7 Things I Learned in 2015

7 Things I Learned in 2015Just accept it now. On all of your checks, occupational paperwork, and other important documentation, you are going to write 2015 for approximately 4 weeks. If you are lucky, you will cease this trend before February, but let’s just all agree that there is grace for those who do this. Don’t worry. You will learn to correct this mistake.

You will also go to the gym religiously until February 19th and then life will make it harder to commit. Okay, so I may not be giving humanity enough credit, but whatever our fate may be in 2016, it is vital to look back on the previous year to reflect on the lessons that we learned. For me, there could be a hundred pages filled with nuggets of wisdom I have gained. Today, I want to talk about just 7 of them.

These are 7 Lessons I learned in 2015:

I don’t have to understand God’s plan

This lesson is a hard one for many believers to accept. We often think that, in order for God’s plan to be holy, beneficial, and redemptive then it has to pass through our mental and emotional filter. The fact is God has an amazing and powerful plan for each one of us, and the more we fight Him on this, the less joy we get out of the process. We must learn to trust even when it doesn’t make sense.

God is not my helper

When I see the bumper sticker, “God is my co-pilot”, I have want to ask why. The reason for this popular cliché is probably because humanity has a tendency to want to be in control. Scripture tells us that God does not belong in the passenger’s seat, or even in the driver’s seat (sorry Carrie Underwood), but He is the road, the signs, the car, the engine and the fuel. My prayer life has changed from, “God, please help” to, “Lord, please guide”. I have learned that God desires for me to be ready for His will not impose mine upon Him.

People don’t want to just hear about Jesus…

I could be the best preacher in the country, but if my spiritual walk does not match the words that are coming out of my mouth then I am a fraud. People don’t want to just hear about Jesus; they want to see Him in action. This is not only in my life that is lived outside of the church doors, but also in the life I live in private.

I can’t do life on my own

When we feel hurt, afraid, or disappointed it is easy to tell ourselves the lie that we can do better on our own. We think the remedy for alleviating all hurt is isolation. When this line of thinking is embraced, we see things like addiction, self abuse, and depression talk full hold. God made us for His glory, but His glory can be seen in the context of community and pouring into the lives of others…or allowing others to pour into us.

Often we are the only obstacle in our spiritual growth

I can’t tell you how many people I have ministered to that had no desire to grow, but only the desire to be served. This may seem harsh but there has to come a point where we start to own our mistakes, faults, and the scars of our past and seek to overcome the hurdles. Sure, there is grace and mercy available for all, and there are none that lack a certain level of brokenness, but we can’t stay there. As a Christ-following community we must understand what it means to love, and serve, but to also allow people to be stretched in their faith. Pain can be our biggest catalyst for growth. In my experience, I have realized that sometimes I don’t allow myself to grow, because what I am doing is still Godly, and it is also comfortable. I stand in my own way.

Prayer works even when it doesn’t work

I am fortunate enough to have been born into a legacy of believers that has seen the power of prayer. This doesn’t mean, however, that I do not become discouraged when God does not answer when I expect Him to. What if God plans to answer our prayer, but it is not imperative that we have a hand in it? Think about Moses. Moses’ prayer was that his people would be set free, and given their own homeland just as God promised. The Lord honored this prayer in His timing, and the people inherited a land that was fertile, rich, and accommodating. Moses, though, did not get to experience it. It may be hard to hear, and maybe you will see the answer, but God’s plans are bigger than your wants, fears, and even dreams. It could also be that God is waiting for you to let go of the outcome. Keep praying, but surrender to whatever the answer may be. Don’t let your feelings dictate your prayers.

My contentment is my responsibility

I cannot rely on other people, situations, or outcomes to control my level of contentment. This posture is one that stems from a decision in my own heart and mind. As Christians, this lesson can be a tempting one to disregard. Sometimes, when something looks discouraging, we tend to equate that with “God’s leading” and thus avoid any more hurt. In all actuality, He could have a completely different purpose for allowing you to go through it. Personal growth, of course is the goal when faced with difficulty, but perhaps the goal is also the growth of someone else.

Trust God’s agenda.

As you anticipate what 2016 will bring, look for lessons you can reflect on. Don’t just survive.

Love you all

-Landon DeCrastos

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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

Those Crazy Church People Part 5

ImageMy son is 20 months old now. I can’t tell you how many times I hear my son looks more like his mother. This is okay with me though because he is such a handsome boy and I am glad he inherited her traits. Just like my wife, he has the most beautiful blue eyes. They are somewhat hypnotic. In addition to those comments, people also tell me that my son has many of my personality characteristics. He loves any sport that includes a ball; he has my sense of humor, and he loves to read books (or act like he is reading…which is what I did to get through college).

If we are determined to live a life of faithful surrender to God’s plan, then we have to figure out who or what we resemble the most. The answer to this question will help guide us so we are more aware of our place on the spectrum of spiritual growth. Do we have more of the characteristics of popular culture, persuasive peers, or convenient preferences? Or, do the traits of our life closer resemble the sacrifice, surrender, and passion of Jesus Christ? In case you didn’t know…the world is actually not looking for a Christianity that resembles everything else they are used to. Deep inside all humanity is the need to hear the truth of God’s mercy, love, and righteousness.

We have a message that is so profound that we can’t afford to let it be put aside because it is unpopular. Christ is risen…God is love… Salvation is available to all. Go and represent this to the world.

-Pastor Landon

Those Crazy Church People

What is the purpose of church? Why can’t we just worship God and leave it at that? Churches are intimidating places, so why can’t we just be a Christian in solitude? Why do I need to spend time with people who bother me from time to time? Why are there so many hypocrites in the church? These have been questions that have rattled around in my brain many times. Perhaps you have thought one of them at some point. Each one of these questions are valid and observable. So, what is the point?

Think of church (the weekly gathering) as a place in which imperfect people, who sometimes fail, get together to worship God and learn. Are there still hypocrites? Yes, of course….but that has never stopped anyone from going to the mall or their local grocery store. These places are packed full of people who do not live consistent lives, and the experience is not centered around God. When we attend a regular gathering such as church, we are engaging in a safe controlled experience in which we learn how to deal with conflict, grow deeper in our faith, and what it means to live a life that looks more and more like Jesus Christ. We grow closer to God when we show others mercy, handle conflict in a health way, and seek maturity in our walk.

Church is more than just a place to be seen once a week. It is a place that requires effort, and sacrifice. Choose to become more mature in your faith. Ask God to guide you in this process.
….to be continued

-Pastor Landon