You Are Not Who You Think You Are

You Are Not Who You Think You AreHave you ever met someone who is always incredibly negative about life? I’m not talking about someone who is suffering with depression or living in a dark chapter…I am talking about a person who refuses to look on the bright side. It can be exhausting. People in this situation tend to convince themselves that reality is different than what is obvious. They look at their experiences through a different lens than most.

When something is apparent to one person, and it seems that another is almost blinded to the truth, frustration can rise, and relationships can be damaged. If a person in this situation embraces pride, then they tend to further distance themselves from others. As distance grows, isolation breeds contempt and bitterness. These traits can rewire a person’s mind to believe things that are simply untrue.

There is a fundamental temptation in the heart of many, if not all, of people who have chosen to follow Jesus. The pattern is almost written as a common script. The individual will make great strides in their life and see great transformation. They may live on a wonderful trajectory for a significant period of time, and then something happens that derails their progress. Perhaps they give into an old temptation, or stumble over a struggle they thought they left behind. In this scenario, there are three ways that a person can go. The first way is to acknowledge the mistake and step forward into growth. The second way is to embrace defeat and punish themselves for a relatively short time. The last way complicates things a bit. It is the circumstance in which a person convinces themselves that they are “just that way” and they will “never change”.

As a pastor, it can be so frustrating to interact with a person who has taken a slight detour in their faith, and for them to be convinced that “this is who they truly are”. Why do we do this? Why do we think our bad behavior is our true self and any previous good behavior is nullified? This is like getting the flu and convincing yourself and that you are always meant to be sick. People can change, and we are meant to change. We are meant to grow and flourish, and we must learn from our mistakes.

There are people who I have met and truly look up to with amazing stories of how God has navigated their lives. They can tell you tales of how they were completely different when they were younger, and their development can be compared to a caterpillar and a butterfly.

God loves you exactly the way you are, but He loves you too much to not cultivate progress in your life. I guarantee you, when you are going through a rough patch in your life, and you have convinced yourself that you will “always be this way” …you are not who you think you are. Sometimes it is easy to believe the lie that a mistake can send you backwards when, in actuality, it is more like just “taking the scenic route”. Now, this is not an excuse for cultivating horrible behavior, but perhaps it can bring hope to someone who is feeling lost.

You are not who you think you are. Remember, you can be better.

-Landon DeCrastos

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Sometimes

Sometimes
You just have to say no
To the lies the enemy tries to bind you with…
To the thoughts that invade your mind
Say no to the negative thoughts
That try to steal your joy

When you are on that mountain of blessing
And overcome with bliss
In an instant you can come crashing down
All because of a thought

But you can handle it

It is your job to say no.
Those thoughts won’t win today
And I am stronger than you think I am
Stronger than yesterday
The devil does not know who he is dealing with
The “what ifs” will not be written on my heart today

Those old tricks won’t work
And if worse does come to worst
I will deal with it then
Because in my mountain top times
I have gained enough strength
To deal with the broken things
And to not overwhelm myself

I will endure and not be discouraged
For I know who walks with me
I always remember that
Ok…maybe not always
Maybe just
Sometimes

-Landon DeCrastos

Running the Course

running the course.I was a teenager in need of physical conditioning.

It was my sophomore year of High School, and I had the bright idea to try out for the school wrestling team. Before you comment, yes, I was aware that a successful completion of this tryout meant that I would be privileged to wear the tight uniform (known as a singlet) given to team members. I didn’t care though, because it was a sport I thought I would really enjoy. I was fairly skilled in the “grappling arts”, but the cardio-based side of the sport had me gasping for breath. I have never been diagnosed with asthma or anything…let’s just say that I wasn’t ready for the physical demands.

Let me paint the picture for you. Me and a large group of boys, who were already sweaty before they ever stepped foot in the wrestling room, stretched and began the arduous endeavor of proving our physical prowess. Coach Silverman let us cut time and intensity off of our workout if we could muster up the energy to run up the wall and do a backflip off of it. Spoiler alert: I could not. This was because I had not worked out in a long time, and I was still carrying a little extra baby weight (which the ladies loved by the way)…I digress. Anyway…after a grueling workout inside, it was time for the aspect of the tryout I had been dreading.

The 5 mile run.

For the average runner, a 5 mile run is something that is rather routine. For me, I had struggled heavily even jogging an entire mile, and the mere thought of running 5 made my legs tired. I was a slow runner anyway, but I knew that being the first one to cross the finish line was not the overall goal. Simply finishing the course was what the coach wanted. We all lined up at the starting point. The coach yelled, “Go!” The mass of humans went on their way and I kept up with the pack nicely for a while.

The course was marked out like a cross country track, with orange traffic cones and yellow tape. At some point, I got a little confused where to turn, but soon got the lay of the land. I felt like I started to get a great pace, and I am not sure whether I got my second wind early, or I was excited to pass a few people, but I felt my energy increase. At one point, I was all alone, and I assumed that the full pack was so spread out that there would be times where I would not be near anyone. So, I charged ahead, and ran longer than I have ever run without slowing down. I felt so proud of myself. I knew I was not going to be the first one that finished, but to finish at all was quite an accomplishment for me. Then, after a run that felt like it took most of the day, I rounded the corner and could see the end in sight.

When I crossed the line, I felt such pride. My pride, though, immediately turned into concern, when I looked around and saw that I was the only one standing at the finish. The coach looked at me with a very puzzled look on his face and asked, “are you done alread?” I nodded my head, and wondered why he asked me in that tone. I soon realized that, at some point, I took a wrong turn, and accidently took a giant short cut. I had only run a little less than 2 miles. It felt like 100. I was devastated. I never came back to tryouts after that day.

In life, it is very tempting to live life always desiring to take short cuts and find the easy way out. If we do this, we keep ourselves from growth and opportunities that will only make us better.

With the easy accessibility of instant information, fast food, and communication, we have mentally conditioned ourselves to make instant gratification not only a desire, but an expectation. This even leaks into our spiritual life. We think something is not God’s will if we become tired of praying for it, or we call waiting a “closed door”.

God wants us to develop a passion for the path and mission He has us on. We must learn to thicken our skin and become laser focused on what we know to be true…no matter how long it takes. When we see resolution, it will be that much sweeter.

Endure dear friends. Simply endure.

-Landon DeCrastos

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

5 Things I Have Learned As A Pastor (Repost)

5 Things I Have Learned As a PastorI am a young pastor, and I do not presume to think that I can offer up much worthwhile advice and encouragement to a new generation entering the ministry. I do think, however, that any amount of experience has its own level of anecdotal instruction that can be offered to anyone willing to listen.

This week, I have thought about what I have learned in my decade of formal ministry (volunteer and paid) and I think there are some things that are worth sharing. Some items being shared in this blog are a result of frustration that has helped to grow me as a minister. Other points are simply things I that have come to mind. Just know that none of them are meant to demean, discourage, or demonstrate anger. I just feel these things need to be said.

I love learning. Sometimes the learning involved pain, and other times it was a result of great joy. 

Today, I want to share 5 Things I Have Learned As a Pastor.  

People prioritize what matters

Sunday after Sunday pastors all over the world work their hardest to preach, teach, and display the Gospel in their lives. Their families often feel the brunt of the time and effort they put into sharing vision, meeting with those in need, and attending business meetings. Sometimes a pastor will give their all for a congregation who seem to look at the idea of worship as “something they will attend if they have nothing else to do”. Don’t get me wrong. Pastors are thankful that anyone shows up for worship, but we now live in a Christian culture that has prioritized other things over meeting together as was commanded of us in scripture.

Discouragement is only temporary

I’m going to let you in, behind the scenes, for a moment on what pastors talk about when they are together. Sometimes we talk about how things are progressing with the church. Other times we talk about how discouraged we are in a particular area of ministry. For some people in ministry, short seasons of discouragment end in resignation. It is easier to quit than to persevere. When discouragement comes, and it certainly will, it is always vital to lean into God and rely on His promises. The seasons of discouragement do not last forever. They can just be painful. When we tap into God’s resolve, then we find times of great spiritual wealth and ministerial progress.

There will be resistance

No matter what God has asked a person in ministry to do, resistance to that call is inevitable. Sometimes there is resistance because the author of lies is creating unnecessary conflict in the church. Other times (I am speaking to myself here) it is because personal pastoral agendas are forced and God’s will is not taken into account. Pastors are not exempt from being stubborn or having human thoughts, emotions, or actions. A consistent prayer life trains the mind and heart to more readily pick up Christ’s signals and gentle nudgings.

Lives matter to God

When looking at scripture, it is apparent that God has spent a lot of time showing humanity His love. Sure, there are times of discipline, but the way He guided the Israelites out of captivity, restored them multiple times after their transgressions. sent Himself to die, and gave us the Holy Spirit, no one can deny the energy that has gone into God’s affection for us. He calls pastors to be distributors of this love and grace. Christians in general have this call on their lives as well, and are compelled to share this message with the world. So, when someone comments that a pastor’s focus is “all about numbers”, they are actually somewhat correct. Every person matters to God, and He came to die for every single one. A pastor’s job is a response to this concept.

Often times, more energy is spent on lemurs than butterflies

Ok, so this one is a difficult topic to talk about. Now, I do not want to sound harsh or condescending, but this idea breaks my heart so I felt as if I needed to share. You may read this heading and be somewhat confused, but allow me to explain. I wrote another blog post a while ago that compared the personalities found in the church to animals that live in a zoo. Lemurs are animals that live in trees and eat berries and bugs. When there are no more berries or bugs in the tree they move on to another one that will suit their needs. Butterflies start as caterpillars, and camp out in trees or bushes. They are sheltered by the tree and allow themselves to be transformed. Often churches respond to God’s call to help those in need (in and out of the church), and sometimes it is the “lemurs” get the most attention. In the church, it is often the case that the ones that are the most helped are the first ones to leave. The church is a great place to seek transformation.  No matter the result, though, we are called to serve.

Overall, I can honestly say that God has blessed me more than I deserve. His calling on my life to participate in the transformation of souls is something that invigorates me. Ideas keep me going, and His spirit not only makes up for my inadequacies, but moves me out of the way completely. He has also given me an amazing church family.

If you are a young pastor leading a church today, I implore you to lean on that calling. Don’t quit. It is a very difficult job, and it is not going to get any easier. You are not going to make millions and you may struggle to help grow the congregation you are in. Don’t be a “corporate ladder” type of pastor and just move to the next bigger church for the nice facility and salary package. There is a large family sitting in your pews waiting to see revival, and their souls need it. Be vulnerable, and build deep relationships. What if they leave? Well, then you will be deeply hurt, but don’t run away from being hurt. God’s call means more.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Ferryman

There is a story that’s more than lore
About believers who have come before
Those who sought Jesus over earthly more
And earnestly asked him to save

These folks acknowledged the pain he bore
And answered when He knocked on the door
They found meaning they always longed for
And loved the grace He gave

To them, serving was not a chore
When they prayed, they felt their hearts soar
Scripture changed their very core
Their eternal future was gilded and paved

Then one day our precious Lord
Ferried them to the beautiful shore
Asking them to trust Him just once more
And ride the uncertain wave

When they did, they found what they were created for
Streets of gold and everyone they adore
Waiting at the golden door
And the joy that God naturally gave

So what can we learn from this report?
Well, whether long or even short
Our earthly time is not for sport
And eternal life starts before the grave.

-Landon DeCrastos

Kingdom Politics

Hi Friends!

I wanted to encourage you to listen to the most recent podcast. In this recording, I wanted to briefly reflect on implications from Biblical Exile…in comparison to the division we see today in our political system. The voting booth should not be our sacrificial altar. Click on the player below. You can also subscribe to my podcast through iTunes!

Also, check out a post I made a couple years ago pertaining to voting. Perhaps this will shed some light on where our minds and hearts should be. Click here!

The Meeting

Holy-of-Holies

The High Priest opened the curtain and slowly walked into the Holy Place. His hands were still damp from the recent experience in the water basin. He took a deep breath as he walked through the threshold and whispered a quick prayer during the initial steps.

He looked to the left and made note of the candelabra. This priceless piece was hammered out of one piece of pure gold. Until this point, this lampstand has been used for several generations, but one would have poor observation skills not to notice that the stand still looked brand new. He knew that there was deep meaning in all the pieces that were placed in the Temple, but there was something in him that understood that there was a far deeper meaning to this lamp than what he could currently comprehend. Perhaps the full meaning would be revealed in time…

As he shuffled forward, his robe nearly dragged on the ground. He, once again, became aware of the weight of his breastplate. When he looked to his right side, he remembered the 12 tribes of Israel. This was symbolized by the loaves of bread on the table. The High Priest closed his eyes and inhaled through his nose. The smell of freshly baked wheat filled his nostrils, and for some reason, as if it was forcibly planted in his mind, stories of the times that God was faithful to His people were recalled.

The path became shorter, and the priest saw the last stand that he had to navigate around. The closer he got, the more the scent of incense gripped him. This small table had great significance, and the placement made it so it was almost an obstruction to the final goal. As the smoke filled the air, he was made acutely aware of his mission and purpose. The incense symbolized the prayers of the people that he was there to represent. One concept that struck him, that he had never thought of before, concerned the placement of this table. It was strategic. When God gave the instructions through Moses to build the original Tabernacle, it seems as if He wanted to make sure that prayer was the closest thing to Him. Perhaps there is more power in this action that we often think.

With a bowl full of blood in his hand, the High Priest approached the final curtain. He opened it to see the Arc of the Covenant. His heart pounded harder and harder. He felt slightly dizzy and had to compose himself. The makeshift room seemed to be illuminated and he felt as if it was significantly hotter. Then, he gave thanks to Yahweh, and began sprinkling the blood on the artifact. The experience seemed short lived as he concentrated on the ritual. He exited.

Weeks later, the High Priest heard rumors of a baby that was born not too far away. This child was born during the empire-wide census in a stable among animals. People spoke of a scandalized mother, who was pregnant before she was married to her husband. After a while, word about this little boy seemed to fade away. Perhaps we may hear more about this story later.

The Approach

altar-bronze

If you think about it, the High Priest and the Lamb are two sides of the same spiritual coin. Neither one could fulfill their life’s purpose without the other.

The High Priest, as he walked and guided the lamb down the center of the city, briefly closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He concentrated on the dressing ritual he just finished and went through the mental task list to make sure there was nothing he missed. He was interrupted by the savory smell of mutton cooked in olive oil, and immediately he remembered the task at hand.

He looked down and made eye contact with the precious animal he was guiding, and he mentally noted the ironic beauty in the events of the day. This small creature had no idea what its job was for the day, yet it seemed perfectly content with the way things were going. There was a bliss in the ignorance. With each step, other sheep from various households would bleat almost as if to tell this lamb what was about to happen. In utter joy or perhaps stupidity, the animal would answer back as if not believing what they were saying. It was almost a shame that its end would come very soon. No matter though. It had to be done.

Taking each step, the priest became more and more aware of the weight both figuratively and literally. Figuratively in the sense that he knew that what he was doing was something that he could not afford to mess up. Literally in the sense of the physical discomfort he felt wearing the necessary garments. The vest alone weighed him down, but it was a vital piece of the overall ensemble.

The High Priest silently prayed as he walked to make sure his heart and attitude were right. For a little while he could concentrate on the blessings that he as praying, but as he came closer to the Temple, he could hear the near-deafening activity that was happening in the courtyard. As he entered the front gate, a domino effect of attention was directed at him, and one by one people took notice of the fact that he was entering. The sound started to diminish, and even the commerce halted.

After the introductions, quotes, songs and psalms, the priest went about his duty and bound the feet of the lamb to bring about full submission. He readied the bowl in which he would collect the blood and looked up to make sure the fire was burning.

He raised the ceremonial knife and said a final prayer. His hands shook as if it were his first time.

The crowd went completely silent.

…to be continued