Godly Confidence: Embracing Your Identity In Christ

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39 (NLT). 

We live in a culture that consistently feeds us the lie that we’re not enough.

Whether it be from Hollywood, magazines, or toothpaste ads, we are told time and time again that we should be prettier, thinner, smarter, cooler, or otherwise different from the person that we are. Time and time again, we are fed an ideal of ‘perfection’ from our culture—and too often, we have accepted this lie as truth.

Recently, I posted to my Instagram account asking for suggestions for future blogs and video blogs, and one of the suggestions that I got was to write a post on loving yourself. And this got me thinking—what does this look like for us as believers? How do we, while following the Biblical principal of taking up our cross to follow Christ (Matthew 16:24), love ourselves the way that we’re called to as Christians?

I believe this starts with looking to who God says we are in Scripture, and planting our identity firmly in Christ.

From the very beginning, we are shown that we have innate worth simply by existing and being. In Genesis 1:27, we read, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (NIV). Each one of us is created in the image of God—which means that each one of us bears the mark of our Creator.

Furthermore, in Psalm 139:13-14, King David writes, “You formed my innermost being, shaping my delicate inside and my intricate outside, and wove them all together in my mother’s womb.[aI thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex! Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking. It simply amazes me to think about it! How thoroughly you know me, Lord!” (TPT). Each one of us is created wonderfully complex, from our unique personalities and passions to our outward appearance!

I remember times during my teenage years when this truth didn’t always line up with how I felt. There were plenty of times when I felt awkward (who doesn’t as a teenager?), gawky, and like I totally broke the mold of how a teenager ‘should’ be.

I was pretty tomboyish. I was obsessed with all things books and words (still am, as you’ve probably figured out). And a lot of my interests fell more into the old lady category than the teenager category (hot tea…Hallmark movies…cats…the whole nine yards). But the older I got, the more comfortable in my skin I became. Slowly I learned that everyone has things that make them unique—and I learned to own the person that God has created me to be. To embrace my quirks, rather than run from them.

If you can relate to any of this at all, I want to challenge you to fully embrace what God has said about you. Not just on a head level, but on a heart level. To see that God has bestowed you with so many incredible gifts and talents and ways that you paint your own unique colors onto the canvas of this world. To show up fully in your sphere of influence knowing that God looked down when He created you and said ‘It is good’. To drown out the voices of the world that tell you that you have to be different to be accepted, because in Christ you are already enough!

In the words of a quote by George MacDonald, “I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.” 

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How about you? What are your thoughts on living out your identity in Christ? I’d love to hear your input in the comments section below!❤️

Hope: In A Broken World

Hey guys, sorry it’s been a little while since I’ve posted! Between summer classes, work, and church activities, my calendar has pretty much been booked to the max. However, I’m back now with a topic that I have been thinking a lot about lately, and that I feel strongly that the Lord has put on my heart to share. I hope it speaks to someone today!😃

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Hope. It’s only four letters, but it carries with it so much meaning. So much beauty. It is a word that inspires images of joy. Images of a more peaceful world. Images of more love, and less famine. Images of a nation filled with people who genuinely care for each other; regardless of ethnicity or the color of their skin. It brings to mind a better future—filled with less of the problems that we see in the world today. There is a reason the word has been used in charity organizations and political campaigns alike. Deep down, we all long for a world filled with hope. Deep down, we all know that hope is what this world truly needs.

However, for many of us, hope is something that seems allusive or out of reach in the world today. When we turn on the news, we see images of crime, famine, and hate. We see a world that frankly, looks anything but hopeful. For some of us, we need to look no further than our local high school or college to see living, breathing, people who seem all but hopeless. People who are fighting their own personal battles. Maybe financially. Maybe relationally. Maybe physically. Sometimes, a combination of all three.

I have always been affected by the stories that I hear around me. If a friend tells me about something they are struggling with, I want to do everything in my power to encourage them. If I hear about a worthy cause, or a group of people who are struggling (people living in poverty, with an illness, etc. etc. etc.) I want to do everything in my power to help them. I think it’s safe to say that this is the case for a lot of us. As humans, we are naturally affected by the stories we hear in the world around us. As humans, we are affected by those whose situations look hopeless. However, as Christians, we also posses the one thing that can truly bring them hope.

I remember when I first started college, feeling so affected by the condition of the world around me. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who seemed lost and broken. When I felt small and way too outnumbered to truly make a difference. Part of me was tempted to shrink back. To escape into some TV drama or another. To just survive—rather than do the very thing that God called me to do, which was to be bold. At one point, pushing past fear and trembling, God called me to give a speech about my faith in a class where a student was openly Wiccan. Needless, to say, this wasn’t easy, and I was sort of terrified but it proved to be an incredible experience in God’s faithfulness—and as the class went on, I saw him slowly develop a genuine interest in Christianity—even nodding with interest as I read Bible verses in various other speeches that I presented. This still remains one of my most memorable experiences in my college journey thus far.

And, this was just one part of the lesson that God has been continuing to teach me throughout my journey of faith, and my journey through college. That as Christians, we have the hope that this world is desperately longing for.

It is far too easy to be silent. To let fear dictate us and stop us from doing the one thing that we have been placed on this earth to do. To believe that this world is too broken, too far gone, too far beyond hope. To forget the words of John 1:5, which says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (NIV). 

I don’t know about you, but I want to bring hope to the broken and light to the darkness in this world.

I want to live in such a way that it points back to the One who has put breath in my lungs and given me life.

I want to exude joy, hope, and love even in places that seem to lack all three of these.

I want to be everything that Christ has called me to be, and never miss an opportunity to share His love with the people He has placed around me. 

If you are going back to school soon, I want to encourage you to look like hope in the place where God has led you! To never be afraid to step out in boldness, and share Christ with those around you. If you work somewhere, I want to encourage you to love your co-workers and boss and live in such a way that it points back to Jesus—and “work as if you’re working unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23). Wherever we go and whatever we do, let us never be afraid to reflect the hope that we have.

Let us never let fear hold us back from sharing this hope.

Let us never let fear hold us back from sharing this love!

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

– Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

21 Lessons For 21 Years

Hey guys,

So, in case you didn’t already figure it out by the title, today is my 21st birthday! 

It is hard to believe that another year has already come and gone, and if I’m perfectly honest, twenty has been so full of blessings, lessons, and new experiences that it feels like three years packed in one. I know twenty-one will be just as great, and as an annual birthday-tradition on 1 Timothy 4:12 Girl, I have created a list of lessons that I have learned in my twenty-one years on the planet. Hope you guys like it! 

  1. Keep growing in your faith – No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, there is always something new that God can reveal to you through His Word and the people around you. There are always new ways that we can grow, and learn, and become more like Christ. So stay in the Word, make prayer your lifeline, and stay in tune with the Holy Spirit. The Christian walk is a journey. Own it.
  2. Find a community – Stay plugged into a community of fellow Jesus-followers who are passionate about God and life. Join a small group at your church, and find like-minded friends. Start a Bible study and encourage each other in Christ. The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone and there is so much we can learn from godly friendships. Make these friendships a priority.
  3. Stay close to your family – They have seen you through your best and your worst times. No matter how old you are, never neglect your time with them. Meet your mom for coffee and ask your dad how his day was. Stay in touch with siblings if you have them. Call your grandparents and see how they’re doing, or hang out with them in person regularly if they live nearby. Your family members will always be your biggest cheerleaders and your greatest fans.
  4. Wait for the best – There are still guys who care about God and purity. Who are seeking God’s best for their lives and who will love and respect you in equal measures. Who will challenge you in your faith and challenge you to be the best version of yourself. Wait for a guy like this, and don’t ever settle.
  5. Believe for the best – Even when you can’t see it, believe that better things are right around the corner. Sometimes we have to go through the bad to appreciate the good—but these are only seasons. Never loose faith in people and never loose faith that there are things ahead better than anything you could’ve ever dreamed.
  6. Become the best version of you – Become that person that you always wanted to be. Find your confidence in Christ. Dive deeper in your faith. Make a positive impact in the world around you. Take up that new hobby and chase after that dream. You never know where it could take you.
  7. Expect the unexpected – So much in my life looks different than it was three years ago – but in the best way possible. Sometimes change can be good. As scary, and crazy, and gripping as it can be, sometimes change can be the best thing in the world for you. Trust God. He knows what He’s doing.
  8. Appreciate the little things – Appreciate the beauty of the sun when it’s first starting to rise. Appreciate the sound of birds outside your bedroom window. Appreciate the small, meaningless moments that will turn out to actually be some of the most meaningful and memorable ones. Appreciate your family, your friends and all of the blessings that God has given you.
  9. Let people in – Let the people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy and goodhearted people in. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with these people, and share your struggles and your joys with these people. Lean on them and be the kind of person that they can lean on too. I promise you won’t regret it.
  10. Lead by example – Strive to be the kind of person that your younger siblings, cousins, or next door neighbor could look up to, and look to as an example. Stand in your convictions. Love people genuinely. Live a life of faith, love, and purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Because I can promise you, someone is watching you.
  11. Trust God – There are so many details of our lives that we still don’t know. What (specific) job we’re going to have. Who we’re going to marry. What our lives will look like ten years from now. It can be so easy to make ourselves crazy over these things, but we don’t have to. We serve a God who knows all of these details and more. Trust Him, and don’t rely on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  12. Live in the moment – Plan for the things in the future that you can plan for, but don’t neglect the present. Don’t neglect the life you are in right now and the ins and outs of this season of your life. Live fully in the moment and appreciate the blessings that God has given you right now. Never be so future oriented that you neglect to be fully alive right now.
  13. Choose to be brave – Oftentimes it can be so easy to let fear hold us back, but through Christ, we can face our fears and live courageously. We can share our faith with that person that doesn’t know God. We can lead a Bible study, or a small group. We can do all of these things and more, through Christ, who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Choose bravery – even when you feel afraid.
  14. Its OK to not be OK – My youth pastor once said, “It’s okay to not be okay but it’s not okay to stay there.” Sometimes, in this life, you’ll have trials – but when this happens, take the steps towards overcoming them. Go to God in prayer and ask others to pray for you. Talk to a friend, parent, or youth leader. Find some encouraging verses of Scripture, and some good worship songs. These seasons are hard, but they are only seasons. As I said in point #5, things will get better.
  15. Stay creative – No matter how busy we get, it is so important to give our soul room to breathe. Find a creative hobby that allows you to express yourself and blow off some steam. Take up drawing, or photography. Start a scrapbook. Learn an instrument. Start a blog (hey, it worked for me!). There are so many different outlets of creativity. Find the one (or multiple ones) that you enjoy the most.
  16. Allow yourself time to rest – We live in a society that operates in constant go-mode. That constantly pushes for ‘harder, faster, and more’. However, we can be busy without being productive. Give yourself time to recharge. Read a good book, or call up a friend. Watch A Walk To Remember for the hundredth time. Put on some good music. We all need time to recharge sometimes.
  17. Embrace your quirks – There was I time in my life when I felt like my personality was totally oddball. During my teenage years there were a lot of things about me that made me feel a little less than normal—like my love of tea, cats, and apathy towards heavy metal. I didn’t fit the paradigm of what I thought a ‘normal’ teenager was. However, these ‘quirks’ are all part of the way that God has created me, and with time I have learned to embrace them. So embrace you. Because you’re fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image!
  18. Stay true to your convictions – Being a Christian in college (or high school, for that matter) can make you feel a little out of place sometimes. But stay true to your convictions. Dare to be that gal (or guy) who is committed to absolute purity until marriage. That person who won’t experiment with drugs or alcohol. That person who believes there is something bigger out there than the here and now. I have been (and still am) that person and I have absolutely no regrets. Dare to be different. Dare to be original.
  19. Strive to see the best in people – Strive to see the best in that professor who gives you twenty pounds of homework each week. Strive to see the best in that boss that mixes up your schedule for the billionth time. Strive to see your best in that classmate who who you can’t seem to find a shred of kindness in. These people, like you and I, are still created in the image of God. Choose to see them that way.
  20. ‘Adulting’ isn’t what you think – You don’t become an adult when you get your license, get your first job, or graduate high school. You become an adult through the small, seemingly insignificant decisions that you make every day. Through taking ownership of your life and the person that you want to be. When you dare to live a life you can be proud of. This is what ‘adulting‘ truly is.
  21. Never stop savoring that awesome piece of cake on your birthday – Because hey, you made it to another year! And that is totally worth celebrating! Image result for 21 years

How about you? What are some life lessons that you’ve learned over the years? Feel free to share them in the comments section below! I’d love to hear them! 

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!😃  

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.

True Beauty

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

For many of us, we see things that we don’t want to see. Acne. Weight. Hair that’s too curly/straight/some weird combo of the two. A nose that’s that’s too big or small. etc. etc. etc. Odds are, if you look closely enough, you can find something that you don’t like. And in the world that we live in, we’re told that’s the norm. We’re told everyone hates the way they look. In fact, we’re told that unless we look like an (airbrushed) model on the cover of a magazine, we should hate the way that we look—and do everything in our power to change it.

But God’s word says something different. 

Psalms 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

In our world, we have a very narrow definition of beauty. To the world, beauty means being a size two with perfect hair and a flawless complex. To God, beauty means being you—because every single person that He created is beautiful in His eyes. Every perceived imperfection that you have is beautiful, because it is part of what makes you you—and when when the God of the universe looks down on you, He doesn’t see anything less than someone who is beautiful, worthy, and loved!

Furthermore, despite what our society tells us, beauty is so much more than skin deep. 

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” And 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

This does not mean that it’s wrong to care about your appearance – it is perfectly OK to enjoy dressing nice or wearing makeup and jewelry! But our self worth should never come from these things, and we should never use these things as measuring sticks for our beauty as human beings! Ultimately, the most important thing about us is our heart; and God values the state of our hearts far above our appearance or outward beauty! When a person is truly kindhearted, compassionate, and caring, it makes them a billion times more attractive than someone who just has their looks! 

This week, as you go throughout your days, I want to challenge you to see yourself as God sees you. To wake up each morning that you are loved, beautiful, and cherished by your Creator! To see your self-worth and be able to praise God, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made! And to ultimately, focus on your inner beauty—choosing every day to be the kind of person that you would want to have for a friend!

In the words of the old song by Johnny Diaz,

There could never be a more beautiful you. Don’t buy the lies, disguises and hoops, they make you jump through. You were made to fill a purpose that only you could do. So there could never be a more beautiful you.

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How about you? Have you ever struggled with the way you looked? If so, what helped you to see your worth? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below!