An Honest Letter to Jesus

Letter to JesusDear Father,

We need to talk. I know it has only been a few hours since I sat down and had a time of prayer, but I can’t help but think you didn’t hear me. Why? I assume this, not because I think you don’t listen, but because of what and how I prayed. I was in a rush, and didn’t really approach you with the reverence and awe that I should feel. I just…talked. Not only this, but I lied in my prayer and said things I don’t believe. We need to talk because I need to point out the lies I told you in my last prayer. I just want to be honest even if it hurts your feelings. Let’s see…where do I begin?

First, I called you sovereign. Meaning, I implied that you are the ruler of my life. That was a big lie, because of the way I often live. I seem to rely on my own resources, ideas, and sufficiency to get me through the day, and I only seem to pray when I need something or I feel guilty. So, to claim you are my king is quite the overstatement.

Next, I told you I was grateful for all you have provided. The fact is, I am not really that grateful. I say that sometimes in hopes that you will “expand my territory” and fatten my bank account because of my perceived humilty. Truthfully, I want more, but I know if I say that out loud you will put me in humbling situations, so spiritually I try to lay low and avoid risks to stay under the radar. Overall, in this area, I really want a comfortable cushion of stuff and influence so I don’t have to worry about my future.

Also, I included those who are broken in my prayer, and really I didn’t care. In the back of my mind, I really just wanted you to fix my problems. This is where I rushed things. I skipped through this part, because there were other things I thought were more important that had to do with my needs. I included that other hurting person in the first place so I didn’t sound so selfish. If I were to be honest, I would tell you that I really just want you to stop my pain. I don’t want to go through suffering or anything difficult. I don’t want to be an example to others. I just don’t want to hurt.

Finally, the biggest lie I told was at the end of my last prayer. I told you that I wanted your will to be done in my life. I really don’t. I mean, I do, but as long as it fits in with my plans. It just feels better when things work out in my timing, and in my way.

You see, I have been learning more about this concept of “belief”. This is why I am writing. I have found out that I can cognitively agree with a concept, but if I do not live it then I don’t complete the cycle of belief…so it is as if I don’t believe it at all. In my mind, I believe all of these good things listed, but for some reason my life does not always reflect these concepts.

I guess I, now, understand the story in Mark chapter 9 when you cast an impure spirit out of the little boy. The boy’s father wondered if you could do it and you told him that anything is possible to those who believe. Then this man said something confusing. He said, “I believe; help me in my unbelief.” My first thought when reading this was, “you either believe or you don’t; pick one dude!” I get it now. I can agree in my mind, but if I am not talking, walking, and acting as if it is true than I have not fully believed it. Certainly, I know doubts will come, but I get that sometimes I just need to go forward in truth.

So, I confess that I have lied. I have always known you are sovereign; help me to overcome my lack of surrender. I have always been grateful; help me overcome my times of complaint. Also, help me be reminded of all you have provided, and miracles that you have performed. Help me to be a conduit of your compassion to the broken and hurting. I really do want your will to be done in my life and on earth as it is in Heaven. Move me aside daily and show your power.

Overall, sorry about the lies. I will try to do better. Thanks for the talk. Love you…seriously I do.

Sincerely,

Your Willing Servant

Christianity Just Isn’t For Me Anymore

Christianity  Just Isn't For Me Anymore (1)I’m done. I can no longer lie to myself and others and act like everything is okay. I am tired of the faith I have had, and it is time to make a change. A major one. This may be confusing to some, but it is something I have to do. I have made my decision, and I am sticking with it. Christianity just isn’t for me anymore. I know this seems shocking, but let me tell you why…In the form of a true story.

A good friend of mine (Becky) told me a story about her husband Tom that caused me to completely reconsider who I was, and how I viewed my faith. Tom is a devout Christian. He is a guy who has a past that he was not particularly proud of, but found God’s grace and has been growing in Christ for many years. He loves Jesus. Every day, Tom listens to Christian music at work, and the other guys at the car dealership that he is a mechanic at call him “preacher boy” because of his faith in God. No one really minds the music except for Bill. Every time Tom turns on the radio, Bill wants to smash the thing with a hammer. The songs are like nails on a chalk board.

Bill is very verbal about the fact that he hates the way Tom is, and he can’t stand his (insert expletive) music. In his mind, this God that Tom worships is the biggest fraud in the universe, and there should be some sort of law banning such devotion. There have been many occasions in which Bill has threatened physical harm if the music was not turned off. So, on many occassions…Tom has shut off the music because he certainly does not want to burn any bridges. Okay…so the music is off, but there is still something about Tom that is really irritating. No matter how many times Bill yells and complains about Christianity (the biggest scam in history), the nicer Tom becomes. For instance, prayer is a waste of time, in fact because it is a cycle of meaningless behavior. If it wasn’t, and if this God was as good as people says He is, then why did He allow Bill’s mother to suffer and die a painful death at the hands of cancer. Bill has always seemed angry. He was angry.

One day, the rest of the staff went to a fast food place to get a quick bite to eat and spend some time together. When they got back from their meal, they passed Bill (who stayed back to work instead of go out to lunch) sprinting out to his car. He had a look of pure shock and panic on his face. No one knew what was wrong.

Later, the rest of Bill’s coworkers found out what happened. Bill’s adult daughter died earlier that morning. His wife found her, and called her husband at work. She was gone. For Bill, the grief was intense, confusing, and emotional. No one could imagine the pain he was experiencing. No one should have to.

Tom and Becky really struggled with whether they should go to the funeral. I mean…Bill hated Tom and that was no secret. For some reason, despite this, they went. When Tom got to the funeral, he caught Bill’s eye. Bill came over to Tom, looked him right in the eye, and embraced him while melting into a tear-filled puddle. All Bill could do was cry as if Tom was the one Bill was waiting for to become vulnerable in public. For years, Bill hated God. He knew He was there, but there was not even a desire to have a relationship with Him. Tom consistently showed Bill who God really was…through action and unconditional love. Now, Bill was leaning on Him for hope.

So, why am I telling you this story? I am tell you this, because I think it shows us what this faith-life is supposed to be about. As Christians, we can spend hours going to church, reading our Bibles, praying, and living clean lives, but if the point in our own minds is to make us feel better, or even make us better people, then we are completely missing the boat. I have come to the conclusion that the Christian life has little to do with us, and everything to do with Christ and Him using us to be hope distribution centers. We are called to be second. Yes, of course we are supposed to grow in our knowledge and love for Him, but that is only step 1.

So, I am done. I am done living this life for my own “fire insurance” and hoarding spiritual blessings so I can openly say I am going to Heaven. I am done allowing my faith to be steered by what makes me feel good or what I am inspired most by in my life. I am done chasing miracles for my own enjoyment, and laying confortablly in piles of grace.

It is time to make myself available to God like Tom did…and love no matter what. Not because it will make me a better person, but because I am a new person, who has a mission.

Love you all whether you like it or not.

-Landon DeCrastos

The story is true but the names were changed to protect the privacy of those involved.

6 Things Pastors Are Tired of Hearing

clergyYou may not know this, but if you go to a church, or are “shopping around” for one that fits you there are some things that you may not know about what the pastor is actually thinking. Pastors put on a great front and try to paint on a fake smile, but deep down inside we are cringing at what you just said to us. Don’t get me wrong, we know your heart and know you have the best intentions behind what you are saying to us, but quite frankly, sometimes we also have a bad day and want to throw a tantrum. We are not allowed to though, because we are pastors, and our angel wings are at the cleaners getting polished for the potluck next week. If I am to be brutally honest, some phrases we hear from our parishioners sound like a broken record. I may be out of bounds, and presumptuous by thinking I can speak for all pastors, but I know I can safely speak for many.

Here are 6 things we are tired of hearing…

1. Pastor, it’s not about the numbers… – You know what?!? It is about the numbers. It is all about the numbers. Think about this…as a pastor, a man or woman dedicates their whole life to service for one purpose; spreading the Gospel among as many people as possible. We have sacrificed time, energy, money, and friends to boldly go into whatever mission field God has called us to go and impact as many as we can. So, when people take this lightly, it really stings. As pastors, we get tired of hearing this, because many honestly don’t even think about church until Saturday evening. Do us a favor, and help us spread the message God has called us to…

2. Children are the church of tomorrow- False. Just because they are not good tithers, doesn’t mean they can’t impact the kingdom like anyone else. Children are the church of right now, and should be incorporated into every part of the church body that their abilities can handle.

3. A few people have said…–  No…they didn’t. You and Mrs. Jones don’t count when presenting me with that phrase. You are lovely contributors to the kingdom, but Mrs. Jones complains about everything, and if anyone else really said anything about this I will give you $1000. Send around a petition and we will talk. Love you by the way…

4. The church down the road…– Let me stop you right there… First, there is only one Church, and just because that congregation is growing rapidly doesn’t mean they are sinning or “watering down the word”. It could actually be that they are experiencing a revival that God has brought. Second, they are our brothers and sisters. It is our job to help them grow…WHAT?!?! Yes…you hear me right. We are not their competition. We are their support and extended family. Now, put on your big boy pants and pray for them. Love you by the way…

5. Remember when...- It is sometimes a lot of fun to reminisce about things from the past. We only get tired of hearing this when it stands in the way of reaching more people. Remember, what brought us here will not necessarily get us there…I can admit, though, that it is easy to sometimes “throw the baby out with the bath water” and overlook the fact that there are some things we used to do that may work now.

6. I’m only human– Ok…excellent. Now you can sin all you want. Whew… NOPE. The fact is, you are not only human. If you know Christ, and desire to grow in Him, within you dwells a divine substance. The Christian life takes work, and thank God for the grace of correction.

Brothers and sisters…please understand my heart in these writings. It is not an attempt to shame anyone, but a light-hearted look on things that I think we really need to ponder. Let us be thoughtful in the words we speak and Biblical in the thoughts we think. Love you by the way…

-Landon DeCrastos

Time to Be Honest

I was surfing the web today when I came across something very interesting. A pastor in Virginia used one of my blog posts in her church newsletter. You can see the church newsletter here. It was written based on my blog entitled “The Truth About My Church (And Others)” .

In this letter, she adds a portion that I would like to respond to publicly. It is a great question and one that needs exploring. It is a question about the role of openness and honesty in the pastoral position. Basically, the pastor wants to know the result of such openness. Allow me to respond through an example.

Today was an incredible day at my church. It was an informal service in which everything was simplified. We had a good crowd there, sang a capella Christmas songs, experienced communion, and most notably heard many spontaneous testimonies. These testimonies were amazing and depicted the reality of God’s saving grace, healing power, and His general faithfulness despite our circumstances. We heard testimonies of people being delivered from addiction, and saved from certain destruction. We also heard about struggles currently happening in the lives of some. These struggles were articulated to gain support and accountability for the strugglers growth in the faith.

As a pastor, I can stand up in front of my congregation all day and tell them what they ought to do. As author Calvin Miller says in his book called “Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition”….a preacher, in some cases, is a “veteran sinner that tells amateur sinners what they ought not to do.” I don’t adhere to the fullness of that statement, but I understand the concept and agree with the heart behind it. If I think for one moment that I am somehow more elite than everyone else then my testimony is not beneficial.

Studying to be a pastor, I started out thinking that church growth and encouraging people into involvement was based in production, staging, and talent. What I have found through experience is that churches grow in depth and number when the leadership and attenders are authentic, honest, and caring. No matter the style of music or the way the preacher delivers his or her message, people generally want to feel welcome, they want to know that the faith they are observing is real to those who follow and they want to know that they matter to the community.

When we are real about our imperfections; we will see growth. We may have a fear that people will run for the hills, but if we truly believe that God is real and active than no amount of marketing or false fronts will surpass His blessing in our lives.

These are the types of things that get me up in the morning.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Man They Call Lincoln

If you have known me for a long period of time, you may know that my favorite American historical figure is Abraham Lincoln. When I choose books to read, if the subject matter is not ministry oriented, the book usually has something to do with his life. It is amazing to see how many biographies have been made about this man of integrity.

If you don’t know much about the details of Lincoln’s life, it is easy to jump on the Abe bandwagon. We all learned in school that he was called “Honest Abe”, and we were taught to admire him….but there are not many kids who could give much more detail than that. If one were to look at the events that surrounded his life without learning about the man himself…a person doing research may recoil and consider him to be largely, a failure.

Lincoln was a humble man who suffered from depression…not because of a chemical imbalance, and nothing that could be medicated, but one induced by life. He suffered in this way because he had seen and experienced such pain in his life that he was often a man of few words, and deep reflection.

He would have been a failure to many people in his day for many reasons. He led a nation that erupted with disunity and infighting. His decisions led to mass chaos, and death. Most of his family seemed to die from illness or develop mental illnesses. He couldn’t even protect his family (in his mind).

Why do I love learning about this man so much? It is because he allowed himself to experience this suffering for the good of those around him. He was known as a man who trusted God unwaveringly, and strived to be an example in the way he conducted his personal life. For example, as an attorney, he had the lowest prices around and there were even times when he would track a former client down to reimburse them some of their fees after feeling convicted for overcharging.

We can learn from people like this. Trust God despite adversity. Desire good.

-Landon DeCrastos