Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pain's Potential

An unfortunate consequence of our fallen nature is our susceptibility to pain. Pain is inevitable. We all encounter pain both physically and emotionally. No matter how hard we try, no matter how fast we run, pain has the potential to overpower and run us over. The question is, must pain always end in despair and defeat? Is there a reason why God allows us to experience such sorrow?

As a survivor of a brother who committed suicide, I know all too well the depth of depression, confusion and overwhelming emotional exhaustion and pain that life can bring. My brother, Carson, suffered from Bipolar Disorder and would swing back and forth through times of mania and deep, debilitating depression. He would have his good days and he would have his bad days. Unfortunately, the pain that he had endured for so long eventually became too much to bear and he chose to take his own life.

Your pain may look different. Maybe you're going through a tough time with your spouse and you're not too sure things are going to work out. Maybe you've just been notified that your position at work has been cut and you no longer have a job; a job that you've relied on to support your family. Or, maybe you're struggling with loneliness and, no matter how much you try, you feel like you are never good enough for anyone. No matter what experience you've had with pain, its potential remains the same: pain either petrifies or proclaims.

When we experience pain, it's easy to become petrified. In our sadness and despair, the easy thing to do is to seclude ourselves from anything and everything. We may slip into depression and find ourselves only interested in the solace of our beds. We may even choose to neglect friendships, family and even God! It is during these times that we should find our way back into the word of God. In 2nd Corinthians, we are able to read over Paul and Timothy's shoulder and see what message they had for the church in Corinth. Right off the bat, Paul and Timothy remind the church that God is the "Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3b NIV).

I know what you may be thinking: "If God is the source of all comfort, why am I in so much pain? What reason could there be for me to experience such torment?" These questions are normal; in fact, I imagine God expects this to be our reaction to the pain that He allows in our lives. Paul and Timothy knew that the church in Corinth needed to understand pain's potential so they continued in verse 4, "[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (2 Corinthians 1:4 NIV)

Here we see pain's great potential: The comfort we receive from God when we experience pain can serve to proclaim God as the source of all comfort! Thought it may be easy to wallow in our pain or to blame God for allowing us to go through it, there is greater potential for pain to be used to promote God's sovereignty and grace! We have a choice! We can either allow pain to petrify us and waste its potential, or we can allow it to proclaim God's provision in times of need!

What pain have you experienced? How are you handling it? Although there is definitely a need for a time of grief and reflection, God never meant for us to be petrified by the pain He allows us to go through! Choose today to be the beginning of allowing the pain you've experienced to proclaim the grace, love and comfort that only the Lord can supply. Share your story with others and make yourself available to be a soundboard for God's ability to provide! Don't allow pain's potential to be wasted; rest assured, God can, and will use your pain to bring Him glory!


Friday, August 09, 2013

Wise Counsel

Life does not happen without bumps and bruises. Thanks to our fallen nature, we often find ourselves in situations where we're faced with drastic decisions that can make or break business deals, scholastic or career paths, relationships and more. At these uncertain times where we may feel confused, lost or just down-right stumped, how can we maximize the potential for making the best decision? The answer: wise counsel.
"Plans go wrong for lack of advice;  many advisers bring success." Proverbs 15:2 NLT
As a human who's lived longer than a second, I've come to realize I don't have all the answers. Sadly, not only have I made decisions in the past without seeking counsel, I've also made decisions in spite of wise counsel. These decisions inevitably end up costing me time, money and pain. Oh how I wish I would have taken the words of Proverbs 15:2 to heart! Whether it was my pride convincing me I was more than capable of making decisions on my own or a lack of life experience, these past decisions persist as feelings of regret.

Fortunately wise counsel is everywhere! Or... is it? We live in a time where we are more connected and more marketed to than any other generation before. In an instant, we can access information on any subject, anytime, anywhere; advertisements for the latest self-help books, support-groups and leadership conferences bombard us at unprecedented rates; friends we knew in the past but no longer have real relationships with provide opinions about our lives on all the popular social sites. With all of the potential "counsel" that comes at us from all directions, how can we know for sure what counsel is actually wise? Surely, not all counsel is directed by God (1 John 4:1)!
"... test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good." 1 Thessalonians 5:21
In 1st Thessalonians 5:21, the Apostle Paul instructs the church in Thessalonica to test everything and to hold on to what is good. But what is "good"? As Christ-followers, we believe the Bible is God-breathed and is useful to teach us what is true (2 Timothy 3:16). To discern whether or not the counsel we receive is wise or whack, we must test the counsel we receive against God's word!
"Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage [...] people with good teaching." 2 Timothy 4:2
Receiving wise counsel is one thing; giving it is another! How can we provide wise counsel to others? This time, in 2 Timothy 4:2, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to be prepared to communicate God's truth to others at all times. As Christ-followers, we must do our best to consistently learn from God's word. By familiarizing ourselves with the Bible, we become sharper tools for Christ and the wisdom we gain from it can then be used to counsel others!

Are you in a situation where you're faced with a decision that can have drastic consequences? If you aren't now, the time will come where you will be! Seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), pursue wise counsel and then, if the counsel you receive seems legit, confirm it as such by stacking it up against God's word!

Do you find that people are drawn to you for advice? Make sure you put aside time on a consistent basis to dive into God's word. When you do, not only will you be able to give wise counsel, you will be more able to test the counsel you receive!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's been a while...

I used to blog a lot. In fact, when I first started thecoblog, I would almost post every other day. At the time, I wrote posts that were meant to be devotionals for friends and family that needed guidance as well as to remind me of the way the Lord wanted me to live. Unfortunately, life got busy and I moved on to other things to fill my time and the blog slowly began to become less and less a part of my routine. I hate that.

So, I have decided that I am going to do my best to update thecoblog more often. A lot has changed since I first started blogging... I'm married, I have a daughter, my wife is pregnant with our son, I've become a pastor and much more. It is my hope that I will be able to use these life experiences to share wisdom that I have learned.

I love helping others, especially spiritually. I hope to bring back more devotional style posts that, if anything, will bring me closer to Christ. I also have a love for other things like animation and computer programming. Who knows, maybe I'll be posting on these things as well.

All in all, I have an urge to renew my journey here on thecoblog and I hope you will join me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Don't Hurt The Body

As Christ-followers, we are all one body. When any part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. Knowing this, why do we bicker about silly things? Isn't it obvious that such jabber portrays an attitude of divisiveness?

Yes, there are hills that we need to die on (the pillars of faith), but when we argue about things that are "gray", more times than not, the world interprets our bickering as division and an inability for God to produce change in the lives of those who follow Him! How do we expect to draw people to Christ when we are so determined to argue a point, philosophy or tradition that ultimately carries no weight in regards to salvation?

Furthermore, while it is our duty to "correct, rebuke and encourage", we are commanded to do so "with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Timothy 4:2; also see 1 Peter 3:15). I grow tired of "Christian Commentary" on blogs and news articles because much of it is malicious and divisive instead of gentle and humble!

I don't know about you but my eternity is secure because of my faith in Christ and the sacrifice He made for me. I don't want to hurt God and His Gospel by acting as if my argument is much more powerful than anything He could ever do for another person's heart.

How about you? Do you contribute to such harmful bickering? Are the things you say, the comments you leave, the blogs you write or the emails you send hurting the body? Remember, we are all a part of the Body of Christ. Please, don't hurt the Body.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

From Sponges To Mirrors

Gathering together at church with fellow believers to worship the Lord is an amazing thing. To be able to feel the comfort of God in a group setting produces an atmosphere of hope, belonging and support that are essential to every Christ-follower's walk. Going to church and meeting together with fellow believers is indeed what we are called to do (Hebrews 10:25), but, what happens when the only thing that separates us from the world is that we make an effort to show up at some place once a week to worship and learn about the Lord?

While knowing what God wants in our lives by studying the Bible, praying, and meeting with fellow believers is important, a healthy walk with Christ is not defined by having vast knowledge about Him - it is defined by seeking God's will in our lives and then actually applying what we've learned. We are not called by Christ to be sponges alone (that is to learn, learn and then learn some more), we are called to be mirrors - to actually do what we've been taught!

In John 13, we see a great example of a time where Jesus is giving the disciples an opportunity to soak in what He is teaching (v. 15) and then calling them to mirror Him. We read of Jesus, the Son of God, washing the feet of His disciples showing them that "slaves are not greater than their master" (v. 16). In other words, if Jesus, the Savior of the world, will stoop down and wash the feet of mere mortals, there is no one who should not be willing to stoop down and help others as well, regardless of who they are. After Jesus' instruction to His disciples, He seals the deal by telling them to mirror what He has taught them, "Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them" (v. 17, emphasis mine).

It is true that knowledge about God's word is important in order for us to be mirrors of Christ and, yes, we all must be sponges sometimes in order to become cleaner mirrors, but, if all we do is soak in information in order to feed our brains and don't actually apply what we learn then we are way off from where Christ wants us.

Do you put more emphasis on obtaining knowledge rather than actually applying what you know? If you are a new believer, it is obvious that you won't have as much knowledge of how God wants you to live as a veteran believer would. That is ok! Read your Bible, go to church and seek out the counsel of fellow-believers but do not let the soaking in of knowledge be what defines you as a Christ-follower! Regardless of where you are in your walk with Christ, make every effort you can to actually apply what you know! It will be then that you will be Continuously Overwhelmed with Blessings.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Time Keeps On Ticking

When I was younger and in school, I was amazed at how slowly the school year would go and how fast the summer would pass. Even though I perceived time differently in each instance, time remained constant and I could not recover the time that had ticked by. Although at the end of each summer I had wished that I could recover the time that had flown by, looking back I am glad I was given the opportunity to get an education and to use my time in a way that would help my future.

The same is true for our lives as Christ-followers; God has given us a certain amount of time here on Earth and we are responsible for using it wisely. The amazing thing to note here, though, is that while using our time wisely in school helps our lives and future here on Earth, the benefits of using our time wisely for Christ can make a huge impact not only on our lives and our future but its possible they can influence the lives and eternities of others.

As Christ-followers we have been given the Great Commission by Christ (Matthew 28:18-20) and it is our responsibility to use our time wisely to accomplish it! In Psalm 39:4, King David says, "Lord, remind me how brief my time on Earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is." When I read this Psalm I have mixed emotions. Part of me screams, "Lord! Come soon! I'm so tired of the trials of this world!" The other proclaims, "Man! I've got so many things here that I love and enjoy! I wish my life was longer!" Regardless of how we feel about our time here on Earth, the reality of how fleeting our lives are remains unchanged.

Do you feel you use your time wisely for Christ? It's not wrong to take time to relax, play games, and recoup but using our time wisely and in a way that will impact lives for Christ is very important, especially since the time we are given is limited. I'm not sure about you, but at the end of my life, I don't want to wish that I could recover the time that had passed. Instead, I would rather look back and be glad I was given time to be used by Christ and to have an impact for Him

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Transformed By An Open Heart

I recently sat down at a local coffee shop to read my Bible but instead ended up in conversation with two married folks about Christianity. The conversation began lightly with the admiration and awe that we felt in regard to Christ because of God’s answer to a prayer that we had all been praying about. We then moved on to multiple topics about religion, God’s place in the world, the belief that the Bible is God’s inerrant word, and how many paths there are to Heaven. The wife was very attentive during our discussion but the husband, whether it was because he was hard of hearing (I believe he was in his late 60’s) or because of stubbornness, would barely let me speak.

Before I continue my story, let me first mention that I understand that we have to be very careful in our discussions to not segregate people to the point that they do not see and understand what is most important: Christ’s love. Also, I recognize that petty arguments about Christianity with believers who are new or weak in their faith--arguments about things that are morally gray--many times do not end the way either party wants and are also spoken against in scripture (Romans 14:1). That being said, when the Bible speaks of something in a black and white manner--in a way that leaves no question about the author’s original meaning--we should be full and ready to correct and rebuke those who say otherwise in the most gentle, patient and humble way possible (2 Timothy 4:2).

Realizing that the husband was my elder, I respectfully and gladly held my tongue when my conscience allowed; however, once the words he chose to speak contradicted what the Bible says, my conscience could no longer allow me to be silent. Despite his claim that he believed the Bible is God’s inerrant word, he admitted that he believed that there are multiple ways to Heaven. When I asked him how that could be since Jesus specifically said in John 14:6 that He is the only way, he became very defensive and told me that I needed to have an open mind about things.

It has become very apparent to me that, in the last couple of decades, the United States (at least) has not become anti-religion but anti-Christianity. There has been a major trend towards having an open mind to everything and a closed heart to Christ. The Bible, however, calls us to not only open our minds but to open our hearts!

God does not ask us to leave our minds at the door. In fact, God is not above divinely providing intellect and rationalization to those who need it (Luke 24:45), but a heart that is open to God always produces a much more open and complete mind than a closed one. Romans 12:2 shows us that, when we are obedient to Christ and do not conform to the patterns of this world, He will transform us into a new person and change our minds to be more in line with His perfect will for our lives!

Do you belong to the “Open Minds, Closed Hearts” group like this old man does? Do you sometimes struggle with allowing God to transform you into a new person by transforming the way you think? Although this world says that freedom and unity are produced from an open mind to everything and everyone, an open mind is never truly free or open unless it has been transformed by an open heart to Christ. Throughout your day, make a conscious effort to do what you know God wants you to do and open your heart to Him. If you do so, He will open your mind in ways you could never imagine.

Monday, September 24, 2007

From Point A To B

What I am about to reveal is going to blow your mind. In fact, not only should you take notes, you should probably sit down as well. Are you ready? Here goes: It is much easier to get from point A to point B when you are able to see where you are going. Ok, so you’re probably not as enlightened as you thought you were going to be but what if we applied this obvious fact to our spiritual lives?

In John 12:46, Jesus shouts to the crowds, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” By this Jesus was letting the crowd know that His ultimate mission was to show and provide the way from point A (our earthly lives) to point B (Heaven); all He requests is that we trust in Him (v. 44). Ironically, even though we understand that spatially it is easier to get from point A to point B when we have light to see, spiritually many consistently and willingly ignore this fact and remain in the darkness of this world.

Although, as humans, we are not perfect and we will sometimes stumble back into darkness, the mark of a true Christ-follower is one who is always walking towards THE Light (Jesus Christ). Are you daily spending time with Christ so that He can illuminate your life? Does your lifestyle allow Christ’s light to shine through you? Christ came in order to illuminate our lives with his grace, mercy and love. Through his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, those who accept Him will no longer remain in the dark but will be consumed by Christ’s light which can never be extinguished (John 1:5).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

In Courage: Experience Enhances Encouragement

Imagine a kid named Billy. Billy, being a young kid, doesn't understand that humans and electricity don't mix and therefore isn't aware that, when he sticks something metal into an electrical socket, he will experience a jolt he'll never forget. Like most kids, all it will take is one shock for Billy to lose all curiosity about the effects of electricity on the human body. In fact, Billy, having experienced the bite of the surprised-faced sockets that taunt all who pass their space on the wall, will be quick to inform his friends that sticking a piece metal into something with electrical current is not a good idea. Even though Billy is most likely frustrated that he had to go through the pain and agony of being electrocuted, his friends will be spared from having to experience that same pain if they listen to his wise council.

The same is true for all things that we have experienced or will experience in this lifetime--good or bad. Because we live in a fallen world and we are given free choice, there will be times in our lives where we'll go through trials, tribulations and plenty of pain. There will also be times when we'll make dumb decisions that cause us to miss out on certain blessings that God had prepared for us. These times may not be enjoyable and we may be confused as to why God would allow us to go through them, but, if we allow these "shocking" experiences to teach us and mold us into the people God wants us to be, we can use them as leverage in encouraging others to avoid things that would lead them into similar situations. Not only that, they will also help us relate with and encourage those who may be going through (or have gone through) the same experiences.

Romans 5:3-4 says, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation." The endurance and strength of character that we develop because of the experiences that we go through allow us to be more confident in our hope of salvation. This confidence isn't limited to us alone though; we are able to share this hope of salvation confidently because of the endurance and strength of character that our experiences have provided. Rejoicing about problems and trials because of how they enhance our ability to encourage is a much better use of our time and energy than allowing ourselves to be upset about them.

Are you constantly bitter about the experiences that God has allowed you to go through or do you use them to encourage others around you? It's important to realize that the impact we are able to have on others can be drastically influenced by the experiences that we go through. Even though the hard times God allows us to undergo aren't fun to deal with, the experience that we gain because of them have the potential to be the best tool we can use to encourage others. Don't hide the wisdom that comes from experience. Allow God to use you, regardless of whether or not you feel useable, and allow the experiences you've had to enhance your ability to encourage others.

Monday, April 09, 2007

In Courage: Bipolar Encouragement

Hopefully by now you see the enormous power encouragement can have if it is actually put into practice. Unfortunately, encouragement is not bias towards being used only for good. When we encourage someone, we have the opportunity to either encourage them to do what is right or to do what is wrong. Encouragement's bipolarity, or its potential to be used by two extremes (good or evil in this context), can be a dangerous thing as it gives evil the same amount of access to its power and influence as it does to good.

Peer pressure (which is nothing more than a glorified term used to describe evil encouragement) is a very common use of encouragement for negative purposes. Like many, throughout my school years I was faced with plenty of peer pressure. There were times when my peers would pressure me to do drugs, go to parties to get drunk, mess around with girls, and plenty of other things that the Bible clearly says to stay away from. Fortunately for me, I grew up in a Christian home where things like that were discussed and I was able to steer clear of what I was being pressured to do.

But what about the people who were baby Christians at that time or weren't Christians at all? Were they able to steer clear from all of those things? I suppose we'll never know. However, based upon the fact that many of my old school friends are now consumed by lifestyles that God never intended for them to have, I think it's safe to say that either a lack of good encouragement or a surplus of evil encouragement in their lives gave way to the lifestyles that they chose.

It's quite possible that we may be the only positive encouragement someone is exposed to. Therefore, it is very important for us as Christians to get in a habit of encouraging others to do what is right. One way to do this is to watch what we say: "Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them" (Ephesians 4:29). We must also realize that proximity, or nearness in location, isn't necessary for encouragement. You don't have to be within speaking distance of someone in order to encourage them. Actions speak louder than words, thus we must make sure our actions provide a good example that will encourage others to do the same.

Are you doing your best to be an encouragement to those around you by watching what you say and by keeping your actions in check? Or do you encourage others to do things that are not right? The sooner we realize that encouragement is bipolar, the sooner we will be able to put into practice the kind of encouragement that God wants us to produce: encouragement that causes others to see God and His will for their lives more clearly. We should not be like the wicked people that Romans 1:19-32 talks about; people who do things that are detestable to God and, even worse, encourage others to do the same. We should strive to be examples of the amazing life-changing love that God provides for all that choose accept Him.