Within Me

A battle that is raging every day
A debt that I can’t possibly pay
The grace to lead from astray
Power that is not from me

The struggle I furiously fight
Clinched fists from morning til night
No immediate hope; no light
A solution I cannot see

Still you hold me when things get tough
I push away as if you are not enough
I reject; you call my bluff
And fight aggressively

My hubris sets me back again
Like Icarus; falling…sin
Reminding myself of who I have been
Desperately wanting to flee

But, it is in those times that I resign
When I look up and step over the line
Give up and call you mine
And acknowledge your work on that tree

I can’t praise you enough for what you gave
How you killed death and rose from the grave
And to think how I currently behave
Compells my bended knee

Thank You God for your all
For giving me my holy call
For being there when I fall
And loving unconditionally

The Problem With the Cross

crossIt had already been a long morning when we find this bloody man dragging a torture device through the center of town. People were yelling, shaking their fists, and some were keeping quiet for fear of being ostracized for their position that reflected the minority opinion. Many people have met their doom in this way, but not many have received such publicity.

If you think about it, the whole circumstance was a rather impractical way to die. The individual hung on a cross for a long period of time in public view for the sole purpose of humiliation. Death was a secondary bonus as far as the Romans were concerned. The act of being displayed before and during expiration was the modern equivalent of a billboard propagating the idea that this government was supreme.

So, here was this man, who was declared publicly innocent by the governor thus giving the screaming mob an out to possibly assuage their own guilty conscience. Minutes later he is beaten and forced to drag a cross for the amusement of hundreds. His countenance reflected someone with courage and missional resolve. He didn’t put up a fight, and acted almost as if he was marking items off of a task list. His heart was fixed on what was next, but at the same time his mind was meditating on what had already come to pass. Generations of people who claimed to know and love God…and every one of those generations falling into disobedience. Not this time though. He was going to end this cycle. This story started with the perfect couple, who doubted God’s perfect word. The story reaches its pinnacle here. A story defined by stripes, blood, and sacrifice.

This story has become so common in Christian ritual. It is something that is taught to children in a more tame setting, and conveyed to nonbelievers in a way that does not offend. We wear beautiful representations around our necks as fashion accessories, and buy them to match our home decor. Here is the problem with the cross. It is ugly. It is dirty. It is cruel. Yet, for this man, who made this event his vocation…it was strangely comfortable. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was infinitely painful, but there was a peace about it that follows anyone who finds themself being funneled into the center of God’s will.

Here is another problem with the cross. It demands for us to be more than we think we can be on our own. We can look at Jesus and agree that this story is life changing, but it really isn’t if we never allow it to penetrate our hearts and change our direction. There is something about this story that should cause us to fear what could have been. If Christ would not have done this, we would have been a goner. The problem with the cross is that we can’t take it back. It happened. We wish we could change things, but we can’t. We caused it, and now we have no right to complain about it. Our sin brought this upon Him. It is our fault.

Yet…that was not what was on His mind. We were. His love for us consumed Him. That’s the ultimate problem with the cross. We deserve it, but he accepted it.

-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

Empty

cross clipartToday is Good Friday. This is the day we remember what Christ did for us in the powerful act of dying on a Roman cross. This cross is a torture device that the Christian Church has decided to adopt as a symbol of who we are and with whom we are associated. I have often been curious about why we have chosen such a symbol. How many subcultures wear guillotines, brass knuckles, or a small electric chairs on chains around their necks? None. Then why a cross?

Scripture tells us that the concept of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are saved it is the power of God. So, what does this really mean? At first glance,  the cross is an odd object to mount in churches, but when we really think about it we realize that the message of the cross is not about what this symbol represents, but what it lacks…

To understand this, we have to look at what happened on this day almost 2000 years ago.

Jesus was the life of the party. He fulfilled every prophecy to prove He was/ is the Messiah. The miracles, the preaching, and the interaction He had with the “least of these” seemed to point to the savior the world was looking for. Then, this man who was revered and followed by so many, disappointed them all when He failed to do what He was supposed to do; lead a rebellion. This was what this Jewish messiah was supposed to do, right? Frustration grew. They needed to get rid of this guy, and restart their search for the one who would come to save them. They were under great oppression by the government, and they just wanted to be free.

Freedom. Really, they had no idea what that meant. When that word rolled off their lips, thoughts of liberty in all action came to mind. Freedom for this people group meant that they wanted to enjoy God’s blessing while also living a life that completely rejected Him. Little did they know that this Jewish carpenter would turn out to be exactly who He claimed to be…

So, the message of the cross is not about how much power this pile of lumber contains, but what it lacks; a body.

Jesus, the king of the universe, died. He actually stopped living. It was painful and terrible. He didn’t stay dead though. This is why we celebrate this season. In a few days, people are going to discover an empty cross and an empty grave. Nothing has gone according to plan.

These things are empty, and somehow this idea can fill our emptiness.

…to be continued

-Landon DeCrastos