In my house, we have a special name for the local pet store. It is called the “free zoo”. At this store, we can observe and even interact with cute, fluffy creatures for as long as we want. We can pet dogs, hold bunny rabbits, and have staring contests with exotic lizards sun bathing under a lightbulb. It is great. The best thing about this place is the fact that we can enjoy the fun of learning about animals without the headache of having to take them home. My kids still have no idea that people can buy these animals, and we intend to keep it that way.
My children love the fish tanks. In our pet store, these tanks are in a separate back room with special lighting. Each tank is clearly labeled and contain dozens of the particular species being advertised. The aquariums look like little cloning experiments, because all of the fish look exactly alike. They resemble synchronized swimmers and seem to read each other’s minds.
Personally, I like the basic goldfish. I enjoy their color, and how peaceful they look in their tank. When I tap on the glass (don’t judge me), they get startled and swim away behind a fake coral reef. Then something fascinating happens. They come back to the glass as if they completely forgot what happened.
As I grow in Christ, I often wonder if I am a Christian goldfish. Do I do things just because others do them? Do I have a very short memory when it comes to the consequences of sin (or even the blessings of God)? And, most of all, do I attempt to create an isolated world of religion around me where I am protected from any suffering, disppointment, or potential risk? Sometimes, I come up undeniably short on these questions. When I do, I tend to make excuses about my frail human condition.
Unfortunately, I find that many others behave in the same fashion. The aversion to risk, selfless love, and being distributors of grace are attitudes that can devastate the growth we so desperately need.
How serious are you about seeing that the lost are found? Are you more concerned about your safety? Your comfort? Your life? Or, do you care more about what Jesus has done for the world? Christ is on a mission and we can either follow that mission or work against it.
We have a say in whether or not we fall prey to being a goldfish. The closer we get to God through worship, prayer, service and a dedication to His word, the more we start to condition ourselves for more readily hearing His voice. Our memory of His blessings become clearer and we lean on His promises more easily. When we pray, we learn what it means to selflessly intercede for others and truly rejoice when others find peace. Worship is given a new life that has little to do with us, and everything to do with God’s faithfulness. We simply learn to be instead of just do.
Today, take some time to reflect on all that God has done, and engage in risky prayers that, if answered, will turn your world upside down.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I present to you
A very sad story
Every word of it is true
The tale I am about to tell
Comes as a surprise
A narrative of a sad little bird
Who, in the end…dies
I may have given the last chapter away
Perhaps you think it ended too fast
Hold on, though, because I assure you
The lesson has not yet passed
Consider this tiny store bought bird
To expound, let’s call him Pete
Wings clipped and caged up
He was a domestic parakeet
Pete could see out of his cage
He admired the owner’s wares
He saw fancy linens displayed around
He admired the wood-carved chairs
There was something he longed to touch
He imagined himself having fun
A bright red ball, inviting him to play
Shiny and glistening in the sun
The temptation took over his mind
So much, that he thought of a plan
One day, he would escape his cage
and take the ball before he ran
The day had come when he chose
To make his final run
He knew he could open his cage
His operation would soon be done
Little did he know his wings grew back
He found out he could soar
But, he so desperately wanted that ball
And now free, even more.
He approached the ball slowly
But had a horrible surprise
The ball was too heavy
To lift it into the skies
So, not wanting to let go
Pete played with his toy
Until the family cat came by
and stole the little bird’s joy
It was fun while it lasted
But temptation took his soul
Little Pete died that day
And ended his lifelong goal
Pete could have flown away
And chosen to be free
Instead he was devoured by the cat
Without a last wish or plea
So when you are caught
Not knowing where to turn
Remember this bird
And the lesson he should have learned.
One day the choice will be in your hands
And the temporal will look so great
Simply choose life over death
Fly to freedom. Don’t take the bait.
– Landon DeCrastos
On 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.
I am a young pastor. I have limited experience on many levels, and because of that I know that there are not many who would give much weight to my words. Years ago, as a student, I could have told you what type of church I wanted to work in, and the type of people I wanted to minister to. I wanted to be a part of a church that had some history; that had thriving ministries, and had enough money in the bank to cushion any hardships that may come their way. I wanted plenty of people to pick from when it came to having a need for volunteers and I wanted a church that was progressive and valued new ideas. I had so many ideas (if money was no object and people were abundant of course). Back then, my idea of success revolved around shrinking seating space, and expanding offerings. In fact, if everything worked out well, then I may get into a church that had excellent music, incredible preaching, and a flexible congregation that really wanted to try new things.
Over a period of time, as I grew in confidence and knowledge, I began to have complaints. My first church was somewhat small, and didn’t really have much of a budget for the youth program I was leading so I often sat in my office and felt sorry for myself and blamed everything else for why my ministry wasn’t growing. I began to become jaded about the church for various reasons (they still sing from hymnals, they sat in pews, they needed new carpet, they didn’t have a very nice website). Surely all of these things PROVED they didn’t want to grow. If they valued ministy, then they would pay me more so I could do more things. I would sit around, in a mental autopilot, waiting for things to change so that “real ministry” could begin.
After being a youth pastor for a while and seeking more education, I started to realize the horrible faulty thinking I had come to believe. I realized I was the problem…not the old furniture or traditional music. It was ME. My heart and mind needed to conform to God’s.
Then, God called me to start a new church. At first, my thoughts revolved around ways this new congregation could be cutting edge, different, and set apart from any other church in town. If it was different and exciting, then people would come to my church instead of any other. If you know me now, you may be surprised that this was my thought process, because over the last 5 years God has completely transformed my heart and now I desire to lead a church much different than the one I used to crave. I have a new desire.
Now… I want to lead a church who:
…cares more about the broken than looking all put together.
…welcomes the single parent, widow, and widow and desires to be a source of encouragement for them
…prays for those who do not look, smell, or sound like them and embraces them with compassion
…will give up their comfort and be sacrificial for the advancement of the kingdom
…will put God’s word into action
…will do things that are bad for business but great for relaying the gospel
…will welcome the abused, rejected, oppressed, and hated
…will hate sin so much that they are willing to be grace agents
…will seek what sacrifice truly means
…will welcome the sinner no matter what their sin, and treat them with respect and dignity
…will follow God into the darkness; ready to be the light
…will do everything they can to see other churches grow
…will accept the fact that the Church must be real and transparent
…will not be a different person in the seats than at home
…want passionate worship instead of manufactured praise
…want to serve more than want to be served
…understand that “being fed” means feeding too
…want imperfection in-process instead of processed perfection
…desire God’s will to be done no matter church size, money in the bank, or political climate
…look at the world around them with love instead of bitterness
THAT is the church I want to lead.
I’m sure glad I do 🙂
If 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.
Have you ever tried to talk to a preschool age child (or husband) during their favorite show on TV? The lack of attention can get on your nerves. Okay…I guess you caught it. I am one of those parents who allow my child to watch TV in the morning. Hey, sometimes I am tired and I need my son just to do his own thing for a few minutes while my brain wakes up. I am horrible…I won’t even talk about the fact I don’t buy organic…OH THE AGONY!!! Call the police!
I digress….ANYWAY, have you ever been in a situation in which you have tried to have a serious conversation with someone only to find out more than halfway through that they didn’t hear or understand anything you have said t them. Frustrating huh? Or, like I mentioned above, have you ever been listening to someone talk and their tangents got in the way of the message? This can also be infuriating. Sometimes you just either want to clearly convey your message or you want to be heard.
I think God feels the same way much of the time. There are times when I am certain that He is trying to teach me something, and because of my own pride or reluctance, He can’t get through. Not because He is powerless, but because I am distracted or I have my proverbial “fingers in my ears” and I would rather follow my own way. Well, there are many things the creator of the universe tries to say to us, and we could spend all day discussing them. Today, I want to touch on a few.
Here are 6 Things God May Be Trying to Tell You today…I think all are applicable to anyone who believes.
1. No hurt goes unheard– It is so easy to begin to believe that all our suffering is falling on deaf ears. Sometimes we can pray with such passion and for such a long time that, when we don’t see the answer or relief coming, it seems like God is ignoring our plea. When we are going through these trials, God is right there with us, suffering as well. He definitely has insight into the His own perfect plan, but I can only imagine that the reason He also suffers is because He wants to bring the solution to you right now…He just knows what is perfect. He wants the best for you, and sometimes this means we have to wait. No one likes to see their child in pain…even if we know that the pain will not last forever.
2. Sometimes the answer is not as difficult as you think– When we pray, it is easy to ask that God brings a miracle that will completely change the whole situation. We often wonder how God will resolve the conflict we are facing, and trust that He will, but also concoct complicated answers that we think will solve the problem. Then, we tell God these are the steps that need to be taken to implement the miracle. The answer is often easier than that…and it involves becoming uncomfortable and barreling through to victory.
3. Doing the right thing is always the best thing– This is hard to hear. It is also hard to understand sometimes. Many times, we truly do know what is right, but often it conflicts with what is easy. What is right may hurt feelings, or change lives…but the right thing will always lead to abundance. The wrong thing may feel better in the moment…it may even relieve some pain temporarily. It will never, however, lead you into the fullness of God’s plan. The right thing also will always be in line with God’s word.
4. You will never stray too far– There are people who do not follow God because of their anger, guilt, and shame. These feelings often come from a time of reflection on the person they have become and memories of a sin-filled past. Many think that they have sinned way too much for God to accept them…this is simply not true. God wants to meet you where you are at, and give you His abundant life now. Not after you clean up your act. He is waiting.
5. You will never get too close– If you have ever had a relationship in life that has truly let you down you know exactly what I am talking about. You know, you have loved someone and trusted them deeply and they turned around and used that power against you. Guess what. Your relationship with God is nothing like that, and it will never be that way. You can cultivate a close intimate relationship with Him and expose all of your flaws. He will accept you and use it to grow, stretch, and mold your life. It is about time you let go of the fear of getting close.
6. Wearing a T-shirt doesn’t count– If you really want to know what it means to be a follower of Christ…it has nothing to do with the cool new Christian T-shirt you just bought online. You may think you are telling satan to “shove it” when you wear it around town, but what you are really doing (sometimes) is trying to find a way to display the message without living it. This will not work. God wants you…not your clothing. Inanimate objects can not be spiritually redeemed. They have no soul. Now, when you wear that inspirational t-shirt…remember this…how can you truly be a walking billboard for the creator? Add things like compassion and forgiveness to the mix as well. These will go far. Your t-shirt will doesn’t count when talking about your Christian witness.
God wants to say so much more to us. Don’t let a blog have to be the one to tell you.Open your ears, eyes, and heart. It is time to listen.
Good Morning Friends,
I wanted to personally invite you all to my Friday Update email newsletter. This newletter will keep you up to date with things going on in the life of my family, and the church that I pastor. Usually, I give an update every other Friday, and the content of this email is more personal in nature. I appreciate all of you, and I think you for the support you have given me! There is a new email update coming out today. Sign up now!