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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

In Courage: Here's Your Cue

Now that we have a comfortable understanding of encouragement, it's important that we take steps to actually put encouragement into practice. Encouragement can be likened to a cue ball from a pool table. The cue ball itself has a lot of potential (i.e. it is the means by which all the other balls are to make it in the pool table's pockets). But, without the force of the pool stick moving and directing the cue ball where it needs to go, it's potential can never be actualized--the cue ball becomes useless. Likewise, encouragement that is never spoken or acted upon is worth absolutely nothing.

In order for encouragement to work, it must be put to use. For example, any responsible parent would tell you that, in order to "train up a child in the way he should go..." (Proverbs 22:6a), he or she must spend a great deal of time encouraging good behavior. Otherwise, if the child's good behavior is never recognized or if they are never encouraged to do better, it's quite possible that they may become frustrated and discouraged. This could ultimately hinder them from improving their behavior or reaching their full potential (Colossians 3:21).

The flow of encouragement between parents and children isn't the only example of a circumstance or situation where encouragement is crucial. Any relationship (whether it be a marriage, dating relationship, friendship, accountability group, etc.) should be full of encouragement. For example, if your accountability partner is struggling with something or has done something wrong, one way to encourage them would be by letting them know you are willing to help them fix the problem and by reminding them of the many verses in the Bible that promise that the Lord is in control. In the same way, if the person you are dating or are married to did something good for you or something that you enjoyed, encourage them to continue to do so by letting them know that you liked it.

As you can imagine, encouragement is a tool with many uses. It can be used to correct someone in a gentle and humble way, convey what behavior you enjoy/expect or help someone feel empowered in order to do something. However, just like the cue ball's potential can never be actualized if the pool stick does not utilize it, the benefits of encouragement can never be brought about if it is not put into practice. Encouragement is too precious to not be used in our everyday lives. Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to work through you by being an encouragement to others? if not, do not wait any longer to vocalize or show encouragement. In fact, consider this your cue.

Friday, February 23, 2007

In Courage: Encouragement Defined

Because we live in a fallen world, there will be times when we will want to quit trying to be the people God has called us to be. We'll go through times of uncertainty about where God wants us to go or what He wants us to do. We'll be faced with trials that cause us to believe God has left us and that we must continue alone. We may even begin to believe that living life for Christ is not worth it and He couldn't possibly be the only way to Heaven. What do we do during these times and how can we help our fellow Christ-followers make it through them as well? The answer is encouragement.

What does encouragement mean? According to, encouragement means to inspire with courage--to provide "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear." I don't know about you, but I have realized that I become most passionate about living my life for Christ when I surround myself with fellow believers who constantly encourage me to allow God to change me and mold me into the person He wants me to be. Let's face it, Christianity is not a lone ranger lifestyle. We are relational beings and, as such, we need to bind together and lift each other up (Hebrews 10:25, 1 Thessalonians 5:11).

It's important to understand that encouragement should be a two-way street. Not only should we get into a habit of encouraging others, but we should also surround ourselves with people who are encouraging to us. Paul understood this and mentioned it in his letter to the Christians in Rome (Romans 1:12). He knew that encouragement should be a practice that is carried out throughout the whole community of believers, for even those who encourage others need to be encouraged themselves!

Are you an encouragement to the people around you? Are you making an effort to be with other believers in order to encourage and be encouraged? Throughout His time on earth, Jesus constantly encouraged His disciples. We too should encourage others by reminding them of the amazing and undeserving love that Jesus provides and by being there for them during the hard times that this life brings. As you go throughout your day, think of some ways that you can become a better encourager to those whom God has placed in your path and make some plans to meet with fellow believers so that you can be encouraged as well. Take comfort from the fact that we do not live this life alone; Christ is faithful to us and surely will be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Winning Witness

Imagine a witness on a witness' stand in a courtroom. This witness is being asked a series of questions about a certain event because he or she had a first hand account of what occurred. As this witness is being questioned, a jury of people (who were not present at the event the witness was) are listening intently and soaking in all the information they can in order to paint a picture of the event in their minds. This witness begins to describe the event using words only understandable by rocket scientists and the jury is unable to comprehend anything he or she says. After completing the questions, the witness leaves and the jury realizes that, because they weren't able to understand what the witness was talking about, they are no better off than they were before.

As Christians, we are witnesses to the life-change that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can bring about. We know first hand the many blessings that God has placed in our lives because of our obedience in maintaining this relationship. Because Jesus' love is so wonderful and because of the wonderful opportunities He gives us to conform our ways closer to His, we sometimes get excited and begin to witness to others using big words and spiritual truths that only mature Christians have come to understand. Being this excited is not wrong, in fact, we should be extremely excited! However, when witnessing to someone who doesn't understand much about the Bible or God's plan for their lives, it's important we take a gander at the Bible to find the best way to talk with them.

In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul is talking to the Corinthian church about how he first came to them to tell them about God's plan through Jesus Christ. He tells them in verses 1-5 that when he came to them he didn't use lofty words or brilliant ideas to tell them about God's good news. He reminded them that he decided to concentrate only on Jesus and His death on the cross. He also mentions that his preaching was very plain and contained no wise or persuasive speeches. Paul did this because, as we see in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2a, the Corinthians were not mature enough in their walks with Christ to understand a lot of "spiritual truths" (see 1 Corinthians 2:13b). He told them that he had to talk to them as though they "belonged to this world or as though they were infants in the Christian life" and he had to "feed [them] with milk and not with solid food, because [they] couldn't handle anything stronger."

As you can see, Paul gives us the perfect example of how to witness to others and how to help new believers grow. Paul shows us that, if we are witnessing to someone who isn't a mature believer, we mustn't use words or ideas that they will not understand. This can actually be counterproductive because "people who aren't Christians can't understand the [spiritual truths from God]" (see 1 Corinthians 2:10,14). We should concentrate "only on Jesus and His death on the cross." By sticking to the basics of God's good news and a personal relationship with Christ, you are not only giving them "food" that they are able to "eat", but you are showing them that a relationship with Christ is not based upon knowledge of theology or advanced apologetics but on their choice to place God at the center of their lives.

When you tell others about Christ, do you use lofty words that they are unable to understand? Are you shy when it comes to witnessing because you don't feel like you know enough? While a deeper knowledge of Christ's plan for our lives and other deep spiritual thoughts are important, we should be careful to not cram a "steak" into the throats of those who are only infants. Witnessing to others should be about meeting someone on their level and going from there. Always start with the basics and then build a relationship with them where each of you will become more mature in your understanding of God and His plan for your lives (see Proverbs 27:17). Just like the witness in the courtroom was no help to the jury, if we don't explain God's good news (the Gospel) in a way that someone can understand, they will most likely be no better off than they were before.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Wisest Counselor

As humans, we are characterized by the inability to make a decision that takes every single piece of information into account. Decisions like where to live, what car to buy, who to marry, who to hang out with and how to live our lives are very important decisions that can have major consequences if the right decisions are not made. Because we are finite (or limited) in the amount of knowledge that we possess, those of us who are wise seek counsel when making a decision that requires a lot of attention to detail. To facilitate our efforts in making sure our decisions take into account as much information as possible, we have devised practices like checks and balances, boards of directors, congress, etc. Even so, none of us are perfect and, more times than not, our decisions turn out lacking complete wisdom.

So when hard decisions come our way, what should we do? Should we depend on human knowledge to help us through? No, as Christians we have the awesome ability to know the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). Through the light of Holy Spirit's direction and the Word of God, we are able to find our footing and walk where the Lord guides us. Sadly, instead of seeking the wisdom and counsel of God found in the Bible and through fellowship with Him, many times we seek the counsel of those who who think that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is foolish (1 Corinthians 2:14)--those who are not Christ-followers. The problem with seeking the counsel of those who believe the Word of God is foolish is that we're back at square one: the counsel we are receiving is fallible and does not take all information into account.

Isaiah 40:12-15 reminds us that, when it comes down to it, God knows everything and His counsel cannot be topped, "Who else has held the oceans in His hand? Who has measured off the heavens with His fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale? Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord? Who knows enough to give Him advice or teach Him? Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does He need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach Him what is right or show Him the path of justice? No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand."

Do you allow the will of God to be your ultimate decision maker? Do you involve prayer, meditation of scripture and fellowship with fellow believers in all of the decisions you are faced with? God is so much bigger than what we comprehend Him to be; we have no room to boast about our wisdom because the wisest of counsel here on Earth is much worse than even the least from God (1 Corinthians 1:25). No one can teach Him and no one can trump His knowledge. So, as Christians, the deciding factor in all that we do should be His will. We must meditate on the Word of God and allow our lives to conform to the life He wants for us, not the patterns of this world. Throughout your day, be aware of the amount of decisions you make and strive to seek the counsel of God in order to find what it is He wants you to do. You will find that His counsel is perfect and just, and through your trust in Him, your relationship with and dedication to Him will grow.