As I was thinking about Christmas, and that little baby in Bethlehem, I got really interested in a seed of an idea.
Do you remember the TV show “Captain Planet”? I sure do. This show came on right after I woke up every weekday morning. It was the show I watched after I had gotten ready for school and I waited to go out to the bus stop. If you have never seen this show, I invite you to grab a DVD (or VHS) of the various episodes from your local library. The premise of the show centered around a group of friends who were each given a magical ring by Mother Earth (Gaia) that had a certain unique power. The rings had the power of wind, water, fire, earth, and heart (or love). The kids who possessed these rings had the ability to battle against enemies who desired to destroy the world through pollution. When these powers were combined, they created a powerful nature-conscience superhero called “Captain Planet”. As kids, we knew that this show was really a commercial for “living green”, but whatever the agenda of the show, it was definitely entertaining.
In this show, the most powerful foe that Captain Planet faced was the supervillian “Captain Pollution”. This villian was created through the combination of powers from evil rings called the “rings of pollution” that were created to be the antitheses of the good rings possessed by these children mentioned above. The powers included smog, toxins, radiation, deforestation, and hate. Got it? Ok…I am done with your nerdy superhero history lesson…let’s move on.
Besides the obvious themes of recycling and protecting nature, I think this show can give us an illustration of the way, I believe, humanity tends to lean in regards to the gifts God has given us. Our gracious Heavenly Father has gifted us with so many great things in life, and for some reason, we have tendency to distort them to their antithesis. Those things that were intended for good; humanity has always found a way to pervert.
When we look at things like sex, stewardship, love, loyalty, joy, and even worship, for example, we can see the “rings of pollution” that were created by us in response. These responses, such as immorality, greed, selfishness, control, worry, and legalism, were all created when God had been abandoned out of insecurity. Think about it, even death was created from our disobedience and rejection of life.
In the Old Testament, when Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to speak with God, the people who were left at the base of the mountain, were encouraged to worship and trust in God while they waited for their leader to return. By the time Moses had returned they already had fashioned a golden idol to worship. Their insecurity drove them to the antithesis of what they were called to do. They had taken the golden gifts they were given and melted them down to create something they could control, but nothing that could help them.
Christians are not exempt from this concept. I know, for me, there have been many times in which I have felt as if God were far away. When I have reflected on these instances, I have found that a large reason why I felt this way was because, at some point, I began to rely on my own resources or power to get me through a situation. With great intentions, I fashioned an idol that looked strikingly similar to my own reflection. Worship became about me.
I think we need to repent. We need to repent of the gifts that we have “melted down” for the purpose of turning them into idols. The gifts that God gives are always God. Keep God at the center and we can access His power through the gratitude we give Him for these gifts.
Operate out of love and trust today.
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. You can find his original post here: http://other-words.net/2014/12/02/we-are-becoming-toxic/
I can only imagine that many of you veteran pastors out there are opening this blog post to read it, and you are thinking, “Hey…wait a minute…you are a young pastor. How are you qualified to say any of this?” You are probably right, but these are things that I have observed as I have seen pastors at work, and as God has guided me through His word. I think many pastors can relate to the following thoughts as well as those who consider themselves Christ-followers. More than anything else, I hope young pastors who have not yet stepped into professional/ vocational ministry will read this and prevent their hearts from being overtaken by these ideas.
When I entered formal ministry, I made sure to read the full content of dozens of books, and I even read the back synopsis of many more (oh c’mon pastor…you have done the same thing) and assumed I knew the gist of them. Pastors, by nature are lifelong learners and students of God’s word as we all should be, but I wish I would have known a few more things before entering ministry. I know others should know these things too. I say these things because I observe so many pastors that fall into the same habits and thought processes as their collegues. These thought processes seem like a great idea, or are very convincing, but I think we began to lose the point of who we are supposed to be…
So, here are 6 Things I Wish Pastors Understood (Including Me).
1. It’s okay not to have all the answers- It is true that pastors are designed and called to be resident theologians. They study for many years, and read many books to understand scripture better so they can be a resource for their congregations. Sometimes, it is okay to be stumped. You are human, and it is okay to admit you do not have the answers…but you know where to get them. God’s word is a living organism, and the people who seek you for advice or thoughts will respect you if you give time to research specifically regarding their inquiry.
2. You are not as hip as you think- So you just got a new tattoo, you are not afraid to say a curse word from time to time, and you are lenient on social drinking? Bravo pastor, you are as cool and hip as they come! Ok…so I do not know many pastors that are setting the standards for “coolness” in our society, but there are so many that try. You do not have to be hip…you just have to be there. No, not one just preaches on Sunday morning, but a person who desires to sit with, and comfort those who are away from God or even those who know Him…those that are broken. We are in the mending business. God can use you even if you do not have a v-neck tshirt and frequent coffee shops.
3. You are not as lame as you think- Many pastors can relate to this one. If you are like me, you find yourself accepting the negative self talk that you are not relevant and that people are looking for someone more exciting. You are called to be obedient, and attentive to the Holy Spirit. It’s great to feel young and vital, but if God has called you to ministry, you can guarantee that He will resource you with the skills needed to get the job done. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking no one will listen, because God can open ears, hearts, and minds.
4. God has better ideas than you- You have so many good ideas and your church marketing pieces are beautiful. I get so excited and pumped up when I am listening to your church’s music, and when I watch all of the clever videos you make. Is this what ministry has come to though? All of our time (and I am now speaking to me) is now caught up in things that give glory to us, and our creativity, than the pure word of God? I will let you wrestle with that one…because I am still struggling with it.
5. Put down the leadership book for a minute- You have read every book that has the word “leader” in it and you perhaps have given leadership workshops. Excellent! Now…slowly put the book down and look around you. Imagine people that are lined up in front of you and all they need is an infusion of hope that will get them through until tomorrow. Granted, we all know that they need to know Christ more and grow in Him…but take a little time to listen. Oh…and grab a bucket. One of the kids just threw up in the nursery. Books are vital, but being a servant should be your first posture.
6. Your role matters- Whether you believe it or not, the art of pastoring is not going anywhere. What is looks like in a practical sense may change drastically over the next several years, but there will always be people that are called to lead, guide, and shepherd. Not a CEO of an organization. A pastor. One who hurts with people, prays for them, and has the resources to be ready for the collapse of society. A person who is not a politically driving mastermind, but a prophetic voice to the culture.
Pastor, you matter, and we are called together to storm Hell. Thank you for being my coworker…now let’s get back to work.
The post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2014/11/17/6-things-i-wish-pastors-understood-including-me/
This video is from Rev DeCrastos. For his blog, go to: http://other-words.net
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.
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. You can find his original post here: http://other-words.net/2014/10/29/6-things-god-may-be-trying-to-tell-you/
Consider these facts:
Last week, I had the awesome privilege of working, for 5 days, for a ministry called “Silent Blessings Deaf Ministries“. The purpose of my time there was to help the organization develop a fundraising strategy for a campaign they have coming up in the near future. So, my time that week largely consisted of getting to know the ins and outs of the mission, vision, and values of this ministry. Silent Blessings is an organization that desires to bring people, both deaf and hearing, into a profound encounter with the reconciling love of God through Jesus Christ. I would say that is a worthy goal. They also produce a TV show for deaf (and hearing) children that is broadcasted all over the world. It is called Dr. Wonder’s Workshop. All of the actors are deaf and the voice-overs cater to the hearing population.
I know very little sign language and I only personally know a couple deaf people. For a while, for some reason, I have felt like our church has had some sort of call by God to reach out specifically to this people group. I am still not sure how that is going to look structurally, but we have already started dabbling in sign language as a church to prepare for what God has for us.
My week there was exciting, and I felt like I was at home with my temporary co-workers. I felt like we had the same mission in ministry even though I did not have much connection with the deaf commnunity I know God was nudging me. God broke my heart that week, more deeply, for the deaf community. In many surveys, this people group is called the largest unreached people group in America. To hear stories of how the deaf are marginalized, abused, and ignored entirely made me leave my temporary office shaking my head and desiring more of a connection. One stat that really shook me to the core involved the fathers of deaf children. Less than one percent of fathers who have deaf children are engaged with their child to help them grow spiritually, emotionally, or mentally. Not good.
So, as I reflect on last week, I have fond memories, and I look forward to my continued connection with this organization. My heart is filled…but it is also broken. Jesus loves everyone…even those who can’t hear.
Take a look at the video on my page and catch the passion for why this ministry began. Go to their website and donate!
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. You can his post here: http://other-words.net/2014/10/27/the-week-that-broke-my-heart/
One night, I was about to turn off my bedside lamp when my wife turned to me and gently, but firmly, asked, “Does anything bring you joy anymore?”
Since she knew the answer, I just turned out the light and eventually drifted off to sleep.
Quite honestly, during those days, I was desperate. This is not what I signed up for, I kept thinking to myself.
For more than 15 years, I had been the lead pastor of what my denomination would consider a successful church. However, I couldn’t shake the thought that something was wrong with how we measured success. Where in the scriptures do we find the measure of success as the number of people who attend an event where one person dominates the experience? Where does it say that true success is connected to the number of people who become members of your church by profession of faith, or by the amount of money given weekly?
In comparison to most churches, we were doing well in all three of these North American benchmarks. The problem was that I felt like the CEO of an organization instead of a pastor who was developing and making disciples.
Days later, as I was sitting in afternoon traffic and reflecting on my upcoming class at our church, the question came into my mind, Why don’t you offer your class for men only?
I had taught “How to study the Bible” many times and had always opened the class to anyone who wanted to learn more about studying and obeying the scriptures. Typically the participants were women, and the few men who attended would almost always hold their questions until after class. They evidently didn’t want to reveal their inability to navigate or understand the Bible.
I could never have imagined what God was about to do in and through the men who walked into the room that first Wednesday evening. After a brief introduction, I said, “I would like to hear from you. What do you need most from this class? What would you like to accomplish during our weeks together?”
Immediately, a man raised a three-inch-thick Study Bible and boldly pronounced, “I’ve been told I am supposed to be the spiritual leader in my family, but I feel my wife is far ahead of me and I am holding her back.” From across the room, another man chimed in, “I’m right there with you, brother!” For the next few minutes, I experienced a pastor’s dream – men being honest with themselves, each other, and with their pastor about their personal struggles when it comes to how to study and apply the Bible to their daily lives.
For the next 12 weeks, the class progressed from entry-level basics of Bible study to developing lesson plans for use in a family or small-group setting. As we were concluding our journey, a number of the men voiced their desire to continue. As I heard their pleas, I made a commitment to them that has affected me to this day.
I said, “I believe God is using you men to awaken me to what the Lord has been saying to me for months regarding His mandate to focus my attention upon making disciples instead of attempting to build His church. Therefore, I will commit 60-90 minutes with you each week, one-on-one, one-on-two, or one-on-three, pouring into your life what God has invested in mine through these past 40 years of attempting to follow Jesus. But I want you to commit that time in your schedule as well, and then be willing to pass on to at least one other man what God is pouring into you.”
If five of the 18 men had been interested, I would have considered it a win. However, I was scheduling 12-15 discipling appointments weekly, which included 21 men opening their lives as we shared life-on-life through a series of discipleship principles in scripture. For the next 30 months, I had the privilege of having a front-row seat as I watched God begin to transform the lives of these men into men who resolved to follow Jesus as His disciples.
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is now.” It took 20 years as a pastor and 21 willing men to help me experience what I had truly “signed up for” when I said yes to God’s call on my life: developing people into disciple makers. Now I have the honor of training pastors, missionaries, and church leaders around the world as I share the essential steps of becoming a disciple-making follower of Jesus.
I just wish someone had awakened me to Jesus’ mandate 20 years earlier.
This post was written by Denny Heiberg of Seedbed. For the original post, go to: http://seedbed.com/feed/god-used-21-men-awaken-pastor/
BE A MAN.
I 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.
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2014/10/02/5-things-that-may-be-destroying-your-church/
Have you ever had something stolen from you? It is a unique feeling that only occurs when this event takes place. When I was a youth pastor in Florida, my wife and I lived in an apartment complex only a few miles away from the church. It was a safe neighborhood, and everyone we met was very friendly.
One morning, we decided to sleep in and get a little extra rest. We had gone to bed late the night before watching a movie, and were in a deep sleep. All of the sudden we were jolted awake by a knock on the door. It was a loud knock. We were not expecting company, and we were still “rockin’ the pj’s”. I rushed out to the front room and looked through the peephole only to see a shiny police badge on the chest of a large buzz cut human being. He looked like he meant business.
“Can I help you?”, I questioned. I assumed he had the wrong apartment, and if this was the case I was poised to be a little cranky because I wanted more sleep. “Are you the owner of a silver Chevy Cobalt?”, he asked. I nodded my head, and he motioned me outside of the apartment. When he took me to our car, I saw a pile of shattered glass. Someone had broken into our car and several other cars. For some reason, this also happened to be the first (and last) time I had ever left my wallet in my car out in the open. Yep…you guessed it. It was stolen.
You may have been in this situation before. We felt so violated, and immediately our minds went to how we were going to respond to this event. We wanted justice. We wanted these people to be caught. We wanted our stuff back. We wanted more sleep! There was also a little part of us that wanted to give up because we didn’t think there was ever going to be a way to recoup the cost of hat was taken. After the dust settled and we figured out logistics, we realized that it was only stuff and we were going to be okay.
As I reflected on this situation I realized that this feeling is what many deal with on a regular basis. Perhaps not in the sense that someone broke into their car and stole a wallet, but often in a much deeper way. Many feel like something has been taken from them. This feeling could come from an abusive past, a damaged relationship, constant disappointment, or the aftermath of addiction. The result can be extremely harmful, because the feeling of violation slowly emerges over time. Due to the speed of its full onset many people become so comfortable with this feeling, but cannot point out why they are miserable, because this becomes normal. They develop unhealthy habits, lifestyles, and patterns of behavior all because their life is now (while they do not admit it) defined by the pain that they have been feeling for such a long time.
We may never fully know the hurt people are dealing with, but we do know where to find the antidote. We all bring a certain amount of pain and experience to the table. We have to approach people with love and grace, and try to understand them before we jump to conclusions. God understands how we think, operate, and respond to the world around us but He wants to free us from unhealthy patterns that only perpetuate this type of life.
As Christians, we are called to help people sort out the logistics of the mess that they are in, and point them to restoration. First, we pray that God will equip us to lead people to freedom. Then, we approach life with a willingness to be used by God in any way He sees fit. This is an uncomfortable position to be in, but a necessary one in order to be used by God to the fullest of our potential. We will not always be thanked for this, because many are in love with their pain, and don’t want to be awaken from their sleep. Scripture shows us our brokenness, and a relationship with God provides the grace for mending. When people are rescued from their darkness, they become a powerful weapon against darkness, because they knew what it felt like to feel alone.
The thief of our soul wants us to stay broken. He wants us to stay violated. His desire is destruction.
Be a change agent. A hope dealer. Spread the light.
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2014/09/17/a-thief-in-the-night/
Sometimes 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.
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. For the original post, go to: http://other-words.net/2014/09/01/do-you-want-sin-with-that/