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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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!

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!❤️

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!😃

Your Story Matters

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved stories. 

I have always loved the feel of the pages in my hand. I have always loved journeying with a character through the chapters of their life. I have always loved the feeling of crisp new pages in my hand, and the smell of a brand new book, just waiting to be opened. I learned to read at the age of three and I haven’t stopped since.

However, stories do not just exist within the pages of a poem or novel. They exist within in our lives. And every day, as we live, we are adding a new chapter to the story of our life. 

I have always felt that life is, in some ways, like a story. We are the characters and God is the author. He creates us and molds us into the person that He wants us to be. He places dreams, hopes, and desires within each one of us that we can use to serve His Kingdom. And sometimes, he allows us to face trials and plot twists—all so that we can grow and experience character development in the grand story that we call life.

Chances are, you likely have quite a few chapters in your story that have already been written. If you are in middle, high school, or college, than there is a good chance that you have already experienced God’s faithfulness in various points at your life. You have likely already had experiences that have shaped you. You likely already have a testimony. And if you are alive and breathing as you read this today, than I fully believe that God wants to use your story for His purpose and glory—and that you can impact lives right where you are, all through choosing the brave path of sharing your story. 

Maybe you’re reading this today and thinking to yourself that your story isn’t very interesting. I’m here to tell you otherwise. The belief that your story has to be big and dramatic to impact those around you is a lie straight from the enemy. Though those big, dramatic life-altering testimonies are inspiring and powerful, they are not the only stories God can use to impact lives. Sometimes, even the most ordinary examples of everyday faithfulness can speak volumes about God and His power and presence in our walk with Him. 

In fact, just the other day, I saw this truth in motion as I had an old friend text me out of the blue. We haven’t talked in months, so we had a lot to catch up on. I asked her how school was going, and she said it was going well. She told me about her involvement in a campus ministry at her university. I told her about the church that I’ve been going to ever since just before summer. She told me about her boyfriend, who she’s been dating for over a year now. Basically, the typical stuff of college and life.

However, as we talked, we eventually got into more personal details of our lives, and I had the chance to tell her about a situation that I’ve been dealing with over this past school year. When I finished, she texted back a response. She told me that she thought it was so cool that I could see that this situation was for God’s greater glory, even though it has been hard for me. I had the opportunity in this moment to direct the praise back to God, noting that He has been teaching me to trust Him more through this situation.

After we finished talking, I couldn’t help but let that conversation play over and over again in my mind. Never once would I have thought that I would have a testimony in the midst of this situation, but God turned that moment into the chance to inspire a friend in her faith. He used my story to impact another story. And this is really the essence of the Christian life—changed lives changing lives. People spurring each other on in the faith. Christians lifting up the name of Jesus through their life!

And I’ve had so many people encourage me in my faith through their own lives. I can still remember one incident a while back, where I felt like I was so behind on being an “adult“. I was still in the process of trying to get my driver’s license and I felt young compared with the rest of my friends. I felt like I was lagging behind and I was far from where I always wanted to be at that point in my life.

During this time, God spoke into my life through someone who said that they also felt behind on “adulting” and where they thought they thought they would be at this stage of life. Here they were, older than me and dealing with many of the same struggles. God spoke through this person and helped me to feel more OK with everything—just through this individual’s obedience in sharing their story. And if I were to think long and hard about it, I know I could come up with a thousand other incidents like this—where someone else’s story has impacted my own. Where I have been encouraged by another believer’s testimony. Where someone else’s faithfulness has impacted my journey.

This week, I want to encourage you to let others into your story. To share about the times that God has been faithful—in the midst of the good, the bad, and the ugly. To live your life as a testimony to God’s love, power, and faithfulness.

To inspire others through the power of a story. 

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How about you? Have you ever been impacted by another person’s story (or testimony)? Or have you ever had the chance to impact someone else through your story? If so, feel free to share about it in the comments section below—I’d love to hear your story!😃

 

Social Media

In our modern world, social media is something that we use at rapid pace. 

Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and a host of other apps and websites, we have information at our fingertips literally twenty-four-seven. We can go on Twitter to see the latest thoughts and anecdotes of our favorite celebrities. We can go on Instagram to see what our friends and classmates are up to. We can go on Snapchat to chat with our friends and post to our “stories”. We can go on Facebook to see everyone’s opinion on literally everything.

And in many ways, this is good. It lets us keep up with those closest to us and allows us easy access to what’s-going-on-in-the-world. But, like with most good things, social media also has it’s drawbacks. And as young people setting out to impact the world for Christ, it is important to be aware of these drawbacks as we navigate the wonderful and complex world of social media and devices. 

A couple of weeks ago at my church’s youth group, our youth pastor mentioned social media in his lesson. He was talking about culture, and he said that statistically in our modern world, the average teen gets anxiety when separated from their phone. That’s scary y’all. Have we as a culture become so attached to our phones that we get stressed out when we don’t have them? And, is it possible that we could be part of that statistic?

The truth is, I’m writing this to myself just as much as I’m writing to you. As a blogger, it can be a real challenge for me to keep my social media use in balance, and not spend more time online than I should. A couple of weeks ago I was at a leadership meeting and before it started, I was hanging out with a group of my friends, laughing and talking. And as we hit a pocket of silence, I got out my phone and got video footage of the room for my Instagram story. And thinking back to that moment, I couldn’t tell you why I felt such a compulsion to post over just enjoying the moment. But at this point in our society, that’s part of the culture that we live in. You do something fun and post about it—without stopping to just soak in the moment free of phones and devices. 

Yet at the same time, social media can be used for so much good, right? It can be used to spread the Gospel and share God’s Word with the world! You often have a bigger audience on platforms like Twitter and Instagram than you do in your real-day-to-day life, giving you the perfect opportunity to use those tweets and posts for good—and for the glory of God! So, how do you balance it? How do you use your social media for good without letting it run your life? 

I think the first thing remember is to keep it in moderation. Try to limit the amount of time that you’re online per day and try not to mindlessly scroll when you have a free second. There are so many things that we can do when we’re bored besides go online—read a book, listen to music, pray, or call a friend! Live in the moment, and try to enjoy the minutes of your day, without feeling that you have to post everything online.

Second, give yourself a mission! I talked last week about being leaders and social media gives us the opportunity to do just that—right where we are! Use your social media to share your favorite Bible verses, or highlights from a really good sermon at church*. Use it to encourage people and help them in their faith. I have one friend who recently started an online prayer ministry, which I think is an incredible idea! Be creative, and let God show you how He wants to use you in the online world!

Third, be realistic. This is something that we don’t always do with social media but that I feel needs to be said. You know that girl who always posts those perfect pictures of herself at the beach or in meadows of flowers? The girl with the perfectly braided hair who always looks happy and excited about everything? Her life likely isn’t as perfect as it appears online. We have a tendency to post our best selves on social media, which can make many of us think that everyone else’s life is going better than our own. But we don’t see the ugly cries behind the scenes. We don’t see long nights of insomnia. We don’t see the stress, insecurities, or piles of homework. We don’t see a person’s real life on social media—so never compare your behind the scenes to another person’s highlight reel. 

Fourth, be careful about oversharing! This pertains both to safety and to spilling our personal lives online. Not everyone should have access to your personal information (which could be used against you by online predators) and not everyone should have access to your most personal moments. Rather than share your schedule, share your heart. And rather than posting about your messy breakup with your boyfriend, call a close friend who can talk to you and pray with you about it! Social media has a purpose, but it should never replace our real life interactions with those closest to us! 

Fifth, never post anything that you wouldn’t want your children to see or read in the future. Some of you may read that sentence and think, “I’m twelve. That’s a looooong ways off Courtney!” But the truth is, things online have a tendency of sticking around for a while. And if you don’t want your future employer, your children, or your future spouse reading something or seeing a questionable picture, than you probably shouldn’t post it. I’ve tried to live by this rule for as long as I’ve had social media, and it has helped me keep the right perspective when posting stuff online. In the worlds of Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Post about the things that will uplift and inspire, not that will tear down or embarrass you later down the line!

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How about you? What are your thoughts on social media and stewarding it well as Christians? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below – I always love a good conversation!😀

*But for the sake of your pastors, please do this after the service is over.