I Struggle Too

I Struggle TooIf I were to be completely honest with you, I would say that this blog post is one of the hardest I have felt led to write. The reason is not because the topic is a difficult one to articulate or the fact that it is a particularly controversial stance on a “hot button” issue, but because of my heart attitude behind it.

As I get closer to Jesus, I have learned that God honors thoughtful response over angry outbursts. He values the offering of hope over a self-righteous decree of condemnation from my own personal soapbox. So, I want to write today out of love, grace, mercy, but firm resolve and I pray that God will be in my words. I want to talk about the concept of racism.

THE PROBLEM

I sat in a big leather chair in front of a woman who had cried so much that I was afraid she would become dehydrated. He husband had cheated on her. The adultery was getting to be too common in their marriage, and after multiple transgressions, he once again told her it “would never happen again”. This woman was broken, angry, and had practically given up on long term joy in her life. My heart filled with my own brand of anger when she told me the lies that were told and the sins that were committed. The man that she was married to made her feel inferior. He made her believe things about herself that were not true. He made her think this was all her fault. On top of this, over the period of several years, he had made sure that she was removed from opportunities, relationships, more education and much of the outside world as a method of domination and control. She prayed that God would help her and He did. She divorced him and years later, she married the man of her dreams. She also forgave her ex-husband.

The problem is, I really want to hate this man. The carnal part of my human existence wants to show him how wrong he is, and make him pay. I know, however, that a life lived controlled by God’s spirit compels us to seek a much higher level of conduct.

You see, if Christ lives in a person, has complete control, and has forgiven them…it is really hard to go on living with hatred towards another human being. That doesn’t mean that the temptation is not there, but there is a power that is greater in you than that which is in the world.

Racism, at its core, is a systematic desire for a group or groups to express their perceived superiority over others. Often times they will single out a particular community, and do what they can to separate them from society, tell them lies, and openly display their hate for them. In essence, there is not much difference between an adulterer and a racist individual. With that being said, there is a part of me that wants to treat someone who is racist with the same contempt as I would the adulterer. I can’t though. I can’t because I have no idea what type of lies that person has been told throughout their life, and I have to believe in my heart that they are eligible for restoration and love as much as I am. If Jesus cannot heal them, then His death on the cross was a waste of time. Sin is sin.

This doesn’t make the whole issue any less frustrating though. I have heard people who wear gold crosses around their necks say the most awful things about people of different races. This is confusing for many reasons.

So, here is my overall thought. There is no such thing as a Christian racist. I say this, because I have heard people getting upset at the Church for racist acts they have seen in media outlets. And, there have been people who have displayed racism in their lives who claim to be believers. Let me make this very clear. Not disagreeing with the Bible, going to church on occasion, and being raised in a semi-religious home does not  make someone a Christian. Nor does giving oneself the label of “good”. A Christian is someone who desires to be like Christ, associates themselves with His crucifixion and resurrection, allows God to transform them, allows the Holy Spirit to guide them, and who has accepted the forgiveness that Jesus offers; all while bearing the fruit of the Kingdom. So, there is no such thing as a “Christian racist”. It cannot exist. Christianity and racism are like oil and water. Sure, there are people who have accepted Christ and who have had to repent of old habits that have arisen temporarily, but that leads to deep grieving and change.

THE HOPE

Jesus led by example, and when He wanted to emphasize a virtue, He displayed the virtue through His action. Look at the story of the Woman at the Well in John chapter 4. There were two main issues being addressed when we look deep into this story. The first issue was the sin (and thus the cure) in the life of the woman (who happened to be a Samaritan). Water was just the illustration. Jesus offered her a way out of her constant searching for love, fulfillment, and forgiveness. Jesus took care of all of that, and offered her abundance. The second issue pertained to race. This woman was astonished that a Jew would even speak to a Samaritan, not to mention offering her something to drink. This was unheard of, because of the deep racial divide. In other areas of scripture, the implication is that even the disciples accepted this divide as common. Jesus shatters this mentality, loved this woman, and contradicted the culture.

Hope exists, because there is a God who fashioned all of us from the same dust. This same God declared that we were made in His image. This is a foundational belief in the Judeo-Christian world view. Hope comes from the fact that God forgives and transforms human hearts. He forgives.

The old me wants to hate people that are full of racism and hatred. I have realized that this type of hate is the same brand of hate as those wielded by racist individuals; only in different packaging.

So, a Christian, if guided by the Holy Spirit would spend more time serving, loving, giving, feeding, clothing, proclaiming truth, and praying than complaining and allowing anger to fester and grow. In fact, Jesus did his ministry in the shadow of pagan statues, unholy temples, and hateful hearts. His mind and heart were focused on the people, and He knew the only true kingdom was not this way.

The heart of the Christian is occupied and Jesus does not need a roommate. Hate does not fit.

As followers of Jesus we are called to speak out against hatred of every kind. We are also called to serve those who are not following God.

I end all my blogs the same way…but today I mean it more deeply than I have in the past. With a broken heart yearning for reconciliation, I say it once again…

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

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I Still Have So Much To Learn

i-still-have-so-much-to-learnA disproportionally large amount of people (relative to the size of the community) filed into a little Baptist church in rural Missouri. The average age of this congregation can be described in one word; gray. There were a few children present, but the small town was primarily older folks so I would not have expected to see more young ones in attendance.

We were in town because my wife’s grandmother lived there and we were visiting her for the weekend. Grandma would not have let us leave town without going to church, even if we had great excuses to skip. Plus, she promised us that she was going to make her world-famous chili for lunch so that was incentive enough to humor her.

The church was small and the last time the décor was updated was sometime around the late seventies or early eighties. These were the good ‘ol days when aliens invaded the earth and felt like their main contribution to the world be wood paneling in all homes and public venues.

Every square inch of the building needed an update, and the handheld microphones had those awful bright colored covers on the microphone heads that stood out like a sore thumb. All in all, it was a place that didn’t look inviting according to a young pastor standards, but everyone had a smile on their face so I was going to keep my heart open.

You see, by this time, I already had a bachelor’s degree in ministry and was about to start seminary. I was obviously an expert in all things pertaining to leadership and was already developing a critical eye and ear when visiting churches.

The music began and, as was expected, the song lineup consisted of both songs I had never heard and ones that I remembered from my childhood. The older lady leading the music was not exactly gifted for the part but her passion was obvious. No new contemporary Christian top 40 hits were played, and, at the time, I saw this as a serious flaw.

How would they minister to people without the newest methods, songs, or a fresh look? How can they minister to people who were advanced in age when every book I have read on “church growth” tells me that the younger generation should be their laser focus?  It obviously wasn’t the case here. They seemed to have a routine that many were comfortable with, and everything had a distinct rhythm.

The pastor began to preach, and the content was great but the delivery of the sermon left a little to be desired. He wasn’t even in the middle of a catchy series! This pastor had been with this congregation for many years, and most people had gone to that church for a long time. There was a comfort there that could be felt with the shepherd of this flock.

As I looked around during worship, one thing was apparent. These people were genuinely interested in what was happening in the worship service. They were responding to the sermon, singing the songs loudly, and taking notes to better absorb the message for the day. Every family had a Bible that was nearly destroyed from use, and the children that were there seemed to pay attention to every word. The bulletin recorded evidence that these people participated in missional activities in the community.  Could it be that the books I was reading about ministry distracted me from a deeper truth? Is it possible that I was wrong about what church “should” look like?

Attending that church made me feel a little different about serving in ministry. In an age where so many pastors spend much of their time looking for the next “new thing”, it seemed foreign to encounter a ministry that didn’t try to fix something that wasn’t broken simply to put more butts in the seats. The back of the platform was not painted black, the lights were not dim, there were no laser lights, and there were no fog machines; yet there was something intensely spiritual about this experience. People were lifting the name of Christ, and learning how to love others more. They were simply worshiping.

I have often been intoxicated by worship experiences that were designed to put people into a spiritual trance. Experiences that were defined by scheduled perfection and rehearsed timing. I think God sees through these type of things, and I have realized that a little Baptist church in a place that is not even on the map can be as intensely faithful as the megachurch down the road with much more to offer.

I pray that all Christians will fall in love with God like this small Baptist church. If we do, we will see a genuine revival happen throughout the world.

I still have so much to learn.

Let’s get back to basics.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Coming King (Repost)

When will we erase these hateful notions
That the cure for debate involves explosions
Realizing bitterness is a sour potion
Wishing our enemy would die

It makes no sense that the color of skin
Or the past life, or where people have been
Or even who you claim as closest of kin
Could feed the posionous lie

I believe in 2 or 3 generations
Racism will be purged, uniting the nations
The king will come and restore relations
And lift our spirits high

Really, I am no better than you
I was born sinful and needed rescue
I have even lived through pain too
And bleed like any other guy

What I fear is a world for my kids
Women being sold; bought by high bids
Babies dying; abortion…SIDS
Evil and good locked in a tie

I think though, everything will be fine
As long as humans who have a spine
Acknowledge the One who gave us a sign
For, in the end, He will descend from the sky.

-Landon DeCrastos

Why My Kids Are the “Sheltered Ones”

Why My Kids Are the -Sheltered Ones-Bedtime seems to be a place of interesting conversations with my children. On one hand, I love that they enjoy talking with me, on the other hand, sometimes I just want to clock out for the day from being a parent (let’s be honest) so I am ready to tell the story, pray the prayer, and get out. There are times with my son, though, I stick around longer to field any questions he has stored up throughout the day. Often they are whimsical, and other times they are pretty deep. One day, he had questions that I couldn’t easily answer without introducing him to a world that didn’t exist for him as of yet.

This day was one that we had driven a lot around downtown Indianapolis. We had our fun, ate our meals, and came home to pour ourselves into bed. Children, as you know, don’t always feel that sleep is as urgent as we do. My son started the “question machine” and by the nature of the questions, I could tell that I was going to be there a while. The inquiries ranged from the intricacies of the Power Rangers storyline to ones deeper, and more theological in nature. The last question led to an explanation I wanted to avoid.

“Dad, today when we were out, why were people sleeping on the sidewalk”. I wasn’t really understanding what he meant until I thought about our day. He was speaking about the homeless people that we passed. I had the uncomfortable conversation about how there are some people who do not have homes, enough food, or even a family. For my son, this conversation ended in tears, and his heart visibly broke for these people. I felt convicted, because I had been so desensitized to the sight that I didn’t realize he noticed.

At first, I felt horrible that I had never exposed my children to this concept. Then, I realized what happened because I didn’t. My son, was so heartbroken by the sight that he wanted to do something about it. Granted, there could have been a better and more deliberate way I presented the concept to him before this, but the fact that he was sheltered from it caused him to see that there was something not right. I also realized we need to speak about this more in our home.

The same can be said about so many other areas of life. Cursing, sexuality, graphic violence, and addictions…the list could go on. I shelter my children from these things for 2 main reasons. First, because I want to guard their hearts from pollution, and secondly because I want them to enter a world in which they are so thrown off by sin and pain that they recognize that it is not normal or “okay”…thus desiring to make the world better. I want them to be emotionally shattered by injustice so that they develop a holy anger to make things right. Also, I want to be the one (along with my wife) that helps them navigate their feelings in a healthy way when they do encounter the unknown. That way, we can also shelter them from hating those who are different or looking down on those who they don’t understand.

Why have we decided, as a nation, that is is now okay to slowly poison our children’s souls so they are immune to the “real world” when they enter it? Why have we decided it is okay to steal our children’s innocence by forcing them into a life of pain from nearly day one?

Now, I want you to understand my heart. In no way am I judging the methods by which other parents raise their children, because judgement involves condemnation and sentencing. What I am saying is…I want people to know my strategy and passion, so that they can either embrace or disregard based on their own views.

So, my kids are the ones that have never said or heard course language, watched that one show, and who call adults Mr. and Mrs. I understand you are concerned that they may rebel due to strictness, but I will pray on how to handle that if it happens. I have a great support system with my church, family, and friends that will come in handy during this time. Plus, they have free will and their own individual life purposes, but I want to show them it is possible to be a Godly person in private and in public. Parenting is so much more than simply keeping our kids alive until they leave home. It is a process in which we pour ourselves into them and invest in the future of humanity.

That’s my take on it. Take it or leave it.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Gospel According to My Brother (Repost)

TaraxacumOfficinaleSeedAs I write this today, I am sitting outside enjoying the afternoon breeze. The sun is shining, the grass is green, and the gentleman no more than 15 feet away from me puffs nervously on his cigarette. His vice is one that I can not rightly pass judgement on because I imagine people look at me the same way when I am at my prime at a local all-you-can-eat Asian food establishment. I have learned to understand that whatever we consider an idol involves an attitude of sin. Sin that separates us from God. Regardless, I am still enjoying the beautiful flowers. They are perfect.

Jesus talks about sinners in scripture. Many times in fact. He doesn’t condone it. Quite the opposite actually. Often, when He approaches those in sin, Jesus takes it much more seriously than I do. In the “Parable of the Weeds” He compares those living in sin as figurative weeds in a garden or a pasture. Jesus says that God will not remove the “weeds” because this would have negative consequences for the “good plants”. So, when reading that throughout my life, I have always been on alert. “Weeds (sinners) are all around me…I need to be on guard”, I have always thought. For a long time, I developed an attitude of defense when it came to these dangerous sinners. The idea was that I should not get too close or the evil darkness of their hearts will infect my pure, innocent soul.

I thought this until my brother taught me a little about landscaping. My interpretation expanded a bit. He taught me something he did not intend to be spiritual, but now guides my ministry thought process. It also gave me deep insight on the parable mentioned above.

My brother owns a small farm and understanding the needs of the land is a massive passion of his. He raises chickens, grows vegetables, and takes pleasure in God’s creation. Every time I visit the farm, we walk together and talk about things like ministry, work, and parenting. A few weeks ago, I presented him with a question I had been saving up for a few weeks. The question had to do with how to get rid of the ugly weeds in my front yard. So, I asked. The answer somewhat surprised me.

“Don’t be mad at the weeds”, he said. “The presence of weeds simply tells you what the greatest need is.” I stared at him with a puzzling look. He knew I didn’t understand so he expounded. “When you have weeds in your yard, many times it means there is some nutrient that is lacking…the weeds tell you your needs.” He went on to describe scenerios pertaining to more and less nitrogen, chemical balance, and other things that brought about certain families of pesky flora. I learned more than I cared to know in that instance. At the time, I really didn’t want a long explanation…I just wanted to get rid of them. I wanted to avoid them.

When we read the “Parable of the Weeds” in scripture and we begin to think of “weeds equal bad” and “no weeds equal good” I think we miss the point. The presence of weeds tell us the needs. So, we can think of it this way…God calls us to look at the sinners around us through His eyes. These are people with needs. Not just stubborn folks with no moral compass and lacking in wisdom. The need is food. The need is relationships. The need is healing and hope. The need is Jesus. How can we really judge, when God is trying to open our eyes to the great need?

Pray for God’s eyes today. Let’s attack sin.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Navajo Way: What Really Grows Churches

The Navajo Way- What Really Grows Churches.

It was 101 degrees and the building had no air conditioning. Instead, the attempted remedy for this minor inconvenience was one that would not have been my first choice. Those in charge decided to open every door leading to the outside so that the wind could circulate around the room. It didn’t work. I was sweaty, tired, and somewhat hungry.

I was a teenager on a mission trip in the middle of a Navajo reservation, so I decided to take these discomforts in stride and accept the experience for what it was. It was different…and it was their way of doing things.

First…a little background: I was raised in an amazing church. One that was (and still is) known for its thriving ministries, wonderful preaching, and inspiring music. Everything was polished and perfect. No distractions other than the occasional baby crying, but no one minds for the most part. People lined the altars on a regular basis to give their heart to the Lord, and no one doubted the anointing in that place. You could (and still can) feel the Holy Spirit thick and active in that place. I have become accustomed to a certain type of experience.

The church I was sitting in on this particular Sunday morning was different. The moment I sat down, I was uncomfortable. Hot. Sticky. Tired.  We were there early, so not many had arrived. To be honest, I really wanted to go to a big church; one with better programs, great music, and a dynamic preacher.  I suppose, however it was only one Sunday morning, so I could survive this little church (that could only seat about 40-50 people at the most) for one Sunday.

Ten minutes before the church service started, a few more people trickled into the tiny worship space. It wasn’t until about 2 minutes before the beginning that, we as a group of teenagers, got to see the true commitment of the worshippers dedicated to that church. We saw it alright. A space that would feel full with 50 people sitting in it was packed with over 100 attendees. People were on the floor, sitting on the back benches, and standing in the doorways. There were people everywhere.

The pastor walked up to a podium. He looked like what Colonel Sanders would look like if KFC were a biker club. What he said next blew my mind (because there were so many people there)…He looked to the left and the right and asked if anyone knew how to play the piano. They needed a piano player to play the hymns for the day. One of our teens knew how to peck out a few tunes and had taken some lessons, so she was the one chosen. No other musicians were in attendance. The songs were old too…really old, but the members sang at the top of their lungs. Our poor piano player tried to keep up.

The offering plate was passed, the announcements were made, and pastor prayed a prayer. He then stood up to preach, but was less seasoned in the art of preaching than I had hoped. I started to grade his performance and delivery. Meanwhile, I couldn’t hear some of the message because so many were “amen-ing” every word he said. It was bizarre. This one room church, that could not hold many people, was overflowing with people eager to experience the love of God through worship. Then, something even more powerful happened. The pastor called the congregation to a special time of prayer. This was a time of requests, confession, and praise. The power was palpable. There were some on their knees. Others were sitting with their head bowed. A few were standing while holding their fussy babies. All were praying out loud.

At the time, my mind could not compute what I was experiencing. The music was not planned out well, the preaching was not amazing, kids were running in and out of the sanctuary, and the building was unattractive. In fact, the sign in front of the church was old and rusted so you know that this church was not heavy into marketing. There were other churches in town, too.

I realized the presence of God does not favor the polished, put together, and the talented. The presence of God favors (for lack of a better word) things like desperation, desire, and dedication.

That small, Navajo church taught me something I have never learned in any church growth book. God must be present if real impacting growth is to happen. As a pastor, I can manufacture excitement, and manipulate people to fill the seats in many different ways. I have studied enough psychology. What church, though is really worth being at if God’s spirit is not there? There must be power.

That day changed the way I look at church. It is not about an incredible experience or impressive marketing campaign. If God is real, then he can take the preparation that we are able to give, the heart we sacrifice, and the attitude that we offer, and use that to change hearts. His spirit works.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Are You An Identity Thief?

Are YouAn IdentityThiefPolicies. Procedures. Regulations. These words define the generic protocol for nearly every occupation that exists. In the medical realm, many of these policies involve taking extra precautions to protect the information of patients. The impetus behind these actions is a desire for privacy.

The financial industry has similar steps to protect information. My day job, as some of you know, involves working for a bank. This industry has developed many layers of verification to protect the identity of people who do business with each institution. Some find the process to be a drudgery, but our goal (like any other bank) is to provide beneficial products while simultaneously guarding the assets of any particular customers willing to invest.

There are people out there, however that spend most of their time attempting to defraud banks and steal that which was hard earned. In their mind, their goal is to convince the institution that they are another person in order to gain the benefits of that person’s assets. This is why we have many ways of confirming identity. It is about protection and building trust.

Fraudsters are everywhere. In every industry, and in every area of society. They want to convince others that they are someone else to gain rewards. When these people are successful, it inevitably results in a distrust in the institution that allowed them to perpetrate. Identity thieves do anything they can to look, sound, and act the part.

When talking about your spiritual life, the question needs to be asked…Are you an identity thief? Do you gladly accept the label of “Christian”, but abandon the life you are called to live? Do you claim the religion, but have no desire to deepen the relationship? Does the fruit you produce match the affiliation you claim?

Do these seem like harsh questions? Why? In any other area of life, it is insulting to claim association without assimilation. To a person who does not believe in Christ, saying something like this may sound legalistic. How many of these same people, though, complain when a Christian does not act according to the basic principles they proclaim? Folks…the world is waiting for us to prove that following this redemptive process is not worth the struggle. We know what freedom from captivity truly looks like. That is what we should project to a dying civilization.

There are things the Bible talks about that specifically feed and grow the Christian. These things are prayer, getting deeper in God’s word, fellowship and worship with a community of believers, selfless service, personal sacrifice, and generosity. These things don’t make people Christ followers, but they are identity verification. They are natural for those who follow with all their heart.

There are far too many people who call themselves lovers of God, but do not live a life that reflects this claim. This develops a deep distrust with those on the outside looking in.

Don’t be an identity thief. Don’t simply slap on the label, but forsake the Lord behind it. Allowing Him to take control means that you must leave your comfort behind, and accept a new identity.

Following Christ means you look a little different. Perhaps strange. That’s okay. In my next blog, I am going to talk about this concept. Stay tuned.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Christ In Me Means…

The more I learn about Jesus, the more I desire to know Him. Consequently, the more I get to know Him, the more I realize that there have been times that I have misunderstood Him.

In my early Christian days, there was this unspoken fear that whatever I did would drag me down to Hell where I would burn forever. I was always looking over my shoulder, paranoid that Jesus was hiding behind the bushes, waiting to pounce whenever I veered from the righteous path.

Then, there were my college days. It was interesting to read the perspectives of philosophers and theologians. The words I read helped me to relax, and I began to look at my spiritual life in a more lenient manner. God was not out to get me. He loves me. His grace is abundant, so my disobedience doesn’t mark the end, but the possibility of a new beginning. Jesus looks at the big picture, right? True, but there was still so much lacking. My inner life turned into one that I cultivated when it was convenient for me to do so.

As I have grown older I have come to the conclusion that there have been times that I truly did not know Jesus for who He truly is. I knew about Him. I accurately understood His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love, but I never thought to analyze Christ in me. What fruit could Jesus produce in my heart if He took control? Complete control. Who is He in me? Well, I have thought about this and I attempted to put it into words. Not only who He is in me, but what this really means.

Christ in me is power to stand up to the temptation of the flesh.

Christ is me is the end of all excuses and a desire to follow.

Christ in me is the desire to see the world changed by being a small part of His kingdom come.

Christ in me is an abandonment of self.

Christ in me implies life only from embracing death.

Christ in me means becoming weary of all that grieves Him.

Christ in me is a yearning to be whole.

Christ in me is not a political stance but a life devoted to serve the world.

Christ in me is a desire to become less.

Christ in me is a desire to live out my purpose.

Christ in me is recognizing the reality and importance of His word, His fellowship, and His grace.

Christ in me means passionately loving my wife.

Christ in me means firmly, and compassionately loving my children.

Christ in me means becoming a rescue to the broken.

Christ in me means boldness.

Christ in me means a dissatisfaction with all that is unlike Him.

Christ in me is a deep longing for more than a religious label with no outward devotion.

In order to know Him more, I must allow Him to move in, destroy what once was, and replace everything.

-Landon DeCrastos

6 Things Today’s Church is Losing

6 Things Today's Church is LosingIf you know me, you know that I am not a fan of articles or blog posts that berate the Church and point out all of her flaws. Sometimes, as I am reading these writings from well known authors, it breaks my heart that the bulk of their time on earth has been spent associating themselves with a movement that they can’t help but belittle on a regualr basis. I have never understood it really. From time to time, I think there are people who want to just sell books or get the attention of nonbelievers and pull the whole “bait and switch” when they get them to agree. I suppose some could even accuse me of doing that same thing right now, but know that is not my intention.

The Church as God describes it in His scriptures is meant to be the bride of Christ. This title implies union. I can imagine that any time Christian’s with good intentions slander His bride, there is some heartbreak. So, that is one way to look  at the waves of negativity. It is wrong and if we are a cross-oriented people then one would think grace would season our talk. There are times, however, the body of Christ needs to huddle up and regroup. There are also times where we need to hear a challenging word and be moved to action. Not in a condescending way, but one that desires growth and stronger unity. The Bible is full of times where God needed to redirect and rebuke His own people. In fact, the Bible practically ends that way with the first third of the book of Revelation seeking to sternly guide the people of God. With that being said, as I look around and see the condition of His bride in current times, I have seen some things I think are becoming endangered in our Christian culture.

Here are 6 Things Today’s Church is Losing:

1. Desperation for the Gospel

I can’t help but think of the early church. The people were enamored by this new revelation. So much so, that they were willing to risk their lives simply to believe and proclaim. Certainly, there were plenty of times early Christians sinned against God, but the newness of the Gospel message swept them away. What about underdeveloped countries? We are hearing stories on a regular basis from missionaries all around the world giving testimonies of lives changed and churches planted, simply because the message of the cross was shared. Today, many people look at their faith as a hobby and the act of community worship as something they do when they have nothing else to do. Or even, something that fits well into their lives when everything is going well. Is this what Christ died for? The people, yes…but the apathetic attitude toward His body? I wonder if we have mentally conditioned ourselves to always look for the more exciting experience. Not sure what the answer is here. I think we need to pray for a huge awakening on this one.

2. Centrality of God’s work

Many people today can and do live a life full of busyness, good health, and plenty of money without God. They do great things, influence people, and leave powerful legacies without their Creator ever being acknowledged. This is because it is a very tempting idea to surround ourselves with security, resources, and knowledge so that the idea of God becomes unnecessary. Christians reading this blog today may think that I am describing sinners or people who do not believe in God, but I am actually describing Christ-followers. Unfortunately, for Christians, it is easy to lean toward a life that calls comfort “blessing” and the good that we do becomes the full expression of God’s word. Certainly, God wants us to be moved to action, but He also wants us to be moved to change and grow. His life and power will give us abundance. Not just temporal success.

3. Conflict Resolution

I will mention the early church again here, because it is pertinent. The fact is, back in the infancy of the Church, people did not leave their worship community because of hurt feelings, different political beliefs, music, preaching quality, lack of programming, stale communion wafers, uncomfortable seats, lack of air conditioning, not getting the part in the play, what someone commented on Facebook, the fact that the organ was moved two feet to the left, or the color of the carpet. People had the spirit in common and settled their conflict by arguing, finding common ground, and focusing on the mission once again. We have lost the art of healthy conflict resolution because we have taught ourselves that running away is better than growing. Let’s just grow up already. This doesn’t just involve church attendance but every edifying relationship.

4. A Hunger to be Less

No matter how humble we are as a body of believers, it is hard to resist making ourselves look great by displaying our spiritual wealth. We want to be the best Christian, going to the best church, reading the best books, and adhearing to the best doctrine…not so we can grow deeper, but so we can know and experience more than the next person. Christ calls us to a cross-like existence that compells us to abandon this mentality. The point of Christianity is to be the lowest, the servant, and those that wake up every morning hoping to die to self. In the immortal words of John the Baptist, “He must increase and I must decrease…” Enough said.

5. Prophetic Voice

The Church, in today’s culture, seems to want to have a voice of political power instead of prophecy. No, not the soothsaying definition that we are familiar with through fairy tales, but prophecy in the respect of God’s conveyed truth. The Church is meant to exist independent from the culture, understanding the culture, and speaking to the culture, not camouflaging itself within it waiting for the right moment to strike. Fellow believers…we live a life that is weird and doesn’t make much sense, and that is okay. This is nothing to apologize for, and nothing to run from. It is okay to be active in politics, and influential in business, but our goal should be to show others the nature of God through our lives.

6. Unity In the Body

There may be several congregations throughout the world but there is only one Church. Whatever your particular congregational brand may be, remember that our mission is shared and it will take all of us to fulfill it. I am so tired of people talking poorly about other communities of believers. Sure, we may not agree with their doctrinal slant, but even if they are driving people to Hell through their teachings, our treatment of them, and talk about them could drive the outsider looking in to Hell even faster. Just stop it. Pursue God and display love for Christ sake (see what I did there?). Preach the truth. Period. Healthy worship to God will draw people towards Him.

We are meant to make disciples, spread the gospel, and serve the world by the resourcing of the Spirit. Just do that. Let’s stick to the things that matter.

Don’t forget you are loved.

-Landon DeCrastos

Silent God: Please Lord, SPEAK! | In Other Words

SILENTOn this blog, I have filled many pages with stories and illustrations involving the relationship I have with my son. I think it is easy to see, through my writings, that he and I have a special bond (as one could imagine between a father and son). He lights up my life and gives me mountains of material for writing. Today, however I want to mention my daughter. She is my princess and we also have a special bond that is different from the one I have with my son (not better or worse…just different).

In my house the men adore the ladies. Mommy and sister are approached with a special gentleness (most of the time) and protection. When my daughter Lynae wakes up from her naps or from her beauty sleep, my son and I have a silly routine…We go, together, into her room and sing a short song to her while dancing. We have so much fun doing it. Not only is it fun, but she also wakes up smiling and lays still in her bed until the performance is over…knowing full well that she is adored. Not only is this silly, but it is deeply personal for us, because in my house the ladies are adored…

After our musical number, my son usually shuffles out of the room to go play or resume what he was previously doing. This is my cue to get her out of bed and change her into her clothes for the day. Sometimes, I stall a little bit and lie in bed next to her. A few days ago, we had a moment that I will never forget. As we were still and silent next to each other, she just stared into my eyes. Time went slowly and neither one of us felt the need to say anything (she is limited on her linguistic skills anyway). After a moment of stillness she reached up and grabbed my face. I was practically hypnotized. I felt bad for breaking the silence, but all I could say was, “I love you baby.” She smiled, leaned in for a quick kiss and her first words of the day came springing forth. “Daddy…cereal.” So, that ended a deeply meaningful moment with the woman I love the second-most in my life. It ended with a request.

As I thought about this moment, my mind went off into a tangent. I thought about the emails, texts, inbox messages and one-on-one conversations I have had with so many people recently regarding their relationship with God. There is a common theme among many right now. It is this issue of silence. When I hurt. When I fear. When I am running out of time…Why does God seem silent?

There are many answers to this question, and even more unknown possibilities. Today, I think, instead of fully answering this (which could be impossible), I want to offer up some ideas in the form of reflective questions. Here are 7.

1. Could God be waiting for you to act on what He told you most recently?– Have you obeyed His most recent instructions yet? Sometimes we yell out requests to God but do not act when He calls us to join Him in His mission. It is completely possible that you have not done what He has asked of you since the last time you spoke.

2. Have you recently prayed for a closer relationship with Him?– Odds are you have prayed this recently, because you know that getting closer to God brings blessing and abundance. Like in the illustration above, sometimes a closer relationship means silently being in each other’s presence. Just like two dating teens saying absolutely nothing on the phone, it is possible that simply being together is what is required right now. Don’t take this time for granted.

3. How much time are you spending in prayer and scripture?– It may be important to note that God has many things to say to you, and the answer to your specific prayer is somewhere on the list. He could be speaking to you, but not necessarily about what you are asking Him about this moment. Open yourself up to be spoken to by God…On His terms; not yours.

4. Have you recently prayed for peace in the midst of the storm?– Of course you have, and this is a common thing to pray. How many times, though, do you picture the concept of peace being accompanied by hyperactivity and fanfare? Never, right? In other words, if you want peace then you must accept that peace often means that we must slow down, be silent, take a breath, and trust God’s promises. He may be waiting for us to choose peace before proceeding.

5. Did He already say no?– This question hurts to even think about. How many times, as a parent, do you have to repeat yourself with your children? Tons. In my experience, God operates a little differently. Even though we do not like to hear it, “no” is a valid answer from God. He may have simply said no…and it could be time to move forward.

6. What have you done in faith?– Often, I am guilty of simply providing God with my list of wants or needs during my prayer times. To an extent that is okay, but how many times do I take moments to intercede for others or even get out and take risky steps of faith for the kingdom? Not doing so won’t silence God, but it makes you wonder what the implications of our relationship with Him is if we always talk and don’t act. Take a big fat step of faith today. Serve someone, and you will find that God’s voice will become louder.

7. Are you clinging to sin?– As harsh as this sounds; it is a valid question. It is not the case for everyone, but some. With this being said, it doesn’t mean that God is not speaking, but rather that our distractions are too loud. If we invite Him in to cleanse us then we will hear, see, and experience more than ever before.

Overall, silence from God is not a bad thing. Just like there are natural pauses in beautiful music; our relationship with God can go through times of growth and times of hyperactivity. Let go of your fear, and during the times of silence; soak in His goodness. These are just some of the questions that come to mind…and obviously there could be many more reasons.

He loves you. Don’t ever forget that.

-Landon DeCrastos