Follow the Cloud

My son’s demanding shout came from the back seat…”TELL ME WHERE WE ARE GOING!!!” In my house, if we are doing something fun for the whole family, we keep it a secret from the children. This is not necessarily so we can have a giant reveal and see the look on their faces, but because of the incessant questions and whining that will inevitably occur from the time they are told our fun location to the time we arrive. My kids, when they know something fun is going to happen, tend to get really impatient.

Often we will tell them when we are in the car on our way to the exciting destination. This particular trip was not really that different. In this particular instance, we decided not to tell them until we were about 30 minutes away, due to the fact that it was going to be a two-hour excursion; which was equivalent to some CIA level torture in the minds of my offspring. As implied above, the little man who thinks he runs my house became irate with the fact that we did not let him in on the secret. So, like any good parent, we yelled back disciplinary threats in hopes the screaming would stop. It didn’t. In fact, he became so upset that he threw out a bluff. He said that he didn’t want to go anymore (with arms folded of course) and wanted to go back home. Of course we rolled our eyes and ignored it. We knew he would be elated when we arrived.

I can’t help but think of the Israelites in the book of Exodus. Over and over again, God had shown his power, faithfulness, and eagerness to accomplish His will through His people, but every time, His people slipped back into their own comfortable habits. In the journey that took place during this time, God gave them specific instructions regarding behavior and when to move after the Tabernacle was built. God would show up regularly in the form of a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, and these forms would fill the holiest place of the Tabernacle. Israel saw the result of His glory. God then instructed the people to get up and move their camp, only when God’s presence left. They were instructed to follow cloud and fire. They never knew when they were leaving, and they never knew where they were going. They just followed.

Despite the miracles and consistent provision God gave His people, they still felt the need to complain regularly. Whether it was food, water, sickness, worship, or legal disputes…they made a full time job out of whining about their circumstances. On more than one occasion, many even threatened to find their way back to Egypt. The only reason cited was the fact that Egypt made a mean cheeseburger (paraphrase) and they missed it. In many other cases, people even fell back into idolatry as if they were chomping at the bit to get back into these old habits.

I can accuse Israel of being selfish, impatient, and ignorant all day, but I have to look into the mirror. We tend to be like 4 year olds who do not know where they are going, when God calls us to follow. That is the temptation, at least. We want to know NOW, and if we are not informed then we begin to look back at our past as a comfortable and controllable existence. Faith is the concept of believing in that which we cannot see. We can accept that cognitively, but it is so hard to act as if it were true.

If we ask God, in honest times of prayer, to guide us we must be ready for uncertainty and discomfort. Also, we must be ready to move when He does instead of complain about our lack of knowledge, resources, abilities, and influence. Just follow.

The world is a dark place. It needs us to follow. It needs us to be uncertain but resolute. It needs us to be all in for Christ. What is stopping us?

-Landon DeCrastos

8 Unhealthy Christian Behaviors

8 UnhealthyChristianBehaviorsIf you are a normal Christ-follower, you have probably failed in the past. In fact, I guarantee that there was some crisis moment that called you to repentance. Whether it be something one would consider catastrophic to a simple recognition of the need to change. Whatever the case may be, there was once a time in which God woke you up from a spiritual slumber. The purpose of following Jesus,though, is not to make mean people nice, or even bad people good. It is to reveal to people that resurrection is possible, and in fact, needed. As a Christian, I mishandle the treasure of salvation daily, and there are times I forget that God’s power is available to me. I am in need of a resurrection.

As I have observed Christians as a whole, I have noticed that I am definitely not the only one that struggles (as implied above). There are unhealthy behaviors that become natural temptations for the believer and I think they need to be addressed in all of our lives. I have named a few here but there are many more. Yes, they are sinful and need to be stopped.

The following are 8 Unhealthy Christian Behaviors

1. Gossip– This virus…This rotten, hate-filled, ugly monster of a behavior easily rips through souls and congregations as if they are a paper bag. Think I am being a little harsh? I feel it is not harsh enough. Countless numbers of families, friendships, and churches have been split apart because of the seed that gossip plants. There is a difference between “hearing a prayer request” and gossip. Pray that God gives you the discernment (not the desire to justify) to make the distinction. AND, before pointing fingers, evaluate your own heart. So what if Sandy Smith (made up name) was seen at a rated R movie…have you been in God’s word consistently lately? Take this as a caution not an accusation. 

2. Duplicity– One of the hardest things to convince a nonbeliever is that this Christian life is relevant outside of the walls of the church. It absolutely is, but how much of a testimony are we displaying if we abandon our beliefs when we leave the worship service and pick them up again next Sunday? It just doesn’t make sense. The spirit of God is available to us 24/7. He desires to make us whole at home as well. Don’t be a different person in private…stay consistent.

3. Unforgiveness– The Christ-centered life revolves around forgiveness. It is the most unique doctrine in the world. The fact that the Creator of the universe, knowing that we messed up everything, has forgiven us… THAT is powerful. Why, then, do we think we are more powerful? I mean, why do we think we can withhold forgiveness to ourselves or others? Think about that… A precious gift that is given to be distributed. Amazing.

4. Arrogance– Christians should look at themselves as the servants to the world, not the rulers of all in it. This is how we operate. So, to think that our belief system somehow makes us superior to anyone is absurd. Sure, we have an excellent eternity to look forward to, but we are called to serve…not to be served. Yes, we are God’s children so there is a royal implication, but this kingdom is much different that what we are used to reading about. It is a kingdom of willing sacrifice, worship, and surrender.

5. Ignoring Conviction– If you get tired of defending your actions (even when no one is condemning them) you may be under conviction about something. This is okay. It is natural. It is simply God telling you to do something else. Aren’t you glad that we serve a God that cares enough to convict you? Give up your need to be right all the time, and defend your habits, or life patterns. Truly listen to what God has to say. Then, make the changes necessary. You will find joy in it.

6. Discontentment– There is a gray area here that I will openly admit. On one hand, it could be that God is calling you to something bigger. On the other hand, it could be that God is calling you to bloom where you are planted. In any case, though, it seems like we often get into the destructive habit of constantly being unhappy with God’s provision or His call. We want more, and bigger, and better, and rarely praise Him when things are rough or seemingly sparse. Why? He created the universe with His voice. Why can’t He create more out of our little? Sure, we can tell Him we will give more if we have more, but should He really give us more if we are not extravagantly generous with what we currently have? Will He not provide? Be content each step of the way, and pray that you recognize when He is calling you forward. 

7. Apathy– I encounter Christians, regularly, who just don’t care anymore. Perhaps they are in a spiritual slump or have unplugged from God for a while for some reason. They would not consider themselves and unbeliever, but there is definitely a hallow feeling…a “blah” feeling in their spirit. In these cases, I think God wants us to pursue Him harder than ever. Get back to the fundamentals. Reading scripture, prayer, and community worship are a great start. You will break through this… Keep reminding yourself that God’s grace does not run out just because you are tired. His power is still fully charged and ready to engage the enemy.

8. Worry– Christians call it “concern”. Stop it. He’s got this. Do I really need to remind you of the thousands of times God has come through? Do I need to remind you of the times God’s people helped you through hard times? Do I need to remind you about the times where God revealed a little personal message to you through His word? Nah…of course I don’t. You remember. If you haven’t heard this lately, let me be the one to say it…everything is going to be fine. Bigger things have happened and greater miracles are right around the corner.

I hope, as you read these, you realize that I am in the same boat. Let’s all get on an exciting new journey where we reject the things that look nothing like Jesus. It’s okay to change direction as long as it is facing toward the Father. Unaddressed unhealthy behaviors can lead to a domino affect that will create a bitterness in your heart for what God considers good.

Reflect. Recalibrate. Return to His design.

-Landon DeCrastos

Follow the Way

Have you ever heard something over and over and, after a while, it sounded like nails on a chalkboard? Every once in a while I hear something that does this to me. Many times it is a phrase or piece of advice that is meant to uplift people’s spirits but the central message is against scripture and often harms development.

A few days ago, I happened upon a facebook page that was dedicated to posting different inspirational phrases to uplift people. It was rather pleasant. I decided to scroll down and check out the phrases that have been used and then I saw it…..it was ugly…it was terrible….it was incredibly misleading. It said, “Be a leader….not a follower.” I almost choked on the water I was drinking…..My first thought was  “did I read that correctly?” Yes….yes I did.

Now, before you send me hate mail, let me explain why I do not like this phrase.

We always hear stories about great leaders and their influence on others. Whether it be politicians, pastors, CEO’s or supervisors, many of us love the idea of having the ability to lead others. Leaders are visioncasters; they guide cultural change. The purpose of this inspirational phrase is to motivate people to want to change the world, set trends, and be unique. It is misleading.

What about followers? God teaches us in the Bible that followers are equally important. For some reason we have gotten the idea that followers are non-thinking robots and ultimately easily manipulated. This is simply not true.

The disciples are a great example of how followers are needed. I know what you are thinking….The disciples of Jesus eventually became leaders and preached the gospel publicly. This is true but they had to go through a period of sitting at the feet of Jesus to learn and assist Him. They were organized and effective in the ministry because they followed.

Do you feel called to ministry? This is great, but I encourage you to pray about whether God has called you to a formal pastoral ministry or to being a passionate lay person. Pastors yearn for lay people to help implement vision.

Today, instead of seeking to be a leader….seek to be a follower of Jesus…..then simply obey. God will lead you to the opportunties necessary to build His kingdom. If you are a Godly follower others will be influenced by you.

Don’t discount those who follow. They may be specifically called of God to do so.

Following

Lately I have been reading the gospels and reflecting on what it truly means to follow Jesus. Some would cite social action and others would emphasize careful study and prayer. We can all agree that both of these are needed…and abundantly so (James 2:17). Even surpassing these things, however is a task that is even more difficult. It is something that we must cling to in order to combat the negativity that the world is throwing at us. It is something that gives an answer to the doubting spirit and energy to the weathered soul. We find examples of what this concept is in the descriptions of who followed Jesus.

We all may know about the 12 disciples. These men followed the Savior for the full length of His ministry. What about the other followers described in the Gospels? Well, when we look at Scripture we find that, over the course of His ministry, Jesus gained a large following. People flocked to him as they witnessed and heard about great miracles that he had performed. They followed after Jesus touched them and commanded them to walk when walking had never been a possibility. Mute people gained the ability to tell stories of His good works. People followed Jesus because of the great things He had done for them and the eloquent words that He spoke.

But… what about the disciples? When Jesus called them to follow, He had never done anything for them. He had not given them a healing touch or had never preached an exciting message to gain their applause. He just simply said “follow me”. So, the concept that needs to be grasped is obedience for obedience sake.

I don’t know about you but I want to be one of the twelve. I want to follow Jesus through the exciting, boring, everyday, and extraordinary. Not only because He has done so much for me…but simply because He said “follow”.

-Landon DeCrastos