Monday, October 10, 2016

Two Factor Authentication - Use it!

Taking a break from my normal Bible-based blogs to provide information about the importance of two-factor authentication for any account you login to online. If you aren't using two-factor authentication, you need to start right now!

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Two-factor authentication is a process by which you utilize two different sources for authenticating with an online service. For example, having a one-time code sent to your phone upon logging into a website that you must provide the website with in order to complete your login. Google has a great page that explains it in detail.

Why is Two-Factor Authentication Important?

When it comes to securing your information online, you can never be perfectly secure. Devious people will always try to stay one step ahead of cyber security. While having two-factor authentication may not keep you completely secure (as the Black Lives Matter activist @deray found out), it definitely is better than not having at all!

The idea is that it's much harder for a bad actor to compromise your account when they have to have access to an additional piece of information that is separate from your password.

Set it up now!

I've listed a couple of websites where two-factor authentication is available. If you have an account on these websites, set up two-factor authentication now! Another great site that has information about websites that use two-factor authentication is Turn On 2FA.

  1. Google (Gmail, YouTube and other Google products)
  2. Yahoo
  3. Facebook
  4. Twitter
  5. Instagram
  6. Snapchat
  7. Bank Of America (They call it SafePass)
Bottom line, if you use an online service, look for their two-factor authentication documentation and turn it on!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The "Why" Is Still There

Planning. Organizing. Knowing what is to come. I rely on all of these to remain sane. As someone who grew up with an abnormal amount of anxiety, I can attest to the fear and frustration that can come from feeling lost in chaos. I'm also a realist and I know these three things are not always possible. Deadlines change, limited time prohibits organization and very rarely can I know one hundred percent what is to come.

To combat uncertainty as a child, I would ask a multitude of questions: "When will we get there?", "What are we doing tomorrow?", "What if I feel sick at school? Will I be able to go home?" and "What if my parents don't pick me up and someone else takes me to their house and now I'm in a different family and my parents don't know where I am and… and…?". These questions were my attempt to obtain knowledge of what was to come and to feel safe.

While your questions might not have been as irrational as some of mine, I know you asked similar questions when you were a child. As humans, we have an inherent curiosity that begs to be fed. This search for understanding is of course not reserved for our childhood, nor is it limited to natural things. We begin to question the supernatural and I've found, of all the questions I ask of God, the most frequent is "Why?"

Yes, I ask "when", "how" and "who" quite often but most of my questions still center around "why". Questions like, "Why has this not happened?", "Why is God waiting to answer this prayer?", "Why will this person not come along beside me and support me?", "Why do I feel so unimportant and overlooked?" have been common in my walk with Christ at times and I imagine I'm not alone. We all deal with "why".

As Christians, we know the Lord is in control of all and, in times of triumph and sorrow, He remains constant. So, why do we ask "why"? I believe one of the reasons we ask God "why" so often is because we are uncertain of what is to come. We fear what might be around the corner and we want to be in control. After all, when we are in control, we believe we are able to choose when, where and how life happens.

I haven't found many times where God flat out explained why He was going to do what He was going to do but one such instance was with the Israelites regarding their journey into the Promised Land. In Chapter 23: 28-30 of the book of Exodus (the account of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery) we find a time where God provided the "Why":
I will send terror ahead of you to drive out the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply and threaten you. I will drive them out a little at a time until your population has increased enough to take possession of the land. (emphasis mine)
In this portion of the chapter, God was explaining to the Israelites He would be with them as they advanced into the Promised Land. I'm not sure if God was trying to stave off more whining from the Israelites or if He was just being verbose in His wisdom but He chose to give them a reason why!

Let's stop and think about this. Would God's reasoning for not driving the current inhabitants of the Promised Land out in a single year change, or be less valid, had He not explained it? Of course not! God is omniscient (a fancy word that means He knows everything) and, as such, He is infinitely better at planning and providing—He knows what is to come! It stands to reason then, even when we don't know why things are the way they are—why God allows certain things to be the way they are—God still remains in control and is the most capable to provide for us.

It's easy for us to feel fear in uncertain times. Maybe your job is to be dissolved soon and you're unsure how you are going to be able to provide for your family. Or maybe you've started a business and it isn't growing as much as you expected. Maybe your family is growing and you have no idea how you are going to be able to afford another mouth to feed. Regardless of our circumstances, we can be certain God has everything under control—even when He doesn't reveal the "why".

As you go throughout your day, catch yourself each time you begin to ask "why" of God. Determine if you are doing so because you are truly seeking wisdom or if you are questioning God's ways. In everything you do, if you work at it for the Lord, He will provide (Colossians 3:23-24). Allow yourself to be content with God's timing and provisions. After all, God's perfect "why" is still there even when it's not made known to us.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Walk With Christ

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "a walk with Christ". Truth is, many Christians don't have a walk with Christ, they have a "sit and stare at their belly buttons singing Kumbaya soaking in more and more knowledge about Christ without doing anything with the knowledge" type relationship with Christ. Okay, hear me out before you assume I'm judging you. I struggle with this too!

I love learning as much as possible about anything and everything so it's very easy for me to soak in as much knowledge as I can about God's word. In fact, I can focus so much on becoming more knowledgeable, it's easy for me to forget to put what I know into practice.

It is true we must know why we believe what we believe so we can be prepared to defend our faith and ourselves from Satan's schemes (2 Timothy 4:2) but even the demons know of God (James 2:19)! The Bible is clear that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others; in fact, both are equally important (Matthew 22:37-39)! Why then do we focus so much on loving God by only focusing on our knowledge of Him?

The truth is, it's easy.

It's much easier for me to put effort into a relationship with an omniscient God who loves me unconditionally than it is for me to put effort into using my knowledge of Him to love others. I mean, let's face it, God has given me, through no effort or warrant of my own, the only access available to an eternity with Him through the death of His Son on a cross. My neighbors? Great people, for sure, but they'd never do that!

The problem is, by only cultivating my relationship with God and ignoring the implementation of my knowledge of Him, I am missing the other half of the two greatest commandments! Instead of searching for more knowledge (another devotional, Bible study, etc.), I should instead discipline myself and apply the knowledge that I have!

So what am I saying? Am I suggesting Bible Studies and collections of devotionals are bad? Of course not! However, we should never find ourselves forgoing the wisdom and righteousness from Christ that comes from applying the knowledge we have of Him (Romans 2:13).

Do you find yourself seeking to know more and more about Christ but your "walk with Christ" consists more of knowledge than application? I encourage you to find ways to strengthen your "walk" with Christ by applying His teachings! Volunteer at your church, look out for the "least of these", show kindness in all situations--love others! Allow yourself to be put into uncomfortable positions for Christ and ask that He use you to lead others to Him. When you do, you will experience a greater understanding of the Lord and His love than any knowledge alone could provide!

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.