Faith Moves Mountains

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” – Mark 11:23 (NIV).

Faith. It’s a topic that we hear about often, but often struggle to live out in the real. It is the thing that calls us to trust when there seems to be no way. However, in spite of all of this, faith is the very essence of the Christian walk.

I once heard a quote that said, “If you’re prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.“* Now, obviously God hears all prayers, ranging from the prayer of a seven year old girl in her bedroom to the prayer of an elderly man on his deathbed. However, there is something that I believe we, as believers, can take away from this quote. Too often, it is easy to keep our faith limited—boxed almost. Trusting God for some things, but hesitant to prayer about others. Somewhere deep down, we fear that we might just pray the prayer that is ‘too much’ for God to handle. 

However, as believers chasing after the very heart of God, I believe God is calling us to something more radical. 

Over the past year or so, God has been challenging me in my faith. As someone naturally prone to mini-panic-attacks about the future, God has been continuously leading me to live out the words of Philippians 4:6-7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV). He has also been challenging me to lean more on Him (rather than myself. Proverbs 3:5-6 y’all!) and have more faith for seemingly impossible things. Faith that God could literally heal someone on the spot. Faith that some of the most far off places (e.g. college campuses) could have mass revivals and dedications to Jesus. Faith that the most lost people we know will come to a saving faith in Christ by our example and the example others.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV). Furthermore, in Matthew 19:26 (NIV), it says, “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (NIV). 

We serve a God who we cannot see, but whom we can trust. A God who has a track record of performing miracles—such as breathing the world into existence and rising from the dead on the third day. Who is in authority over all of the forces of nature, and has a power beyond what we can imagine, but who loves us infinitely—more than we can even imagine. As Christians, we serve a God who we believe in through faith—who calls us to an even greater faith as we grow and mature in our walk. 

This week, I want to challenge you to a greater faith. To a faith that truly believes God can move mountains—even the mountains in your life! I want to challenge you to have faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) and believe fully in God’s presence and power in your life. I want to challenge you to a faith for the impossible.

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*Just looked this quote up. It’s by Mark Batterson. 

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Christmas Classics: A Christmas Carol

Hey guys, so I know this post is a little late, but a couple of days ago I got sick and haven’t been up for writing. Sore throat, nausea, fatigue…you name it. I had it. 

But thankfully, I’m feeling better now. So, without further ado, here is the next installment of my Christmas Classics series…A Christmas Carol!

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 (NIV) 

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I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!

From the time I was a young girl, I have always loved the classic Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol. I read the book when I was in middle school and have seen just about every movie adaption under the sun, from Mickey’s Christmas Carol to A Carol Christmas (a Hallmark adaption, with the old 90210 star Tori Spelling). It is a timeless classic that many have adapted for their own TV shows and movies. However, the original story as told by Charles Dickens still remains in a category all its own.

The story starts off with a cranky old miser named Scrooge (a title that has become somewhat of a pop culture phrase in its own right) who refuses to let one of his employees take the day off for Christmas. He sees no need for the holidays, and places money above everything else in his life—an attitude that has gotten him into trouble time and time again, even to the point of driving his ex-fiance and one true love away. Because of his sour attitude, and dysfunctional priorities, he is visited by three spirits who teach him lessons about life, faith, and kindness; the very things that Scrooge has spent most of his life neglecting.

There are too many lessons in this story to cover them all, but for the purpose of keeping this post short, I will only be focusing on two; living a life fueled with purpose and remembering the things that are truly important in life.

Scrooge is a man who has it all in the eyes of the world. He is successful in his career and he is so wealthy that money-problems are essentially a foreign concept to him. However, in the midst of all of this, he misses some of the things that are most important in life: Family. Friends. Caring for others. And most of all, God. 

Though most of us would never consider ourselves to be like Scrooge, and though he is a rather extreme example, there are many times in our own lives that we can fall into similar patterns as this character in the classic Christmas story. How often do we focus so much on material possessions and worldly wealth at the expense of the things that are more important in life? How often to we pass people by, so caught up in our own problems that we forget to look out for those who are hurting? How often do we forget to remember our blessings, and One who blesses us with it all?

Mark 8:36 says, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (NIV). And, Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV).

It is not wrong to desire success or to have wealth, but it is problematic when it becomes your sole focus, causing you to neglect people, and make an idol that you place before your relationship with God. Scrooge was not wrong for having wealth, but he was wrong for being making it his top priority—and for putting his own needs above the needs of others. As Christians, we are called to put others first, and think of others’ needs more than our own. When we do this, God will bless us—maybe not materially, but with a joy that cannot be replaced by anything that this world has to offer.

This Christmas, I want to challenge you to spend some time reflecting on the true reason for the season—and going through this Christmas with an open heart, for those who are hurting and broken.

I want to challenge you to remember that the greatest things in this life are the things that we cannot see or touch, and that those are the things that truly give us purpose.

I want to challenge you to make time for family and friends, and never let a day go by without showing them that we care.

In this way, we can hold the Christmas spirit in our hearts.

In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, each and every one.”

Christmas Classics: Miracle On 34th Street

* Warning, this post contains spoilers.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:1-3 (NIV). 

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You know, I’m a symbol. I’m a symbol of the human ability to be able to suppress the selfish and hateful tendencies that rule the major part of our lives. If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.

I have always loved Christmas movies. I love practically everything about them, cliche as they often are—the warmth, the heart, the soundtrack, and the novelty. Every year, I make it a tradition to rewatch some of my old favorites along with the new ones, and one of my old favorites is the timeless classic, Miracle On 34th Street. 

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Miracle On 34th Street is a heartwarming Christmas movie about a young girl (Susan Walker), her now-single-mom (Mrs. Walker), their handsome next-door-neighbor (Bryan Bedford), and of course, Santa Claus (or, Kris Kringle). The movie opens up with the annual Coles’ Thanksgiving Day Parade. Mrs. Walker hires on an actor to play Santa who turns out to be a less-than-fit for the part, and is forced to hire a man who looks just like Santa Claus. Later on in the movie, he gets hired to play Santa at the Coles department store, and even though Mrs. Walker has told her daughter that there is no Santa Claus, young Susan soon comes to question her disbelief.

Throughout this movie, we consistently see a foil between Susan and her mother, Mrs. Walker. Mrs. Walker is jaded by the world, and her daughter has a childlike faith. Mrs. Walker sees believing in Santa Claus as silly, or foolish, while her daughter genuinely wants to believe. Mrs. Walker is firmly persuaded that there is no Santa Clause, while her daughter isn’t so sure.

In the Bible, Jesus tells His followers that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, they must become like children. They must come to Him with the same belief and wonder of a young child. Just as Susan Walker comes to believe in Santa Claus, we are called to have a childlike faith in God. This is not to say that the two are the same, but in this movie, Santa Clause is a symbol. He’s a symbol for the things, or should I say, The One Thing, that we choose to believe in or not believe in. 

In our own lives, we can’t see or touch God with our physical senses, and we can’t always see the ways that He is working in our lives behind the scenes. A belief in God is not unfounded, as there is a plethora of evidence in history and Creation that points to His existence, but we still must come to Him in faith—believing in His presence in the world and our life. When we pray and trust that He is a God who hears our prayers, we are coming to Him in faith. When we worship Him, and sing praises to a God we cannot see, we are coming to Him in faith. When we trust and believe the promise of Romans 8:28, that all things work together for the good of those who love Him, we are believing these things in faith.

The truth is, each one of us puts our faith in so many things in our day to day life, whether we realize it or not. When we sit down at the table to eat dinner, we have faith that chair will not collapse underneath us, and that the food will not poison or kill us. When we get into our car to meet a friend at Starbucks, we have faith that our car isn’t going to break down on us, and that those around us will follow the rules of the road. When we make a new friend, or enter into a new relationship, we place our faith in that person, trusting that they won’t let us down. If we can have faith in finite, imperfect people and matters in this world, than how much more can we have faith in a loving God—who created us and knows every single detail about us and our lives? 

This holiday season, let us be reminded that even as teens and adults, we have something (or Someone) that we can believe in. Let us let the ending of the movie, when little Susan Walker hands a dollar bill to the judge that says in God We Trust, remind us that we do have a God we can trust. Because of God and His great love for us, we are given the gift of belief. Let us come to God with the faith of a child, the way Jesus instructs us to in Matthew 18. 

Let us never stop believing in the one thing that we are never too old to believe in—Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, forever and ever, amen! 

How about you guys? Have you ever struggled to believe or have faith in your own life? How did you overcome this? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments section below!😃

Your Story Matters

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved stories. 

I have always loved the feel of the pages in my hand. I have always loved journeying with a character through the chapters of their life. I have always loved the feeling of crisp new pages in my hand, and the smell of a brand new book, just waiting to be opened. I learned to read at the age of three and I haven’t stopped since.

However, stories do not just exist within the pages of a poem or novel. They exist within in our lives. And every day, as we live, we are adding a new chapter to the story of our life. 

I have always felt that life is, in some ways, like a story. We are the characters and God is the author. He creates us and molds us into the person that He wants us to be. He places dreams, hopes, and desires within each one of us that we can use to serve His Kingdom. And sometimes, he allows us to face trials and plot twists—all so that we can grow and experience character development in the grand story that we call life.

Chances are, you likely have quite a few chapters in your story that have already been written. If you are in middle, high school, or college, than there is a good chance that you have already experienced God’s faithfulness in various points at your life. You have likely already had experiences that have shaped you. You likely already have a testimony. And if you are alive and breathing as you read this today, than I fully believe that God wants to use your story for His purpose and glory—and that you can impact lives right where you are, all through choosing the brave path of sharing your story. 

Maybe you’re reading this today and thinking to yourself that your story isn’t very interesting. I’m here to tell you otherwise. The belief that your story has to be big and dramatic to impact those around you is a lie straight from the enemy. Though those big, dramatic life-altering testimonies are inspiring and powerful, they are not the only stories God can use to impact lives. Sometimes, even the most ordinary examples of everyday faithfulness can speak volumes about God and His power and presence in our walk with Him. 

In fact, just the other day, I saw this truth in motion as I had an old friend text me out of the blue. We haven’t talked in months, so we had a lot to catch up on. I asked her how school was going, and she said it was going well. She told me about her involvement in a campus ministry at her university. I told her about the church that I’ve been going to ever since just before summer. She told me about her boyfriend, who she’s been dating for over a year now. Basically, the typical stuff of college and life.

However, as we talked, we eventually got into more personal details of our lives, and I had the chance to tell her about a situation that I’ve been dealing with over this past school year. When I finished, she texted back a response. She told me that she thought it was so cool that I could see that this situation was for God’s greater glory, even though it has been hard for me. I had the opportunity in this moment to direct the praise back to God, noting that He has been teaching me to trust Him more through this situation.

After we finished talking, I couldn’t help but let that conversation play over and over again in my mind. Never once would I have thought that I would have a testimony in the midst of this situation, but God turned that moment into the chance to inspire a friend in her faith. He used my story to impact another story. And this is really the essence of the Christian life—changed lives changing lives. People spurring each other on in the faith. Christians lifting up the name of Jesus through their life!

And I’ve had so many people encourage me in my faith through their own lives. I can still remember one incident a while back, where I felt like I was so behind on being an “adult“. I was still in the process of trying to get my driver’s license and I felt young compared with the rest of my friends. I felt like I was lagging behind and I was far from where I always wanted to be at that point in my life.

During this time, God spoke into my life through someone who said that they also felt behind on “adulting” and where they thought they thought they would be at this stage of life. Here they were, older than me and dealing with many of the same struggles. God spoke through this person and helped me to feel more OK with everything—just through this individual’s obedience in sharing their story. And if I were to think long and hard about it, I know I could come up with a thousand other incidents like this—where someone else’s story has impacted my own. Where I have been encouraged by another believer’s testimony. Where someone else’s faithfulness has impacted my journey.

This week, I want to encourage you to let others into your story. To share about the times that God has been faithful—in the midst of the good, the bad, and the ugly. To live your life as a testimony to God’s love, power, and faithfulness.

To inspire others through the power of a story. 

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How about you? Have you ever been impacted by another person’s story (or testimony)? Or have you ever had the chance to impact someone else through your story? If so, feel free to share about it in the comments section below—I’d love to hear your story!😃

 

Pumpkins & Faith

When I was little, my family used to go to the pumpkin patch every year to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween. 

Though we didn’t usually go Trick Or Treating, or do much else remotely Halloween-related, I always loved carving the annual pumpkin and personalizing it to put in front of our house. I would draw a face on it with a sharpie and my dad would carve it. Sometimes, I would even take it a one step further, and personalize the pumpkin with a bow. Yes, I was that kid.

However, there was one part of carving the pumpkin that I always hated—cleaning it! I was never a big fan of the scent and the stuff inside of it always used to gross me out. It was wet and slimy—and sometimes it would take forever to pull it all out! Nonetheless, if we wanted to carve it, and put a light inside of it at the end, we had to do it. Cleaning the pumpkin was all part of the process of turning it from an ordinary pumpkin into a masterpiece. 

It’s a lot like that with our faith journey, isn’t it? Sometimes, in our own life, it can feel a lot like God is “cleaning us out”. When He is bringing us through a season of tremendous growth. When He is working through our baggage and old habits. When He is freeing us of strongholds or allowing circumstances that force us to grow.

These kinds of seasons can be hard, and they often aren’t pleasant, but they are absolutely essential in the life of the Christian. We must let God “clean us out” so that we can shine brightly for Him and become all that He intended for us to be.

1 Corinthians 5:17-21 says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God loved each and every one of us when we were still in the “pumpkin patch”. When we were dirty, and plain, and filled with pumpkin goop. But He also loves us far too much to let us stay there! Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, OLord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” This point is further illustrated in Ephesians 2:10, where the apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians that, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.As Christians, we are all living in the process of sanctification, where God takes ordinary “pumpkins” and turns them into a masterpiece!

He puts a “light” inside of each one of us so that we can shine for Him and live for His Kingdom!  Matthew 5:14-16 says,You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Like pumpkins, God calls us each to shine our lights so that we may point people to Him through our life, our words, and our love!

This fall, as you walk past pumpkins in the grocery store, or in your neighborhood, take a moment to remember all that God has done and is continuing to do in your life! Take a moment to be thankful for how far God has brought you in your faith journey. And, never stop shining your light for Jesus!

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” – Ephesians 3:20.

How about you? Have you ever gone through a time where you felt like a pumpkin—when God was taking you through a season of growth? If you have, feel free to comment below! I’d love to hear your stories! 

Prayer – This Is How I Fight My Battles

A while back, I heard a really cool worship song called Surrounded by Michael W. Smith. 

It mostly repeats the same two lines throughout, but it’s such a great song with such a great message that I felt led to share it on this blog. It says, “This is how I fight my battles…it may look like I’m surrounded by I’m surrounded by You.” It’s a song about prayer as spiritual warfare. And that’s exactly what I want to talk about in this post.

Over this past summer I challenged myself to go deeper in my prayer life, and doing so has helped me so much in my daily battles, challenges, and concerns. It has given me peace in the midst of hardships and joy as I approach each day. I used to struggle while praying, because that’s when my OCD would typically kick in the hardest, but lately, it has been through prayer that I’ve been better able to combat it.

It is through prayer that I have been able to fight my battles. 

The Bible talks about this very subject in Ephesians 6. It instructs us to put on the full armor of God to fight our battles and live victoriously. It says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:14-18)

As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle against the enemy every day. And the only way that we can effectively fight it is through seeking God consistently through prayer. 

The other day, I started reading a book by Beth Moore called Praying God’s Word. And in this book, she notes of the above passage…

Only one piece of the armor is actually a weapon. The figurative belt, shield, breastplate, shoes, and helmet are all defensive pieces of armor intended to keep us from being injured by the weapons of the evil one. The sword of the Spirit, clearly identified as the Word of God, is the only offensive weapon listed in the whole armor of God. Second Corinthians 10:3 uses the plural, assuring us we have weapons for warfare. What would the other primary weapon be? Perhaps additional weapons might be identified elsewhere, but I believe the other primary weapon of our warfare is stated right after the words identifying the sword of the Spirit as the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17. The next verse says “And I pray in the Spirit in all occasions.” I am utterly convinced that the two major weapons with divine power in our warfare are the word of God and Spirit-empowered prayer.

Prayer, along with regular time in the Word, are our best bets of defense against spiritual attacks. And when we do these things daily, seeking God with our whole heart, we’ll have so much more strength to fight the battles that we face each day. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and it doesn’t have to be anything long, it just has to be sincere.

If you’re not sure what to pray about, try making a list. Write down the things that are concerning you and start talking to God about them. Maybe you’re struggling with anxiety, or being bullied at school. Ask God to give you peace and the strength to endure and love your enemy. If you have a good friend who doesn’t know God, pray for her, and ask God to reveal Himself to her. If you see a lot of darkness at your school, pray over it—and ask that God would bring redemption and hope to the people there.

Lastly, don’t forget to praise God! Thank Him for all that He’s done for you and praise Him for who He is. You can do this by simply talking to Him, or by putting on some good worship music and praising Him through the lyrics.

The important thing is to stay connected to Him, and the way that we stay connected to anyone is through regular conversation with them!

To conclude, if any of you guys have prayer requests for me, feel free to contact me through my DM on Instagram or Twitter @authorcourtney1 or through my email address, at courtneyloves2read@gmail.com. Just be sure to title it “Prayer Request” so I know what it is! I’m always happy to pray with/for you all!

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“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther.

How about you? How has prayer impacted you in your own life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!