Grace is Rare

Grace Is RareUnless you have been living under a rock, you have probably read articles, or have seen news segments about recent allegations surrounding pastors who have morally fallen. Some of these stories involve sexual misconduct, and others imply that the leaders have mismanaged funds belonging to the church or organization they lead. The fallout of these allegations can be devastating. They can give their families a deep wound and tear apart the church they were once pastoring. Some ministers have been arrested, or publicly shamed for their actions and when this happens, we all know social media goes wild with comments. Certainly, if these allegations are true, we should hold the leaders accountable and they should repent of their actions. These actions come from a prideful heart and sometimes the money and influence become intoxicating.

The circumstances alluded to above can cause energetic conversation at the dinner table. These scandals are not just confined to those serving in a pulpit, though. We can all tell stories of people who we once trusted yet let us down in a catastrophic way. Odds are, if they have developed trust with us, they are probably considered a “good person” by the world’s standards. They have given to charity, encouraged their neighbor, and they even were once considered a model citizen. Then, something goes wrong, and their affair is exposed, or their unflattering mugshot is displayed on the evening news.

When these things happen, what is our response? Well, if you are the average human being with a social media account, you have 1 of 2 reactions. Either you are shocked and thrown off balance, or you proclaim with arrogance that you “knew” they were not as “squeaky clean” as everyone thought. The sad part of all of this is…far too many people have the second reaction. It is one that is very common in our culture. When we experience a person who seemingly has it together, and is living a “great” life, it is tempting to always retain a level of suspicion about them. That way, when someone messes up, we can immediately jump on the “I told you so” wagon. The reflex of distrust in these situations only takes a microsecond to develop. As a culture…distrust comes quickly.

What about the inverse, though? Why does it not work the other way around? Let’s say a person who has lived an unscrupulous life experiences a complete transformation. Perhaps this individual has hurt us many times in the past without repentance. In cases like this, our minds have been conditioned to distribute grace slowly. Why is this? Can’t forgiveness come as quickly with a person who hurt us as distrust comes after an infraction?

The reality is we live in a fallen world that is very bad at reconciliation. When someone is restored to a new life, it is tempting to not believe them until we personally see some benefit from their life. This makes us just as selfish as the transgressor. Grace is a rare commodity, and I understand that healing takes longer than being wounded, but we must get to a point in our maturity when we develop a quick forgiveness reflex. Does this mean we could be hurt? Yes…yes it does. I won’t sugarcoat it. The purpose, though, is not for us to live in euphoria…it is to share in the redemption of others. Let go of fear, and embrace forgiveness.

-Landon DeCrastos

5 Things That May Be Destroying Your Church

steepleI can give you names of people who silently suffer because of what is happening in their church. These people are pastors, leaders, and regular attenders. They feel like the walls are crumbling around them, and that many are abandoning the mission of what God has collectively called their congregation to accomplish. For some, these things aren’t a big deal. Some worship at a local congregation, and never really see the decline. They may be people who simply go to church because their spouses make them, or they consider it a sporadic hobby that keeps their parents happy. The truth is God wants your church to flourish, and to come back to your “first love” as described in the book of Revelation.

We are all humans. We all have similar experiences and hurts. With this being said I think, if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, we would see that there are specific things that are happening in our churches that may be destroying them. All churches have their unique personalities, and sometimes the issue lies in the leadership, and other times it is found in the apathy of the membership. Today, I want to talk about 5 things that may be destroying your church. Beware…

Disclaimer: Overall, sin is what is wearing away at the fabric of our churches, but these are things that are often unseen. Also, there are obviously many others that could fit here. 

1. Competitive Mentalities– As church leaders and attenders, we HAVE to stop thinking we are somehow competing with the church down the street. We are not dealing with a fast food franchise or a vicious enemy. We are talking about other brothers and sisters working towards the same mission. Take more time to pray for other congregations and genuinely seek how you can help them in their struggles. Let’s just assume the church down the street is not butchering the scripture, and start rejoicing when they rejoice and mourn when they are in sorrow. This mentality,if not taken seriously, will destroy everything if allowed to take hold.

2. Ministry Possession– Contrary to popular belief, the church kitchen is not your kitchen, the library is not your library, the pew you sit in is not your pew, and the gym is not your gym (ohh…I mean family life center). If you have given money, time, and energy to create and sustain a ministry of the church then you should be commended. These resources are God’s though; not yours. Don’t give anything if you are not willing to give it completely without the expectation of eternal ownership in it. Let God use what He will for His purposes.

3. Ignoring Scripture– We may read verses in the worship services out loud, or notice the inspirational framed segments of scripture on the foyer walls, but how many people actually have a holy fear about whether or not they are treating God’s word with proper reverence. By this, I mean, are we simply reading, or are we passionately doing? Far too many people rely on the pastor to study scripture for them, and neglect their own personal study. God wants to speak with you more than once a week.

4. Ignoring Children’s call to Ministry– Little Susie wants to be a missionary when she grows up. What do we do when we hear this? Of course we pat her on the head and smile. We know she will come to her senses when she starts encountering adult problems. We will see if this feeling lasts… WHY???? WHY do we do this? As people who believe that the Holy Spirit is real and active, we MUST take this seriously and immediately take action. This child has so much she could be accomplishing for the kingdom. Not in 15 years….NOW. Getting kids involved in ministry will only grow the church.

5. Mixed up Priorities– Do you realize how much time, talent, and energy is spent every week on issues such as what kind of communion wafers will be served, where the organ is placed, and whether or not drums are used in the service? Are we that bored with God? We have to realize that while we are arguing in our committees about these things, there are people outside our walls dying, and trying to get our attention. The pain is too much to bear, but we are occupied with wall color in the fellowship hall. Don’t allow the enemy to win in this area.

God empowered the church with His Holy Spirit for a reason. Don’t allow these issues to erode at progress and steal joy. We can make a choice to be better.

Go forward in love.

-Landon DeCrastos

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