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—of 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—and 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]For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace.

In fact, the mind-set focused on the flesh fights God’s plan and refuses to submit to his direction,[f] because it cannot! For no matter how hard they try, God finds no pleasure with those who are controlled by the flesh. 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—with 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. 

Image result for spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

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.😉    

Stronger

“Beloved friends, if life gets extremely difficult, with many tests,[a] don’t 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—and 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—He 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]17–18 Embrace the power of salvation’s 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—and 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.🙂

“God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge! You’re a proven help in time of trouble—more 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—”striving to live confidently in Christ”. But what does it mean to truly be confident—and 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—and 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—and 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—even 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—something 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’s 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.”’ (NIV).

When we remember who we are in Christ, the lies of the enemy and this world start to lose hold on us—and 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—carrying 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

 

 

God-Sized Dreams

“You’re never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.” Les Brown. 

I have always been a dreamer. I have always been the girl with big dreams and bigger ambitions—so much so that my Instagram tagline reads, “Christian, writer, youth leader, dreamer…striving to live confidently in Christ.” I have always wanted to do big things and leave some kind of mark on this world. 

I am sure that many of you reading this are the same way. I believe God puts a fire inside all of us and a passion to live out our full potential in Christ. A dream that only we can achieve through Him and for His glory. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV). God knows the plans that He has for us; plans that are bigger and crazier than anything you could ever ask for or imagine.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, how do I know if a dream is from God or myself? How do I know that this dream is from God, and not just from my own head? Since I don’t specifically know what your dream is, I can’t answer that question for sure, but I can say that God has given us a roadmap for discerning these things, through His Word, through prayer, and through the people around us.

The first way that we can discern God’s will for us and for our dreams is through God’s Word. In the Bible, the plans that God had for His people were always for a purpose greater than their own personal fulfillment. Whenever God led people down a certain path or calling, it was always for a purpose that impacted others outside of themselves. Steven Furtick says, in a short message on YouTube that the key to the dream that God has given me is found in the dream that God has given others. Furthermore, God has never put a dream inside of a person that would require them to sin or fall outside of His standards to achieve His purpose. Every time He gives us a dream, it will bring us closer to Him, and to the person that God has created us to be.

Second, we can discern God’s will through prayer and through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “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). When we ask God to give us direction and guide our steps, He will make His will known to us. It may not always be in the timing that we’d like and it may not always be the way we expect, but God’s plans will always be better than our plans, so never stop trusting the process. 

Third, listen to wise counsel.The people who know you best will be able to help you discern your gifts and pray alongside with you with whatever it is that you feel God is calling you to. So don’t be afraid to ask your best friend to pray for you. Talk to your parents about it. Ask for advice from your pastor, or a trusted mentor at your church. Proverbs 11:14 says, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” (NIV). Oftentimes, those closest to us can see where our passions and talents lie—and these things can help us to get a clearer idea of what God might be calling you to. 

Last, find your contentment in God alone. It can be so easy to be crazy intense about a dream that we feel God has placed inside of us, but our relationship with Jesus should always take precedence over our dreams. God cares more about your heart, and having all of you than He does about what you try to do or achieve for HIm. And if we lose sight of the One who gives us our dreams and gives us our passions in the process of trying to chase them, we will be ineffective in fulfilling the mission that God has called us to. So put God first, live each day to it’s fullest in the present, and trust that God will bring His plans to life in His perfect timing.

Image result for god's plans for you

How about you? Do you have any dreams that you feel God has placed on your heart? If so, share them – I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!😃💙