Hope: In A Broken World

Hey guys, sorry it’s been a little while since I’ve posted! Between summer classes, work, and church activities, my calendar has pretty much been booked to the max. However, I’m back now with a topic that I have been thinking a lot about lately, and that I feel strongly that the Lord has put on my heart to share. I hope it speaks to someone today!ūüėÉ

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Hope.¬†It’s only four letters, but it carries with it so much meaning. So much beauty. It is a word that inspires images of joy. Images of a more peaceful world. Images of more love, and less famine. Images of a nation filled with people who genuinely care for each other; regardless of ethnicity or the color of their skin. It brings to mind a better future‚ÄĒfilled with less of the problems that we see in the world today. There is a reason the word has been used in charity organizations and political campaigns alike. Deep down, we all long for a world filled with hope. Deep down, we all know that hope is what this world truly needs.

However, for many of us, hope is something that seems allusive or out of reach in the world today. When we turn on the news, we see images of crime, famine, and hate. We see a world that frankly, looks anything but hopeful. For some of us, we need to look no further than our local high school or college to see living, breathing, people who seem all but hopeless. People who are fighting their own personal battles. Maybe financially. Maybe relationally. Maybe physically. Sometimes, a combination of all three.

I have always been affected by the stories that I hear around me. If a friend tells me about something they are struggling with, I want to do everything in my power to encourage them. If I hear about a worthy cause, or a group of people who are struggling (people living in poverty, with an illness, etc. etc. etc.) I want to do everything in my power to help them. I think it’s safe to say that this is the case for a lot of us. As humans, we are naturally affected by the stories we hear in the world around us. As humans, we are affected by those whose situations look hopeless. However, as Christians, we also posses the one thing that can truly bring them hope.

I remember when I first started college, feeling so affected by the condition of the world around me. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who seemed lost and broken. When I felt small and way too outnumbered to truly make a difference. Part of me was tempted to shrink back. To escape into some TV drama or another. To just survive‚ÄĒrather than do the very thing that God called me to do, which was to be bold. At one point, pushing past fear and trembling, God called me to give a speech about my faith in a class where a student was openly Wiccan. Needless, to say, this wasn’t easy, and I was sort of terrified but it proved to be an incredible experience in God’s faithfulness‚ÄĒand as the class went on, I saw him slowly develop a genuine interest in Christianity‚ÄĒeven nodding with interest as I read Bible verses in various other speeches that I presented. This still remains one of my most memorable experiences in my college journey thus far.

And, this was just one part of the lesson that God has been continuing to teach me throughout my journey of faith, and my journey through college. That as Christians, we have the hope that this world is desperately longing for.

It is far too easy to be silent. To let fear dictate us and stop us from doing the one thing that we have been placed on this earth to do. To believe that this world is too broken, too far gone, too far beyond hope. To forget the words of John 1:5, which says,¬†“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (NIV).¬†

I don’t know about you, but I want to bring hope to the broken and light to the darkness in this world.

I want to live in such a way that it points back to the One who has put breath in my lungs and given me life.

I want to exude joy, hope, and love even in places that seem to lack all three of these.

I want to be everything that Christ has called me to be, and never miss an opportunity to share His love with the people He has placed around me. 

If you are going back to school soon, I want to encourage you to look like hope in the place where God has led you! To never be afraid to step out in boldness, and share Christ with those around you. If you work somewhere, I want to encourage you to love your co-workers and boss and live in such a way that it points back to Jesus‚ÄĒand “work as if you’re working unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). Wherever we go and whatever we do, let us never be afraid to reflect the hope that we have.

Let us never let fear hold us back from sharing this hope.

Let us never let fear hold us back from sharing this love!

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“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.

– Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

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Holy Spirit

“God has a constantly flowing river whose sparkling streams¬†bring joy and delight to his people.¬†His river flows right through the city of God Most High,¬†into his holy dwelling places.” Psalm 46:4 (TPT).

Growing up, I always loved the water. 

I always loved the feel of it against my skin. I always loved the refreshed feeling that I got after a good swim. I always loved swimming, floating, and simply sitting in the water and the coolness that surrounded me as the sun shone down upon my head. Heck, I still love all of these things, and find swimming to be one of my personal favorite forms of exercise.

However, when I was younger, I used to be desperately afraid to dive.* 

This used to scare me because it meant that I would be fully immersed in water. It scared me because I was going down head-first into something that is semi-foreign to humans (at least, compared to fish and other sea creatures). I was scared because in one simple move, it was a plunge into the unknown.¬†It was scary because it required me to surrender to the water, and loosen my grip on the human tendency of grasping for the familar‚ÄĒof grasping for control.

For some of us, our feelings towards our faith could be the same.¬†Much like with diving, growing in our faith requires us to loosen the reigns on being in control. It requires us to surrender, even when we don’t understand. It means fully submerging ourselves into the presence of the Holy Spirit on a day to day basis‚ÄĒand sometimes, letting Him lead us in ways that don’t make sense to our finite minds. It requires us to leave a ‘safe’ version of Christianity where we talk about faith, yet rarely live it, and be fully set on fire for God’s Kingdom.¬†

For so many of us, the Holy Spirit is the part of the Trinity that seems the most confusing. We can picture Jesus, and we can sort of picture God, but when we try to picture the Holy Spirit, many of us wind up with something that’s not much more personable or tangible than the Force in Star Wars. We know that He lives us (1 Corinthians 3:16) and we know that He is somehow part of the Godhead (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), but we miss the significance of the Holy Spirit’s power in the life of every believer. And, in the process, we miss the incredible things that He wants to do in and through us.

However, Romans 8:5-9 shows us just how vital the Holy Spirit is in our lives. It says,

Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities.[e]6 For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace.

7¬†In fact, the mind-set focused on the flesh fights God‚Äôs plan and refuses to submit to his direction,[f] because it cannot! 8¬†For no matter how hard they try, God finds no pleasure with those who are controlled by the flesh. 9¬†But when the Spirit of Christ empowers your life,[g] you are not dominated by the flesh but by the Spirit. And if you are not joined to the Spirit of the Anointed One, you are not of him.[h]” ¬†Romans 8:5-9 (TPT)

When we continually seek out God every day, and seek His will in every situation, the Lord will guide us and direct us through the power of His Holy Spirit. When we immerse ourselves in God’s presence through daily prayer, reading the Scriptures, and everyday faithfulness, the Holy Spirit will help us to be victorious in the battles that we face in our lives.

He will help to live out our faith. He will help us to love that person that drives us crazy. He will help us to fight against ungodly thoughts when they clamor for space in our minds. He will help us to live intentionally‚ÄĒwith God’s Kingdom as our mission. This is not to say that we won’t face trials and temptations, but we will be better equipped to fight these battles and come out of them stronger on the other side.

The Holy Spirit is not an abstract theological doctrine. He is not some strange force that we cannot know or understand. He is not scary and He will not lead us into things that are ‘strange’ because that is not in His nature. He is God’s power inside of us. A part of the Godhead that equips us, and bestows a passion for God’s Kingdom. And when we immerse ourselves in His presence, or choose to ‘dive’, if you will, He will give us more love, joy, and peace than we could have ever dreamed of or imagined.¬†

All that we have to do is take the first step.

All that we have to do, is dive. 

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How about you? How have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

*In case you’re wondering, I eventually conquered my fear of diving.ūüėČ ¬† ¬†

Stronger

“Beloved friends, if life gets extremely difficult, with many tests,[a]¬†don‚Äôt be bewildered as though something strange were overwhelming you.[b]¬†Instead, continue to rejoice, for you, in a measure, have shared in the sufferings of the Anointed One so that¬†you can share in¬†the revelation of his glory and celebrate with¬†even greater¬†gladness!” – 1 Peter 4:12-13 (TPT).¬†

Strength. It is a virtue that is valued and prized by our culture. It is a word that you see on the front of tee shirts in stores or on people that we encounter every day. It is something that many of us strive for, and something that very few of us think we have. However, as Christians, we don’t have to fall into the trap of trying to be strong. We don’t have to approach the trials and temptations that we face from the well of our own strength.

Because, we have a God who is strong, even when we’re weak.¬†

Over the past couple of months, this is something that God has been teaching me, in particular. By nature, I have a tendency to want to appear strong. To want to appear ‘OK‘ even when I’m not. To want to approach life with a smile when I’m having a legit breakdown on the inside. But lately, God has been showing me (even if I already knew it on some level) that it’s OK to come to Him broken in prayer. It’s OK to still have questions‚ÄĒand not know the end of the story. I don’t always have to be strong and I don’t always have to be brave because I serve a God who is strong enough for both of us (yes, I know I practically quoted a Matthew West song there).

So often as Christians we are told that when we are praying, we’re going into war. That we’re warriors, raging against the powers of darkness. But that is not all that prayer is. It is also going to your Heavenly Father and your friend. It’s telling Him the things that are really on your heart.¬†It is being totally honest and real with a God who loves us! It doesn’t always have to be super-spiritual and it doesn’t always have to sound pretty and Christian-ese.

God doesn’t only care about the spiritual matters of our life‚ÄĒHe cares about every matter of our life! The things that matter to us also matter to Him. That girl who is tormenting you at school. That person that you can’t quite get out of your mind. That test that you’re super freaked out about. God cares about all of these things and more because He cares about you!

And the times that we face temptation? We don’t have to fight those battles alone! Ephesians 6:10-18 says below.¬†

“Now my beloved ones, I have saved these most important truths for last: Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life-union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force[a]¬†of his explosive power flowing in and through you.

11 Put on God’s complete set of armor[b] provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser![c]12 Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms.[d] For they are a powerful class of demon-gods[e] and evil spirits that hold[f] this dark world in bondage. 13 Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you’re protected as you confront the slanderer,[g] for you are destined for all things[h] and will rise victorious.

14 Put on truth as a belt to strengthen you to stand in triumph. Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart. 15 Stand on your feet alert, then you’ll always be ready to share the blessings of peace.

16¬†In every battle, take faith as your wrap-around shield, for it is able to extinguish the blazing arrows coming at you from the Evil One![i]17‚Äď18¬†Embrace the power of salvation‚Äôs full deliverance, like a helmet¬†to protect your thoughts from lies. And take the mighty razor-sharp Spirit-sword[j]¬†of the spoken Word of God.

Pray passionately[k]¬†in the Spirit, as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all his believers.” – Ephesians 6:10-18 (TPT).

We do not have to fight our battles alone. We do not have to rely on our own strength or our own ‘godliness’ to fight the enemy’s arrows in our minds when they start coming our way, because we have the strength of God living in us, always available to us when we need it.

We don’t have to rely on ourselves when we face situations that seem too great to handle, because we have someone greater and more powerful walking with us through every season of our life.

We don’t have to listen to voices of insecurity or self-doubt because we can choose every day to speak what God says about us over ourselves and choose to listen to His truth over the enemy’s lies.

This week I want to challenge you to fully press into God’s strength. To go to Him and just pour your heart out to Him. To resist the temptation to be strong and allow yourself the grace to be completely honest before God. To come to Him as a Father‚ÄĒand cry out to Him in the times that you face trials and temptations.¬†

There’s a song by Laura Story that I believe perfectly captures what I am trying to say in this post. Hopefully, it speaks to somebody today.ūüôā

“God, you‚Äôre such a safe and powerful place to find refuge!¬†You‚Äôre a proven help in time of trouble‚ÄĒmore than enough¬†and always available whenever I need you.¬†So we will never fear¬†even if every structure of support[b]¬†were to crumble away.¬†We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes,¬†moving mountains and casting them into the sea.¬†For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves¬†cannot erode our faith in you.” – Psalm 46:1-3.

Confident

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14. 

Confidence. It is something that all of us want and desire. A topic we discuss often in our modern day society. It’s also pretty much the theme of my blog’s tagline‚ÄĒ”striving to live confidently in Christ”. But what does it mean to truly be confident‚ÄĒand what does it mean to live confidently in Christ?

I’m going to be honest with you guys. I wrote this same post almost a week ago, but later, felt that I needed to take a different approach with it. Because while I spoke the truth and said it in a way that sounded pretty good and ‘Christian-blog-esque‘, I didn’t tell you a whole lot about my own battle, and my own journey with confidence. And after talking with a group of friends this week, and really getting real about what we were dealing with, it occurred to me that sometimes, what we need to hear most are people’s stories. We need to know that we are not alone in our struggles‚ÄĒand that they’re not all that unique. That other people have dealt with the same things we have, and that others are fighting the same battles that we are. 

You see, the truth is, even though I’m twenty-one years old, and even though I’ve been a Christian for over half of my lifetime, I still sometimes struggle with confidence. I still sometimes get insecure. I still have my moments. I still feel inadequate sometimes. And one of my biggest struggles in confidence is my tendency towards quietness.

I’ve heard people say before that I can sometimes come off as ‘stoic’ in group settings. Because I’m quiet, people don’t always realize that underneath the ‘stoic-ness’, I really do desire to connect on a deeper level with those around me. I just don’t always know how. I get stuck inside of my head. I try to make a good impression. I wrack my brain with conversation topics that I think will help me grow closer to the people around me. And, in the end I find myself spinning my wheels so hard that I sabotage myself from being able to do the one thing that I am trying to do to begin with‚ÄĒand forget that the only opinion that truly matters in the end is what Jesus thinks of me. 

I think if we’re honest, a lot of us can relate to this struggle in some way, shape, or form. Maybe you’re insecure about your intelligence, so you hesitate to answer questions in class‚ÄĒeven when know you know the answer. Or maybe you’re insecure about your appearance, and feel too embarrassed to hold your held high as you walk down the hallways of your high school. Or maybe you struggle with confidence in something else. Regardless of the specifics, the root is still the same. We have forgotten who we are. And more importantly, we have forgotten whose we are.

Contrary to popular opinion, self confidence never begins with self. It begins with something greater‚ÄĒsomething outside of ourselves that can never be changed and never be shaken. Self confidence starts with God confidence, and who He has said that we are in His Word.

When we feel inadequate, we can remember the words of Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God‚Äôs handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV). When we feel worthless we can remember what God says in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV). When we feel weak, we can think back to Deuteronomy 31:6 , “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.‚ÄĚ’ (NIV).

When we remember who we are in Christ, the lies of the enemy and this world start to lose hold on us‚ÄĒand we begin to see ourselves as God sees us. Beautiful. Capable. Strong. Courageous. Worthy. Loved. And when we remember these words and begin to speak them over ourselves, we will find that God created us exactly the way that He did for a purpose and a plan that only we can accomplish through Him and for His glory.

This is what I believe it means to live confidently in Christ. To wake up every day knowing and remembering that we are fearfully and wonderfully created by a God who loves us and knows us intricately. To recognize that He has given us gifts and abilities to impact the world and bring Him glory. To recognize the lies of the enemy and to remember that we have the fingerprints of our Creator within us. To live in full realization of God’s extravagant love and share this love with every single person that we encounter.

This week I want to challenge you to walk in confidence‚ÄĒcarrying with you the knowledge that God loves you. I want to challenge you to see yourself through His eyes, and not your own. I want to challenge you to live confidently in Christ.

Loving God.

Loving people.

And, loving yourself by seeing yourself through our Father’s eyes.

Do you wish you had more confidence in what God is calling you to do? This post shares why we can be confident in Christ and use the abilities and gifts God has given us with assurance and boldness.

“For God will never give you the spirit of fear,[a] but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (TPT).  

How about you? Have you ever struggled with insecurity? If so, how did God teach you (or how is He teaching you) to have confidence in Him? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

All This Time – My Testimony

Hey guys,

So lately, I’ve been praying and I’ve been feeling extremely led to do a video blog about my testimony. How I became a Christian. My walk with God. My journey through college. And God’s faithfulness in the midst of it all.

Thus, posted a video below about my testimony.

Hopefully it encourages somebody!

 

Poetry (Part Two)

Hey guys,

As a writer I am firm believer that words, thoughts, and ideas can be expressed in a variety of ways, ranging from blog posts, to stories, to poetry, and since I got such an incredible response on my last poetry post, I have decided to do another one!

I wrote about a couple of different themes that God has been speaking to me about and that I thought might be relevant to some of you all. Hopefully they inspire you today!

One In Ninety-Nine 

You say that you reach down from Heaven 

For the prodigal in the swine

You tell us that You’re the good shepherd

Who chases the one in the ninety-nine 

But what about the one left standing

Here at the end of the line? 

 

Surrounded by rags and by riches

Trying to reach far above

Trying to offer something

Unaware they are already loved? 

 

The one who is weary and battered 

Spinning her wheels so hard

The one who is worn out and exhausted

Needing rest in the Father’s arms

 

He whispers to her “My Child

You have always been cherished and loved

I thought of you on the cross

When I came down from Heaven above 

 

You have never needed to earn it 

Chasing after perfection so hard

Even though you don’t deserve it¬†

You have always been all that I want”¬†

 

Yes, I am the one in the many 

The lost sheep who wandered alone

The one running out from the pasture

Trying to do it alone 

 

Yes, we are all that lost sheep 

Until we are finally home

 

Worship 

Holy hands lifted high 

Hearts of God’s people touch the sky

In the house of God we may find

A glimpse of Heaven in our eyes 

 

But even alone in our rooms

When we are the only ones 

We are never separated from His presence

We are never separated from His Son 

 

He is with us in the car ride

When we turn up the radio loud

When we run through our days 

At high speed pace

Yes, God’s presence still abounds¬†

 

When it’s late at work and you want to go home

He is still with you 

And Heaven knows

When you’re talking to your friend on the phone¬†

Letting her know that she’s not alone¬†

 

When you’re weary in all of the madness

Of school and life’s daily tasks¬†

You can still rest in God’s presence

You still find rest in Him at last 

 

Yes, God is with us in all these times 

In the seasons of day and night 

He is our constant, our Holy Light

When all is wrong 

And when all is right 

 

So we can find peace and joy 

In knowing this truth truth abounds 

In the quiet and every day places

God’s presence is still clearly found

 

Reflection 

We are the lights

A billion stars 

Soaring, shining from where we are

We are the moon that reflects the sun

To shine His glory to everyone

 

We are the smallest leaves upon a tree 

Yet, still He sees and loves you and me

We are the acorns on a warm summer day 

Yet, still He says we are wonderfully made

 

We are the wind in the midst of our fears

We have the chance to change the atmosphere 

We are the trees on a cool summer night

Swaying and dancing in His sight 

 

We are the snowflakes that fall swiftly by day 

Unique and different in every way

Yet God is our Father who created us all

And into His presence we can freely fall

 

Each one of us was made to be

Someone who reflects His majesty

 

@ Courtney Whitaker, 2019