What I’m Thinking

Facebook wants to know what I’m thinking.

So I’ll tell you.

I’m thinking about my family and friends who are sick or hurting or afraid or suffering and wishing I had the wherewithal to take away the pain and make everything better.

I’m thinking I’m tired of all the political / election back-and-forth and shenanigans.

I’m thinking it’s time for the hatred to end. I’m thinking it’s time we stop viewing each other by labels (black, white, liberal, conservative, etc.) and start seeing people are people.

I’m thinking that Depeche Mode song is now going to be stuck in my head for awhile.

I’m thinking this third wave of COVID is astoundingly awful and the ones who claim it’s fake news or believe the government doesn’t have the right to mandate public mask wearing need to wake up and comply or stay home.

I’m thinking cancer is far worse.

I’m thinking I wish Colts had played a bit better today.

But I’m also thinking I am grateful.

Grateful for so so so many friends and family, both near and far and the ability to reach out to them electronically.

Grateful that, while I can’t take away your pain, I can talk to the One Who can. (You can talk to Him too. Prayer is not exclusive.)

Mostly I’m grateful to GOD, for He has everything in His control, and I am sheltered under His mighty wings, as well all those who trust and follow Jesus.

I pray for you strength. I pray for you guidance. I pray for you hope and health and God’s wisdom and ever-growing faith. I pray you know the grace, mercy and love of Jesus through whatever you are facing.

God knew beforehand all this would happen. Jesus warned us that “in this world, you will have trouble.” But He followed that sobering news with a great promise: “Take heart for I have overcome the world”.

God knows everything. He’s not surprised by the election results. He’s not taken aback by the skyrocketing COVID numbers. He knows not only what’s happening and why, but how to see us through whatever troubles are vexing us.

Pray. Trust in Him. Rest in the LORD. Smile. Laugh. Live.

That’s what I’m thinking.

Sing It Anyway, Sammy!

On August 19, 1971, Sammy Davis Jr. entered a Los Angeles recording studio to tape four songs for his upcoming album, Now! One song would never be released. The other three would appear on the new LP.

One of the remaining three songs was particularly disliked by Mr. Davis. He felt it was too cute. Davis complained bitterly to his manager, who wanted him to sing it. In the end, the 47-year-old Rat Pack crooner refused to record more than two takes, putting no real effort into singing the song he thought might end his career in show-biz.

And yet, despite all this, “The Candy Man” became Sammy Davis Jr’s only number one hit, earning him a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocalist. Not only that, it became his signature song, the title synonymous with the singer himself.

There are times in life when God asks us to do things we don’t like. Maybe it’s something as simple as speaking to someone we don’t care to be around. Perhaps He wants us to give up our dreams for His vision. Whatever it is, we will find ourselves blessed when we do.

Paul reminds us, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV). As followers of Jesus, we are no longer our own, but the LORD’s – “bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

There is amazing freedom and blessing that comes from setting aside our own agendas and following God’s. His ways are far higher than ours. And when we begin to simply trust in the LORD and follow Him, we find the true meaning and purpose of our lives.


Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
    save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
    listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
    for you answer me. – Psalm 86:1-7 [ESV]


It is 2:26am.

Would in their right mind is awake at 2:26am?

Night shift workers, yes. Local TV news anchors, sure. Police officers on duty, absolutely. People with anxiety, unfortunately.

I’ll let you guess which of these four has me up typing at this inhumane hour.

And 2:26am feels like such a lonely time. At least it is when your body feels like you’ve drank three pots of coffee and you haven’t had any caffeine in hours.

Here’s the wonderful thing about 2:26am. Despite how you feel, you are not alone.

46 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

Psalm 46:1-3 [ESV]

God doesn’t sleep. He is always awake. He wants us to run to Him in all times, good and bad. He wants us to give Him our burdens and cares. The LORD is always with us, always good, always true to His promises.

Go to the LORD with all your worries. There is nothing too hard for God. You won’t shock Him. Let Him care for you. Put down your burdens and rest in Him. Focus on GOD with gratitude. Don’t ponder your troubles. Think about the LORD. Praise Him!!

So, whatever has you up at 2:26am, don’t lie in bed and fret. Take this opportunity to talk to God. Spend some time with Jesus. Grab your Bible and read some encouraging Scriptures.

Don’t grab a cup of coffee though. Not if you hope to get back to sleep any time soon.

Mr. Know-It-None

File:Chimp Brain in a jar.jpg
“File:Chimp Brain in a jar.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 25 Sep 2020, 16:08 UTC. 6 Oct 2020, 01:42 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Chimp_Brain_in_a_jar.jpg&oldid=471062908>.

There are lots of things people fear. Some fear speaking in public, causing them nightmare about standing on stage in a crowded auditorium wearing only their underwear and a microphone.

Some fear death or illness. Others flying. Failure. Job interviews. Spiders. The dark. The Bogeyman. Reruns of Clutch Cargo (hey, that dude’s off-center moving human mouth superimposed on his idle-still cartoon face was freakily troubling).

I think all fear is rooted – in one form or another – in the unknown. We don’t know for sure the outcome of the situation we find ourselves in. And, let’s face it, we humans like certainty.

But here is the simple truth: we don’t know how things are going to turn out. We don’t know what the end result will be (except for the whole on stage in your underwear thing, which most likely will never happen unless you’ve made some very questionable career choices).

We are not as “in control” as we like to think.

And not knowing the end result of whatever you’re facing is actually okay.

We may not know the end results of the situations we face. But God does.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways”, declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)

Here’s the way I see it. God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He knows all things so He knows everything in my life. He’s above all things, so it’s all in His control. And He is everywhere all the time so, wherever I’m headed, He is already there.

Not only that, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV). He’s already working out the details. I don’t know what He has in store. But I know it’s going to be beneficial.

So remember God’s message to Isaiah:

Fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

11 Behold, all who are incensed against you
    shall be put to shame and confounded;
those who strive against you
    shall be as nothing and shall perish.
12 You shall seek those who contend with you,
    but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
    shall be as nothing at all.

13 For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.” – Isaiah 41:10-13 (ESV)

Remember, you can rest in the LORD. Trust in Jesus, knowing He is working out your life for your good. There are no accidents. There is no luck.

And that’s a good thing.

Rest in His love. Trust Him despite what you see or think or perceive. Don’t stare at circumstances. Concentrate on the Solution.

Be thankful. Be joyful. Be peaceful.

Love God. Love others. Accept that we don’t know everything, but we are under the wings of God Who does.

Rest easy. There is nothing to fear in Jesus.

Unprecedented Pastors

File:Brixworth AllSaints south.jpg. (2020, September 30). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 20:14, October 4, 2020 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Brixworth_AllSaints_south.jpg&oldid=476221160.

I’m just going to jump right in and say it.

Ask it, that is.

And I don’t mean to sound presumptuous. You may already be doing this. If you are, don’t stop. In fact, turn it up a notch.

Here is my request, plain and simple and very important:

Pray for your pastor.

Pray with fervor for your pastor.

The job is demanding. Pastors have to be leader, staff coordinator, supervisor, strategic ministry planner, vision caster, faith leader, teacher, counselor, mentor, business manager, writer, public speaker…

Not only do pastors juggle the same pressures the rest of us do (life/work balance, bills to pay, family ups and downs, rough days…), they also have the added pressure of a flock to shepherd, and the expectations of that flock.

Now, add COVID-19 to the mix, and all the uncertainty this pandemic has brought. Pastors today have to deal with the (in)ability / wisdom to gather in person, the safety of parishioners coming to worship, the need to be creative and flexible to work through unprecedented road blocks to find solutions to keep the church afloat and thriving (thank you Lord for Zoom and parking lots).

Chances are your pastor(s) are dealing with stress on a far higher level than before.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented prayer.

Please take a few minutes and pray for your pastor. Not only that, drop your pastor a line – a card, an e-mail, a phone call, some sort of encouragement to lift your pastor’s spirits.

Remember, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16, NKJV).

Love God. Love one another. Seek the LORD first and always. Be a blessing.

Stay for the Change

Photo by Michael Sander / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Several years ago I started the habit of saving my change in a jar. At the end of each day, I would take the coins in my pocket and drop them in the jar (being careful to weed out the odd Canadian penny, of course – which I don’t understand since Minnesota is practically a Canadian province).

It takes a while to save up for something worthwhile. We recently took our change to the bank and had enough to pay for dog grooming and a trip to a second run movie (Wonder Woman – don’t judge, Marvel fans) with money left over.

Change is good. But the kind of change I want to talk about isn’t necessarily coinage. It’s the change God wants to work in the hearts and lives of those who believe in Him.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  – Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

Jesus calls us to come for Him. Seek Him. Follow Him. To do so requires change on our part. However, there’s a catch:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Notice, Paul tells us “do not conform… but be transformed”. In other words, we can change by conforming to the ways of this world. Or we can come to Christ and be transformed by God. We cannot do the transforming. Our part is to show up. Faithful. Expectant. Waiting on the Lord.

And therein lies the rub. Waiting… who has time for that? We are to come as we are, not leave as we came. We have to remain patiently faithful as the LORD works to change our hearts and minds to truly follow Him. Personally, I have certainly come to Jesus with more than enough ego and stubbornness for Him to cut through.

And cut He does.

God works with whatever we present Him. He’ll change our attitudes. He’ll work through our circumstances. He’ll heal our pain, give us strength, guide us along His path.

But change doesn’t usually happen overnight. It happens in God’s time. But, as we wait, the LORD is working – in us, for us, through us.

So don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. Don’t turn back. Hang in there in faith while God works in you. Change takes time. And, wow, is it ever worth it!

So come as you are. But stay for the change.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Preach Unto Thyself!

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 97v – Psalm XLI the Musée Condé, Chantilly.  U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1925.

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival. – Psalm 42:1-4 (ESV)

We’ve all been there. Troubled, alone, feeling the world is against us. We cry out for God, but He’s silent.

The psalmist who penned the 42nd Psalm was far from home. He was used to going to the sanctuary in Jerusalem to be close to the presence of God. He understands God is with him, but he struggles.

The people around him give him a hard time about his faith. He longs for the experience of God’s presence. The internal struggle between his hurt and anxiety twists around in his mind with his knowledge that elohiym is present.

As the psalmist laments his situation, he stops to begin preaching to himself;

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God. – Psalm 42:5 (ESV)

He continues in his sorrow – even recognizing God is his rock, yet feeling abandoned by Him – only to stop again with the same rejoinder:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God. – Psalm 42:10 (ESV)

The expressions of grief turn to hopeful prayer in Psalm 43 (which is, most likely, simply the end of the same piece that made up Psalm 42). He ends his prayer these words:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God. – Psalm 43:5 (ESV)

Anyone see a pattern here?

When we are tempted to wallow in our circumstances, it is good to keep God’s Word hidden in your heart. This way we can use it to preach too ourselves.

To remind us God’s promises.

To remind of just Who He is – and who we are.

To remember God’s grace, mercy, love and strength are limitless.

And, look… God said three times to not be downcast but, instead, hope in Him! To quote my friend Rick, “If God says it three times, you’d better listen.”

So trust the Lord. Trust Him completely. Trust Him entirely. Trust Him alone.

In all things.

At all times.

No matter where you are.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
    all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word. – Psalm 119:9-16 (ESV)

(c) 2020 by Chris Courtney. All rights reserved.

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Awake and Not Alone

Anxiety, depression and worry are awful to deal with. They can make the world seem hopeless. They drain a person spiritually, mentally and physically. They can cloud our ability to see God, to trust Jesus, to know He is always with us (which He is).

They also can make a sufferer feel profoundly alone. Especially in the middle of the night. There are few things worse than a 2am panic attack or mindful of worrisome thoughts that keep us awake, feeling alone.

If this is you – if you find yourself feeling anxious and alone in the middle of the night – please remember this: you are not alone.

You are never alone.

God is always with you. He will never ever abandon you. He loves you more than you know.

Talk to God. Cry out to Him. Tell Him your fears and doubts. Cast your cares on Him. Trust Him. Trust Him. He is there.

He is with you always.

Rest easy friends. Sleep well. Trust Jesus.

You are loved far more than you know.

And, when we’re awake in the middle of the night, let’s stop and pray for each other.

I pray God’s peace and rest for you.

Trust in Troubled Times

Ahhh… sky so blue. Water so still. If you stop and “listen”, you can almost hear the quiet. The peace. The occasional bird song, or splash of water as a bass swims to the top, briefly breaking the silence.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyday were this peaceful, filled with utter bliss and not a care in the world?

Unfortunately the idyllic is not the norm. Our days are harried and hurried. We have plenty of opportunities to worry and feel anxious. And – let’s face it – the past three months haven’t exactly been easy.

I used to think I’d make a great monk. Removed from the world. Secluded. Separated. Besides, with my balding head and scruffy beard, I already had the whole Friar Tuck look going.

File:The friar took Robin on his back by Louis Rhead 1912.png
Rhead, Louis. “Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band: Their Famous Exploits in Sherwood Forest“. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1912.

I now have a new appreciation for regular, face-to-face human contact.

Even from six feet away.

The truth is, these times are far from peaceful. So many have lost loved ones, jobs, businesses, homes… More recently we’ve witnessed racial unrest of unsettling magnitude. (No human being deserves to feel afraid or inferior in a democratic society.)

It’s easy to look at the world around us and think, “Where is God?” The simple truth is: God is still here.

Where He’s been all along.

He’s still the same loving God He’s always been.

And He has it all under control. Nothing will cause His plans to falter. Nothing will make His will fail.

Whatever you are facing today, God is here.

It’s important to remember that God is God and we are not. We are His children, His creation. And just as the clay doesn’t question the potter, neither do we question the Creator.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;

Fear the Lord and depart from evil.

It will be health to your flesh,

And strength to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8 [NKJV]

Good or bad, everything happens for a purpose. And despite how awful COVID-19 and the riots are, we see God working through His people. People giving of what they have to those who have not. Folks stepping up to help where they can.

That’s not just us. That’s Love. That’s God.

It’s easy to look at our world – sometimes our own lives – and see plenty to worry about. Maybe we just need to learn to say “no” to our worries and anxious thoughts and, instead, choose to trust God. See the beauty of Jesus working through His people.

The message here is simple: keep trusting God. Don’t worry about troubles. Be anxious for nothing. See the Lord even in the bad. Remember all the times God’s been with you in hard times.

Yes, God may give us more than we can handle on our own. He will never give us more than He can handle. So focus on Jesus. Do good in His name.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. – John 16:33 [NKJV]

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©2020 by Chris Courtney.  All rights reserved.

Immediately Jesus

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:25-32 (NIV)

One of the aspects of studying Scripture I find fascinating is how, no matter how many times you read a particular passage, God reveals something new through His Word.  It never gets stale.  You can apply the lessons of the Bible in so many places, so many ways…

With everything going on these days, this passage from Matthew practically leapt out at me.  The first word that came to mind: focus.  To set the scene, the disciples have just participated in Jesus’ amazing feeding of the five thousand (which was probably more like 15,000, since only the men were counted – not the women and children).  Once this was done, Jesus immediately sent the disciples away on boat (Matthew 14:22).

Why immediately?

Perhaps, like us, His disciples had a tendency to forget the miraculous whenever things got tough.  The troubles of life – and the anxieties and worries these problems bring – are like driving past the scene of an accident.  We can’t help but gawk at the tragedy.

So, while the memories of seeing thousands of people fed with a mere five small loaves of bread and two small fish, of picking up leftovers from this feast, were still fresh in their minds, Jesus – knowing of the impending storm – sent the disciples off by boat immediately.


The disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee.  The winds are strong, the storm raging.

And they see an apparition – a ghost out on the choppy waters.

And they are freaked out.  Wouldn’t you be?

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”


Peter – you gotta love the apostle Peter and how much he loved Jesus – wants so badly for this to really be Jesus that he asks Him, “If you really are Jesus, tell me to walk to you on the water.”  And when Jesus says “come”, Peter jumps out of the boat and goes.

He’s walking on water.  Not just water, a stormy surging lake!  Peter is focused on Christ, and he is walking on water.

But then, shifting his gaze from the Savior to the storm, Peter suddenly realizes he’s walking on water in the midst of a storm.  Fear sets in as he begins to drown.  He cries out for the Lord to save him.

And immediately Jesus grabbed Peter and saved him.


There’s a lot going on these days, a lot of bad – scary – things to grab our attention.  We can easily get caught up in the news and the doom and the gloom.  The situation is rough.  Downright stormy.

And we’re all out in the middle of it, in one way or another.

But look carefully in the storm.  God is there.  He’s never left us.  He hasn’t changed.  He still loves us.  He wants us to walk to Him.  He wants us to keep our focus on Him.  Not what we hear on the news.  Not the turmoil the world is going through right now.

The Lord wants us to step out in faith, knowing He has us in His grip.  Trusting that, if we do find ourselves overwhelmed by the storm, all we need to do is cry out to Jesus to save us.

And He will.