Facing the Unknown

Life is weird. I continually face this. The idea of the unknown is such a scary thing to me. Part of me thought these feelings of fear would go away once I finished college. Like, ah yes, there is the exact path I was meant to take! Unfortunately, life really doesn’t work like that. It’s simply a series of events that shape us, mold us into who we are. That scares me. I like to have a plan, a clear direction about what to do and where to go, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s funny to see older posts where I’ve written about the same idea. Each one was at a different crossroad of my life, and it seemed as if that one decision would be the only choice that would define me. I think that’s the reason why many of us fear big decisions, we worry that this one choice will shape our lives forever. The truth is, these choices aren’t a make or break, they’re small steps of trust in our creator.

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Keep Moving Forward

Life is moving fast. It seems like nothing stays still for too long. We have good days and bad days that seem to come and go way too quickly. I think 2017 was a head spinning year for many of us, so much seemed to happen and the year moved at an alarming rate. In 2017 I finished college, and started a part time job. Then changes quickly came up at my church and there was some possibility to help with a transition in our youth. I’ve now stepped into another part time job and been placed in a higher leadership role, which has been exciting and daunting all at the same time. It’s felt like my life has been racing past my eyes and caused me to questions and evaluate everything. So many questions race through my mind, am I in the right spot? Have I made a good decision? Is this my will or God’s will? Should I stay or go? Is this what will benefit me in my calling? In the midst of all these questions I have been crying out to God, asking over and over, just guide me through it all. In all of life speeding past me, he reminded me to pray hard, he told me to pray for the sun to stand still and keep moving forward.

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It’s Morphin’ Time

This was one of my favorite things to hear as a kid. Wake up on a Saturday and watch (which at that point was re-runs) Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I loved this show (still love it too), and it taught me so much. Now for those of you who have never seen this show, I’ll give you the brief run down. An evil lady is awoken from sleep, so a giant floating head in a tube chooses five teenagers with attitude to save the world. Lost yet? Great! The show is silly and essentially has the same plot each episode (fight bad guy, bad guy grows, Power Rangers win by using their robot zords), but I think that this show is a great example of what we are called to do as believers. Now before you click away, hear me out. These were unique teenagers of every race that were called with a purpose, and they answered the call. This spoke to me as a kid, walking into the video rental store and watching VHS tapes of the show, and it speaks to me now as I walk through life knowing I have a calling, and wanting to fulfill it. The thing about this show, and of our walk with Christ, is we must allow God to change us. In other words, God says it’s morphin’ time.

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The Story Not Yet Told

The past two weeks we have been looking at life as a story that we create. We are the characters and we have a mission. The first week we looked at our past and last week we looked at the present, so now we will look to the future. The future has always been one of my biggest fears, maybe my only fear. It’s unpredictable and big, or is it? I used to look at the future as some big dragon I had to fight alone. It would taunt me with fears of where my life was headed, making me question my security in Christ. Will you ever find a job that you love? Does my life really make an impact? Is the work that I’m putting in going to pay off in the end? All of these questions terrify me, but I don’t have to be afraid. God promises us that we are never alone, that he will never leave us or forsake us. It is such a powerful promise that is made over and over again in scripture, and learning to trust in that causes us to move forward into the unknown with confidence. Trust is not an easy thing, but it is such a rewarding promise. No matter what happens, God will always be there. He may not change your circumstances and he may not make everything better, but he will always be there to guide and comfort you when you need it. He can change and shape your life radically, but you have to choose to trust him with the future.

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I’m Terrified, and That’s Okay

This week begins another phase in my life. My classes at the university start back, and that marks the beginning of a new semester in my life. Life will start to be more chaotic and my time will be filled with more work and studies, which isn’t always a bad thing. The girl I’m dating heads back to school herself which is hard, but will make the time together even more meaningful when we do see each other. My close friends start a new phase in their lives as well, so getting together is more of a challenge to stay in touch. I will take on new responsibilities within my serving at the church, I’m taking on the task of what it looks like to write a book, and I’m having to make the most with the time I’m given. All of this is good, and I’m excited for what the future will bring, but I’m terrified. This always seems to happen when big things are coming. The fear starts to creep in, I start hearing the whispers telling me I will fail, or that I’m not skilled enough to chase my dreams. I’m so scared that all the things God has made me for, I’ll screw it up or miss my chance to achieve it. I think a lot of you might feel the same. You may feel like your dream is so big, that there’s no way you could make it happen. Maybe you feel scared like me, and you know what? It’s okay.

Whenever these feelings creep in, I’m reminded of Joshua. No, that’s not a humble brag about me thinking about myself and being totally cool (Cue the sweet putting on of sunglasses). I’m talking about Joshua in the bible. I think many of us feel like Joshua. He was a slave that followed Moses out of bondage, because he had true faith in the one true God. He was eager, he was young, and he had a desire to be close to God. I know for me I feel this way, and many of you do as well. We have a drive to be all that we can be, we are young in our faith, and we want nothing but what God has for us. Joshua was so devoted, he was right by Moses to help him in any way that he could. There was one instance where Moses had a tent and told the Israelites that the spirit was in it for any to come be in his presence. No one went in, except for Joshua, and not only that, but when Moses left the tent, Joshua stayed and kept worshiping. So, when Moses passed away, the Lord appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. No big deal right? Actually yes, it was probably the biggest thing any of us could face. Joshua reacted like me, he was terrified. He didn’t run away from the challenge, but he was scared. I mean think about it, this was hundreds of people, people that would wander away like sheep without a leader. But God is way more awesome and bigger than we often make him out to be. You see, God isn’t a get out-of-jail free card or a nice guy, he is an all-powerful and all-knowing savior. He is on your side. When you look at chapter 1 of the book of Joshua, God reassures Joshua by simply saying, be strong and courageous. Today I want to encourage you, because this has encouraged me. I am terrified, but I have a God who is bigger than my fears, a God that simply says to be strong and courageous because he has a plan for you. When we look at Joshua, we see simple truths that each of us can hold onto, three little ideas that combat our fear, because we get scared, and that’s okay because God is with you.

God has designed you with purpose.

Sometimes it feels like I say this over and over, but it will always be true. One of my biggest fears that has come at me over my life, is the fear that I have no purpose. I know this is a fear for you, it’s one of the biggest questions people ask; why am I here? Many of us spend our lives seeking purpose in things that don’t last, maybe you’re seeking the perfect career, looking for a relationship to fill the void, or turning to the consumeristic pleasures to fulfill you. God made us for so much more. Yes, it’s nice to find a job that you love, a spouse to share life with, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life; but they are so small in comparison to what God has designed you for. God designed Joshua to be a leader, his purpose was to lead the lost into freedom, literally and figuratively. Your purpose isn’t a test grade that defines you, or being in the best job that fits all that you want, your purpose is what God calls you to. What is God asking of you? Maybe you are a leader who has a passion for small groups and helping people find true life. Maybe you have a desire to help those whom are less fortunate than you. Maybe you desire to lead the next generation to be the best they can be, and not see the world put them down as a lazy generation. Your purpose doesn’t have a set path, you have to try things and figure it out on the way. In high school, one of my small group leaders who we called, “Mike D,” taught me this. He was a real estate agent by career, but that wasn’t his purpose. He used his influence and the opportunities to be around people to lead them into the kingdom. He showed love, listened to their problems, and cared for them. He did the type of things you see Jesus do in the bible, and he was just a simple real estate agent. That’s a picture of living into your calling, and that’s what God has designed us to do.

God will be with you, no matter what.

This is the most comforting part about being strong and courageous, God never just simply leaves you. It may feel like he isn’t as close, or feel like he is letting bad things happen in your life, but he never leaves you. Once you make a choice to have that relationship with him, he is always with you. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the trinity that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he is vital. He is the one that is in you, the voice that helps guide your choices, and the one that convicts you in your wrong doing. The Holy Spirit walks with you in the good and the bad, he is there to listen and wants to be with you. The choice is, will we seek after him or not? Like any relationship, the only way we grow closer is by communicating. God tells Joshua to not let the word of the Lord depart from his mouth, what he is saying to Joshua, is that he needs to actively seek the Lord and be in the scripture to truly grow. The same is true for us. In the moments when we are terrified of what happens next, or when we are given more responsibility, we need to seek out the Lord. God is with us no matter what, but in order to hear him, we must pursue him. When you love someone, you pursue them, you understand that you have a deep connection and you will do anything to grow closer and care for that person. The same is true of our God. We need to pursue him in the calm and in the fear, we need to actively grow closer to him, so that when the fear comes, he will speak to us.

God wants us to obey.

Whenever I think of the word “obey,” I think of a parent and their child. Working in next gen ministry has shown me this. You have the kids who run around like crazy people, and their parent walks up, says their name sternly (and if it’s really bad, you hear the middle name), and they tell their child to stop and listen to them. I think that is a picture of how God feels with us. We are like crazy children running around with scissors trying to live the way we want to, and God just needs us to stop and listen. The parent is always right, even though the child may think jumping off the playground is good or that eating off the floor is totally fine, the parent knows what is best for their child. God knows what’s best for us. We need to stop and listen to what God is showing us. It may not be easy, it may mean giving up something you want. You may need to give up work and spend time with your family. It may mean to live authentically, rather than wearing a mask. It may mean putting boundaries in place for your relationship. And it may mean making choices to living in Christ rather than your own desire. Simply put, when we are scared, God wants us to stop and listen to his voice; “be strong and courageous.”

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I don’t know what your life looks like, and I don’t know what you are going through. All I know is that it’s okay that you’re terrified, because I am too, but I will not live that way. God tells us to be strong and courageous. So when I go to class today, or when I sit and write my book, and even when I miss the people whom I love; I will be strong and courageous. It’s like I am a ship on the sea. The storms will come, I may have to navigate rocky waters, but I will trust the wind to guide where I’m headed. I choose to be strong and courageous with everything, I will trust my God because he has designed me with purpose, he is with me, and I will obey his wise guidance. I choose to be like Joshua, to desire God and follow him no matter what. This year will be unknown and exciting, and I am terrified, but it’s okay. God is bigger and I will trust him.

Be strong and courageous.

-Joshua Thomas

The New Year

Well another year has passed, and what a great year it was. I have been so blessed over the past year, I have seen growth in my own life, the life of my church and the lives of those around me. It’s fun to look back at all the events that happened over the past year, some good some not so good, but all the events in my life allowed me to grow and discover more about myself and where I want to continue to go.

In 2013, I read an article that talked about instead of making a new year’s resolution, to focus on one word that you want to live out for that year. That year I chose the word of servant, a devoted or helpful follower or supporter. I tried to be a humble leader and one who listens to the wise council of those above myself. Then I continued the tradition into 2014, choosing the word of hero, defined as a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. Keeping those qualities in mind helps me focus on the reasoning behind every action and being a better leader. And that brings me to this New Year, 2015, and the word I have chosen to focus on this year is, adventurer.

Adventurer is defined as someone who likes dangerous or exciting experiences: a person who looks for adventures. One of the focuses I want to have this year is to step out of my comfort zone more and take risks. Now these risks aren’t foolish things that I want to try, they are things like meeting more people, having a bigger influence to those I come into contact with, and to continue to practice my hobbies of drawing and writing. I want to be able to try new things and go to new places, do things that I might not otherwise think of doing. Pushing myself to new heights and always striving to get better.

That’s what I plan on doing for this New Year, push myself forward, always growing and trying to use what God has given me to make a difference. I think about my past and where I’ve come from and I know I will always want to keep striving for more. 2014 was filled with great experiences, from seeing my Vert guys grow into strong leader, being able to lead a small group of elementary kids, and being able to work in some amazing ministries. 2015 will continue these things and even more, I cannot wait to see what will come from this year and how I will grow and change!

It’s going to be another great year and I hope yours’ is pretty swell as well!

-Joshua Thomas