that are in your face and don’t mince words. There are few books that are more straightforward than Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. His writing and his challenges are plain:
- What’s Wrong With Christianity Is That We Aren’t Crazy About God
- We Aren’t Crazy About God Because We Don’t Really Know Him
- We Aren’t Crazy About God Because We Are Too Crazy About Us
- Lukewarm Love for God Is Good for Nothing
- If You Get Crazy in Love With God You’ll Lead a Crazy Life
Crazy Love is a quick, easy read that will impact your life. I highly recommend getting that you read the whole book, but here’s your seed pack of its core ideas:
What’s Wrong With Christianity Is That We Aren’t Crazy About God
To just read the Bible, attend church, and avoid “big” sins— is this passionate, wholehearted love for God? –Francois Fenelon
Chan writes boldly that everyone can see that all is not well with the American church— that we really seem little different than people who don’t go to church.
“The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians.”— those are just symptoms, not the core issue. “The answer to religious complacency isn’t working harder at a list of do’s and don’ts”
The core issue is getting “crazy in love” with God. Remember when you were wildly in love with someone? It changed EVERYTHING— you were consumed with the person, every thought, every moment of your life was structured around them.
That’s the passion we need to feel about God.
Until we get crazy in love with God little will change in our lives or in the church.
We Aren’t Crazy About God Because We Don’t Really Know Him
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. –A. W. Tozer
The first step in getting crazy in love with God is to really get our minds around who He is in all His power & glory & majesty & love.
“If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can.”
“God is holy. In heaven exists a Being who decides whether or not I take another breath.”
“The greatest good on this earth is God. Period. God’s one goal for us is Himself. Do you believe that God is the greatest thing you can experience in the whole world?”
We Aren’t Crazy About God Because We Are Too Crazy About Us
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. –(James 4:14)
The second step in getting crazy in love with God is to get a proper perspective of who we are in relation to God and eternity.
“On the average day, we live caught up in ourselves. On the average day, we don’t consider God very much. On the average day, we forget that our life truly is a vapor.”
“It’s crazy that we think today is just a normal day to do whatever we want with. Do you live with the reality that perhaps today you will die?”
“We generally think our puny lives are pretty sweet compared to loving Christ.”
In other words, we need to step back, take a look around, and realize that—
“Life is all about God and not about me at all.”
“Frankly, you need to get over yourself.”
Lukewarm Love for God Is Good for Nothing
“Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live?” –Chan
The third step in getting crazy in love with God is to realize that what usually passes just fine for devotion in the American church is pretty lame in the eyes of God. Chan says that just because we are saved and try to live a good life, we assume that we are the “good soil” in Christ’s parable.
DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOU ARE GOOD SOIL.
“When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or commitments are piled on top of it.”
“Most of us have too much in our lives.”
“Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?”
Do we really see God as infinitely more precious than anything else in our life?
“Well, I’m not sure You are worth it, God.. You see, I really like my car, or my little sin habit, or my money, and I’m really not sure I want to give them up, even if it means I get You.”
“We need to realize that how we spend our time, what our money goes toward, and where we will invest our energy is equivalent to choosing God or rejecting Him.”
“We disgust God when we weigh and compare Him against the things of this world. It makes Him sick when we actually decide those things are better for us than God Himself.”
Do we really consider ourselves as fully devoted, no holds barred, to God?
“If you sign up for the Marines, you have to do whatever they tell you. They own you. Somehow this realization does not cross over to our thinking about the Christian life.”
“Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.”
“Most of us want a balanced life that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering.”
If You Get Crazy in Love With God You’ll Lead a Crazy Life
The greatest thought that has ever entered my mind is that one day I will have to stand before a holy God and give an account of my life. –Daniel Webster
The life of a Christian should be marked by the word OBSESSION. Not obsessed with a list of rules or performance or measuring up, but obsessed with loving God and loving others through Him.
“Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.”
People who are crazy in love with God love freely, give freely, serve freely, sacrifice freely, take risks, are humble and honest with God and with people.
“If we really believe that if we sacrifice things on earth so that we will have an eternity of rewards, it’s the only thing that makes sense.”
“Dare to imagine what it would mean for you to take the words of Jesus seriously.”— & GET CRAZY!
I went this morning to visit my son as he spends a month in a leadership training program at Doe River Gorge. DRG’s Director Terry Maughon asked the teens what they expected when they went to church.
There were plenty of answers shouted out, including:
Now, all these were good answers— they were all good things to do at church. But there was one answer I didn’t hear, the one that immediately came to my mind:
Hear From God
When I thought about it, although all the things in the first list are good & Biblical & even necessary to expect from church, there’s something fundamentally different about hearing from God. If I go to church and I don’t get to sing, I’m disappointed, but if I go to church and I don’t hear from God, I’m sunk. The one thing I absolutely desperately need when I go to church is to hear from God, because I’m in way over my head every single day of my life, and I need God to speak into my life.
Question: Do you feel like you desperately need God to speak in your life? If you don’t, then why not? Every single man or woman who lived close to God was keenly aware of how much they needed Him.
And another question: If you acknowledge your need of Him, and are thirsty for His voice, then are you expecting to hear from Him at church? Do you go eagerly expecting to receive from Him? If you don’t go into church with an eager expectation, what do you think is going to happen anyway?
Ponder these things, and earnestly approach both your time in church and your time with Christ alone as an opportunity to hear from God.
For much of my adult life, I thought that God loved me.
Which was a sad state to be in.
What do I mean by that? I mean that although I had read books on religion and theology, and had read the entire Bible through multiple times, I felt God’s love only in terms of how a human might love, if even that.
Although I couldn’t have put it in words, my heart felt that God loved me out of obligation. It wouldn’t have surprised me if God was up in heaven saying, “There’s Hollandsworth, you know, he’s really not very lovable, he’s actually kind of a mess, but, you know, Gabriel, I’m God, and he’s a Christian, so I guess I have to love him.”
But that’s not how God loves me at all. The Bible clearly says how infinite His love is, how He delights in His children, how precious we are in His eyes, despite all our flaws and stumbling. The nature of His love is so much higher and stronger and grander than we can even comprehend, and to know & taste of this love is to have our heart transformed.
How, then, can we grasp this love of the Father for us? How can we get our minds around it, and let it change our hearts? Jesus gave us the parable of the Prodigal Son to show us the love of the Father. And I have to admit, I used to think, “Wow, it took a lot for that father to forgive his son, even when he came and asked his forgiveness.” But that’s not what the story says at all! Luke 15:20 says:
But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Realize this: the father saw him & loved him, ran to him & embraced & kissed him BEFORE the son asked for forgiveness, BEFORE the father even knew whether his heart had changed. For all the father knew, his son was still the ungrateful, self-centered jerk that had insulted & publicly dishonored him. For all the father knew, he was still the son who legally deserved to be stoned, or at the very least disowned and not worthy of even the father’s gaze in his direction. But such was the father’s love, that it was LOVE, poured freely out without any regard to how worthy the son was in anyone else’s sight or judgment— not even the son’s.
The astonishing, incredible, life changing truth is that God has poured the ABSOLUTE FULL measure of His infinite love upon me right now, and there is NOTHING I can do to make Him love me more, or make Him love me less.
If you think in word pictures, imagine standing under this mighty waterfall of God’s love, with it roaring and completely enveloping you, giving you strength & joy & peace & love, never ending, for all eternity.
The words bear repeating (why don’t you say them out loud):
God has poured the ABSOLUTE FULL measure of His infinite love upon me right now, and there is NOTHING I can do to make Him love me more, or make Him love me less.
Say it, pray it, meditate upon it, & ask God to open up your soul to the reality of His infinite, unconditional love today.
When was the last time you were so overwhelmed with the magnificent goodness of God that you cried?
It doesn’t happen very often, does it?
Why is that? Is it because we don’t know how magnificent and good God is, or just because He just doesn’t seem very big & close & real in our day to day lives?
John Piper is fond of saying that the purpose of our existence is to act as a telescope pointing to God. A telescope makes something that seems small and far away look big & close and real. That is what our lives should do, every day— to help people see God for who He is: big & close & real & magnificent.
And that, my friend, is what The Shack is. A telescope to bring the magnificent goodness of God so big & so close & so real to your soul that you can’t help but cry in joy & wonder & gratitude. That is a rare & beautiful thing.
There are two truths that God especially impressed upon my soul after reading The Shack. The first is how truly & utterly lost I am without Him. And I emphasize the word HIM, as in truly knowing HIM and being in constant, close, transformative relationship with HIM.
So many well-intentioned people primarily think of Christianity & their “relationship” to God in terms of using Him as their ticket to heaven, or being involved in important stuff for Him at church, or following all the rules that God wants them to follow, or checking off all the boxes on their list of stuff that makes them good enough in God’s sight.
But God just wants it to be about Him. Just Him. Just letting go & trusting & knowing and being known by the One Who knows me & loves me more than I can possibly imagine. Do we so easily forget that Jesus said that eternal life was simply and only knowing the Father & the Son (John 17:3)?
Which brings me to the second truth of The Shack, that God loves me, and that His love is so totally beyond my comprehension, so pure, so strong, so without measure, so kind, so ferocious, so unending, so unconditional, so life-giving, so transformative, that immersing my life in His love & grace is the only path to the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). The relationship He desires with me, that I am so utterly lost without, is all about love.
But for all the extraordinary power of The Shack as a telescope pointing us to God, it is also a smudged telescope, for the picture that it paints of God, though glorious, is seriously flawed. It doesn’t give a clear reflection of God as He has portrayed Himself in the pages of the Bible.
And that is a problem, for some more than others. I can read through the pages of The Shack and fairly easily pick out ideas and themes and pictures that seem inconsistent with God’s true nature. I can see the smudges & remove them in my mind, but many people with less background in the Bible probably can’t. I could write in great detail about the smudges, but honestly that isn’t my purpose in this review, and I would direct you here for an excellent outline of the book’s shortcomings.
How bad are the smudges? How distorted does the image have to get until you say, “Don’t bother to use that telescope— it’s broken?” Every book save one portrays a smudged view of God, for every book written by the hand of fallen men bears the effects of sin. For me, I am thankful that I read The Shack, and that God showed Himself to me through it. If you read it as a book and not as a Bible, then I think it will bless you too.
I started out this review with a word picture of a telescope. You know, that picture can apply to more than a book. What about your life, what about my life? What kind of telescope will our words & our actions be to the people around us today? Will the people in your life see God as more real, more loving because of you? Will they see how lost they are (and you are!) without Him? What smudges are still left on your lens that cause people to not see God clearly, or even to turn away from Him? That’s worth thinking about, and worth bringing to God. Just remember that Papa is full of grace, and He is intent on loving you until all the bad stuff is loved away.
This is a book about the furious longing of God for His children. Which is a really important thing to write about. And something that everyone needs to hear. Every day. Including me.
But this book is also about how Brennan Manning has screwed up in various ways over the course of his life. And about prayer. And fire. And chutzpah. And small gifts. And other stuff. Sort of. I lost track of what the book was supposed to be about half way through.
This book is a series of chapters. Some of which are pretty good. Some of which are pretty bland. One of which is only a single paragraph. Quoted from another author. None of which are really connected with each other. Or in any kind of order.
Brennan said some things that deeply moved me in this book. He said a lot that didn’t. And he said some things that were kind of strange. Or just plain wrong.
The back cover says that this book is “provocative and poignant.” And that it will “forever change how you view God.” That would have been great. If it were true.
I really wanted to love this book. And recommend it. But I really didn’t. And I can’t. Sorry, Brennan.
Ever have “one of those days”— one where you seemed hammered in every direction by things that seemed expressly designed to discourage you?
Sure, we all have had those days, where our spirits took a beating.
So, how do you respond when you get blindsided by discouraging thoughts and situations?
Well, you don’t need silly cliches. (Anyone remember “Don’t Worry, Be Happy“?)
You don’t need a 238 page doctoral dissertation on the causes of discouragement and how to overcome them.
But….. what would come in handy would be a few easy to remember truths that you can use to immediately shore up your battered spirit. Something direct, to the point, to turn your mind away from what’s trying to seize control of your thoughts, and set yourself back on the road to both positive thoughts and actions.
So, the next time you are attacked by discouragement, just pull out these four quick and easy discouragement busters and turn yourself around!
#1 God Loves You
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)
This is the most simple, yet most important discouragement buster in the universe– to focus your mind on the incredible fact of God’s love for you. I’ve written before that there is no greater reality in the universe than Christ & His love. Every pain, hurt, nuisance, and discouragement fades away if we simply focus on God’s love.
As we focus on God’s love for us, our natural response is to respond in love to God. Telling God “I love you!” has tremendous power to lift your spirit out of discouragement.
#2 You Are God’s Poem
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
The Greek word for “workmanship” here is poiema. Yes, it’s the original word from where we get our English word poem. As a child of God, you are His workmanship, His masterpiece, His poem of strength and beauty that He is crafting for eternity.
When we are discouraged, we think that things don’t matter, that we don’t matter, and we often stop taking care of ourselves and stop taking care of others. We cease from the good works that God created us to walk in. But the truth is that we do matter to God, that we are special in His sight, and that we can bask in the light of His love and care. With this focus we can regain the strength to once again treat ourselves and others around us like the poiema of God.
#3 God Will Reward You for Your Faithfulness
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. (Matthew 10:42)
When we get discouraged, one thing that frequently happens is we lose hope and give up on doing good. We think, “What’s the use?” That’s why both Jesus and Paul remind us that no good work goes unrewarded. Even if it seems like we are getting nowhere, we can still be confident that God is seeing our acts of love, kindness, and courage, and that He will pay us in full.
When you get discouraged, keep trying, keep giving, keep loving, keep doing good, looking to God’s sure reward.
#4 Heaven Is Your Home
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:1-4)
No matter how bleak our situation, we can take heart that every letdown, every pain, hurt, illness, heartbreak, or even death, is only temporary. This world, with all its discouragement, truly is not our home. God will one day remove every imperfection that could ever cause us to be discouraged, and our joy with Him will be unbroken, forever.
God loves you; you are His poem; He will reward your faithfulness; Heaven is your home. Encourage your heart with these wonderful truths today.
That’s the choice that thousands feel they are forced into every day.
I know, because I hear their stories, and I’m the one they are trusting as their guide, as their physician.
Susan (not her real name) was in last week. She had been stable for eight years on clonazepam, which had helped lessen her daily battle with anxiety. However, she was concerned that being on an “addictive nerve pill” was not honoring to God. And so I was asked again the question that I had been asked so many times before, “What should I do, doctor?”
I understand where she and so many other of my East Tennessee patients are coming from, for I too grew up in rural Appalachia in a “Bible Belt” culture where to emotionally or spiritually struggle in any way meant something was wrong with you and your relationship with God. I’ve also seen the flip side within the halls of academia, where fragile hurting souls were shattered by a psychiatrist who had the audacity to tell them they could not even speak the word “God” while they were on “his” hospital floor since “he” was their god while they were under his care.
So, what did I tell Susan in the brief time I had with her? Did I tell her that if she just prayed a little bit harder, memorized just a few more Bible verses, trusted God just a little bit more, she wouldn’t need drugs? Or did I tell her to forget her religion and her God, and realize that she was a complex mesh of chemicals, and she needed a drug to help regulate her faulty brain chemistry?
I told her neither, because both of those answers represent a cruel false dichotomy which influences many people’s minds regarding the care of souls. The reality is that we are both body and spirit, material and immaterial, incredibly complex meshes of chemicals and yet something that can’t be reduced to mere chemicals. We don’t have to give up our spirituality to acknowledge the reality that medical science has something to offer hurting souls, and we don’t have to give up our medical science to acknowledge that our hurting souls need more than the latest drug.
Here is the essence of what I told her: We are here to love God and walk with Him. From the earliest teachings of Christ and the church fathers that has been clear. It’s also been clear that loving God and walking with Him is hard, sometimes very hard. In theological terms, we live in a fallen world in fallen bodies with fallen souls. Or put another way, every one of us live with a body that has imperfect brain chemistry, living with people who don’t always treat us as we need to be treated, and with a spirit which still doesn’t understand, love, and obey God as we ought.
In light of this reality, the question of whether to take any type of psychotropic drug is simply, “Does it help me love God and walk with Him?” In essence it is no different than the question to take a diabetes drug or say a prayer or change jobs or forgive someone— any decision should come down to “Does it help me love God and walk with Him?” For some people, a drug like clonazepam just dulls soul pain that needs to be dealt with instead of masked, and actually would draw them away from God. For Susan, the drug helped clear her mind and allowed her to focus on her work, her family, and her God with more freedom.
Yes, I know it’s a simple question, but sometimes simple questions still are the best ones. “Does it help me love God and walk with Him?” sidesteps all the science vs. faith debates and replaces them with a simple question that can guide any person of faith who is also seeking help from medicine. In the end, that’s what it’s all about for me, and for you: to learn to live wisely in our journey to love Him and walk with Him.
Each day is a series of choices. Some days the choices seem to come fast and furious in a helter-skelter chaotic blur. Other days there seems to be only one choice, the one that seems to scream for your exclusive attention and leaves you emotionally petrified and mentally exhausted. Whatever kind of day you are experiencing today, let me draw your attention to the most important choice you will make today, one that will affect every other choice and every other part of your day.
The choice is both simple yet difficult: simple to say, difficult to do. Here it is:
Today I choose to love, embrace, & enjoy God, others, and life.
Take a moment to savor and reflect upon each word:
Today… There has been much said about the importance of living in the moment, in the now, and it is true. You must live today, and the choices you make must be for today. You can choose to live in a past which you can do nothing about, or live in a future over which you have no control. Choose to live in today.
I… no one else will make this choice for you, and no one else can hinder you from making this choice. It is up to you. Choose.
Choose… again, it is your choice to make. Live intentionally: know that you are making the choice, and know what choice you are making. Don’t let your life and your soul be a ship shoved in whichever direction the storm is raging; let your choice be the anchor that keeps you firmly where you want to be.
Love… the pre-eminent commandment from the Bible is to love God, and then love others. It is that simple. And yet it is still our choice to love. Sometimes it is a hard choice, but the alternative, not to love, empties our souls. Love God, love others, and love the gift of life.
Embrace… All is a gift: receive it and embrace it as such. God has given us Himself as the most precious gift of all. Embrace Him. Every person in our life is there for a reason, even if they seem to be indifferent or even hurtful to us. Choose to embrace them. We can merely live life, or we can give it a big bear hug, even with its pain. Embrace life.
Enjoy… Loving and embracing opens our hearts to joy. Genuinely enjoy God as you love His beauty and embrace His presence. Enjoy everyone in your life for who they are and what they bring to your life. Enjoy your life, amidst both the victories and defeats, the peaks and the valleys. Enjoy every day, enjoy every minute.
Love, embrace, enjoy. It really is your choice. Choose God, choose others, choose life today.
For those interested, the garden path photo was shot by me at The National Aboretum in 2006. The text was added via the very cool editor at www.picknik.com. If you’d like a copy of the picture, you can download it in various sizes here.
When you are trying to praise a man, one of the greatest things you can say is that he is “a man of his word.” What he says he will do, he will do. Period. End of sentence. When you say it with a calm but radiant firmness, “Yes, Bill is a man of his word.” people take note. They are impressed. In a way, you are bringing glory to this man in one of the most personal yet powerful ways that you can.
Do you know that you can do the same for God? Listen to how the Apostle Paul described the life of Abraham:
No distrust made Abraham waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20-21)
How did Abraham bring glory to God? By his faith, by being “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” Abraham believed it, he acted upon it, and he told others about it.
I am quick to consider that singing a praise hymn or some other act or worship is the way I bring glory to God. Sometimes I broaden my scope and think about how my life as a whole brings glory to God. But these two verses have shown me that my faith— believing that God is who says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do— is a personal and powerful way I can bring glory to God today.
Think of the last time you were encouraged, genuinely, deeply encouraged, by someone. Pretty sweet, wasn’t it? We all need encouragement in our lives, and we all need to learn to be encouragers of each other.
If we would learn to be a better encourager by example, there’s none better than one of the first followers of Jesus named Joseph. Wait, you probably don’t even recognize his given name Joseph, but his nickname Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” That’s the kind of guy he was, a man known for his encouragement. His encouragement was so important to the church that he is mentioned by name 33 times in the New Testament, more than anyone else who wasn’t an apostle.
So, how did Barnabas do encouragement? Studying him, it’s clear that he was known as a God-focused encourager. No matter where he went or what he did, his heart remained focused on God, and his encouragement to others flowed from a heart filled from God and with God.
There is one key verse in Acts that gives us some clear yet concise insight as to why Barnabas was such an effective encourager:
When Barnabas came (to Antioch) and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose. (Acts 11:23)
First, we see that Barnabas let God lead him to people. He did not wait for someone to come to him. He traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch with the specific purpose to encourage the Christians there. The Bible records that the church in Jerusalem specifically asked him to go to Antioch. If we are focused on God, He will guide us to people to encourage, either through the guiding of our church or friends or circumstances or through the Spirit. Don’t you think that God has someone for you to encourage today? If you remain focused on Him He will show you who.
After he came to Antioch Barnabas saw what God was doing. One of the most important questions you can ask yourself is, “What is God doing in the life of this person? Where is God at work?” Being a God-focused encourager doesn’t mean throwing out generic “Have a great day, hang in there, trust in God, blah blah blah” cliches. It means taking the time to listen, to observe, and to ask God to show you a person’s true need.
We next see that Barnabas was filled with joy at seeing God’s grace. The old saying goes that there is more “caught” than “taught.” That principle is absolutely essential in encouragement. As we move into another person’s life, our hearts should be filled with God’s joy. Seeing who God is and where He is moving in another person’s life is incredibly energizing and empowering. Sharing our joy in God with both our words and our lives is the most powerful encouragement we can ever give to each other.
Finally, we see that Barnabas encouraged others to be God focused. We all need encouragement in every aspect of our lives. I’m sure Barnabas was known for saying things like, “Say, have you lost a few pounds?” “That’s a great job you did with your house.” “You’ve got a great sense of humor.” “That’s the best stew I’ve had all month!” But most of all, he was known for encouraging people to look to God in all they did. Being a faithful Christian was a terribly hard thing in 1st century Palestine, but Barnabas clearly saw both the challenge of leading a faithful, God-focused life and the absolute necessity of it.
So, will you be like Barnabas today? Will you be God-focused enough to let Him lead you to the people that you can uniquely impact, to see what God is doing in their lives, to move with joy into their lives, and encourage them to fix their eyes on God? I know, it sounds like a tall order, but as you let God guide and empower you He will surely accomplish great things through you for His glory.