Never Stop Learning

“I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain joined to me, and I to you, you will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me…When you bear a lot of fruit, it brings glory to my Father. It shows that you are my disciples.”

John 15:5-8, NIRV

A couple of weeks ago, I got to share with my pre-teen students about how to continually keep learning. This is something that I have learned over the years, I always want to be a learner no matter what season I find myself in. I want to grow in wisdom and maturity, because God calls me to follow Him and not become satisfied by being stationary. I think we can all look back at past versions of ourselves and be thankful that we are not the same person. I know for me, I’m thankful I’m not still middle school Joshua, high school Joshua, or even early twenties Joshua (turning the bog 27 in October, what what!). When we look at our younger selves, we weren’t as mature as we are now, and we should never stop learning and growing.

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Make Good Fruit

“I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain joined to me, and I to you, you will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me…When you bear a lot of fruit, it brings glory to my Father. It shows that you are my disciples.”

John 15:5-8, NIRV

Recently, I have been on a kick of watching people renovate homes and cabins on YouTube. Not million-dollar mansions, but small little cozy spaces. What I love about these videos, is there is often a space that looks completely jacked up, and over time, you see it become something amazing. Hannah Lee Duggan’s video (shouts out to it), really made me jealous and got me thinking about life. With the start of September, my brain is already tuned into the fall. The autumn season is all about harvest, reaping what has been sown over the course of the spring and summer. Mix that idea with what I’ve been reading through in Scripture, and it has left me with one key concept:

Make good fruit.

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Be Joy to Everyone Around You

“Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful! Let everyone know how gentle you are. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray, and give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood.”

Philippians 4:4-7

I’ve learned in life that there are always going to be awkward unknown moments. They happen and it’s normal, but doesn’t always feel great. I’m sure you’ve been invited to a party where you knew one person, but at the party that person leaves and you’re forced to talk to strangers. Or maybe you flash back to a first day of school and you have to figure out where to sit. When I think about these moments in my life, there are people who stand out that made the effort to be that joyful moment. They broke the ice, invited me to sit with them, and took on the awkward feeling and changed it with joy.

We can be joy to everyone around us.

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Create Fun

“Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful! Let everyone know how gentle you are. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray, and give thanks to him.Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood.”

Philippians 4:4-7

Choosing joy is hard. Often, it’s not because of hardships, but because of how exhausted we can get. We have so much to do in our days, that we focus on the to-do lists and projects piling up, and by the end of the day, we just want to tune out. This becomes a cycle, and when hardships do come up, we have no space to process and have rest because of the busyness. When we look at the verse above, we understand that we belong to God, we have been designed with purpose and need to show others that same great love. The verse also goes on to encourage us not to worry because God is with you. Now, this is not saying that seeking professional counseling and therapy is wrong, and that all you need to do is pray things away. God has gifted counselors and therapists with their abilities to help you process trauma and anxiety. The concept of joy is not to pretend everything is good all the time, having joy is knowing that in all things, God is in control and He wants you to live in freedom.

Part of finding joy, is creating fun in order to celebrate goodness over dwelling on hardship.

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joyful because you belong

“Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful! Let everyone know how gentle you are. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray, and give thanks to him.Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood.”

Philippians 4:4-7

Hello there, dear readers, I decided to take a break off and on during the summer. I love writing, but with seminary, I write a lot of papers, and some days need to rest my brain. I am so excited because August kicks off my favorite part of the year. The heat starts to fade (thankfully being in North Carolina after two years away, I can put on jackets), and a season of fun begins. My dear Danielle’s birthday, the fall season, our anniversary, my birthday, and then of course the holidays!

This season reminds me of the joy in my life, the blessings that God has given us, even in the moments where life gets difficult, I am reminded to have joy. If you know me, you know I love having fun. I struggle with anxiety and not feeling worthy, but when I choose to remind myself of who has created and called me, I find joy. This comes directly out of Philippians 4, Paul reminds the church in Philippi to be joyful because they belong to the Lord. He then says that because of this, we can have joy and not let our worries consume us; when we choose to have joy, we are a light to everyone around us.

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Don’t Let One Bad Day Define Your Story

I’ve made a ton of mistakes. You ever wake up at night and think about a time you said something you shouldn’t have, or reacted in a way you know wasn’t right? Or maybe there are things that people have said about or done to you, and you just can’t seem to find freedom? I think we all have faced moments like this, and it’s really difficult to move forward. What’s even worse is there are often people in our lives who won’t let us get away from that past, even when we have grown from it. I remember for a long time, people I went to high school with I would see occasionally through college, and even a little after graduating. It’s sometimes awkward because they still remember a version of me that has changed. We all change and grow, yet somehow, bad days can start to define who we are.

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Living Dependently on God

On the weekend of Independence Day, my dearest Danielle and I decided to get away and go camping. It was a fantastic time, we were able to connect with each other while being disconnected from distractions. As we spent time in nature, I was reminded of all the blessings in my life and how when I have fully been focused on God, the way always is much clearer. Then I began thinking about the holiday weekend. In America we celebrate the formation of our nation, through an act of independence. The thing is, that mentality has continued culturally, Americans love independence. We don’t like people telling us how to live or what to do, and that has spilled into our faith. We try to fit Jesus into the way we want Him to be in our lives, but the Bible doesn’t stress independence, it focusses on having a dependent faith.

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Use Your Influence

Last week I talked about having confidence, which is learning to see yourself the way God sees you. I hope you enjoyed my tale of auditioning to be a Chewbacca, and if you haven’t read it, go do it! Coming off of that story, as well as the idea of learning to see yourself the way God sees you, there is an important aspect that you have the power of doing. The term “influencer” is pretty much become synonymous with people on Instagram who show you the latest trends, with the intention of getting you to buy something. An influencer, influences. That’s a pretty simple statement, but it’s one that we all need to pay attention to.

Every day, we are influencing the people around us, so we can’t miss the opportunity.

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Confidence

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

In the elementary ministry I serve in, we have been talking about the idea of confidence; confidence, being defined as learning to see yourself the way God sees you. I love the way that’s defined, because I often don’t see myself the way God sees me. Whether it’s because of my past mistakes or things that have happened, or maybe it’s the enemy in my mind, I can often feel like I’m unworthy. I live with this cloud over me that I can never be good enough, but that’s simply not true. That’s a lie the enemy is trying to convince me is truth. The truth is, that I have been made in the image of God, all of us have been made in the image of God, meaning that there is great power we possess and God has placed many talents inside of us. We are not perfect, scripture says that humans were formed out of the dust, so, we’ve got some issues.

This is where confidence is key, we need to start learning to see ourselves the way God sees us.

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Journey Update: Half Way and What I’ve Learned

It’s been a little bit since I’ve posted one of these journey updates; I really like doing them because it gives me a chance to be open about where dear Danielle and I are at and some things God has been showing us. We’re about half way through this year, and it’s been interesting for sure. There was a level of wanting to go back to “normal” after the lockdown and the year that was 2020, but at the same time, there was a lot that I wanted to change and grow out of. In that mindset going into 2021, I chose the word of “faithful” as my focus for the new year. 2020 allowed for a lot of self-reflection and a chance for me to really dig into who God has made me to be. My post last week was a lot of the culmination of what I have learned, I need to remember who I am, I am a child of God; unique and different just the way I was designed. I learned that I don’t need to try and fit into what someone else wants or to push back the cemented in time version of me they still see; I just need to be me.

That’s big for me, and choosing the word faithful means that I am choosing to press into all God has for me, and focus on what he calls me into. He calls me to be a good husband to my incredible wife. He calls me to be present and spend more time meditating and listening to the word. He calls me to press into growth, to heal and let go of the past. He calls me to love everyone always, and that includes loving myself.

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