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.

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
[mk_button dimension=”three” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” bg_color=”#00c8d7″ text_color=”light” icon=”” url=”https://crosscity.ccbchurch.com/goto/forms/14/responses/new” target=”_self” align=”left” id=”Buton ID” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″]GIVE NOW[/mk_button]

My two greatest fears

If I’m being completely honest with myself, I have had two fears that have propelled much of my drive, but have simultaneously caused a lot of inconsistency and doubt in my life.  I’ve had these two fears in the back of my mind for years.  I can attribute much of my success and achievements to these fears; as well as some of my procrastination and hesitancy.  The struggle is real, but I’m not sure if I want the struggle to go away.  What do I fear the most?

The fear of settling

First, I fear reaching middle-age and having not accomplished much of anything in this world. I fear mediocrity.  I fear complacency. I understand the comfort of many people’s interpretation of the American Dream: the ability to live a nice, quiet, middle-class life with a wife and 2.5 kids living in a nice home with a nice job, able to retire at a decent age to live out my life in peaceful mediocrity. That dream terrifies me. I know God has put big dreams in my heart, but as I’ve pursued my dreams I realize that even though I see the opportunities to have them come to fruition are there, it’s hard work. Thomas Edison said that “opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”

I remember being a young boy and seeing starry eyed people with big dreams excitingly pursue them. As I’ve grown older I’ve also witness them get beat up in the hustle, and out of weariness give up and settle. As I’ve been in the battle myself I’ve felt the temptation to give up as well. How comfortable it would be to just give in and be normal! However, the terrifying idea of living a life of complacency has always caused me to push through, just one more day.

As I’m writing this I am turning 31 years old this year. I feel young (and by most people’s standards I am still very young) and I have tons of energy and drive in me. But, my 20’s are done and gone and it seems like they went by in a flash. I still feel like I’m in my 20’s, but I’m not! As I’ve been pondering that fact, this first fear has been more prevalent in my thinking. It pushes me to work when others are resting.  It pushes me to learn and grow when others are playing and being entertained. However, this is just one of my fears.

The fear of wasting

My second (and more prevalent) fear is much more weighty. It’s the fear of reaching middle-age and accomplishing much in the eyes of the world – making a name for myself, building empires, winning friends, influencing people, traveling the world, living the dream… but accomplishing nothing of real eternal significance. A far greater tragedy than living a life of settling is the tragedy of living a life of greatness from the world’s viewpoint, but squandering it in the light of eternity. To “waste” something is to “employ uselessly or without adequate return”.

God’s word says,

“we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

This is an incredible, yet terrifying truth when you think about it. First, it assumes that we were created for a purpose that transcends us. If God created us “to do good works” and if these works were “prepared in advance for us to do” then that means that we don’t get to determine what those good works are! Our job is to simply discover what those works are, and live them out. Second, it assumes not only is the purpose of our life set by God and not by us, it also assumes that since we are “God’s handiwork” then we are then held accountable by God to do these works He created us for.  God has blessed me with life and everything in it.  If I do not employ an “adequate return” on this gift of life I’ve been blessed with, then I have wasted it all.

The juxtaposition

Where these two fears intersect in my life personally stems from what I believe God has called me to.  Keep in mind this is what I believe (which means I could be wrong) that God has called me to do (which means that even if I’m right, it doesn’t mean God has called anyone else to this).  I’m just sharing my heart. Through lots of prayer, meditation on God’s word, and spending time in His presence I believe that God has called me to do four things with my life: discipleship, church planting, evangelism and world mission. Perhaps in another post I will explain each of these categories from my interpretation of them, but suffice it to say for now that God has called me to serve the church in those four areas.  In other words, God has called me to be a minister of the church.

As a minister, the way I see it, there are at least two biblical ways to fund your ministry and provide a decent living and income for you and your family:

1) Receive financial support from the church; “church work” is your sole vocation 

“For scripture says, ‘do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the gran,’ and ‘the worker deserves his wages.'” (1 Timothy 5:18)

2) Work in a trade as your vocation while simultaneously serving the church (bi-vocational ministry)

“…We worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” (1 Thessalonians 2:9)

 

How this relates to my fears

The dreams God has put in my heart for making an eternal impact in this world before I die require millions of dollars. Again, this is for me specifically (it requires ZERO dollars to preach the gospel to someone, making an eternal impact in someone’s life). I’m talking about what I believe God has called me to do. I also believe that God has not called me to do it on the church’s dime, but rather through the means of entrepreneurship. This is why I own businesses. This is why I’m willing work like a Hebrew slave. This is why I’m driven in my vocation.

However, as I’ve pursued success in entrepreneurship I have realized how exhausting it can be. I have hardly any mental capacity to think theologically as I once did, and have had to put practical church ministry on the back burner. In this current season of my life God is growing me as an entrepreneur which at present requires too much thought, energy, and time to serve the church well, as I once have.

This scares me! My heart is wanting to serve like I used to, study theology like I used to, attend functions like I used to, plan outreaches and go on missions trips and lead classes and disciple men like I used to. However, the pursuit of success as an entrepreneur is consuming all of that time and thought that I once was able to give in service to the church. Though I believe this call to successful entrepreneurship is from God and to be used as a means for the call He has on my life to pursue radical service to the church, I still have those two lingering fears. What if I reach middle-age and I don’t achieve the success I believe is required to fulfill what God has called me to do?  Would I have wasted all these years chasing the wind?  Or, what if I do achieve the success (and even surpass it), yet in the process my heart gets cold and I abandon the pursuit of radical service to God’s church?

The remedy

So, what do I do about these fears?  I believe I need to do three things… First, I feel these are healthy fears to have, so long as they’re subjected to what God says.  In other words, I need to take every thought captive, know where it’s coming from, and discern what God’s answer is to that thought (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Second, I need to continue in my resolve.

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)

A diligent man, however, sees a commitment through even when the feelings in which that commitment was made have left.  I need to stay the course, understanding that faith is never 100% (if it was, then it wouldn’t be faith!).

Third, I need to learn that I can experience God in every season of my life.  God is omnipresent – He is everywhere.  He is not only in the prayer closet and in front of the pulpit, He’s also at my cluttered desk and in the conference room.  I need to be conscious of God’s presence throughout the day, and aware of the opportunities He puts in front of me to be used wherever and whenever He wants to use me.

My prayer

Now that I’ve been transparent with you, whoever’s reading this, here’s what my prayer for myself has been… Feel free to join me, or send a prayer up for me as well.

Lord, you know my heart and understand my fears – even better than I do.  My desire is to serve you and to serve your people and make a lasting impact in this world by making a lasting impact for eternity.  I believe that you’ve given me direction on how to do this – but I need daily reminders that I’m doing the right thing.  I need you to confirm your word to me, and give me assurance and direction in the midst of carrying out what I believe you have called me to.

I also pray that in the midst of the busyness of life and all its demands you would help me see the doors of opportunity that are all around me to serve you and your people every day.  I pray that you would help my perspective change to realize that ministry is every day – not just what I know you put on my heart for the future.

I pray that in my pursuit of success in business you would keep me.  Stir a fresh fire in my heart and don’t let my passion for you grow cold.  Don’t allow me to lose myself – who I know you’ve called me to be.  Give me energy and strength and perseverance to run my race well.

Lord, the only thing I care about in this world is to know that when I reach the end of my life I can say with confidence “I have run my race.  I’ve completed the good works you’ve prepared for me in advance”.  I want more than anything to hear you say to me, “well done!”  Help me hear those words, Lord.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen!

Reflections from Witnessing Encounters in 2009

I was rummaging through some old files in an archive hard drive of mine and came across some old journal entries and stuff that I used to type out.  I found this interesting journal entry about some witnessing encounters I had back in 2009.  At this point I was just over 2 years old in the Lord.  Here’s how it read:

Me, Chris Bean and Kyle Dunlap went to the Manchester Mall Bus Stop as we have done a few times in the past.  Terrified (as always), I started praying inside myself for courage to speak to the lost.  We walked around inside of the mall before talking to anyone, then once the courage was built, we headed for the bus stop.  I saw a sad looking African American man sitting by himself next to the benches.  He was wearing a dew rag, and all black; looked hardened, and lonely.  I asked him his thoughts on what happens after death, he told me only God knows.  I asked if he was a believer in God and in Christ, and he told me that he was and that he has attended Cornerstone Church for over two months.  His name was Reuben, and he said that he gave his life to Jesus two months ago… it also turns out that he had no idea what that meant.  I told him what it meant to give your life to God; I said that I don’t like to say “I’ve accepted Christ…” or “I’ve been saved…” rather, “I REPENTED”.  Reuben, downcast, told me “I’ve just got mental problems right now.  I’m homeless, my wife left me, I miss my baby, my mom just died; I’m going from house to house and don’t know what to do…”
I told Reuben “God wants you, God has a plan for you, and the Devil knows it!  He will do everything in his power to make sure that you don’t do what God wants you to do, and that is to KNOW HIM.  Sometimes the friends that seem to be helping you are actually bringing you down…”  Reuben halfway agreed with me, and I asked him if I could pray with him.  He declined, but I will pray for him from home anyways.  I gave him the 30 day challenge, and then his bus pulled up. 
I saw another African American man sitting on the seat back of the bus stop bench.  He was an older man, probably in his late 50’s that looked like he has seen a lot of anguish in his life.  I walked up and shook his ashy hands and asked him where people go when they die.  He told me “to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord”… then handed me a track!   We talked for awhile about evangelism and encouraged each other from our past experiences.  He asked “how many of you are there here today?”  I pointed to Chris and Kyle and said “3”…  he told me to pray, then stood up and started open air preaching in front of everyone at the bus stop (ear distance of about 20 people)… he said “I just want all of you to know that Jesus loves you…” then started quoting scripture after scripture.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  He spoke with such a soft voice, but at the same time loud enough for people to hear.  When he was done, he talked to me and Chris about how he was stirred up after talking with me for a brief moment, and then walked off excited and encouraged.  This was strange, as I felt he was the one doing all of the encouraging.
The whole time he was talking, I saw a white guy, about 18-20 years old; a big guy, probably 250 lbs with stubble as long as his hair.  He was standing about 10 feet away trying to act like he wasn’t listening.  I felt the spirit telling me to talk to him, but I didn’t know how to open.  So I went up and opened like I normally do and asked what his thoughts were on the afterlife, and he jokingly told me that for him, he hopes it’s a place covered with an obscenity used to describe women’s breasts.  I got him to be serious, and he opened up to me telling me that he has a problem with drugs.  He thinks about what could be out there sometimes, but never dwells on it.  There could be a God, but he never looked for him…  after a little touch on apologetics, a young Asian looking guy (probably about 20-25) walked up and started talking.  It sounded like he was downgrading the belief of God, and was misquoting scriptures, but said that he believes in the New Testament and has read it countless amounts of times.  After some counters from me, I moved my way back to Frank and the Asian guy left (I felt a presence of demonic power from the Asian trying to pull me away from Frank).  After talking, Frank told me that he was sick of the way he was living; he can’t handle it, and doesn’t know what to do.  I gave a brief testimony and instructions on how to find purpose in life through God, and the way to do this is to pray and read God’s word.  When Frank’s bus pulled up, he looked upset and said that he had to leave… I frantically looked for a pen, asked him if he had a cell phone (he didn’t), then opened my wallet and found an OLD business card that I forgot was in there… I gave it to him, told him to call my office on Monday, and gave him the 30 day challenge.  We’ll see if he calls. 

Faith vs. Science? Review of the film “The Unbelievers”

It’s almost midnight on September 13, 2014.  I just finished watching “The Unbelievers” – a documentary following Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they travel the world speaking at different venues and events spreading their “gospel” of atheism.  From time-to-time I watch films, documentaries, speeches, debates, etc. created by people with different beliefs than me to make sure I have some insight into their worldview before I engage them in conversation.  After watching this documentary, I have a slew of different thoughts and feelings.

Growing up I remember having the feeling that it was wrong, maybe sinful, to ask difficult questions about the bible and the existence of God.  I may have had this feeling because when I did open up and ask, I was never provided with good answers.  Since religion wasn’t really a big part of my life (even though I would have claimed to be a Christian) I never really pressed the issues and I just left the questions alone.

However, when I was born again in November of 2007, everything in my life changed.  I knew God was real.  Before, I acknowledged that He was real, but now, it actually meant something.  I knew that Jesus was my savior, and that the Holy Spirit was transforming me into a different person.  My life would now be dedicated to follow Jesus by life or by death, no matter the cost or consequence.  However, old questions from my past doubts kept coming to my memory.  This time, instead of sweeping the questions under the rug, I decided to confront them face to face.

By this time the internet was fast, and easily accessible.  I had a whole world of information that I could plunder to find answers to questions I had always wondered, and I could stream hours worth of video with no load time!  I figured that if Jesus was “the truth” (as He said He was in John 14:6), then I had nothing to worry about as I sought out evidence.  I probably watched hundreds of hours of debates between Christians and atheists, agnostics and other religions.  My rationale behind watching debates, rather than just reading books or watching lectures was this: any great orator can persuade you to believe their point-of-view if they have the floor all to themselves… however, you see how air-tight their arguments are when put under the pressure of cross examination by someone of equal intelligence and talent.

I was stunned to watch debates from William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Michael Brown, and others.  Not only were they holding their own against “The Brights” from top universities, they were actually making them look foolish as they pressed them to take their worldviews to their furthest conclusions.  Documentaries like “Evolution vs. God” helped me realize the blind leap of faith atheists take to hold on to their beliefs.  I found many other Christian apologists, scientists and philosophers, and realized that questions were okay to ask.  I realized that I was right in thinking that if truth was on my side, I had nothing to fear.  It opened my mind to freely think of some of the hardest questions I could ask about God and the bible – not in an accusatory way, but in a way that was humble, open, and desiring to find the truth.

This discovery also opened my understanding to the fact that “faith vs. science was a false dichotomy.  Many scientists, doctors, philosophers, and brilliant thinkers from all areas of society are theists, and Christians.  Science is actually based on the idea that we live in an ordered universe.

However, when watching The Unbelievers, it seemed as though the whole thrust of the documentary was to espouse their hatred for God and religion, and to pit up belief in God as being unscientific.  The idea you are left with after watching the documentary is that there are two kinds of people:

1) Intelligent, educated people who believe in facts and science, and consequently believe that God does not exist

2) Delusional, dimwitted, primitive people who live in a fantasy world because they choose to believe in God despite the evidence, most likely because they may be psychologically imbalanced and they prefer to hold onto myths

To say the least, it was an egregious misrepresentation of theism (even though they primarily attacked Christianity).  The documentary built up a straw man and then violently tore it down.  Surprisingly, though the documentary followed two scientists giving speeches, none of the speeches were scientific; they were just anti-God.  I’m not saying this just because I’m a Christian; there were literally no scientific talks given in this film.

I’m glad I watched the documentary because it gave me a glimpse into the rationale behind some of the people I care about who don’t believe in God.  I don’t feel anger towards them by any means… but I do feel grieved.  Besides being unscientific, atheism (the way it was presented in the documentary) is such a hopeless worldview; as they said things like “there is no meaning to life” and “you are more insignificant than you thought”.  Though they attempted to add some optimism to the message by saying things like “since there is no meaning, you create your own meaning…” I felt it just exposed the real reason behind their hatred for God.  Autonomy.

I would encourage all of my non-believing friends to watch debates from William Lane Craig on issues about origins and morality before being quick to accusing all Christians and theists of being illogical or unintelligent.  Here are a couple of relevant debates:

Craig vs. Sam Harris on morality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcwJiF9nVjE

Craig vs. Peter Atkins on existence of God: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ssq-S5M8wsY 

Don’t Move Ahead of God – Verse of the Day: Joshua 2:23

VERSE:
Joshua started early the next morning and left the Acacia Grove with all the Israelites. They went as far as the Jordan and stayed there before crossing. After three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God carried by the Levitical priests, you must break camp and follow it. But keep a distance of about 1,000 yards between yourselves and the ark. Don’t go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before.”
– Joshua 2:23


THOUGHT:
The Arc of the Covenant represented the presence of God.  Joshua knew where they needed to end up (in the Promised Land), but the journey to get there was filled the unknown.  The Israelites were instructed to let the Ark of the Covenant (the Presence of God) go out before them so that they could clearly see the way to go.    


As Christians we know our final destination, but our journey is filled with the unknown.  God has called each of us to specific work, and in our pursuit of accomplishing this work we will face opportunities as well as obstacles.  If we get out ahead of God, we may miss the path that God has in mind for our journey. 


APPLICATION:
It’s always necessary to move forward in your journey with God, but don’t get out ahead of Him.  Wait for the presence of God to go before you so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before.  

PRAYER:
Heavenly Father, I am excited to walk this journey of life with you, and feel that you are calling me to a place in you that I haven’t been before, but I don’t want to get out ahead of you and miss the way.  Give me the patience to wait on you when I am unsure, and give me eyes to see where your presence is leading me.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN!




No Excuses

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”

2 Peter 1:3
This small verse is packed full of huge truths.  At the very least, we can see that as believers we have absolutely no excuse for living in sin, defeat, immorality, or immaturity.  It says clearly that God has (past tense) given us everything we need (not some of what we need, and then the rest gradually as we struggle through some things) for life and godliness…  in other words, there are no excuses!  
We live in a culture that prides itself on excuses for everything.  “I have a struggle with ___________ because _________” (fill in the blank with whatever sin you want to live in for whatever crutch you’ll hold to in order to live in it).  That’s basically what excuses are – a crutch giving you comfort for doing something you know you shouldn’t do.  You know that having a porn addiction is wrong.  So rather than confessing it as sin and moving forward in the power of God towards victory, you say things like “I was touched when I was a kid”.  You know that laziness and slacking off is a sin.  So rather than looking to God to help you be faithful and work with excellence, you blame the fact that you never had a good example growing up.     
How long are you going to blame your past deficiencies for your present failures?  How long are you going to hold onto your sin for a poor excuse?  Granted, these things may be the reasons for doing whatever we do, but the word is clear that those reasons are not excuses.  I am in no way trying to trivialize anyone’s struggles, or make light of anyone’s past.  I am saying, however, that there is victory in Christ and there is no excuse for living in defeat.  We somehow convince ourselves that because we think we have a good excuse, that maybe God agrees with us.  The fact is that God says there are no excuses if you are in Him, because “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness”.  
Notice the rest of the verse, though.  It doesn’t just say that God’s divine power has given us everything we need… it says that His divine power has given us everything we need through our knowledge of Him.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • You have no excuse because God has given you everything you need to live a godly life
  • You can only live this godly life by His divine power (you cannot do it in your own strength)
  • His divine power is only accessible through our knowledge of Him

The Greek word for “knowledge” in this verse is “epignosis”, which Thayer’s bible dictionary defines as “precise and correct knowledge”.  The NLT translates this verse as saying “we have received all of this by coming to know Him“.  In other words, if you want to tap into the power source from which godly living stems from, it is only done through coming to know Him – through seeking God intimately.  To put it negatively, if you are not living a godly life, it’s because you are not plugged into His divine power.  If you are not plugged into His divine power, it’s because you are not seeking His face.  Or to put it positively – if you want to live a godly life, it is only done by His power.  To have His power working in your life, it comes by seeking His face.  
When I see this scripture, and hear the Spirit of the Lord though it say “NO EXCUSES!” I don’t feel a heavy burden, or condemnation, or something that is negative in any way.  On the contrary, I see liberty!  I see hope!   I see victory!  I realize that no matter what struggle, or sin, or act of immaturity I may have to deal with in my life, that there is no reason to stay in it.  His divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness through my knowledge of him who called me by His own glory and goodness!
I have seen God’s divine power break the strongholds of decades of addiction.  I have seen God’s divine power break through years of sexual immorality that go back for several generations.  I have seen God’s divine power break through some of the roughest sins rooted in some of the roughest pasts: anger, malice, sexual immorality, slothfulness, witchcraft, depression, anxiety… the list goes on forever… and every time, God’s divine power proves to be stronger than any sin, and every excuse.

“Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I’ve tried to make excuses for things that you have already given me victory over through Christ.  I thank you, Lord, for your divine power which gives me everything I need for life and godliness.  I pray that you would imprint this truth on my mind so that I would never stray far from you.  I pray that I would always seek your face, and thank you for the fact that by doing so, I get the privilege of experiencing your divine power.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN!”

“It’s So Hard To Be A Christian”

If you walk through the process of discipleship with enough people, undoubtedly you will hear things like, “man, this is just hard” or “it’s so easy for me to fall”, “I have a hard time with ____”, etc.  Maybe you have felt that yourself.  Maybe you still feel that way!  Basically, detachment from worldly pleasures is often a difficult task for many, and they chalk it up to their lack of willpower to live out the Christian life.

The bible, however, doesn’t seem to indicate that living out the Christian life (a life of holiness, set apart unto God, and detached from worldliness) is a matter of conjuring up the willpower in your own ability.  Holiness is a commandment, but it’s also something that the Holy Spirit does in you as you respond to Him (Galatians 5:16-23).    

Here is an almost to-simple-to-be-true concept:
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5

It’s a pretty simple concept right?  If you have your mind set on the things your flesh desires, that’s what will show up in your life.  If you set your mind on what the Spirit desires, then that’s what will show up in your life.  You will live out what you put in.  

Think about it in regards to natural things.  If you never take care of your body, you eat junk food all the time, and you never work out, then it would be pretty hard (maybe impossible) for you to do certain things physically.  It’s the same thing spiritually…  if you never feed your spirit with the word, you barely pray, and you fill yourself with worldly entertainment, then it would be pretty hard (more like impossible) for you to live out the Christian life.

Fortunately, the opposite is true too.  If you renew your mind to think on spiritual things, then you wouldn’t conform any longer to the pattern of this world, and you would be able to test and approve of God’s will (Romans 12:3).  If you hide God’s word in your heart, then you wouldn’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).  If you delighted yourself in the Lord, then His desires would become your desires (Psalm 37:4).  

You’re just weak!
If you feel like “it’s so hard to be a Christian”, the truth is that it’s not hard – you’re just weak.  You are weak spiritually, because you are not feeding your spirit.  The real question you should be asking yourself is, “why am I not feeding my spirit”.  That’s the real issue.  Feeding your spirit is essentially just giving yourself to God.  Spending time with Him.  Seeking His face.  Drawing close to Him.  The bottom line is that if you are not feeding your Spirit, it’s because you don’t see God as someone worth spending time with.  You of coarse would never actually say those words, but if you were brutally honest with yourself, that’s all it is.

When God isn’t your delight
Why do you not see God as someone worth your time?  Because you’re not believing the gospel.  I’m not saying that if you ever feel this way you’re not a Christian – though for many this may be the case:

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5

Though it’s true that many who find it “hard to be a Christian” may feel that way because they are not in-fact Christians, it is also true that many soundly saved followers of Jesus often fall into dry spots where it just seems so hard to live holy, or have the desire to spend time with God.  If you are a Christian, and you have a lapse where God is not really your joy, it’s because you are experiencing a slight case of gospel amnesia.  You are forgetting the truth of the gospel.  You are losing sight of the beauty of Christ in your mind.  Faith is a fight! (1 Timothy 6:12)  Faith is a gift! (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Therefore if you are experiencing a lull in your Christian life, you need to fight for it, and receive it.      

So what do you do?  
What you don’t want to do is fall into self pity and condemnation.  Condemnation leads to death. Conviction leads to life!

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but wordly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

What you should do is pray!  Pray for forgiveness for allowing other things to be primary in your life.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

After you confess your sins and trust God for forgiveness and purification, pray that God would fan into flame the sparks on your heart.  Pray that the gift of faith would rise up inside of you so that you would see Christ as beautiful.  This is the “receiving” part, since faith is a gift.  But since faith is not just a gift, you must also fight!  Fight vigorously for all that would increase faith in your life (namely the Word).

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

Seek His face through the word in daily devotion.  Don’t put it down until you know He has spoken, and not just that He has spoken, but that He has spoken to you!  Not only should you fight for that which would increase your faith, you should also fight vigorously against anything that would hinder faith from increasing in your life (namely the things of this world).

“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:17

Heavenly Father, I confess my sins of allowing other things to take precedence in my life over you, and allowing them to steal my devotion and attention away from you.  Thank you for the forgiveness and the cleansing that’s available through Christ!  Help me to see Jesus as the most precious treasure in all the universe.  Help me to see the beauty of the gospel.  God, I pray that as I read your word you would speak clearly and specifically to me.  I pray that as I continue in your word, you would increase my faith!  Help me to stay on course, and not get sidetracked by the things of this world.  In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN!

Evolution VS God

The Evolution VS God video was just released to the public for free viewing today.  It’s a great video that gives some practical questions to ask those who put their faith in what the “experts” claim to be fact.  The reality is that evolution is not a fact that is proven by the scientific method – rather, it is a theory that has to be believed by faith.

Most people don’t recognize that there are many different types of “evolution” – only one of which is testable and observable.  This is called micro-evolution.  Micro-evolution is when there are changes within a kind of species to help the species adapt to their environment, etc.  This, however, is completely different than macro-evolution, which teaches that one species can change into a completely different kind of species.

Watch this short video for some great interviews that expose a few gaping holes in the theory of evolution.