In Despair

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. – Matthew 14:17-21

When looking at this passage, it is easy to think that the disciples and all the people gathered were on “cloud 9” after seeing the amazing miracle that had taken place. In review of the story, Jesus had just blessed the contents of a little boy’s meager lunch and used it to feed over 5000 people (in those days only men were counted…so there could have been exponentially more people). Often when we read this story we talk about how God provides and He can do anything. This is absolutely true, but I think it is easy to miss the important detail of what Jesus and the disciples were going through during this time.

If you look at what happened right before this popular event, you will see something that potentially brought God-followers into a deep emotional and spiritual valley. John the Baptist was killed. He was beheaded as a present for Herod’s birthday. He was gone.

People who followed Jesus would have probably looked at this as a massive blow to their cause and movement. Some may have even thought that it was time to give up. Many would have been very afraid to continue following Jesus. All would have felt the devastation.

Imagine the scene. So many people gathered and many with their heads down in despair. They were hungry and probably very tired. Then, Jesus provided nourishment for them all as if to tell them that everything was going to be okay. Jesus knew that John’s sacrifice was not going to be in vain and that there was still hope in the midst of discouragement. No matter how dark things looked, it only took a little light to set the world ablaze. Jesus knew that this was a pivotal moment in their lives and they needed to pay attention. They were going to be the people who brought the gospel to the world!

Remember this today. Whatever darkness you are going through…in Jesus there still is hope. Even if the deadline has passed. God is still on the throne and His timing is perfect.

Trust Him today.

Prayer for today: Jesus, help me to rely on you every moment of the day. Thank you for who you are and your abundant grace. Amen

Do You Want Sin With That?

burgerSometimes there is nothing more convenient that taking a little detour through your local fast food establishment, and picking up a greasy burger. No matter how much of a health nut you are, anyone can admit that the ease of picking up a cheap meat-fix is unrivaled by any other nourishment. Doctors will tell us that these meals are not a part of a recommended diet…and sometimes, when these health professionals tell us this all we hear is Charlie Brown’s teacher. In fact I think there have been times when my doctor has explained the dangers of this type of diet and all I could think about was who currently has a promo for a sandwich with a pretzel bun.

Since my family has been eating healthier, this type of eating is more rare, but it still creeps into our regimen from time to time. It really isn’t detrimental if it is extremely rare, and every one knows that moderation is key in this context. No matter how often I tell myself this though, it seems like I fall into old habits and it is just so easy to eat this way regularly. No matter how many times someone tells me that this lifestyle is okay in moderation, the temptation sucks me in. I have realized that I have to be extra careful. The truth is there have been times when I have been addicted to this food. It starts with one meal, then someone else will pay the next day, and then we get home late the next day and that time is supposed to be our last. We then reflect on our month, and it is riddled with cheap meals with little nutritional value. When we are in the moment, there are so many excuses…they seem to make so much sense.

Something else interesting happens… I have found that, when I eat this way, I become more lethargic about my health. It becomes a lower priority, and relaxing moves higher on the list.

When we are involved in sin, we see similar symptoms. Each action seems okay in moderation, but after a while we begin to make excuses for why we are entitled to feel the way we do. We become lethargic about our own transformation because it is too hard. You see, sin is a form of spiritual nourishment…At the time it seems so satisfying and a craving is extinguished for a temporary time, but the more we allow ourselves to be overcome by it, we realize the power it has over us. Our anger, unforgiveness, addictions, or pride seems justified at the time and the easiest thing in the world is to give into it. THEN, as we become more comfortable with this lifestyle of giving into temptation, we become less comfortable with healthy behaviors (i.e. church, fellowship, giving, prayer, etc). If we allow it to win, we then find ourselves feeding bitterness until we transform into a being we were never intended to be.

Stop making excuses and choose health over sin. God loves you too much to allow you to be hypnotized into death.

-Landon DeCrastos

16 Almonds: 4 Lessons During My Journey

AlmondsIt has been 12 days since I have started my physical and spiritual journey. On June 29th I posted a blog called “Welcome to My Struggle”, where I recorded a very personal reflection on the state of, not only my waistline, but an idol that I worshipped. These days have contained discouragement, victory, and periods of waiting. Yes, I know 12 days is not a lot, but God has really spoken to me during this time. I would compare it to a different type of fasting in which God has been able to take control and lift the fog that was clouding my heart and mind.

So far, I have learned 4 things as I have been in this process.

1. Hunger doesn’t always mean I am hungry– We all know that sometimes it is easy to raid the pantry or give in to tempation because we may be bored or something just tastes good. Over time, as I innocently gave into the idol I worshipped, the control I thought I had was given over to something inanimate. An object that has no personality or thoughts was controling the way I thought and functioned. I believe God desires more from me.

2. It’s okay to want something and not get it– This is a hard lesson for many people to learn. I can’t tell you how many times I would have sold a kidney on the black market for a piece of cake or a doughnut, but each time I said no I felt like I was taking control away from the enemy and allowed the one who created my body to do what He intended for me. I believe God will provide.

3.  A serving size is enough– When I started making a plan for eating and snacking at work, I knew that almonds were going to be a good choice for me. They are a healthy snack, and quite tasty. The first few days, I missed somthing very important…16 almonds is a serving size. Did you know that? 16 measly almonds is how much one person is supposed to eat…then stop…in one sitting. I don’t like that…I want to keep eating until I feel completely full, but…16 almonds it is *sigh*. I think this teaches me a lesson. Sometimes I think more and more and more is barely enough…sometimes I think too much is almost lacking. I always want to fill the void with other things other than what I know the truth is. More almonds will be there later. So, I only eat 16 almonds. I have “almond time” 2 times a day. I have learned to be content with that, and I am loving it. I believe God can be trusted and His way is right.

4. Darkness makes me hungry– I have learned to not eat before I go to bed. This is because the hunger will never end if this beast is appeased. Traditionally, I have had massive cravings for sweets in the evening…the idol was worshipped more at night than any other time. There is something to think about here. In darkness sin multiples. This is because sin is easy to conceal when the lights are out…figuratively. The problem is sin doesn’t happen in darkness necessarily, but actually brings the darkness. Then the offender feels alone and a deeper hatred for oneself occurs. I believe God wants me to declare victory!

The first few days were very hard, because my habits kept begging me for a second chance. They have had their chance and they did not bring fulfillment. It is time to embrace enough, and continue to run after Jesus! More to come. Keep praying!

7 lbs down so far.

-Landon DeCrastos

Welcome to My Struggle

struggleI weigh 200 lbs. There, I said it. I weigh 200 lbs. It is not all muscle either. I am only 5’6” and this makes me obese. That may not sound like much in your opinion, but I have been struggling with an addiction most of my life.

For a lot of you reading this, you will skim through the statistics and make some joke of it like I often do. Please don’t.

We do this because many times, when we talk about our waistline , and other habits we hope that, if we make a joke of it, people will not notice the sin that is consuming us. Welcome to my struggle. One of sin, and a desperate fight for salvation. I am addicted to food. Iam not talking about the fact that I like to eat. I mean it bothers me when people leave uneaten food on their plate. I don’t mind being that guy who eats the last…well…anything. As a pastor, it is difficult to preach on things like addiction when I am struggling through one of my own. Except, for some reason, mine is more socially acceptable. People need to eat.

My grandfather on my Dad side died when he was 66 years old. He died in 2000, and he did so after giving up on life. He had been struggling for years with diabetes, chronic pain, multiple heart attacks, and a few strokes. These were all symptoms of a food addiction. I look a lot like him. I have the same king of beard, the same build, and the same thinning hair on the top of my head. He had a passion for writing and I have actually featured his writing on my blog. My grandmother had to hide food from him and yelled at him when got into the stash of those yummy candy orange slices. My grandmother also battled a similar addiction and died of heart failure due to the vice. After her death, my grandfather gave up and told us he did not want to go to dialysis anymore. Then…it was only a matter of weeks. He was gone.

So, here I am now. I am 200 lbs…which is actually the heaviest I have ever been. I have severe back pain, and I get winded easily. Getting on the ground and playing with my children makes me tired. I have been perfectly okay with my sin for far too long. It is time to do something about it. Something has to change.

I know what you are thinking. You have read some workout magazines or saw on Pinterest that it is not the pounds that matters but the waistline or the ratio of muscle to fat. Well…either way I need to lose weight. I need to break free of the chains of what is holding me down. What I have realized is that whether it is a sin that is out in the open or one that is behind closed doors…we suffer because of what tries to pull us down, and we subsequently give in to.

So, one thing I have felt led to do is to attack my most ferocious demon. Sweets. I am a sugar-o-holic. I am going to cut out desserts, and other kinds of sweets for 90 days. Along it this, I am going to dramatically increase my water intake. I am not focusing on pounds, but I beleive as I lose weight, I will grow.

Pray for me and help keep me acountable and I keep you updated on my progress. I specifically want to thank my trainer, John Powers, and my wife who have been the most recent people in my life encouraging me to be better in this area.

I want to be free. I want God to be glorified in my life. It is about more than losing weight. It is about attacking Hell. It is about showing my kids that they do not have to be controlled by their bellies and can fully run after Jesus to fulfill them.

I want to live.

-Landon DeCrastos

Fruit Filling

In the last 7 days I have lost 5.5 pounds. You may want to congratulate me, but it has not been a fun experience. Have I been sick? No…actually I have been feeling very well. Have I discovered a creative new weight loss method? Nope. This result has come to me because somewhat of a change in my thought process.

You see I have been struggling with my weight my entire life. This fact used to be associated with a lot of hang ups and insecurities, but God has taken me through a great healing. A few years ago, I asked God to deliver me from this life of sin and addiction. Food is my vice.

I could justify it pretty easily. My grandparents, when they were alive, would make all of their meals from scratch and had a giant bar in their dining room in which they would lay out copious amounts of food. We would stuff ourselves until we couldn’t move. Until a few years ago, I considered that to be the main reason why I was in this battle. I have since realized that wasn’t the reason I was at war with myself, but it was only another battleground.

I have lost weight in the last week because I have made an effort not to eat things like cake, cereal, cookies, pie, or any other sweets before bed time. I have also decided not to over eat during meals. That’s it. No magic formula. It does, however, require self control (which I hate).

The interesting thing about this is… if someone would have told me that this was the answer then I would have sighed and asked them for a better answer. I am a representative of our society and we stand united in saying that there needs to be a more convenient, fast, and user friendly way of finding these sorts of blessings. Self control has become a villainous word in our culture especially when it comes to subjects such as food sex, or even money. Isn’t there a better way other than to hold myself accountable and enter into this battle for life? To be honest…there isn’t. Luckily there is a God who wants to continually equip us with the ability to say no to excess.

Self control is a fruit of the spirit… This means that out Christian live is proven by the fruitful behavior we are displaying. I want to be filled with type of fruit

Fruit….Ok now I am craving a pie filled with fruit filling…wait…SNAP OUT OF IT LANDON!

-Landon DeCrastos