Worship

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” – Psalm 100:1-2 
One of my favorite parts of going to church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights is without a doubt the chance to worship alongside other believers. There is something about worshipping God alongside fellow Christians that is practically otherworldly—a feeling that nothing in this world can top. Whether we’re singing a slow song and raising our hands in surrender or rocking out to a fast song and totally getting into it, there is nothing quite like worship. But, what if worship is meant to be more than just singing?
We tend to think, as Christians, of worship being the time between when we walk in the doors and the time when the pastor gives the message. Something that happens at church, or maybe at a Newsboys concert. But what if worship is more than that? What if it is meant to be something that we do daily—part of the rhythm of our day-to-day life as believers?
In Romans 12, Paul writes, “So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship.” (Romans 12:1). In this verse, the Apostle Paul is urging believers to live their lives as an offering poured out to God, which he describes just a few beats later as worship. Here, we are called to a worship that goes beyond just the sound of our voices on Sunday morning. We are called to worship that starts with our lives.
But, what does this look like? What does it look like to live your life as a living sacrifice—as a worship poured out to God? What does it mean to live our lives in this way?
According to the Google definition of the word, worship is “The feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity”. Oswald Chambers, the late evangelist and teacher describes worship this way – “Worship is giving God the best that he has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to him in a deliberate act of worship.”
In other words, we can worship God through everything that we do in this life – just as we are instructed to do in 1 Corinthians 10:31. So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
It can be so easy to get so caught up in the mundaneness of life that we forget that everything that we do as Christians is in essence, something sacred. There is no such thing as a ‘secular’ task if we are living our lives for God, because in everything we do we can pour out our praise to the God who placed breath inside of our lungs. When we eat, we can thank God for the way that He has blessed us. When we drive to work, we can pray to the God who sustains us. When we write, or dance, or play sports, we can do it all for the God who has given us these gifts. Everything that we do as Christians can be an act of worship!
This week, I want to challenge you to look at the moments in your week differently.
To see the small ways that we can worship God in the midst of the ordinary.
To never allow ourselves to stop being in wonder at the majesty of our God, Savior and Creator!
To truly live your life as an act of worship. 
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How about you? How do you worship God in the day to day rhythms of your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!😃  
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Christmas Classics: It’s A Wonderful Life

*Warning, this post contains spoilers

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10. (NIV) 

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“When the bell rings, an angel gets their wings.”

Today is officially the last day of my Christmas Classics series, and I am closing it with one of the most well-known Christmas classics of our time: It’s A Wonderful Life. 

It’s A Wonderful Life is a (black and white!) Christmas movie created in 1946 about a young man named George Bailey who learns the meaning of Christmas after being visited by an angel named Clarence. George is at the end of his rope and contemplating suicide, after being faced with a lot of disasters at work that feel too big for him to handle. He sees no point in continuing to live until the angel shows him how his life has touched others—and what the world would be like without him. Through this he learns to see the value of his life and goes back to be with his family—and celebrates Christmas with a renewed hope, joy, and purpose.

It’s A Wonderful Life asks the timeless question that many of us have probably asked ourselves at some point: Does my life matter? Am I making a difference? Would this world be different if I weren’t there? And despite the notion that an angel “getting their wings when the bell rings” might be a little theologically shakey, there are a lot of good lessons that we, as Christians, can learn from this movie.

Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV) and 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (NIV).

God has plans for each one of us, and whether or not we were ‘planned’ in the natural sense, God knew and formed each one of us before we were born! Though Jeremiah 1:5 is speaking about Jeremiah, it applies to each one of us—before we were even formed God knew us, and had an incredible plan for our lives! And in 1 Peter 2:9, Peter is speaking to every believer who has been called out of darkness, into God’s glorious light! God’s desire for each one of us is life, and that we live out the dreams that He has for us and impact those around us! 

If you’re reading this today, and asking any of the same questions that George Bailey asked in It’s A Wonderful Life, than I want you to know one thing above all else: your life matters! God would not have created you intricately and divinely in your mother’s womb if it didn’t. If you are alive and breathing today than God still has plans for you. If you just look around to those that you see each and every day, you will find lives that God wants you to impact—in your school, in your friend group, and in your family. And, there is no one else on this planet that can live out the life God created you to live! You matter. To God, and to so many people that see and interact with you every day! 

Maybe you’re reading this today and thinking ‘I already know this. I already know that my life and every other life on this planet matters.’ If that’s the case, than maybe you’ll find yourself in a different character in this story—Clarence. Maybe God wants to use you to encourage someone in your sphere of influence today, and remind them that their life matters! Maybe God wants to use you as someone’s guardian angel. God will often use us to speak to those who are hurting, and maybe as you’re reading this, the Lord is putting someone on your heart that you need to talk to. If that’s the case, than I want to challenge you to be obedient. You never know how God might want to use you in another person’s life! Maybe you could be somebody’s Clarence! 

If you get nothing else out of this post, than please remember this: God loves you, your life matters, and God wants to use you to impact the lives of others. In the words of the pastor/writer Max Lucado, “You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the Earth by the Master Craftsman.” 

May we always remember this; this Christmas, and the rest of our days!

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.”

Thanksgiving Post 2018

It’s Thanksgiving season once again. The time when Turkeys roast in the oven and Santa Clause makes his way across New York for the Macey’s Day Parade. The time when we visit family and the weather starts to get just a little bit cooler. And, in honor of Thanksgiving being just a little over a week away, I have made a list of things that I am thankful for.

So, without further ado, here is my 2018 Thanksgiving Post! 

  1. Growing stronger in my faith – This year, I have made so many spiritual breakthroughs, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the ways that I have grown closer to God. I have found so much joy in the Lord in 2018 and am constantly blown away by the ways that I see Him working in my life. I have become more intentional in my faith and have seen the impact of this on every other area of my life, including my struggle with OCD and anxiety. I am truly blessed by all of the things that God has given me – but most of all, I am blessed by the ways that He continues to reveal Himself to me! God is so good y’all!
  2. My family – My family has been there for me through the good and the bad. They’ve supported me in my dreams and ambitions and have helped shape me into the person that I am today. They are the people who know me the best and who have seen me grow from a tiny human being into the young woman that I am today. I am thankful for their support, their guidance, and their example. And I am thankful for each and every member of my family.
  3. My friends – I am thankful for both my old friends, who I have grown up with, and the new friends that I have made this year (you know who you are!). God has surrounded me with some of the most incredible friends that a girl could ask for, and I am thankful for all of the people that He has brought into my life. If any of you guys are reading this right now, I just want to say, you all are the BEST!
  4. My church – This year, I have started attending a new church that’s literally ten minutes from my house – and I absolutely love it! The people there are so awesome and they have truly become my church family. I wrote a whole post on them, which you can read about here! God has blessed me so much as I have gotten plugged in at this church, which brings me to my next point…
  5.  Becoming a youth leader – This year, I have become a leader at my church’s youth group! I have wanted the chance to do this since I was about twelve, and this year, it all came to pass for me! Growing up, I was inspired by the example of the college leaders at my own youth group, and I always wanted the chance to be the example and role model to younger students that my own leaders were to me. And through my leadership at this youth group, I have had the chance to pray with students and encourage them in their walk with God. I couldn’t be more thankful for this incredible opportunity!
  6. Getting healthy – I have made a point not to remain silent about my struggle with OCD and anxiety on this blog. I am a big believer in being real and sharing our struggles with the intent of encouraging some else. However, over this past year, I have noticed it lessening way more than ever before. I have been dealing less with anxious thoughts and I have been making a conscious effort to move past stressful patterns of thinking. I have started combating my OCD with prayer and have begun opening up more to those around me – which has greatly helped me in my battle with OCD! I am thankful for this progress and believe that I will get even healthier in 2019!
  7. My education – This year, I have started taking my BA classes through Liberty University online and my AA classes through a local community college. When I first decided to go to Liberty, I was under the impression that my community college credits wouldn’t transfer, but this year, found out they would and have begun working on both parts of my degree at once. It has been a little crazy, trying to keep everything with school together, but God has walked with me through it all! And He has given me incredible opportunities with my education that I am truly thankful for!
  8. Writing – As always, I am thankful for the chance to express my thoughts, beliefs, and ideas through the written word. I have always loved writing, and this year, I have begun making an intentional effort to post more! Earlier in the year, a bunch of my friends started reading my blog, and through their encouragement, I decided to start posting something new each week! It has been an incredible blessing to hear their feedback on my posts and I am thankful for their challenge to write weekly! It has truly been incredible!
  9. Everyday blessings – There are so many things in our day-to-day life that we legit take for granted. Food. Water. Clothing. Shelter. Clean air. Life itself. I am thankful for all of these things and more. I am thankful for warm tea on cold December nights. I am thankful for the smell of the ocean at the beach. I am thankful for moments of laughter, joy, and wonder. I am thankful for the night sky. I am thankful for memories, tucked away in old scrapbooks. I am thankful for these everyday blessings. And I want to do my best to avoid taking them for granted.
  10. Freedom – I am thankful for the freedom that our soldiers have fought for so that we can live for and worship our God above. I am thankful that I live in a country where I can blog about my faith, and express it freely. I am thankful for those who have paid the ultimate price for all of this. I am thankful to live in America.

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How about you? What are you thankful for? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below! Also, I am taking next week off from blogging for Thanksgiving – but I hope you all have an awesome holiday!😃

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!

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.