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!

 

Advertisements

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!😃💙       

 

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.

Image result for faith sees the invisible believes the incredible and receives the impossible

*Just looked this quote up. It’s by Mark Batterson. 

Overcoming Anxiety

Recently, I posted to my Instagram story, asking those who follow me for suggestions on future blog topics. And, knowing a little bit about my story and my struggle with OCD/anxiety, a friend asked that, if I was comfortable, I would share how I manage it.

And, I told her that I would be more than happy to share.😊

For those of you who don’t know me, or are new to my blog, I’ve struggled with OCD/anxiety on and off since around middle school. My struggle with OCD/anxiety is mostly a battle of the mind (to borrow a term from Joyce Meyers). It can look different for different people, but for me it mainly takes the form of thoughts. Thoughts that make me feel stressed, or that trigger my emotions in some way. When this happens, it often triggers a host of physical symptoms – symptoms like a racing heart, or the sensation of ‘tensing up’ under stress. The thoughts, mixed with the symptoms, brings us to what most people would dub “OCD” or “anxiety.

And while, dealing with this kind of anxiety can be hard, it isn’t impossible.

I believe that through Christ’s power living in us, we are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us (Romans 8:3). And as intense as anxiety can sometimes be, it is no match for the God who breathed earth into being and breath into our very lungs.

And, here are some tips that have helped me overcome my own anxiety.

1. Identify the source – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10. Back when I was in middle school, one of my youth leaders made us memorize this verse. I can still remember being in a line of middle schoolers waiting to recite it back to her to get a piece of free candy. Years later, as an adult, I am super glad that I learned it. Because as Christians on fire for Jesus, our enemy is constantly looking for ways to defeat us, and keep us from the plans that God has for us.

One of the primary way that he will do this, is through using anxiety to defeat us—putting thoughts in our minds and making us think that they are ours. He will also lie to us in any way that He can—about ourselves and about the people that God has placed in our lives. When these kinds of self-defeating thoughts come, it is important that we identify the source. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.When our knowledge of God’s truth becomes more powerful than the lies that we hear about ourselves, we are in a place where we can begin demolishing these thoughts and the anxiety that comes with them.

2. Surround yourself with a community – “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25. I honestly cannot speak enough about the importance of community in the life of the believer. I fell into a season a while back where I struggled to find this, and it was honestly one of the worst times for me in regards to anxiety/OCD. When we surround ourselves with people who will speak truth into our lives and encourage us in our faith, it is so much harder for the enemy to lie to us and attack us with temptation and troubling thoughts. There’s a reason that God tells us to surround ourselves with other believers. It is not only good for our Christian walk—it is good for our mental and emotional wellbeing.

3. Pray – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 I know this one probably sounds so cliche, but trust me, it works. This is not to say that if you pray, all of your problems will automatically be resolved – after all, Paul still had his thorn even after he asked God to take it away (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). However, this does not diminish the power of prayer. Praying changes something in our hearts, even at the times that we struggle. It causes us to position our hearts towards God and ‘cast all of our fears unto Him because He cares‘ (Psalm 55:22). God is with you even in your hardest moments. When we begin to praise God in the storm, anxiety slowly begins to lose its power over us. Suddenly, the things that we were once so worried about, and that we were so stressed out about seem small—by comparison of the amazing, awesome, and powerful God that we serve! A God who is greater than any form of fear or anxiety!

4. Be Real—not perfect -“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Ironically, just last week, as I was planning this blog post, one of the other leaders at my church’s youth group was asked to speak on this very topic. And one thing he mentioned that stood out to me was letting go of the need to be strong and be perfect—opening up to God and others about our areas of weakness. As your classic ‘type A’ perfectionist, this can definitely be a struggle for me. It can be hard to say to a friend or someone close to you ‘I’m not OK.’ However, as God taught me over the course of last year, one of the healthiest things that we can do as human beings is confide in each other, and be real about our struggles. We are all human, and there is not a human on this planet who has their life completely figured out. 

5. Get in the word – “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. Staying plugged into God’s Word is one of our surest keys to keeping our anxiety and negative emotions in check. It has the power to break through the deepest places in our heart and penetrate through our whole being. A couple of days ago, I woke up feeling stressed about the future, and trying to discern God’s plans for me, and as soon as I broke out my Bible and put on some good worship music, I felt better. As Christians, the Bible is our lifeblood, and it is so important that we stay in the Word to steady our spirits as we go throughout our day to day lives.

Image result for christian quotes about anxiety

How about you? Have you ever struggled with anxiety, or negative thoughts? If so, how did you combat it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.😃

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!

download 3 (1)

“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!

Wonder

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3.

There’s something magical about our earliest experiences during childhood. Our first time time losing a tooth. Our first trip to an amusement park. Our first time riding a bike without training wheels. Our first couple of Christmases – when we couldn’t wait to wake up and see what ‘Santa‘ had left under our tree. I know that if i look back over my own childhood experiences, I can think of many times that I remember vividly. I can also remember the feelings that accompanied them – a feeling that can most accurately be described in one word: wonder.

Somewhere along the way, that wonder often gets lost. We grow up and we learn what to expect. We become jaded. We become bored. We begin to see life as a list of tasks to be done, rather than an adventure to be lived. And too often, we carry this same attitude over into our faith.

For many of us, it can happen unintentionally. We get busy with work and school and our faith gets pushed to the back burner. We face opposition from the world and dim our light. Sometimes, we can even get so caught up in knowing information that we lose track of what it means to simply be known – interacting with God on an intellectual scale rather than a personal one. Somehow, it can be all too easy to make our faith a part of our routine—losing track of the wonder of being known, saved, and loved by our God. 

Jesus never intended for us to live this life halfheartedly. In Luke 10:27, He says that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength—and to love your neighbor as yourself. He doesn’t want half of our heart, or part of our heart—He wants our whole heart, and every bit of wonder that comes from a life sold out to Christ.

This is not about legalism or salvation. We are saved the moment that we accept Christ as our Savior. But we can never experience the fullness that God has for us if we don’t continuously seek Him in our day-to-day lives. Through God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us, we have the power to do great and mighty things that are beyond anything we can ask or imagine. We have the power to be bold and courageous and to make a difference for God’s Kingdom. All that we have to do is come to God with an open heart and seek the fullness of His presence—falling in love over and over again with the God who didn’t want to spent eternity without us.  

I’m writing about this because this is something that I need to hear myself. It’s a lesson that I still need to learn every day along with every other Christian fighting the good fight and living out a reckless, passionate faith in God. We could all grow in wonder of our God—as we worship, pray, study His Word, and seek His presence.

This week, I want to challenge you to recapture the wonder that you had as a child in your relationship with God. To ask Him to fill your heart more deeply with the joy and power of the Holy Spirit. To carry an attitude of worship with you as you go throughout your week. To cultivate a closer relationship with the one who created you.

To never stop approaching our Heavenly with wide-eyed, childlike wonder. 

Favorite part of the song – I see the world Your way/ and I”m not afraid to follow/ I see the world Your way/ And I’m not ashamed to say so/ I see the Jesus way/ And I’m walking in the light.

How about you? How do you believe we can approach our faith with a sense of wonder? If you have any thoughts feel free to share them in the comments section below! 

Through Christ

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

From the time that many of us are young, we have dreams for the future.

Maybe our dream is to write a book, or go to college, or enter a certain line of work. Maybe it’s to start a family, or become a missionary in a third world country. Likely, the details of our dreams and desires will look somewhat different for everyone, but there is one thing many of us struggle with, regardless of our many differences and strengths. Something that is a common fear amongst many of God’s children, and that can be nearly paralyzing—holding us back from our destiny and our calling in life.

And that thing is, the fear of failure. 

This can be especially highlighted for those who have graduated this year—either from high school or college, and who are faced with a new chapter in life. I remember my own high school graduation just a couple of years ago, and the feeling of being plagued with a sense of fear and anxiety as I stood on that stage to accept my diploma.

What did God have next for me? And what did life after high school look like?

Many of my friends who have graduated this year have expressed similar concerns. Some are still trying to decipher God’s calling post-college graduation, and some will be entering college campuses and universities for the very first time.

Even if we aren’t one of the lucky graduates of 2018, we likely still deal with some of this same stress and worry about the future. A lot of us have a dream for the destination, but don’t know how we’re going to get there. Some of us may feel hesitant to even try.

Nonetheless, while these are all very legitimate fears and concerns, there’s something very important that we can remember as Christians during times like this. Something that can carry us through any fear or doubt or worry that we face, and something big enough to carry us through any trial that we encounter.

We aren’t in this alone. 

We serve a God who painted the stars into the galaxy. Who said ‘Let there be light’ and there was. Who created the Heavens and the earth and who knows each of us by name—and who wants a personal and intimate relationship with all of us. The same God who tells us that “If we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains” (Matthew 17:20).

Here’s the thing guys, we are never alone in our hopes and dreams. We were never meant to try to do big things for God. We were meant to do things with God—as image bearers and beloved children of our Heavenly Father. And if we trust our dreams to God (assuming they’re His will), they will come to pass.

God wants to use each of us to play part of His larger story in humanity. No person is too small, and no dream is too big for the God of the galaxies. He has a history of using ordinary people for an extraordinary purpose. He transformed Shepherd boy into the king of a nation. He used a young girl from an ordinary family to give birth to the Savior of the world. He used a former murder to write most of the New Testament.

If God could use David, Mary, and Paul, than He can use you too.

As you go throughout this week, I want to encourage you to pray big for the things that you want to see come to pass in your life. Pray with confidence over your future and the future of those around you—believing wholeheartedly that God will answer your prayers in His timing. We were each made for something incredible, that we were meant to accomplish with and through Christ, who gives us strength.

All that we need is faith the size of mustard seed.