Relationship > Religion

Our righteousness doesn’t depend on our present performance but on Jesus’ finished performance.” – Judah Smith. 

I’m going to be honest with you guys. I’m sort of a huge fan of lists. I’m not kidding. I have a list for practically everything. I have a bucket list. I have a list of goals for the semester. I have a list of people that I need to buy presents for every Christmas—that I strategically check off as I go. I also have a to-do-list, which usually isn’t a bad thing, but lately, it’s sort of turned into one.

You see, almost every day I make a list of goals that I have for that day—read my Bible, study for tests, write an essay for school, do some chores, prepare for youth group on Wednesday night…it’s sort of my way of keeping my head on straight and reminding myself to do all the things. However, somewhere around halfway through the semester, my list-obsession started to catch up with me

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Somehow, in the midst of it all, God wound up on my to-do-list. 

Somewhere along the way, I began to turn my time with Him into something to ‘check off my list’. Something that I’m ‘supposed’ to do. But if you think about it, this isn’t how we see any other significant relationship in our life. We don’t think of spending time with our parents or our friends as something that we ‘have to do’ to check off of a list. It’s something we get to do. It’s quality time with the people closest to us.

This is the kind of relationship that God wants with us. It’s about more than just reading a chapter in the Bible or trying to pray for a set amount of time (one of my Christian professors literally told me to do this). It’s about encountering Jesus’ love on a daily basis. It’s about nourishing a close intimate relationship with the God who laid down His life to save us. 

A while back, someone asked me a good question prompt for this blog—about how to put God first in our lives. And at the time, I wasn’t sure how to answer outside of the basics of having a daily quiet time with God. But lately, He has been reminding me that it’s about so much more than that.

He’s been reminding me that He knows every detail on my soul and every longing in my heart and every hope buried deep inside of me. He’s been reminding me that even on the days when I feel off or the moments when I struggle to feel Him, He’s still there! That He doesn’t want my works. He doesn’t want my ‘perfection’ (as if that actually exists anyway). He doesn’t want anything from me except my whole heart. He’s the only thing that can truly fill me—He’s the only thing in this world and outside of it that can truly satisfy!

Here’s the thing guys—God doesn’t just want to be first in our lives. He doesn’t just want to be the first thing we check off when we wake up in the morning, before we go to school or work. He wants to be in every part of our lives! He wants to be the one we go to at our lowest low, and the one that we praise through our highest mountaintop moments. He wants to be with us at our jobs, in our relationships, and in every part of our day. 

When we approach God with a “checkmark” mentality, it can get exhausting really quickly. But when we approach God with everything inside of us, and just show up and say, “God, you already know all of this—but this is where I’m at right now. The good, the bad, and the ugly” It brings us more life than we can ever even imagine!

But somehow, even for those of us who are seasoned Christians, it can be so easy for us to forget this. It can be easy to forget to approach God with a mindset of relationship and exchange it for works. It can be easy for us to forget how present God truly is in every moment is, and how great His love is for us. It can be so easy for us to get so lost in ‘being a Christian’ that we lose track of Christ Himself.

This week, I want to challenge you—if you haven’t reflected much on it lately, to remember how great our Savior’s love is for you!

How His sacrifice on the cross isn’t just the thing that forgives us from our sin and saves us for all eternity but the ultimate act of love and the ultimate bridge between God and humanity!

How He is the only one who can truly bring us life, and purpose, and true fulfillment—and how our relationship with Him is about so much more than a checklist!

Set a fire inside of my soul that I can’t contain and I can’t control, I want more of you God. – Jesus Culture

“But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” – Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV).

 

Where Your Heart Is

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion. It is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” – Billy Graham.

As Christians, we spend a lot of time talking about outward ministry (as we should). How we can be an effective witness to others. How we can share Jesus in our circles of influence. How we can shine our light for Christ. All of this is great, please don’t misunderstand this – I hope that these are questions that you are asking yourself every day. However, if we are going to be effective witnesses for Christ, we must first start inward—with the condition of our heart. We must first start with seeking after God’s own heart.

Jesus talks about this very concept in John 15. He says, I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches.[e] As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. But if you live in life-union with me and if my words[f] live powerfully[g] within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!

“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness! John 15:5-11 (TPT). 

As Christians, we are called to be so full of love and so full of Jesus that it is contagious, and it spreads to those around us. People should look at us and see something beyond ourselves – they should see the love of Christ moving in and through us. Jesus talks about this in John 13:35 when He says “For when you demonstrate the same love I have for you by loving one another, everyone will know that you’re my true followers.” (TPT). We are called to fall in love with Jesus and spread this love to everyone that we know.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while than you’re probably familiar with terms like “falling in love with Jesus” or “it’s a relationship, not a religion“. These are terms that I personally have  heard since I was nine years old. However, there have been points in my life when it’s been hard for this message to really get through—for me to really understand this on a heart level. It is easy to go through the motions in our faith; reading our Bible, praying, going to church and Bible studies. It is something else entirely to maintain a relationship with a God that we cannot see. But once we encounter the width and depths of His love, our relationship with Christ will never be the same. 

As humans we are wired for relationships. We are wired to be connected to people in a deep and personal way. It doesn’t take more than a simple observation of children in a Kindergarten classroom to know that there is something in us that longs for connection. It is only in our older age, and acquired hurts that we start to believe the lie that we can go at it on our own. Christ wants us to approach our relationship with Him with the wide eyed innocence of children—throwing off chains of legalism and “religion” that too often characterize our approach to God. God wants your heart – not your perfection and not your works. He simply wants YOU! 

This Valentines Day, I want you to take some time reflecting on a different kind of relationship; whether you are single, dating, or married. I want you to reflect on your relationship with the God who loves you with an everlasting love and who left the glories of Heaven to pursue you. Who wrote love letters to you through His word and who continues to chase after you daily. I want you to see and experience the “overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, who chases you down, fights ’til your found and leaves the ninety nine”* – Fully embracing the fullness of God’s love, mercy and heart and sharing this breathtaking love with the world.

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God still loved us with such great love. He is so rich in compassion and mercy. Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, he united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by his wonderful grace!” – Ephesians 2:4-5 (TPT). 

*Words courtesy of Corey Asbury.

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. 

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!

Change

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when leaves change along with our wreaths. When we pull out our sweaters and jackets and head over to Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spice. When stores put out their Halloween and Christmas decorations side by side. And when the weather finally starts to cool down to something more tolerable.*

For most of us, this is a change that we welcome. It’s exciting to bring in a new season and all of the activities that come with it. It’s a pleasant change—one that we mark our calendars with and anticipate until the day of its arrival. It’s the kind of change that we as humans actually like. However, as most of us know, there is another kind of change as well. One that is far more disruptive and far less pleasant.

And for most of us, this is the kind of change that we could do without. 

I’m going to be honest. I’ve never been the kind of person that welcomes change. I thrive on schedules and routines and things staying the same. I’m what some people would call a ‘creature of habit‘—and in most cases, I avoid change like the plague. But sometimes, change is exactly what God uses to help us grow. And that’s what I want to talk about in this post. 

A while back, I posted a quote to one of my old blog posts that I believe is fitting here. It reads, “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”- C. S. Lewis. In order for God to be able to use us, He has to first grow us as people. And often, the way that He chooses to grow us, whether we can see it at the time or not, is through change. 

This growth isn’t always easy. Sometimes it looks like a breakup, or a change in jobs. Sometimes it’s a difficult season where we can’t see a clear path. Sometimes it means graduating high school or college, and moving onto the next chapter of our lives. These kinds of things are usually really hard—but they’re also some of ways that we grow the most. And God never takes something away unless He has something better for us down the road.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” As Christ-followers we can have full confidence in God’s plans for us, and that He knows what He has in store for our lives—even when we can’t see the big picture. We can wake up every morning believing and declaring God’s goodness, and knowing that He is a God who never changes, and who we can always turn to and lean on in times of trouble. And He is the one who guides our path, even when we can’t see where it leads. 

Because of all of this, I’m slowly getting better at handling change. I’m learning to trust and have faith in what I cannot see. I’m learning what it means to leap—even when it feels like I’m going to fall. And I’m learning to embrace life fully—whatever it chooses to throw in my way.

This week, I want to challenge you to face change head on.

And trust that our God, who is a good, good Father, has great plans for us in the midst of every season and every change. 

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“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8. 

How about you? Have you ever gone through a difficult change in your life? If so, how did you get through it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! 

*Or as my friend says, unless you live in the south—in which case, “you’re still wearing shorts and taking your bf to the beach”. Quote courtesy of Jenna. Hi Jenna.

 

 

Guest Post – Because He Is, I Am

Hey guys,

So…I have some good news and some good news (you were expecting me to say good news and bad news, weren’t you?)! The first piece of good news is that my life is finally getting back to normal and I should be back to my regular posts next week! The second piece of good news is…this week’s post was written by my good friend and sister in Christ, Julia Carvalho! 

Julia and I met back in April at a Bible study at my church and she’s legit one of the coolest people that I know! She also has a lot of wisdom – so I’d strongly advise you read on! You won’t regret it!

So…let’s all give a big round of virtual applause for Julia! 

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It is only when I know who God is, that I know who I am and discover the purpose and calling that God has placed upon my life.

“’But what about you?’” Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say that I am?’

Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.’” (Matthew 16:15-18).

So, who do I say that Jesus is? He is gracious and compassionate. He is holy and awesome. The works of His hands are faithful and just; all His precepts are trustworthy. He is good. He is love. He is my anchor when life gets rocky. He is my mountain, my safe place. He is my fountain of living water. He is light—shining into the darkest parts of my life. He is peace. He is joy. He is patient, even when I make the same mistake over and over and over again. He is my shield, my refuge. He is my Savior—bearing my burdens daily. He is with me, holding my hand in every moment. He is my king, my friend, my father.

And because I know who He is, I know who I am. Because He is my father, I am His child and I reflect His image. Because He is strong, I am strong. Because He is peace, I am filled with peace. Because He is a leader, I can lead in confidence knowing that He is going ahead and paving the way for me. Because He is brave, I am brave. Because He is a rock, I am a rock—stable, unwavering, faithful. Because He is patient, I am patient. Because He is beautiful, I am beautiful. Because He is confident in who He is, I am confident in who I am and who He created me to be. Because He is, I am.

And it’s in the quiet moment when I am declaring who He is, and I am being reminded of who I am, that He whispers to the depths of my soul my purpose, my calling. It’s a path that only I can walk. A calling that only I can fit into. A purpose that only I can fulfill, because He has created it uniquely for me, just as He has created a unique purpose just for you.

So, who do you say He is?

Scriptures referenced:

Psalm 11:4,7,9; Psalm 34:8; 1 John 4:8; 1 John 1:5; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 68:19-20; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 36:8-9; Colossians 3:15; 1 Peter 5:7; 1 Peter 1:8-9; Romans 15:13; Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 10:46-52

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If you want to hear more awesomeness from Julia, be sure to check out her vlog, Jewels From Jules! Just click through the link below and subscribe to her channel! I promise that you’ll love it!😃

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2OKlYvzTybAOgwkxUzzG2g

 

Wonder

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3.

There’s something magical about our earliest experiences during childhood. Our first time time losing a tooth. Our first trip to an amusement park. Our first time riding a bike without training wheels. Our first couple of Christmases – when we couldn’t wait to wake up and see what ‘Santa‘ had left under our tree. I know that if i look back over my own childhood experiences, I can think of many times that I remember vividly. I can also remember the feelings that accompanied them – a feeling that can most accurately be described in one word: wonder.

Somewhere along the way, that wonder often gets lost. We grow up and we learn what to expect. We become jaded. We become bored. We begin to see life as a list of tasks to be done, rather than an adventure to be lived. And too often, we carry this same attitude over into our faith.

For many of us, it can happen unintentionally. We get busy with work and school and our faith gets pushed to the back burner. We face opposition from the world and dim our light. Sometimes, we can even get so caught up in knowing information that we lose track of what it means to simply be known – interacting with God on an intellectual scale rather than a personal one. Somehow, it can be all too easy to make our faith a part of our routine—losing track of the wonder of being known, saved, and loved by our God. 

Jesus never intended for us to live this life halfheartedly. In Luke 10:27, He says that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength—and to love your neighbor as yourself. He doesn’t want half of our heart, or part of our heart—He wants our whole heart, and every bit of wonder that comes from a life sold out to Christ.

This is not about legalism or salvation. We are saved the moment that we accept Christ as our Savior. But we can never experience the fullness that God has for us if we don’t continuously seek Him in our day-to-day lives. Through God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us, we have the power to do great and mighty things that are beyond anything we can ask or imagine. We have the power to be bold and courageous and to make a difference for God’s Kingdom. All that we have to do is come to God with an open heart and seek the fullness of His presence—falling in love over and over again with the God who didn’t want to spent eternity without us.  

I’m writing about this because this is something that I need to hear myself. It’s a lesson that I still need to learn every day along with every other Christian fighting the good fight and living out a reckless, passionate faith in God. We could all grow in wonder of our God—as we worship, pray, study His Word, and seek His presence.

This week, I want to challenge you to recapture the wonder that you had as a child in your relationship with God. To ask Him to fill your heart more deeply with the joy and power of the Holy Spirit. To carry an attitude of worship with you as you go throughout your week. To cultivate a closer relationship with the one who created you.

To never stop approaching our Heavenly with wide-eyed, childlike wonder. 

Favorite part of the song – I see the world Your way/ and I”m not afraid to follow/ I see the world Your way/ And I’m not ashamed to say so/ I see the Jesus way/ And I’m walking in the light.

How about you? How do you believe we can approach our faith with a sense of wonder? If you have any thoughts feel free to share them in the comments section below!