So, I have COVID!

I finally caught the disease that’s caused a global economic meltdown and all this mass hysteria. On Wednesday 11/18/20 I felt pretty normal all day. However, when I went to bed (around midnight) I started feeling extremely cold – colder than usual. I was shivering uncontrollably, and no matter how much I bundled up I couldn’t stop. My body was tensing up, and consequently started aching. In the middle of the night I developed a minor fever (100.04 or something like that), and was restless all night. It was a terrible night’s sleep.

The next morning (Thursday, 11/19/20) I went to the drive-through rapid testing clinic by Fashion Fair Mall and paid for COVID and flu tests. I received results within 20 minutes. Both tests were negative. I didn’t understand. I was a bit relieved, but also unsettled because what the heck is it if it’s not COVID or the flu? Man-cold?

I started feeling very lethargic and sleepy, and my fever got a little worse. I went home, took some ibuprofen, and went to sleep for most the day. However, when night came I was restless again and had another terrible night of sleep.

I woke up Friday feeling a little better, but still very lethargic and weak. Random symptoms would come and go, and not be very consistent. The only consistent symptom for me was I was always cold when it wasn’t cold in the house. I would feel like I was getting better, then have a couple-hour long spell of feeling really sick.

On Sunday night, when I completely lost my sense of taste and smell, I was convinced that I needed to get another test. I woke up on Monday 11/23/20 morning and tried to do my normal morning routine of hydration, sunlight, and movement, thinking that would make me feel better. After my morning stretches I got dizzy and had to lie back down. During my first ZOOM call for work at 10:30am, I got extremely sweaty, clammy, and pale. That’s when I went to Peachwood Medical Urgent Care with my negative COVID test results in hand, and told them my symptoms. They directed me to an isolated tent to get another test. Within 15 minutes the results came back positive.

I went home, told my family, and went back to bed. My symptoms have included:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Body Aches
  • Lethargy
  • Cold Sweats
  • Restlessness
  • Dizzyness
  • Loss of Taste/Smell
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shortness of Breath

However, not all the symptoms occur simultaneously, and none of them are consistent in severity. I would compare the “crappiness” of the disease to the flu, but it’s definitely different. When I’ve had the flu, I get hit hard with all the symptoms at once for a couple days, then spend the next few days recovering, getting gradually better. With COVID, my symptoms have been sporadic and inconsistent. I feel great for a moment, then feel like death for a few hours.

Regarding my family, Candace has been a boss! She has been putting up with my whining and taking care of me like a 24 hour nurse (just like when I have a man-cold). Jet (12 years old) is the only one who has experienced symptoms, but not as extreme as mine. He had a slight fever and headache, and was tired, but that’s about it. I’m currently 6 days in and starting to feel a lot better, but still not 100%. The good news is I’m starting to get my sense of taste back!

A few thoughts:

  • I appreciate the love and support people have given, and the offer to drop off groceries and stuff to the house while me and the family quarantine.
  • I’m not worried about it for myself or my family – we are healthy and have good immune systems. I’m confident our bodies will kick it like any other disease we’ve had.
  • I’m kind of happy that I got it out of the way. I’m pretty sure everyone’s eventually going to get it, so I’m glad it’s done and over with for me.
  • I definitely see how people with compromised immune systems can have severe, and even fatal complications. I don’t see it being any different than the flu in that regard.
  • It’s not that bad. I mean, it sucks for sure. But being sick always sucks. It’s just a different kind of sick. When I tell people I have COVID, however, it’s almost like I told them I had terminal cancer. I appreciate the care and concern, but I promise, I’ll be fine.
  • The loss of taste and smell was the weirdest – it’s not like it’s completely gone, but for the most part I can’t taste things. And when I do taste, it’s like it’s mixed with a strange mushroom-broth-like flavor (as if COVID has a distinct taste).

Anyways, that’s it for now. I’d be interested to hear if my experience is similar, or completely different than any of yours. Let me know in the comments.

Should Churches Open or Remain Closed Despite State Orders?

 

I recently shared an article about Pastor John Macarthur’s decision to exercise civil disobedience in regards to California officials’ mandate to keep church buildings closed for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. He summarizes his justification stating “in response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely, we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services…”. This seems to contradict his previous sentiment about the same issue where he rationalizes his decision to initially keep the church doors closed. In his first video he reasoned that we should obey our leaders except in the case of blatant Christian persecution (of which he admits this is not), and also for the protection and safety of church congregants.

 

I believe Macarthur’s apparent change in heart illustrates how many are working through this issue. It’s difficult to land decisively on a clear answer to the question – what is the church to do? Should we submit to our governing authorities as Romans 13 says? Or are we obligated to disobey our leaders in order to obey God as illustrated in Acts 5? Many find themselves oscillating between these two questions. At least that’s where I am right now – inconclusive. That doesn’t mean I haven’t thought and prayed about it A LOT, though. There is much to consider. Below are my current thoughts on the question.

 

1) The Pandemic is real

COVID-19 is a real disease with real tragedy in its wake. We must respect the severity of the threat and realize it is not just an American issue – every country in the world is dealing with it. To say it’s all fake or just a conspiracy is equivalent to closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and saying “nah, nah, nah, nah” repeatedly.

 

 

2) I’m skeptical of the response

Though COVID is a real threat to consider, I’m not convinced that a global economic and societal shutdown is the appropriate response to a disease with a 97% to 99.75% recovery rate, and according to the CDC a very low hospitalization rate (for every 100,000 people who contract COVID 120 need to be hospitalized, and of those the vast majority are those who are already immune compromised).

 

Like all deaths, every COVID death is tragic. However, while we may be temporarily shielding immune compromised citizens from contracting COVID, the repercussions of the pandemic are shattering to our social and economic systems. With the increases in businesses shutting down, unemployment, homelessness, suicide, depression, anxiety, crime, domestic violence, alcoholism and substance abuse, and economic collapse (to name a few), I’m just not convinced that the aftermath of the response was thoughtfully considered. Is the solution we landed on worse than the problem we are trying to solve?

 

 

3) America is supposedly the land of the free.

As an American, we should (in my opinion) have the right to use common sense, or not. I believe our leaders (if they’re leading well) should make the severity of the problem known, as well as provide information, resources, and strong recommendations regarding how to avoid getting sick; then leave it to the people (including churches, private businesses and organizations) to make a choice on how they will navigate the situation. I believe prohibiting well people from leading normal, law-abiding lives is an encroachment of our God-given rights. However, as a Christian, I hold this thought most loosely. I am a Christian before I am an American and am willing to forfeit my rights for the sake of the Gospel if needed.

 

 

4) Obedience to scripture is my priority.

As a Christian, I will not take my cues from the government as to how I will worship and practice my faith. I will live by the scriptures, not by the whims of my governing authorities who have no context of what living the Christian life means to me. This does not mean I will be a troublemaker or a rebel. I wear my mask in public and try to stay 6 feet apart from others as best I can. I will obey and submit to my governing authorities at every point until and unless obedience to them means disobedience to God. So I am not waiting for the government to give me permission to worship the way God prescribes. If my convictions from the Bible lead me to actions that defy the law of the land, “I must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

 

 

5) “Virtual church” is not koinonia.

Many object to the idea of churches gathering at all right now. “God is everywhere, so why can’t everyone pray at home and meet on zoom like the rest of us?” It’s a valid question. The short answer is it’s not about being able to connect with God personally. Of course, we pray and read the bible and learn about God individually at home. However, a major aspect of the Christian life is koinonia – true Christian fellowship and communion. This includes and assumes regular in-person meetings with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

Online services are a good short-term solution to make sure the Word of God is being preached and delivered to our people (praise God for technology); but it is not a replacement for koinonia, nor does it produce the same result in spiritual formation.

 

 

6) I will not fight for the religious status quo.

As a church leader and elder, I am not quick to fight for opening our building and “doing church” the way we used to for a couple reasons. For one – I believe large, indoor crowds is probably a bad idea and will unnecessarily put some people at risk. Though I believe we should have the right to choose this for ourselves (each church knows their people better than our governors and should have the freedom to use wisdom in how they will lead and protect their people).

 

Second – the way we used to “do church” isn’t even the most biblical method. Buildings and traditional western church services are foreign to the New Testament. The things they did in the early church are, for now, unenforceable (i.e. meeting in smaller groups in homes or outdoors).

 

 

7) The church should meet in smaller groups in homes.

All those who are complaining about our government not letting church buildings open have no right to say anything if they are not actively meeting up with their brothers and sisters in small groups for Christian fellowship. The battle for reopening church buildings is a distraction and not helpful to our cause.

 

All the trappings of the modern, western, American-church model are not bad, they’re just unbiblical. That doesn’t mean they’re antibiblical; it just means we can’t find them on any page in the bible (children’s ministry, worship band, youth group, fellowship hall, church sanctuary, etc.).

 

What happens if they burn up the buildings? Will we stop being the church? We have been saying for years “the building is not the church; we are the church.” The church is the people, not the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Now is our time to prove that, and we are failing. The early church seemed to only need the people of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, informed by the Word of God to proclaim the Kingdom of God – and they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

 

 

Putting it all together

In wrestling through all these thoughts, the only conclusion I’ve come to is there’s not a monolithic answer. Every church is different. The geography, demographics, cultural distinctions, makeup of the congregation, etc. all need to be taken into consideration when navigating how to operate as a church. Therefore, church leaders would be wise in taking counsel, yet foolish to look for the model as a point of reference for what decision they should make for their unique congregation.

 

 

A few takeaways I hope you’d leave with

Think and pray deeply.

This post contains just 7 of the thoughts I’ve personally been wrestling with. I know there are other variables I haven’t even considered. It’s complex and every situation is unique. Don’t pretend to have the answer for how others should respond. You don’t. The wisdom of men doesn’t accomplish the will of God. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. These trying times should make us keenly aware of our complete dependence on God for His wisdom. Use sound judgement, reason, and common sense – then submit your thoughts to Christ. Think and pray deeply about how you ought to conduct yourself.

 

 

Withhold criticism

We are all in the same boat. Don’t be overly critical about how others are choosing to weather the storm. We are all personally accountable to God for how we choose to worship and maintain Christian fellowship. First, take the plank out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Share your thoughts if given the opportunity but withhold judgement if they don’t receive your personal conclusions as fact.

 

 

Pray for your leaders

“If we maintain social distancing, the deep physical and spiritual needs of the church are being neglected.”
“If we prematurely open and encourage people to gather we may put our congregation at risk.”
“What if people get sick and die?”
“Am I compromising the Gospel for the sake of peace with the world?”

 

Don’t think for a moment that the smile you see on the screen during virtual service means your pastor is oblivious to the challenges, or unconcerned for the wellbeing of the church. I’ve personally had conversations with several pastors who agonize over what to do. They hear the voices and opinions of everyone telling them what to do, as well as the critiques and criticism of those who think they’ve failed to lead well.

 

Think and pray deeply for how you should respond. Withhold criticism for those who have chosen to respond differently. Pray for your leaders that God would continue to guide and direct them during this time.

Faith in the Frenzy

It feels like it’s only been a few weeks since the initial news broke about a strange “new virus coming from China”. It turns out that coronavirus isn’t new, but this particular strain (COVID-19) is – and the medical community, as of now, is still unsure how to handle it. All we know is the virus has spread worldwide and people are freaking out. In all my years on Earth I’ve never seen such a globally panicked response to any threat. Businesses are shutting down, all major events are canceling, people are losing their jobs, grocery stores are being cleared out of the essentials (meat, water, non-perishables… and toilet paper?!).

 

Some professionals claim the panic, while real, is unfounded and only due to the media sensationalizing the issue. However, earlier today the Whitehouse issued an update asking all citizens to avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more, and to avoid public places as much as possible. Consequently, many (if not most) churches are heeding this advice and canceling congregational services, opting for online streaming alternatives until things calm down (whenever that may be).

 

I, personally, am not sure which is worse – the threat of the virus, or the fallout of the pandemonium. I recognize the fact that we should all use common sense, take the situation seriously, and plan for what we may need to do differently in these uncertain times. However, my questions are less about what the world is saying and doing as a response, and more about what God is saying and doing right now. As I took time to pray and meditate on the Word of God tonight, I found myself asking Him the following questions.

  • Lord, what are you doing in all this?
  • Lord, what are you saying to us – your church?
  • Lord, what should our reaction be?

 

Almost instantly I found myself transition from questioning to declaring:

  • Lord, you’re not caught off guard by any of this – you’re not taken by surprise; for you know all things.
  • Lord, you’re not absent from this situation – you’re right here in the midst; for you are omnipresent.
  • Lord, you’re not silent in this – you have the answers we seek; for you are always speaking.

 

Many Christians are brushing the dust of their bibles to study the book of Revelation and see what kind of end-time prophesy must be playing out right now. Others are looking to ultra-charismatic “prophets” to see what “new thing” the Lord is speaking through all this. However, before we go there, why don’t we consider what God has already spoken to us in His word. Let these scriptures minister to you during these trying times:

 

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

 

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Matthew 6:26-27

 

“Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:31-34

 

“And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Matthew 8:27

 

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-30

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

 

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.”

Romans 10:3

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

 

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Philippians 4:11-13

 

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

1 John 2:17

 

The severity of the current situation surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19), as of now, remains to be determined since we still don’t know all the facts. However, regardless of the situation or severity, the Christian has an underlying hope in Christ that supersedes any calamity. We do not stick our heads in the sand, ignore common sense, or pretend things are as good as ever. We do not deny reality. However, we do recognize a superior reality – one that this reality is governed by, and which gives us peace that surpasses understanding.

 

Know this, Christian: if your peace and joy is governed by (or rooted in) your situation or circumstances, then when your situation or circumstances turn for the worse you lose your peace and joy. When your peace and joy is governed by (or rooted in) Christ – the immutable God – then no matter what your situation or circumstances are you retain your peace and joy. This is called faith, and you need it in the frenzy.

 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

 

 

India Trip 2019 – Day 1

It’s Wednesday, so that means it’s day 3 in the journey. Or is it day 4? It’s hard to keep track with the time difference and backwards schedule. Here’s what’s happened so far:

 

11/3/19 – After church we drove from Fresno to LAX. A couple hours behind schedule, but still made great time.

Ready to Leave Fresno

 

11/4/19 – At midnight we flew 14 hours to China and had an 8-hour layover.

 

11/5/19 – 7.5-hour flight from Shanghai to Delhi. We’re finally in India! This is our first shower in two days, and we got a good night’s rest at the Holiday Inn (much nicer than a typical Holiday Inn in the states).

Finally in India!

 

11/6/19 – 4-hour flight from Delhi to Jabalpur. This was our first real experience of India. We were blessed to meet with David and Sheila Lall – the missionaries in charge of the ministry here. We weren’t expecting to see them as they are in route to a mission’s conference in USA. We went to an authentic India restaurant, had a delicious meal, and heard about the Lord’s work here.

 

 

We left the restaurant and visited the original Mercy Home. It was great seeing Reena (one of the children we sponsor). She barely grew taller since I first met her two years ago (I didn’t realize she is 15! She’s just tiny for her age).  It was awesome seeing Jet interact with the kids. I’m really looking forward to bonding with him on this trip. I am more excited to see what the Lord would do to and through him.

 

 

We left the Mercy Home and drove 2 hours to the Mission Headquarters in Damoh – we’ll be calling this place home for the next week or so. Now I’m exhausted!

The Welcome Party in Damoh

 

Missionary Letter – India 2019

When God radically changed my heart in 2007, I instantly fell in love with Jesus and His message of salvation for sinners like me. I quickly realized my call to be His minister, telling as many people as I could about the Good News. When I learned about India my heart was instantly burdened for this great country. India is home to over 1 billion people and 2,500+ distinct people groups. In addition to extreme poverty and the lack of resources essential to human thriving, 90% of the population remains unreached with the Gospel.
 
As many of you know, for the past 4 years I’ve had the privilege of partnering with Mid India Christian Mission – an amazing organization dedicated to demonstrating Christ’s love through the Gospel in both word and deed. About a year after God saved me, I had my firstborn son – Jet. It has always been my dream to minister alongside my kids. God has graciously opened the door for that to happen in India, this November. On November 4th a team of 7 individuals (including Jet and myself) will begin a 9-day journey into the heart of India.
 
We will be visiting various aspects of the ministries of MICM to share the love and joy of Christ and partner with the work He is doing among the Indian people. In these 2 weeks we’ll be visiting:
  • The Mercy Home – a home for abandoned children, and children rescued from dangerous situations.
  • The Asha Project – remote villages where schools have been built to provide hope and a future to communities, breaking cycles of generational poverty.
  • The Oasis of Love – a school for empowering children and young adults with special needs, who are otherwise often looked down on and are seen as a curse by society and their family.
  • And more! We will also be visiting orphans, widows, “untouchables”, home churches, and many other places the Lord has allowed MICM to minister.
 
I have been to India twice before with MICM, and by God’s grace have never once have had to raise funds to go. However, because I am travelling with Jet, the financial burden is too much for me to carry on my own – which is why I’m seeking your help. Each of us on this team are required to raise $3,000 per person in order to cover all our expenses ($6,000 for me and Jet). Half of this accounts for airfare, and the rest covers our in-country costs.
 
I am fully confident that God will provide the means for us to go, so I only seek funds from those who God burdens to partner with us in this cause. I ask that you pray and ask God how much you should give, or if you should give at all.

If you do feel moved to give:

  1. Please follow this link.
  2. Team Member’s Name: Sean and Jet Tambagahan
  3. Short-Term Mission: India (November 2019 MICM)

If you’d like to give by check

Cross City Church is the sponsoring church that handles all the airfare and travel arrangements, so please make checks payable to:
Cross City Church
2777 E. Nees Ave Fresno CA 93720
Make sure to include a MEMO That says: India STM November 2019 – Sean and Jet
As a bonus, all donations given are tax deductible.
 

I asked Jet about why he’s excited to come with me on this journey. Here are his thoughts:
“I want to go to India because I want to speak the Gospel to the people there. I am also excited because I get to meet Sangita and Hermit (the kids they sponsor and pray for every week through Jet’s class at church) and Reena and Arjun (the kids we sponsor as a family). I want to see how to cook real Indian food and see their culture.”
 
Thank you again for your prayers and donations. For all who respond, Jet and I will follow up with a post-mission brief, giving a recap of our journey.
 
With much love and many blessings,
 
Sean
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My Experience at The Altar Conference

I WASN’T SUPER STOKED TO GO AT FIRST

When I first heard about The Altar Conference coming to Fresno there was a lot of hype and excitement in the Christian community. I didn’t think much of it, because we always have some sort of a Christian conference happening and they all position themselves to be the event that’s going to bring some sort of radical change. I’ve been to my fair share of Christian events and they’ve been edifying and I’m glad I went, but they’re typically not something I get super amped about. I personally prefer worshiping in the context of my local church and being edified through deep fellowship with close friends.

 

With that being said, I had no plans of attending the Altar Conference… at first

 

 

WHAT IS THE CONFERENCE?

The Altar Conference was positioned as “a weekend of dynamic worship and powerful teaching, provoking believers of all backgrounds into a lifestyle of radical pursuit and relentless devotion to Christ.” That caught my attention. When I saw the worship bands lined up, as well as Francis Chan (someone who has played a key role in my spiritual formation), I developed a little more interested.

 

Then I started hearing some of the controversy surrounding the event. Good friends and pastors I love and respect were warning people to not attend because some of the headliners were either false teachers, or associated with false teachers. I wasn’t personally concerned that there would be “false teachers”, as some of my more conservative (cessationist-leaning) brothers and sisters in Christ would accuse, because I personally believe they use those terms way too loosely.
My wife Candace purchased tickets to the conference, and I was eager to go – if anything for at least the worship (I knew it would be good) and to hear Francis Chan. I came with a heart full of expectancy to be edified, as well as a mind full of discernment, understanding the concerns that were aired.

 

It was a busy weekend with many prior commitments, so I was not able to hear every message, but I got the vast majority of what went on. Speakers I heard included: Corey Russel, Damon Thompson, Francis Chan, 15 minutes of Derek Carr and Heidi Baker (I missed Mattie Montgomery and most of Derek Carr’s message).

 

MY WORSHIP EXPERIENCE:

The worship bands were all amazing. I felt the presence of God in a way I haven’t felt in a long-time during every set. The name of Christ was exalted, the Holy Spirit was tangibly felt, and the Father was glorified. I had a real sense that the thousands of people in the auditorium and I were joining in on worship that was happening in the throne room of Heaven at that very moment. The music and prayers really helped create an atmosphere of reverence and awe before the Word of God was preached.

 

 

THE MESSAGE

Again, I missed the first speaking session with Mattie Montgomery, but Candace was able to stay. She came back filled with the joy of the Lord and let me know about the message he gave. Apparently the first message set the tone for the weekend and was centered on the Gospel – lifting up the person and work of Christ to seek and save the lost. Hundreds of people made public professions of surrender to King Jesus.

 

The first message I heard was from Corey Russel – a man I never heard of prior to that day. He came out during the last worship song, HOLY (by Nikki Mathis and Summit Sounds) and he recited from memory all the verses in the book of Revelation that give a picture of the throne room of heaven. My heart was stirred within me as I was brought to remembrance how amazing this God I serve is.

 

Damon Thompson was next. He delivered what I would describe as a brilliant breakdown of how the curse of Genesis would be reversed by Christ (the seed of Abraham), and how it would be carried out to all nations through us.
Francis Chan had the afternoon session. He read Hebrews 12:18-29, giving a clear picture of how terrifying God is – and how this is good for us. If this terrifying God is for us, who can be against us? He talked about the implications of what it looks like to really follow God – if his Spirit truly lives in us.

 

I loved how towards the end Francis talked about how there were differences in his theology than probably most of the people at the conference (even specifically naming some points of disagreement). However, when we have a picture of how terrifying this God we serve is, and how God says “these are my sons and daughters”, it humbles us to not divide over secondary issues.

 

For the most part, every single message I heard was extremely edifying and turned my gaze and heart towards Christ, except for what I experienced at the end of the night.

 

 

THE CLOSER – HEIDI BAKER

Due to one of those prior commitments I referred to in the beginning, I missed the evening worship set but made it back in time to hear the last speaker – Heidi Baker. I personally have never listened to a message from Heidi Baker before, but I am well familiar with the reputation she has in some of the more extreme circles of charismatic Christianity. I’ve seen some of the weird YouTube clips and listened to my cessationist brothers and sisters not only mock her but accuse her of being a false teacher and heretic (again, terms I personally feel they often flippantly overuse, which is why I take these accusations with a grain of salt).

However, I came with an open heart and an open mind, as well as a discerning spirit. I was extremely let down and grieved at what I witnessed. Candace and I entered the stadium to the sound of mindless droning and chanting. She was on her knees praying (a posture we should all take before a holy God), but she wasn’t making any sense at all. There was about 45 minutes of incoherent babbling and crying and singing. She would say things like “we need to go high! But low, and slow… and get up!” When she started singing “He’s got the whole world in His hands”, I looked up and about 2/3 of the crowd had already left. She would periodically break from her chanting to stand at the podium and speak, but even then, nothing made any semblance of a logical point. No teaching, no word of instruction, no exhortation, nothing but senseless chatter.

 

I wouldn’t call it heresy; it was just nonsense.

 

 

“YOU’RE JUST CLOSE MINDED AND JUDGMENTAL”

I would be the first to admit that sometimes in my personal prayer time with God I have no words to speak. I try to speak and can sometimes babble and make no sense. Other times, I have a word in my Spirit, but my mind cannot articulate what I want to say and the Spirit intercedes for me with groans and utterances that words cannot express (See Romans 8:26). If someone were to be in the room with me during those times, it would seem weird. It’s a personal time between me and God and I am deeply edified.

 

However, in a corporate setting if you have nothing to say we are instructed to keep it between ourselves and God. Look at these excerpts from Paul’s correction to the Corinthian church:

“If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified…

What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church… if there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.” (Read all of 1 Corinthians 14 for the full context)

 

Yes, I am judging because we are called to make right judgement according to what the Word of God says (See John 7:24 and 1 Corinthians 5:12 for example). I’m not only judging by the Word of God, but what I felt in my spirit as I witnessed hundreds of people who were just singing praises to Jesus turned off by mindless chatter as a person was edifying herself in front of thousands of people. My spirit was grieved.

 

 

MY TAKEAWAY

The entire conference was amazing, except for what I experienced during Heidi Baker’s “message”. I believe that what Derek Carr and Mattie Montgomery were praying would happen at the conference, did. That it would be a weekend of dynamic worship and powerful teaching, provoking believers of all backgrounds into a lifestyle of radical pursuit and relentless devotion to Christ. That it wouldn’t be a moment, but a movement.

 

I am extremely happy I went. I connected with God through amazing worship and was stirred by powerful teaching to follow Christ more closely and commit to Him more deeply. I truly believe that the hundreds of people who made public professions of faith in Christ were introduced to the God of the scriptures, and were challenged to follow Him with everything.

 

So though I have points of correction, I am not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I hope this conference continues, and that the leaders would stay truer to their mission of including “believers of all backgrounds” by using discernment as to who should be invited and holding the speakers accountable to Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 12-14 for orderly corporate worship.

 

 

MY PRAYER

I pray that my conservative brothers and sisters would be more generous and show charity to our Charismatic siblings who may miss the mark in different ways than them, so long as we’re preaching the same Gospel (I understand many would argue that they’re preaching a different Gospel – that’s an issue for another post).

I pray that my charismatic brothers and sisters would continue in their passion and fervor for the Lord, without throwing out or ignoring clear biblical teaching on orderly worship.

I pray that God would continue and build upon what He started at The Altar Conference.

 

 

Photos sourced from The Altar Conference Facebook Page.

Everyone You Meet is a Divine Appointment

 

Because I believe in a sovereign God I hold to the position that every person you meet is a divine appointment. However, every once in a while God highlights an encounter and His involvement in orchestrating the appointment is more obvious. I want to share with you one such encounter I recently had, and how encounters like these have changed the way I pray for God to open doors to be a witness for Christ.

 

No mood for evangelism

I picked up these two pieces of art while on a spontaneous last minute kid-free trip to Avila Beach with Candace. We walked around downtown Avila and landed at a local hipsteresque coffee shop to enjoy the scenery, a delicious single-original pour over, and of course – each other. Needless to say, having spiritual conversations with complete strangers wasn’t on our agenda, to be shamefully honest.

 

 

As we sat on the patio looking out toward the ocean soaking up the sun in the perfect weather I noticed a young guy on my right side. He was unkempt, barefoot and hippy-looking, wearing a hoodie with board-shorts and coke-bottle glasses. At first I couldn’t tell if he was homeless or hipster (or both?). His small, lazy dog was passed out underneath his chair as he sat Indian-style drawing intently in his sketchpad.

 

 

The conversation starts

As I glanced over to satisfy my curiosity, his artwork immediately captivated my attention. I noticed he was using a mixture of coffee and India-ink in his sketches. I awkwardly interrupted his train of thought and asked “what are you working on?” As simple as that – a conversation starts. He was excited that someone cared enough to ask and happily started showing me and Candace all his work. He said I could have any piece I wanted – I offered him $20 if I could take two. He enthusiastically agreed.

 

 

It gets interesting

After briefly talking about his art and creative process, I started to ask questions about him. It got interesting. I learned that his name is Adam. Or Dustin. Or whatever he wanted to go by that day (his words). I learned that he had two college degrees from when he went to school in Colorado, where he’s originally from (a degree in biochemistry and one in religion). I learned that he hated his mother, and institutions, so he left Colorado to explore the world.

 

After traveling in Asia, then Peru, he made the decision to not touch money and to live off of the land and the hospitality of locals. He also decided to stop wearing shoes. His mom somehow convinced him to move back to Colorado. After a couple months of soul-sucking capitulation he skipped town to live in California where he would wander the beaches, make rock cities and draw in front of the coffee shop.

 

We talked about Buddhism, Hinduism, corrupt drug-selling cops, and telepathic alien fish people (I am not kidding). He told me that Jesus was really a Buddhist, and all institutionalized religion is corrupt.

 

 

Now we talk some Jesus

By this time in the conversation I’m praying under my breath for God to give me the words to say. Since he brought up Jesus, I asked what he thought about Him and why he came to the conclusion that Jesus was a Buddhist. Finding a bit of common ground, we got into a rich dialogue about the Bible and how Jesus Himself rose up against the religious establishment because they missed the point.

 

Just as he was agreeing with me, I had to remind Adam of Jesus’ words in John 14:6 where He says “I am the way and the truth and the life…” Jesus didn’t say He was a way, but the way; and He doesn’t allow for a belief that “all roads lead to life” when He emphatically says “no one comes to the Father except through me”.

 

The conclusion

The conversation went on for another ten or so minutes, sharing the truth about Jesus as often as I could. No, Adam didn’t repent of his sins, renounce his idolatry and give his life to Jesus right then and there. However, a seed was planted. Adam thanked me for being educated about what I believe, and he said that it was refreshing to have a conversation with a Christian who was actually willing to talk to him, rather than brush him off (maybe telepathic alien fish people is too much for some people). I encouraged him to keep seeking the truth and to follow it no matter where it leads, because the road to truth ends with Christ.

 

We shook hands, parted ways, and Candace and I started praying for him in the car. We quoted scriptures like “one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:5-8) and “God’s word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

 

 

Takeaways

There are a few things I took away from this encounter.

  1. Every appointment is a divine appointment, so we should be aware, ready, willing, and able to have spiritual conversations at all times. There are likely dozens of potential missed opportunities to share the Gospel because we are too busy with our own agenda – I want to be busy about His agenda.
  2. Conversations are pretty easy to start, so we should have more of them. This conversation started with the simple question “what are you working on?” I couldn’t have predicted where the conversation would go from there, but statistically speaking I would have more opportunities to share the Gospel if I was more intentional about starting simple conversations with strangers.
  3. It’s important to know your stuff. I’m not an expert on many things. I can’t help with conversations about corrupt, drug-selling cops, or telepathic alien fish people, but when the conversation leads to Jesus, the Bible or the Gospel I can add some substance. Adam thanked me for “being educated” about what I believed.
  4. A little kindness goes a long way. I intentionally made several emotional deposits with Adam. I was legitimately curious about his art. I valued his talents by purchasing his work. I asked about his story. I genuinely cared about him. Making these emotional deposits allowed me the opportunity to maintain civility and Adam’s respect while making a huge withdraw – telling him that his beliefs were wrong and Christ calls him to repentance. The more deposits you make into someone the more weight your withdraws hold in their mind. So be kind and winsome.

 

It’s conversations like these that have caused me to stop praying for God to open doors of opportunity to share the Gospel. My prayer now is “Lord, help me to be cognizant of the doors I know you’ve placed in my life… Help me to be aware of the divine appointments you’ve set before me today. Give me a willing heart and an able mind to share your love with the people you’ve put in my path. In Jesus’ Name, amen!”

 

Here are some pictures from that day