Keep Your Eyes Open as You Head Down the Road

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.” – Luke 24:13-17 [ESV]

A new year is soon upon us.  Lots of people will be making resolutions.  Lots of them will be breaking resolutions.  January 1 is always a grand milestone to turn a new leaf, drop an old habit, build a new habit, change, grow… 

Personally, I do not like New Year’s resolutions.  I think that is because I tend to fall firmly into the “breaking resolutions” column.  Diets started and stopped (I still can’t believe that Miracle Liver and Asparagus Diet didn’t last), plans drawn out and never followed…  You get the idea.

Still, I am setting goals and making plans for 2013.  But, as I do, I am keeping myself conscious of the two on the road to Emmaus. Why?  Because they were walking along, talking about Jesus and the astounding events they had just witnessed.  And they were so into what they saw with their eyes that when the unbelievable happened – when Jesus Christ Himself walked with them – they did recognize Him.

For Cleopas and his traveling companion, it was sorrow that kept them from recognizing Christ.  They were so saddened by what they had witnessed, so sure of the obvious outcome of the events they were just walking away from, that the very notion that Jesus Christ would walk beside them was simply beyond their comprehension.  Their faith – that ability to believe what is unseen, impossible – was dampened.  All they could believe was what they had seen.

Lots of junk in life can blind us to the reality of faith.  Worry, anxiety, fear, sorrow, loss, guilt, shame, illness… life situations, when focused upon with undue intensity, will blind us to the reality of Jesus Christ and the joy, peace and grace we find in Him.

As 2013 approaches, let’s all resolve to keep looking through eyes of faith, firmly fixed above on the Lord God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  As we make our plans, leave room for God to work.  As we face our life situations, let us do so boldly knowing that what we see with our eyes and perceive with our minds is a distorted view.  God is truth.  So seek Him and His Word if you want to know the truth about your life.  The Lord transcends our situations. 

Love God above all.  Love one another.  Trust in the Lord and do good.  Aim high and know God brings the results.  We simply need to be faithful and obedient.

© 2012 Chris Courtney.  Please feel free to share this article with anyone you think would be blessed and uplifted!  And please share this blog with others.  Thank you!!

Along the Road

Before I dig too deeply into this subject, I want to make sure all of you know this simple fact: these words are coming from someone who has been there, done that, and is still tripping over the potholes in his heart.  I haven’t got it all figured out.  Indeed, I often wonder if I truly have anything figured out.  All the same, I am merely a fellow traveller.  While each of us is walking down our own paths, those paths do intersect from time-to-time. 

It is at those intersections that life moments happen.  Some moments are absolutely joyous, blissful, peaceful, exhilarating.

And then, sometimes…

I was raised in rural Indiana.  Where I’m from, when you meet someone along a two-lane road, you wave “hello”.  Whether you know him or not, you signal a friendly greeting.  Why?  Simple kindness.  Courtesy.  Caring to some small degree about the stranger you happen upon along the road.

Then Ma Kettle and I moved to suburban Chicago.  And I learned that, if someone was waving at you along the road, you had probably done something to offend them (driven too slow, cut them off, looked wrong at them in the rear-view mirror), or maybe they were just overly stressed with all the hustle and bustle of traffic and traffic jams and life in general.  Not only that, they waved differently than the folks back home.

They used only one finger.

There are times when we encounter people along our path who aren’t so friendly.  Worse still is when we think them to be something kinder, more noble, than they turn out to be.  We experience all sorts of hurt along life’s path: betrayal, disappointment, depression, doubt, mourning, loss… The road ahead is riddled with potholes and eroded shoulders.  Misgivings, misunderstandings, misconceptions, mistakes – they all add up to some occasionally treacherous travel.

And, as humans, we perceive a need to blame someone.  Sometimes is it particularly – and painfully – obvious that someone has wronged us.  We’ve been intentionally undercut, undone, unfairly treated, attacked, abandoned, lied to, led down the primrose path, stabbed in the back, robbed…  Go ahead, use your own words to describe what you’ve faced.

These encounters, if allowed, can harden the heartiest traveller.  We find ourselves jealous, jaded, guarded, limping wounded and lonely through life’s path.  The journey is no longer a joy.  All because of something somebody else has said or done.  And, pretty soon, you find you don’t wave at the people you pass in the same manner you once did.

You use only one finger.

The blame for all this misery gets placed against other people.  But… there’s a problem with our unforgiving attitude.  Simply: we have no business holding grudges, remember and replaying hurts and slights.  We have to forgive.  We have to let go.  Why?

1.  We have all been the offending party along the path at some point.  Somewhere in life, each of us has hurt someone else.  Intentionally or not, we still did it.  An unkind word.  A selfish motive.  A hurtful deed.  The fact of the matter is that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness, and sin is the great equalizer.  We all need God’s forgiveness.  And that forgiveness is predicated on our forgiveness of others: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25, NIV).  More to the point, “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV).

2.  We have all sinned against God.  Talk about someone who did not deserve mistreatment, Jesus Christ took it all for us on the cross.  At some point, each of us has acted and spoken in an offending manner against the Lord.  When we mistreat God’s children, we mistreat our Heavenly Father.  None of us deserves anything good from God.  Indeed, we His children should all be eternally grateful that He hasn’t given us what e deserve.  “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence” (Isaiah 43:25-26, NIV).  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12, NIV).  “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:9, NIV).  “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19, NIV).  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV).  “Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more’” (Hebrews 10:17, NIV).

3.  People aren’t our problem anyway.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).  The issue is sin.  That is our problem.  Not people.  The battle is spiritual. 

So, today, let me challenge you.  Look deep in your heart and see if any unforgiveness is lurking.  If so, let it go.  Understand the problem is the sin, not the person.  Find a way to love that person – in the same manner Christ loves us, despite the fact that we do not deserve it.  Love and forgiveness are gifts freely given.  And gifts, by their very nature, cannot be earned.  Nobody deserves a gift.  The giver gives out of the motivation of love.

And, the sooner we realize the depth of our depravity is great, as is that of our brothers and sisters, but not nearly as deep as the love of God and His ability to forgive us… when we begin to apply the lessons of Jesus and forgive others – truly let go of the hurts and the grudges… we will each find this trip to be a lot more joyous, our travels a lot lighter.

God bless.

Can We Talk?

Nothing excites me like talking about Jesus.  I love to hear testimonies of how the Lord absolutely rocks lost souls and brings hope where only despair once thrived.  I love seeing how God fixes broken lives and causes His people to transcend circumstances to see the reality of Christ (not the skewed view we perceive with our eyes and minds, as through a glass darkly). 

I mean, think about it: the God of the Universe – the Creator and Sustainer of all – the One Who has always been and always will be, Who is indeed Existence Itself – the Great I AM… He has known me for all eternity.  For uncountable eons before I was formed in my mother’s womb, the Lord has known me, intimately, because I am part of His plan – no matter how small and insignificant that part might be, I am a part nonetheless.

So are you, dear one.

You are God’s child.

He has always known you, always loved you.  He has always had a slot for you in this life, and sent His Own Son – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, God Incarnate Who walked this earth for such a short time yet, through the Holy Spirit is still with us – to prepare a place for you with Him for all eternity.

Stop for just a moment and consider the very real ramifications of it all.  This is reality.  Not your circumstances.  Not your troubles.  Not your bills.  Not your ailments.  Not the bullies in your life or the job that drives you up a tree.  Not the family troubles that plague you or the perceived weakness and failures you have endured in this life.  The way you see your life, your situation, yourself, is not quite 20/20. 

Understand this, if you are a child of God – if you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life and chosen to make Him Lord of your life, you are no longer lost.

You are not helpless.

You are not hopeless.

You are not Fatherless.

You are not cursed.

You are not your circumstances.

You are not what others blame you of being.

You are not the sum total of your sins.

You are not a failure.

What you are is the child of the One True God. 

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:12-39 (ESV)

Let all that soak in for awhile.  It is a lot to take in.  And I plan on digging deeper into these verses over the next several weeks.

Can we talk?  God loves you.  I don’t know what you are facing, but He does.  I don’t know the circumstances that led you to where you are now, but the Lord understands.  I do, however, know that the answer to whatever ails you is Jesus Christ.  You can find it in His Word.

So, please… repent and ask for forgiveness.  Seek God first.  Pray.  Rest in Him.  Ask.  Seek.  Knock.  Love the Lord and those around you. 

And know that you are loved.

Sleep well, brothers and sisters. 

And get excited to talk about the Lord and all the wonderful, amazing things He has done in our lives – in your life.  Let Him stir you up.  Let your faith flame burn bright and hot!

More again soon. 

Good night, dear ones.

What Do You Need? Really…

5  “These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.” – Matthew 10:5-10 (ESV)

I do not pack light.  When we travel, I lug as much reading and writing material as I can.  In fact, come to think of it, I do not pack light when I go anywhere.  I always want to be ready if and when the opportunity to write or study comes along.  So I lug a lot of stuff around.

Our lives are like that, aren’t they?  We tend to lug a lot of stuff – much of it junk – around with us, everywhere we go.  I read Matthew 10 and I think, “What??  Go out in the desert and walk from village to village with no money, no extra clothes, not even a walking stick?”  If I leave the house without my cell phone, I practically break out in hives.  But… no wallet?  C’mon, Jesus… what are you up to?

Let me ask you: what do you need?  I mean really, really need.  There was a time when I would have said, “Cable TV.  We gotta have cable.  What if a big storm comes up?  I need to protect my family, so I need to be able to watch the weather radar and see if a tornado is coming.  What if some big world event takes place?  I need to stay informed.  What if TBS runs a 24-hour Friends marathon?” 

OK… I could care less about the sitcom reruns.  But, think about it… if the storm is so big that the power goes out, there goes the cable.  If some world event occurs that is so massive we need to be alert, being glued to the tube isn’t the action.  Besides, what can I do sitting on my sofa, worrying and stewing about something I have no control over?

Bingo.  Therein lies the rub.  We all have worries aplenty.  What if we don’t have enough in our 401(k) to retire?  What if I can’t pay these medical bills?  What if my child doesn’t improve his behavior?  What if she can’t get into a good college?  What if our country goes over the “fiscal cliff”?  What if this job interview doesn’t pan out?  What if… what if… what if…  If we follow the trail of “what ifs” – the worries, the fears, the things that wake us up at 3am – we will often find our perceived needs.

Or, rather, our perceived lack.

Later, when Jesus was gathered with His disciples one last time, He reminded them of their first venture out as His apostles. 

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” – Luke 22:35 (ESV)

What did they lack?  Nothing.  Did they eat five-star meals and stay in fine hotel suites?  No.  Did they go hungry?  No.  Were their needs met?  Absolutely.

The point Jesus is making is this: all His children need is Him.  The LORD is our sufficiency.  As Jesus told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness: (2 Cor. 12:9, ESV).  We lug around a lot of junk, and – time to get metaphorical – I don’t necessarily mean physical, tangible things (although most of us have way too much of that as well).  Memories, hurts and fears, scars from situations we have faced, sin, societal pressure, peer pressure, work pressure, disappointments, grudges… Some of us are like big, emotional pachyderms: an elephant never forgets.

We don’t necessarily need to forget.  But we do need to learn to lean on God’s grace.  We need to trust in the LORD, have enough faith in Jesus to know He cares for our every true need.  We need to develop a faith in Christ that carries us through this path of life that each of us walks.  And, as we meet one another where our roads intersect, we need to help one another.  Support one another.  Encourage one another.  Love one another.

Love one another.

Today, I want to challenge you to consider your needs.  Are they real needs, or deep desires masquerading as a “need”?  Is your head sore from beating against a stone wall trying to fulfill a “need” all on your own?  Is there a need in your life that is too big for the God of the Universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all, Existence Himself?  If Jesus can raise Lazarus from the grave after four days (remember, Lazarus stunketh)… indeed, if Jesus Christ Himself can endure the beating, scouring and crucifixion, only to rise again on the third day, overcoming death… do you suppose He can meet your needs? 

Do you suppose when Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6:33-34, ESV), maybe we should heed His Word?  He is no liar.  He is no deceiver.  Take God at His Word.  Trust Jesus.

The LORD is truly all we need.

(Postscript: By the way, we did ditch cable.  Well, we knocked it down to the basic local channels.  But we also bought a Roku.  Progress is sometimes very slow…)

Something Far Better Than a Magic Wand

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)

So many people I love are hurting right now.  As I mentioned in my last blog post (“Under Pressure”), the source of the anxiety and pain and worry ranges from sickness and injury to family troubles to financial and employment issues to mourning the loss of a loved one.  I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave in the air and make all this sorrow and hurt go away.  I wish I could take away your pain.  I wish I could make your circumstances alright.

Since I have neither a magic wand nor the ability to wipe clean the slate of your life, I want to use what I can to reach out to you and help you.  What I have – what we all have available to us – is the power of God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. 

I want to help you find the strength you need to face life’s trials and difficulties.  And that strength is found through faith in Jesus Christ.  It comes from resting in the Lord and knowing – trusting – that God transcends circumstances. 

At our Men’s Bible Study this morning, we finished John 19 – the account of the crucifixion and death of Jesus.  We discussed how unimaginable His pain must have been, on so many levels: humiliatingly stripped naked, beaten and scourged, huge spikes driven through His hands and feet, raw flesh rubbing against splintered wood beams, crown of thorns shoved into His head, thirsty, exhausted, slowly suffocating, abandoned by all but one of His disciples… I cannot imagine the sheer and utter agony and exhaustion of the experience.

And yet… on the third day following His horrific execution, Jesus Christ arose from the grave!  His physical, mental and emotional strength had been drained.  But Jesus didn’t need physical strength to rise from the tomb.  He shows us that, look, if I can be brutally executed and win victory over death, raising back to life within hours – at just the right time.  Now that is strength!  And it isn’t natural strength, but the power of God.

Look… God knows what you’re dealing with.  He knows your situation.  He knows what has you troubled, or burdened, or mourning.  He know what you are facing because He has faced it. 

Consider this: if Jesus can overcome death, do you suppose He can help you in your present situation?  “But I just don’t see a way through it.”  God does.  He knows.  He cares.  He loves you.  He may not hurry you through your dark times, but He will see you through them.  There is a light at the end of your tunnel.

And, no, it is not an oncoming train.

I want you to know that it’s going to be alright.  If God is for you (and, if you have faith in Him, He is), who can possibly be against you?  Who can stand against the Great I AM?  I am just about willing to bet that none of us have – or ever will – face a situation as terrible, as gruesome, as painful, as unjust, as the one Jesus faced.  And yet, through it all, the Son of God knew Who was His strength, and Who was in control: His Father.

Our Father.

Your Father.

It is why Paul wrote:

9 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. 10  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 Cor 12:9-10 (ESV)

There was purpose in the persecutions and pains that Paul faced.  The Lord didn’t lift him out of all his discomfort and pain.  But, because of the power of Christ, Paul was able to live in lack as well as in wealth.  He was able to sing and praise God while imprisoned in a dark, dank Roman jail.  He was able to carry on despite painful physical afflictions and frequent threats on his well-being.  Paul could never have made the transition from Pharisee / Christian hunter to beloved apostle without the power of God.

Today, I want to encourage you to stop relying on your own strength.  On our own, none of us has a chance.  But, by the grace of Almighty God, you will make it through this crisis, the moment of great loss and sorrow, this pain and sickness.  Seek God first.  Ask for His strength.  Believe – know that you know that you know – that circumstances are never permanent, but the love of Christ never fails and the power of God never ends.

Don’t let what your facing sideline you.  Stay strong in Christ.  Stay in the Word and stay on your knees.  Do not for one second take your eyes off Christ.

Know that you are loved more than you can imagine.  Know that you are not alone, nor are you the first person to face whatever it is you are facing.  And know that I would consider it an honor to pray for you.  Just e-mail me at or drop me a message on Facebook.

Until next time… sleep easy.  Rest in the Lord.  Trust in Him.

Under Pressure

I wouldn’t call it an epiphany.  The moment wasn’t quite that earth shattering.  But… it was an awakening of sorts, and eye-opening, a moment of clarity.  Jen and I went out on a much needed, long overdue date last night.  We were talking about the people we love and how it seems that everyone is facing some life issue: illness, death, children, fracturing families, finances, unemployment… you name it. 

And then God gently convicted me.  He reminded me of some things He and I have discussed.  He showed me where I have not heeded the very words I have shared with others.  He humbled me lovingly and once again showed me that it is perfectly okay not to be perfectly okay.  Troubles are often the medium the Lord uses to shape us, form us, mold us into the the people He would have us be.

In the primate house at Como Zoo, there is a plastic injection molder that will make a toy for any girl or boy with two quarters.  The machine has a two-piece steel mold made in the shape of a monkey.  The two sides clamp together with great force and molten plastic resin pours inside.  Water sprays onto the mold, cooling and hardening the formed poly primate.  The pressure releases, and what was once nothing more than plastic pellets has been superheated, put under great pressure, and cooled to create a fun object for kids to enjoy.

Here is the deal.  We are all under pressure of some sort.  But we must not be so quick to seek relief.  At just the right time, God relieves the pressure and cools us with water (metaphorically folks).  And we discover that we are no longer what we were at the beginning of the process (which usually begins with a trying life situation).  Rather, we have been transformed into something – someone rather – who is far more useful, far more understanding, far more equipped for _____________ (you fill in the blank).

Seek the Lord.  Always.  First.  Without ceasing.  Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ and Him alone.  Don’t focus on the problems.  Focus on The Solution: Jesus Christ, our LORD and SAVIOR!

As my pastor says, you are loved.