The “Free” Way

Driving south on I-35 this morning, a thought occurred to me.  “I need to exit at Lakeville.  But, what if I didn’t?  This freeway goes all the way to the Mexican border.  What if we just kept driving and, on a whim, went to Texas?  We could stop in Kansas City and grab a steak.  Later, we could stop at Oklahoma City to grab whatever it is one grabs in Oklahoma City.  When we get to Fort Worth, maybe we could take in a rodeo.  If we go as far as Laredo, at the end of the freeway, we could grab some authentic Tex-Mex before swinging back around and heading north again.

Needless to say, I did not discover what one would grab in Oklahoma City.  I exited at Lakeville as planned.

And we had a perfectly wonderful day.

All the same, it is part of my nature to want to divert from the plan, to leave the beaten path and check out the side roads (with my GPS on, of course).  There is something about being free and untethered that absolutely excites me.  My soul leaps at the idea of the fresh start, the new beginning… the new trail to blaze! 

I believe Christianity should be the same way.  We need to be willing and brave enough to chuck our own life map out the window and follow the GPS setting God has for us.  Freedom in Christ is freedom from the heavy burden of sin and shame.  But it isn’t simply a get-out-of-jail-free card.  We should do something with that freedom.

Freedom in Christ releases us from the bondage of sin, but places us in a position of being bondservants for Jesus.  After all,

…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20a (ESV)

And the chains of Christ do not enslave us, but free us to serve the LORD.  In fact, unlike the shackles of sin which imprison us and cause great anguish, the “bondage” of Christ is a great blessing!

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

Of all the places I want to go, of all the travels I would like to embark upon, none would be worth a single mile if I didn’t have Jesus Christ with me.  It is in the LORD that I find freedom.  It is in Him that I am saved, that I find salve for life’s wounds and the strength to face the day.  In fact, He promises to be with us always.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” – Hebrews 13:5-6 (ESV)

What could be better than having the LORD as a constant companion?  There is no earthly possession, no amount of wealth, that could possibly surpass the greatness of God – our hope, our salvation, our redeemer, our protector, our guide.  He promises to never abandon us, never leave us. 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah – Psalms 46:1-3 (ESV)

I love that word selah.  It means “pause a minute right here and ponder what you just read.  Marinate in the message.  Let it soak into your and burrow into your mind.  Let these words change your heart, calm your anxieties, minister to your soul.  Stop a moment and consider it.  This is reality.”

Pause just a moment and ask yourself, where am I going?  Where is this trip of life taking me?  Am I just cruising along for the ride?  Am I steering my own course (or, rather, do I like to think I am)?  Or am I prayerfully, faithfully, fearlessly, joyously following the path set before me by God? 

Remember… you are free to be who God designed to be.  Free to do what God has called you to do.  Free to serve as God has equipped you to serve.  Free to love as God says to love.  Ask!  Seek!  Knock!  Go!  DO!


“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” – Matthew 4:18-22 (ESV)


The moment of clarity.  For some believers it comes as soon as we come to Christ.  For others, it takes a while – the individual great awakening being more of a process than a flashpoint moment.  All the same, there comes that moment one day when something in our feeble little minds clicks.  Maybe it’s something read or heard – a conversation, a sermon, a memory, a movie…

The moment of clarity.  The moment we begin to see things as they really are.  The moment we begin to see God for Who He really is.  The moment we realize that the LORD isn’t just real – He is Reality, Existence Itself!  The moment we look at our lives and ask ourselves, “What on earth am I doing?”

For Peter, Andrew, James and John, the moment of clarity was swift.  “Immediately” they left their nets.  Immediately they abandoned their source of income.  Immediately they saw in Jesus Christ the reality of the situation: here was the LORD. Here was something more important than fishing, more important than the security of a profession and steady income.

The more I read these verses, the more astounded I am.  None of them said, “Gee, I dunno… I kinda like working all night, lugging these heavy nets and reeking of fish guts.  Let me pray on it and I’ll get back to you…”  They abandoned it all.  They abandoned the life they knew. 


The moment of clarity.  When they saw Jesus and said, “Yes!” in a most enthusiastic manner.

Now, do not misunderstand what I am saying.  I am not suggesting anybody act in an imprudent fashion.  Don’t march into the office tomorrow, quit your job and say, “OK, God… now what?”  He may just give you directions to the unemployment office.

But… if you sense a call of God on your life (and, dear ones, we each have a call of God on our lives) and you’re doing nothing about it, what’s stopping you?  What do you need to abandon?

Maybe doubt and fear are holding you back.  Maybe wrong priorities are eating away at your time and resources.  Maybe you just need to take that first step.

If it’s a sin you need to abandon, shuck it off.  If it’s a bad habit, break it.  If it’s a lack of enthusiasm, get fired up!  If it’s self-doubt, realize the results aren’t your responsibility (God will take care of that).  If it’s lack of clarity, pray for the LORD to give you clear direction and a vision to pursue.  Just seek God and His will and ways first and go for it.  Abandon whatever is holding you back.  Work hard.  Pray harder.  Find joy in the journey.

And pursue your God given mission with faithfulness.

With joy.

With abandon.

God bless!


© 2013 by Chris Courtney.  All rights reserved.  If you’d like to share this article, please feel free!  If you’d like to reprint / repost on your website or in your church bulletin or publication, please contact me at  I would be honored to see these words used to God’s glory!

Just One Word

Hello everyone!

I have an idea for a devotional book and I would like to ask your help. You see, this is one of the truly wonderful things about the Internet, the ability for you and I to interact. And I’d love to hear your ideas on this.

Actually, I want to hear your one word ideas.

That is the idea. Just one word. One word that would make a great devotional subject.




You get the picture.

Make it something that would be a blessing to others.

It can even be in another language.

Have fun with it.
Think: what one word just gets me fired up about Jesus and brings me great comfort or peace or joy.

Just one word.

It can be monosyllabic or multisyllabic.

Just one word.

Please email your devotional word to me at There’s no money in it, but, should the book see publication, you will get a “thank you!”

Just one word.

God bless!

Oops… That’s two words…


Thanks Mom!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

I’ve been thinking about Paul and Silas this week. Our early Monday morning men’s Bible study group (a.k.a. The Predawn Theological Society) has been going through the book of Acts and… wow… if you need an example of boldness in The Lord, go no further than Acts 16. I think of all Paul endured on his missionary travels.

And I think of the comparatively very light load I whine about.

Then my mom helped me put it all in perspective for me. She asked me, “Son, do you realize how blessed you are?” I think I do. But, really, I don’t. I’m not sure that any of us realizes just how blessed we are.

For those of you who have been reading my writing for a while, this may sound familiar to you. If so, hang in there. This is the type of subject that won’t hurt any of us to hear more than once.

How blessed are you? Well… write it down. Grab a notebook and pen and begin writing down your blessings. If you look deep enough, you will even find blessings in the hard, difficult aspects of life.

Blessing does not come from wealth. Financial prosperity comes and goes with great ease (especially the latter). Riches today are no guarantee of ease tomorrow.

True blessings come from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, ESV). Believe it or don’t, it’s up to you. And one’s refusal to accept that fact in no way negates the truthfulness of the statement.

In every hardship, every difficulty, every pain, there is blessing. The blessing may be growth, the strengthening of your faith as you see God working in your life. It may be inspiring others who know you are struggling but see your faith is becoming ever stronger. It may be giving others hope, or developing within you a deeper sense of empathy for those who wrestle with the same giants – the same anxieties and fears and troubles and quandaries – as you.

“Your blessings far outweigh the bad stuff in life,” my mom said.

So do yours, if you’ll just stop and think about it.

So remember to rejoice, for God is great and greatly to be praised! Always be ready to pray, knowing God is always near. And cultivate an attitude of gratitude toward God, recognizing that it is only because of God that we are even alive. Do not for one minute take for granted the immeasurable love and amazing grace of The Lord!

You are loved far more than you know.

Ah…. The Grace of God

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.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

How many times have I written about this verse?  I couldn’t tell you.  I haven’t enough fingers to count them. 

But I find myself continually coming back to these words Christ spoke to Paul.  I think about the “trials” I face.  Then I read words of Paul, describing his ministry adventures as a man who endured…

“far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for pall the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (2 Corinthians 11:23-29, ESV).

Personally, had I endured any one of those travails, I would have been marred for life.  However, as we see when we read on to chapter 12, the LORD had given Paul great and glorious visions.  And, in order to keep the apostle from becoming full of himself, Jesus allowed Paul the trouble of a thorn in his side, to keep him humble and focused on Christ.  For it is the grace of God that is sufficient for us.  Our self-sufficiency is absolutely useless.  Anybody who claims he is a “self-made man” is far more a fool than he realizes.

Then I came across this quote from Scottish theologian Alexander Whyte: “Grace, then, is grace – that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting.”   Read that again.  Slowly.  Let the words sink in.  Marinate in them for a minute or two.  Or ten.  However long it takes to permanently imprint these words on your very soul. 

Grace is sovereign, for it comes from God Almighty. 

It is free because that’s what grace is – the free, unmerited favor of our Heavenly Father.

It is sure because it comes from God Who never changes, Who is steadfast forever.

It is unconditional because it is a gift from a loving God – His power working for us, and through us.

It is everlasting, for God is eternal.

Grace is the strength we receive for the task at hand.  It allows us to endure whatever we must endure in this life for the work and sake of Christ.  It brings great glory to the LORD when people see His children stand straight and tall in His name under pressure.  Not because we are strong ourselves, but Jesus is strong within us.

Grace is the enabling power and gift available to you – to me – to move forward, press toward the goal, do what God called us each to do.  The grace of God pushes us beyond our fears, our doubts, our inabilities, our poor self-images, the lies we have embraced and the pains we experience (and avoid).

Grace puts pay to the promise that we can do all things through Christ which strengthen us.  The LORD is ever present – even when we cannot recognize His presence.  Even when the pain is great.  Even when the weariness gives way to exhaustion.  Even when your nervous system wants to give out.  There is no darkness God cannot lighten.  There is nothing too hard for God.  No task too tough, no calling unanswerable.

With God’s grace, that is.

So… what are you facing?  What do you need to do that you just can’t see how to go about it?  What obstacle has been dropped in your path?  Should you have avoided that left turn at Albuquerque?  What impossibility do you need to overcome?  Why haven’t you pursued the dream, the vision that God has given you?  Why have you let people get in your way?  What do you need to let go of?  What changes – big and small – do you need to make?  Why have you tried to do it on your own?

Today is the day.

Go grab a piece of paper.


I’ll wait.

Got it?  Ok.  Here’s what I want you to do.

  1. Write down your name, and the date and time in the upper left hand corner.
  2. Pray.
  3. Write down your God given vision.  Who are you to bless?  How are you to go about it?  How does this vision look to you?
  4. Go do it. 
  5. Find someone who will help keep you accountable and shore you up in Jesus’ name in times of weakness.

Remember that nothing is impossible with God.  His grace – His gift of unmerited favor – is there for you.  Grab it in faith, rest in His peace and rely on His love and mercy and strength and guidance and provision.

And know that the grace of God is there for you!


Onward and Upward

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, God will reveal that also to you. Only lets us hold true to what we have attained. – Philippians 3:13-16 (ESV)

Press onward, my friend. Press through the pain. Press through the doubt. Press through the opposition.

Press upward, my friend. Keep your eyes on the prize. Press upward toward the kingdom of God, seeking Him first.

Press forward, my friend. Don’t get caught up in the past. Don’t hold on to the hurts, the sorrows, the losses, the mistakes, the missteps, the misfortunes of the past. Don’t let what used to be trip you up. Remember Lot’s wife. Don’t look back.

Strain forward. Cling to God’s truth. Stay in God’s Word. Rest in God’s peace. Praise God for His greatness. Thank God for His faithfulness. Trust in God’s grace. Revel in God’s love.

Press onward, my friend. Pray. Focus. Run the race The Lord has set before you. The results aren’t our responsibility. God is in control. God strengthens us that we may endure.

You are greatly loved, dear ones. Sleep well tonight. Rest in God. You have another leg of the race to run tomorrow.

Impossible? Never!

“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” – Matthew 19:29 [ESV].

100 years old.  A century.  Think about it… someone who is 100 years old today was born the same year Woodrow Wilson became president.  The average wage earner brought home just under $1300 per year.  Milk cost 32 cents a gallon, gas was 12 cents and the average car $490.  World War I was still a year away.  Cracker Jack started putting prizes in their boxes, and the IRS started collecting federal income tax.  Stainless steel was invented that year, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, and Charlie Chaplin began his film career.

Let’s face it.  A lot happens over the course of a century.  If you live to be 100 and still live on your own, you are doing remarkably well.  If you’re really blessed, Willard Scott will show your picture on the “Today” show.  The last thing you expect is to hear is, “Next year, you two will have a baby!”   Especially of you and your spouse were never able to conceive a child.

Consider Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham is no Tony Randall.  His wife is a spry 90 years old.  And, when Sarah overheard the proclamation that she would give birth at her age, she laughed.  (Wouldn’t you?)  And God’s response: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:13, ESV).

Likewise, upon receiving the news from an archangel that she would conceive our Savior as a virgin, and that her cousin Elizabeth (who, coincidently, had never been able to conceive and had passed her childbearing years) was pregnant, Mary was astonished.  The angel’s response: “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, ESV). 

And then there is the account of the rich young ruler, where we see how difficult it is to put God above all else, including / especially earthly wealth.  Jesus explains that, in and of ourselves, salvation is impossible.  We simply do not possess the wherewithal to save ourselves.  “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:29, ESV).

The Bible is filled with examples of the impossible: bodies healed, impossible battles won, astounding rescues, dead raised, thousands fed on the lunch of one child, lives turned around and set right, amazing grace and eternal love. 

This morning, our pastor challenged us with this: when was the last time you considered what God is possible of doing?  When did we last step out in faith, knowing nothing with God is impossible?  When did you last trust the LORD to see you through a difficulty, a hardship?  Sometimes it is easier to give up, to find a cave to crawl in and hide. 

But know this: God can do anything.  Whatever you are facing is no surprise to God.  Never will He say, “Whoa!  I didn’t see that one coming!”  Bad stuff happens.  But know that, when are at our lowest, “God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV).

There is a really good reason Jesus instructs us to seek the kingdom of God first, and do not worry (Matthew 6:33-34).  Worry binds us.  Anxiety torments us.  Fear freezes us solid.  But, realizing nothing is impossible with God… now that frees us! 

Tonight, I challenge us all with this: what are you afraid of?  What is holding you back?  What’s keeping you up at night?  Whatever it is, lay the worry aside.  Go to God.  Go to your quiet place, get down on your knees before the LORD and talk to Him.  Give Him your fears and doubts and anxious thoughts.  Trust Him to work in your life, in your circumstance, whatever it is.  Accept God’s will and realize that simply having God with you is greater than anything outcome you may fear, anything you dread facing, anything that causes you anxiety or fear or doubt. 

You are loved, more than you can comprehend.  Rest in the LORD.  Trust Him without exception, for that is what faith truly is.  And hang in there.  Our circumstances are rarely what they seem, and God can bring you an outcome of great blessing.  Just cling to Him and find your joy in the LORD through Jesus Christ.