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.

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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. 

A New Year’s Anthem

As we go into this new year, let us strive to be people of purpose.

Let us fill ourselves with a holy passion and fire as we go into this world and transform it for the cause of Christ. 

Let us not love merely by our words, but our actions—conveying God’s love to each and every person that crosses our path. 

Let us see people not simply as another face, or another name, but as a magnificent and glorious human being, created in God’s own image. 

Let us carry this love to our schools, our workplaces, and our places of influence.

Let us turn this same love back on ourselves, and never forget our worth and value as children bought at a price by our Savior.

Let us never grow complacent with these truths, storing them away as simply an abstract belief or idea. Let us instead, live out a faith that sparks action. 

Let us love loudly, live boldly, and worship passionately. Let us never let our faith become just another routine.

Let us live without regrets, and chase God honoring dreams, while still living fully and wholeheartedly in the present—in the time in between.

Let us never forget that we are a sparka spark that can start a great fire.

And let us stay on fire—living as reflections of the One who has called us into His glorious light. Forever and ever, amen

Now is the time. What are we waiting for? 

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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: 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!😃

Giving Back

It is officially the week after Thanksgiving—which means that we are right in the thick of the holiday season. A season for lights, and festivities. A season for family and friends. A season for finishing off those leftovers from Thanksgiving before they go bad.

It is also a season for giving, and making a difference in the world around us.

Though giving is something that we can (and should) do all year long, there is a certain spirit of generosity that fills the air during the Christmas season. There are more chances to give than practically any other time of year—through donations, through time, and through small acts of kindness. And as Christians, we have the chance to be a light for Christ as we make a difference in the world around us! 

In John 13:34-35, Jesus is speaking to His followers, and gives them a simple command to follow. He says, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV). As Christ followers, we are called to love the world around us. And one of the greatest ways that we can share God’s love is through giving.

This does not simply mean giving financially or materially. Giving can take a lot of different forms, and if you cannot afford to give in this way, there are so many other ways that you can give! You can give of your time, and of your love! You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, or take time out of your day to mentor someone younger than you!

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. And Christmas is the perfect time to be intentional and give back to your community! It is the perfect time to reach out your hand to another and make a difference right where you are. And, it is the perfect chance to be a blessing to those around you.

This Christmas, I want to challenge you to give. This could be as simple as baking cookies for the widow down the street, or participating in Operation Christmas Child. You could participate in a church Christmas drive or babysit for a single mom who is struggling.

I don’t know how God is calling you to be a blessing, but there is one thing I do know – if you are alive and breathing today God can use you to make a difference in someone else’s life. And no matter how small it might seem to you, God can use your faithfulness in extraordinary ways! Through our giving, we have the chance to start a chain reaction, and spread an attitude of generosity in our homes, schools, and spheres of influences.

This Christmas, let us be a light for Christ, and reach out to those around us. Let us make a difference, and reach out to those who are struggling. Let us be the change that we want to see.

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“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’” – Matthew 25:35-40 (ESV). 

How about you guys? Do you have any suggestions for ways to give back during the holiday season? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below! I always love hearing from you all!❤️

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!