Why We Matter

One of the biggest questions I think everyone has asked themselves at some point is, do I even matter? It’s kind of a frightening question to ask oneself. Do we actually matter to the landscape of the world we find ourselves in? The answer, in our own eyes, varies all over the place. Success is subjective in the eyes of the person trying to obtain it. Success in the world may be fame, fortune, and glory; but if this is the standard for if we matter, most of us will fail. I know for me I’m a broke college student who is trying to figure out how I get to the place God has called me to. I don’t exactly meet the fame, fortune, and glory type of success. There has to be something more, right? I believe that God’s idea of success is so much more powerful than we could ever imagine, and it is so much greater than our worldly desires. Psalm 1:1-3 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers.” This verse I believe answers that question of why we matter.

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What Defines You?

I hope you have been able to stay warm this past weekend if you were like me and caught up in a crazy snow storm. This past weekend I had a lot of free time on my hands, the cabin fever was strong with me. While I had time on my hands, I had to write a brief paper on social media and how I present myself for my relational communication course. It was a strange project, not the paper itself, but the idea of looking at how I present myself to the world. It was enlightening, because of the fact that it made me look introspectively, and it reminded me of things that I have learned on how I define myself. In high school, I came to the realization that I want to be who I am, not wear a mask or pretend to be someone that I’m not. From then on, in every area of my life I wanted to be me, because I have been defined by something greater. Someone greater. I have been designed by an all-powerful God, one who has given me talents, gifts, and interests that make me unique. Too often I used to waste time trying to fit in, pretending to like the things that everyone else liked, talk the way others talked, did what everyone else did. These weren’t me. When you choose to not live like everyone else, others will try to define you by your earthly achievements. I was weak because I didn’t excel in sports, I was a fool because I didn’t learn like everyone else, and I was an outcast because I wanted to truly follow Christ. These accolades, grades, and feelings of an outsider didn’t define me. Only God can define you.

Once I started living this truth, the earthly things around me began to not matter anymore. I learned to love the hobbies that gave me joy. I loved comics, movies, and writing because God designed me to think through mixed media. I learned to be vulnerable, to be open with my struggles to help those who are suffering around me in similar ways. I learned that life is so much more fun when you live knowing that only God defines you. The pressure of trying to be perfect, or fit in with everyone else fades away. It fades away because it isn’t important. I am so thankful that God defines me. The verse that spurred on this post was Psalms 139:14 which says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” What a beautiful verse. When we believe that God has made us, we know that he defines us by saying we are fearfully and wonderfully made. When looking at how I present myself through social media, I am me. I am the same person on the screen as you will meet in person, and I do that on purpose. I want to be exactly who God has made me to be, all the time, no matter what form others see me in. I want you to believe that same truth, you can be all that God made you to be, when you start believing that he is the only one who will ever define you.

Know that you are beautiful.  

God made you beautiful. Yes, guys too. The word beautiful means that something is aesthetically pleasing to the senses and has a high standard, something that is excellent. You are beautiful, because God made you. No matter what people have said to you, or how people may have treated you in the past, you are beautiful. You have a unique personality, one that is filled with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, a future that is unlike any other. I’m not saying this to make you feel like you are better than someone else, I’m saying this because you have been designed by an awe-inspiring creator. Without him we would have nothing, and he has given you so much. One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that we are not good enough, saying we are worthless, but this is the lie. You are worth everything, that’s why an all-powerful God gave his son to die for you. God did that saying that he loves you so much, that you are his beautiful creation. Our society has put a standard up for what makes someone beautiful or special, young girls hate the way they look and young boys try so hard to attain what a “real” man looks like. This breaks my heart, because God has already made you to be exactly who you are. One day when I have children of my own, I hope to tell them that they are so special. One day I will tell my daughter that she is beautiful just the way she is. One day I will tell my son that a “real” man is one that follows God with everything inside of him. Today I am telling you the same. You are beautiful because God has made you, and you must believe that he is the only one that defines you.

Strive towards what is good.

Once you know that God has designed you, you must strive towards what is beneficial to your life. None of us would knowingly drink poison, so why is it that we make decisions that could harm us? We do this on a daily basis, it is the sad truth. God wants to be with you in everything, yet we choose to try and live life on our own strength. Time and time again we fail and get frustrated as to why God would let this happen, the truth is, we are not coming to God first. When God isn’t first, we lose sight of what is important. We let the small things slide. We hang around those people that really are terrible influences, we waste time with things that aren’t important, and sometimes we let our eyes fall into places they should never be. So we need to make a choice, will we believe that God defines us, or make compromises that only satisfies our flesh for a short time. I hope you choose to live the way that God made you to be. When you live that way, you spend time with people that push you to be better, we use our time wisely, and we focus our eyes towards heaven. It’s not big things, it’s the decisions to be wise. Finding community at your church, spending time in the word and in prayer, keeping your eyes guarded from the computer screen or that underwear commercial that comes on the TV. Strive towards what is good, because God has defined you to be a child of the most high.

Don’t define others.

We can forget this quickly. We start living without a mask and live the way God designed you to be, but when we see others, we are quick to judge. We need to live by the golden rule, yes that one. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you’ve ever experienced a hurtful word spoken about you, or had a rumor started about you, it is devastating. It hurts because people judge you for living the way God wants you to live, and that means that you seem weird to others. Why then would we do the same? It seems so simple, but it’s the truth. Only God defines you, and only God defines the people around you. So don’t gossip, don’t speak words that will only destroy the spirit of people around you, instead, speak life. Build others up, tell them the truth that you have found, show them that only God defines them. Come to them with love when you see they are not living the way scriptures say, and before that, make sure your life lines up with scripture. Don’t define others, because only God can define them.

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How do you live your life? Do you try to fit in and let the people around you define who you are, or do you choose to believe that only God can define you? God has made you. All of your talents and quirks, he has made you to be exactly who you are. I love that verse in Psalms. There was a company that sells a T-shirt with the words, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” on it. I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a young girl, must have been around 7 years old, wearing the shirt. I love that. I think we should all be like that. Proud of who we are because we have been fearfully and wonderfully made. I hope my children one day know that truth and hold it that close to their own live. You were made by the same God that created the universe, the beauty and wonder that surrounds us, that same God, created you. Not by accident or by chance, God designed you and made you. God is the only one that can define you. So live knowing that you are beautiful, strive towards what is good, and don’t define others. God loved you, made you, and gave everything to save you.

God is the only one that will ever define you.

-Joshua Thomas

You’ve Got What It Takes, Kid.

I love hero stories. I’ve always loved comic books and epic hero movies where one individual faces an incredible challenge, and they make it through the toughest fight. I look up to stories like that because I want to make a difference. I want to stand up for what is right, defend the weak, and repair what has been lost. I think the same is true for you, it’s the reason why we love movies and books where one individual, whom no one thinks is strong enough, has what it takes to save the day. Often we feel like we can’t make it through our situation, or that the mountains we face have no chance of being moved. This is simply not true, we have a God who is so much bigger than the trials we face. God picks us up off the ground, the moments when we feel defeated and all alone, and he looks at us and says, “You’ve got what it takes, kid.” Now this isn’t scripture and we may not hear God actually say this to us, but the point is, God created us for a reason. God created you to be more than what you think you are, God made you to be exactly who you are, and He made you with supernatural abilities that will change the world. Over and over in the bible we see stories of simple individuals, people that would normally be looked over in their daily lives, and God used them to do amazing things. They may not have been able to control minds, have spider-like abilities, or fly; but God gave them incredible power. God wants to give you the same power.

Hebrews chapter eleven is a perfect example of what I’m trying to convey to each of you. This chapter is the “By faith” chapter, it records how different individuals in the bible were able to do super natural things by faith in the one true God. People like Noah, who built an ark to save humanity, Abraham, whose descendants grew mightily when his wife was barren, and Moses, who stood up to tyranny and led people into freedom. Each one of these people chose to live in faith, they chose to trust God even when it seemed impossible. God had a purpose and vision for each of these individuals and called out to them saying that they had what it took. You see, God has a purpose and vision for our lives to. He calls to us, telling us that we have what it takes, that you have a power within you that is awe-inspiring, and one that cannot be stopped. All we have to do is live by faith, trusting that God will guide and protect you, and you can do great things. I want to spend the next few paragraphs describing how we can awaken this power within us and become more than who we are.

We have to accept the calling.

In every epic tale, the hero is reluctant to take on the responsibility. Luke is reluctant to train as a Jedi because his family needs his help on the farm, Peter Parker has amazing abilities that he doesn’t know how to use effectively, and Katniss is tied to protecting her family from an oppressive regime. All three of these characters were created by different people, all have different settings and worlds, but each has one big thing in common. Each has the strength to do so much more, and each has to accept the calling on their life. This happens through a catalyst, an event that requires them to stand up and face the fight. Luke’s family is killed and the universe is threatened, Peter Parker watches as his uncle is murdered by a criminal, and Katniss takes the place of her sister that is placed in certain peril. Each one has a choice. We all have that same choice. Do we accept the calling on our lives, or do we stand back and let the world go down in flames around us? God gives us a choice, and he lets us live with the consequences of whatever we choose. Our God loves us, but he lets us make the choice all on our own. This is the first step. If you choose to not accept the calling, well, you will continue to live and not make an impact. Your legacy will blow away like dust in the wind. However, when you choose to accept the calling, choosing to make a decision and have that real relationship with a God who loves you deeply, your journey begins. You’ve listened to God’s voice, and you believe that you can make an impact. You will live a life of meaning, one that will shape the world forever. You must make a choice to accept the calling God has placed on your heart.

We must surrender your selfish desire.

As people, we want to do what we want to. It’s what makes us selfish, we think about what we want, with no thought about others. Great leaders think about everyone. They think about the people who are always with you, and they care about the quiet and shy ones who hide in the background. When we look at the people who lived by faith in the bible, we see people who thought about the future. Thought about the people they were impacting, the lives that would go on to make a difference. This sometimes means not getting all the credit, not being in the spotlight, and not having adoring fans. Sure that can be nice, but the purpose is not to glorify yourself, it is to impact the lives around you for the better. To look at those around you and help heal the broken, lead the lost into freedom. Every great hero we see in literature and films defends the people, they sacrifice their own safety and comfort, in order to save others. We must take on the calling for our lives, and we must live serving others. This will give us the power to change lives and make that lasting impact on everyone around you. We have been designed with purpose, and God wants us to lead others into his kingdom. We need to lay down our own selfish wants and comforts, in order to step into the power that God has given you, because when you do, you will impact everyone.

We must trust with everything.

This is the final step into your journey of taking on what God is calling you towards. Each person in the bible fully trusted God, it wasn’t always easy, but they trusted him with everything. One of the guys in the by faith chapter is Elijah, and he lived trusting God with everything, even with food as he had to hide away in the desert. God sent birds to feed him, and if God can do that for Elijah, he can do that for you. It probably won’t entail trusting that God will send you a bird with food, but maybe it means living with a trust that can will bring you out of this pain. Maybe it means trusting God with your finances, with your relationships, or with your struggles. We need to live with Jesus every day, we have to trust that he will guide us with every aspect of life and any struggle we may face. You have been given talents and abilities that are unique, but we need God to accomplish what we have been called to do. Every hero has a mentor, someone who has walked the path before and can guide us. Luke had Ben Kenobi, Peter Parker had Uncle Ben, and Katniss had Hamish. The same needs to be true in your life, we need a sensei because you are a warrior. We need to trust God with everything, so that we can accomplish anything.

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I’ve always loved hero stories. Heroes that stand up for what’s right, heroes that fight for the weak, heroes that are looked down upon even when they have done such great things. I think everyone has a desire to make a difference, to be someone with great power that changes the world. We all have a power inside of us, we have the ability to lift people off the ground and help them find freedom. We need to accept the calling, surrender our selfish desires, and trust in God completely. When we do this, we are unstoppable. Life will still get tough, things won’t always go by plan, but God will always be with you. We can live by faith, and accomplish so much. We just need to choose.

You’ve got what it takes, kid.

-Joshua Thomas

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

Thankful for Family

I love this time of the year. November has always been a time when one can reflect back on all the blessings and gifts we have each been given. I love the day of Thanksgiving especially for this time, it gives me a chance to remember all those that have helped me make it to the place I am in now. Family. Often when I think about family I think of my immediate family, my mom and dad, my sister and her husband; my family. Recently I have realized that my family is so much more than just my relation by blood. As believers, we are all family. As I continue to read through the works of Paul, I’ve noticed that every letter to the churches he writes, he always addresses the people as brothers and sisters. He goes a step beyond just knowing these people and takes it to another level. To me family is a special bond, one that is strong and can’t be broken. People that you would fight for, people that you trust when you struggle, the people that stand by you in the darkest of moments. Family is one that will pick you back up when you fall, and you all have family. No matter what may have happened in your biological family, maybe someone left you alone when you needed them, maybe you were abused verbally of physically, maybe your family treats you like an outcast; no matter what has happened, you have a family. God places people in our lives and surrounds us with people that are our family, God designed you to be in relationship with others, and he has given you a spiritual family; whether by blood or not.

This past year this concept has been more real to me than ever. My biological family has dealt with some tough hardships, and it was hard to make it through all of it, but there was hope. God used people in each of our lives to speak life into us and keep us above water. I know that we all struggle, and it’s easy in those moments to believe the lie that we are alone or that no one wants us. This is a great lie, one that can keep secrets in the dark, and cause us to suffer alone. We need family. I want to share a few reasons why family is so important, and to show that no matter what your biological family may be, you have a stronger spiritual family that God has placed in your life for the reason of encouraging you and equipping you to do your mission. As you read, think about the people in your life that do these simple things. Thank them, use the thanksgiving time to contact some of these people while you eat copious amounts of food. God made you for a reason, and he uses family to empower you to do it.

Family is diverse.

Traditionally when I think about family, a Norman Rockwell painting comes to mind, I’m sure you’ve seen it. The one with the Thanksgiving meal, it’s a classic image, but I believe family is so much more than the classic 50’s white middle class family. Family is diverse, meaning that we are not cookie cutter, but that we come from all walks of life. We come from different ancestors, different times, and different styles of life; and this is so good! Diversity allows each of us to look at the world differently, and the kingdom of heaven is so incredibly diverse. Your community and even the family you were born into are all different, and God uses this to open our eyes. So many times I look at a problem one way and my dad sees it in a totally different view. I meet with my dad for breakfast each week, and each week I learn so much from his experiences to problems that I face, and I am able to help him look at his questions through different lenses as well. We need to have diversity in our life, because without it, we will never grow. When we are in a family, our picture changes from Norman Rockwell to a Jackson Pollock, an explosion of color and emotion (I’m a bit of an art nerd). When you are in the family of believers, you are able to grow and look at the world in a new beautiful way.

Family is life giving.  

When we are in a family of believers, we are encouraged and able to encourage others. This is such an amazing thing that all of us need. I think back on my life and reflect about the way different people spoke life over me when the world around me was telling me I would fail. When I was in ninth grade, I was first starting to attend my current Church home of Daystar. My family was attending and I slowly started to go and attend the youth group. I connected with a small group, and grew close to them so much that they truly were like brothers to me. We have grown and changed and some have passed away, but they are all still my brothers that I will hold onto. I love them so much. Another memory I have is of that ninth grade summer, where my youth pastor, whom I consider a close friend and brother, Seth Tanner, invited to me to with him to a camp he was speaking at. I was unsure at first, but decided to go; it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. That week filled me with a desire for the next generation and gave me a calling I could not ignore. God used Seth to empower me when the world told me I wasn’t good enough. I will always remember these people, people who were my family, not by blood, but a true family that God used to speak life over me. If you take anything away from this, it should be to get into a community of believers that fills you with life, it will be the best decision you will ever make.

Family is motivating.

The final part of the importance of family, is the fact that family causes us to take the extra step. My family was always great at this. In school, I did not do very well, but my family always motivated me to do my best even when I felt like quitting. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting a c in your math class after you have failed over and over, and my family would always push me to keep going no matter what. As I’ve grown older, they continue to push me into taking the next steps of chasing my dreams that God has placed on my life. God used them to push me further in my faith, and now I can do the same for others. As a high school small group leader, I am so encouraged to see my students press into their passions and pursue all that God has for them. Last week as I was travelling for funerals, two of my students Ross and Chris, were given the opportunity to lead students in worship and teaching to their peers. Moments like this are so encouraging to know that God is using them in such a mighty way, and that they will one day change the world and be future leaders. They are a part of my family, and I want to motivate them to step into God’s plan for their lives just as I was motivated to do the same. Find your family so you can not only be motivated, but so you can motivate others.

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Family is incredible. It is diverse, it brings life, and it motivate us. I am so incredible thankful for the people I hold dear, the ones I can laugh and cry with. The people who I want to spend countless hours with. Through the good and bad, I love my family, by blood or by my spiritual family. I love each and everyone one of them. This week as you may be meeting with your own families or spending time with your friends over the holiday, remember how much they have truly shaped your life. Enjoy your time with them, hold them close to you. God has put these people in your life for a reason, one that will bring out the best in you and lead you towards the greater vision for your life. Use Thanksgiving not to celebrate the pilgrims (who, let’s be honest, were really terrible to Native Americans), but instead use this time to be grateful of the people that have walked with you through the fire. The people that will stand with you through it all, these people who fight with you, these people are your true family.

Be thankful for your family.

-Joshua Thomas

With Everything

I’m writing this while on a plane, far above the ground and at the mercy of two skilled pilots. Sometimes life in general feels like this, that we are suspended in a state of unknowing with only a faceless God directing us. It feels like this, but I can assure you it is so much more than that. We may not see they face of God, but we can look around and see the beauty that surrounds us in nature, we marvel at the incredible advances that we see in our technology, and we have an uncanny sense of feeling when we are in the presence of other people. The reason I am on a plane is because I am flying up to Wisconsin for the funeral of my grandma. I did this same flight last week for the funeral of my other grandma, the reason why I did not post last week. Losing people is never easy, I have already lost two people that were like brothers to me this year, and it is still hard to think about someone you once knew gone forever. Hard? Yes. Impossible to recover? No. I’m sure you have at some point either had a loved one die, or walk away from you. Maybe you are struggling with depression caused by loss, an addiction, and lies from the enemy telling you that you aren’t worth fighting for. We all struggle, for me I have dealt with thinking that I would never amount to anything and that I was unimportant. Whatever it is you struggle with, whatever pain or heartache you battle each and every day; I want you to know that there is hope.

You are a child of God. You have been uniquely made for a purpose, one that is vital to everyone around you. This is a truth that took me quite a long time to realize, but through the voice of key people in my life that told me I was important, I finally understood that the world does not define who I am. You may have never met me or maybe we have known each other for years, either way, I want to be one of the voices that tells you that you are important and that you have purpose. I was listening to one of my favorite worship songs from Hillsong the other day and it spoke to the idea of how I choose to live my life in the face of pain, suffering, and heartache. With Everything. The song is a beautiful picture of how we come to our majestic creator. He is not some faceless being, but one who wants to know you deeply. In the midst of darkness, I choose to praise him with everything. When we praise God with all that we have, he uses our story to impact everyone around us. I think of Job from the bible, a man who loved God, but had the devil do everything to him except kill him. Job lost his home, his family, and was afflicted with horrible disease. Yet through all of it, he chose to praise God in the midst of a hell that he had to endure on earth. No matter what you are having to walk through today, God will use you. I want to share some ways that God will use us when we choose to praise him with everything even when we are in hard times. These are truths that I have seen and experienced, and I want you to know that you are not alone, and more importantly, that there is hope.

God will bless your vision.  

God has made each of us with unique talents and abilities, all of these have been given to us so we can help others. Through hard times it may seem like God has left you, but the opposite is true. God wants us to have a vision for our lives, to look at how we can use our gifts to impact the world. Young or old, you can make an impact. This can mean many things. The vision for your life could be to have the conversations with loved ones that may be hard to do. It could mean using your musical abilities to bring joy and worship to those who are broken. It could be simply using your influence in work to bring life to those around you by the way you speak to others. It may seem large, or even impossible to achieve, but when we trust God, he will give us all we need and more. God wants to give you a vision for something greater than you, he wants to use us to do mighty things. When we come to him with everything, he blesses our vision.

God will bless your story.

The experiences we have in life, everything from good to bad, are a part of our story. The story you are creating is unique to you, but can speak far greater than you can imagine. So often in my life I have been able to use my story to help those around me. My story is of a geeky kid who felt worthless in school, both academically and socially. It was tough, I felt alone and felt like no one believed in me. I’ll never forget the day my dad told me about how he had experienced the same struggles that I did while in school. That changed me, gave me courage to know that I am never alone. There was another time in middle school where my old youth pastor Marshal invited me to help him with some work that I can’t remember, but he said one thing that I will never forget. He told me that he saw great things in me and that one day I would make a difference. Moments like this shaped me, and when I felt alone, God put people in my life to give me hope. Your story is one of hope, so use it. In small groups with my high school guys, I have been able to come alongside many of them and pray with them, fight with them through what they are battling. God is writing your story, so use it to impact anyone and everyone. With everything that you are, remember that your story is one of hope.

God will bless your life.

Through all of the craziness and pain that I have felt this year, I have been filled with an overwhelming sense of joy. It sounds backwards to say, but I have learned to take hold of every moment and stop focusing on the negative. Even in times when I feel like darkness is all around me, I look for the light and don’t let it out of my sight. I’m a visual person and that’s how I look at life, and it’s something that I have been given in order to help you. I want everyone to find purpose and know that no matter how hard it is, there is always good that can come. Focus on the things that give you life. For me, I love to write (it’s the reason I do this each week!). I love spend time with friends and family, the ones I hold dear, even if it’s a simple text, a face time, or a quick snapchat. I love to sketch and listen to music. I love these things because I get life from them, because I see God in them, and he is the ultimate giver of life. Find what gives you life and with everything in you, run after it and God will bless it.

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Life is a wild and unknown thing, but there is one thing that will never change. We have an awesome and incredible God. Even during the hard times and seeing the world go crazy around us (my heart goes out to Paris, during the time of writing this the events are unfolding), good can still come from brokenness. The cry of my heart will continue to be that with everything, I will shout forth your glory and praise. In the moments when our heart aches, when we suffer, when we look into the face of death; we must keep our eyes on the one who has already won the battle for us. I don’t know your individual story, but I pray for each and every one of you every week, because I know that we are all battling demons. I’m looking down at the ground from the plane and I’m mesmerized by how vast our world is. A world that is filled with millions who are searching and need you to be there for them. With everything, trust in God and he will bless your vision, your story, and your life.

You are made for great things, and you will make a difference.

-Joshua Thomas

Choose Life

This past weekend I was able to experience something incredible, I was able to see life change happen. Every year Daystar Church holds an event for the youth called live up weekend, it’s something that I attended in high school and am now able to attend as a leader for my small group. Each year God moves in the lives of these next generation students, this year was especially great. I was able to grow closer to my group, see them step out in faith in their service towards others, and watch as two of them were baptized on Sunday to declare that they have given their life to Christ. This weekend was incredible. As we are finishing up with the Halloween month (I know, it’s so sad) I was thinking about what should be the topic of discussion for this week. We have looked at how to protect ourselves from temptations, learned how to be ourselves and not wear a mask, and last week looking at how when we are alone we are in danger. This week I want to look at something in spooky movies and TV that isn’t always explicitly stated. It’s a decision that marks the turning point of a characters life, and it is one that you will have to make. The moment comes in the darkest hour, the time where it feels like there is no hope, nothing left to save you. The choice between life and death rests in your hands.

This is a choice that we all must make, and you have all that you need to choose. In my own life I have been faced with this decision. After taking the initial step of trusting in God, we are left with the choice to live life in the promise of what we have been saved by, or we can let it pass away and not take hold of the blessings that come with that choice. This is the choice we all must make, do we step out of the boat onto the water like Peter, or do we stay in the boat? This is from a moment in the bible where our disciples were afraid of what they believed was a ghost, but turned into something so much more. Matthew 14:25-29 says, “Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus” In the moment of fear and the unknown power that was in front of him, Peter had courage and took a step. Sometimes it feels like we are helpless, like the monster has corned us in the dark room with no way out. In that moment we either let that enemy take us, or we choose to stand and fight for our lives. God made us for more than we can imagine, so we must choose to live the life that he has given us.

Don’t be afraid.

This command is one of the most used in the bible, because it is such a truth. So many times I have been afraid to step out in my faith, to not take a chance. I am so afraid that I will fail I don’t even try, and that’s crazy! I am no stranger to failure, my life has been filled with attempts I have made to do different things, but I don’t regret taking the chance. Without taking a chance we can never know what we are good at. For me, I knew very early on that my career should not include heavy use in mathematics, that is not where I am gifted in, but with English, I developed a joy in it. We are all unique and different, so maybe you’re a talented musician, maybe you play video games exceptionally well, maybe you make great vlogs on YouTube; but you will never know what you’re good at until you try it. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back from making a difference. Don’t be afraid to fail, failure just reveals an area that you shouldn’t focus energy on trying to be the best at. Live with courage, live in boldness, and be brave.

Step out of the boat.

Once we live in boldness, we must take the next steps, in order to make a difference you must step out of the boat. So what does this look like? Well I’m glad you asked my wonderful reader! The next step is to be all in. We must truly live out our faith, by the way we talk, in our service towards others, and our personal time in the word. These are the simple steps we must take in order to truly live into what God has for us. Without these things, we become dead inside and work towards nothing. We become zombies, consuming everything we can, yet still wander aimlessly and mindlessly. Fight back, be intentional with your life. Take risks, not like cliff jumping, but things like asking that friend you’ve always known if they want to go with you to church. Its steps like joining a small group to receive life giving community, or using your talents to serve others. You must get out of the boat and take a step in faith.

Focus on Jesus.

The verse shows us that Peter was so focused on Jesus that nothing else mattered or could stop him, not even the water that he was standing on. This is the biggest truth we can have, when we are focused on Jesus, we can do all things. No matter what the situation, no matter how hard life gets, when we are reliant on Jesus, nothing can stop us. Trust me when I tell you this because it has been true again and again in my life. I have had friends walk away, family suffer from addictions, and seen people that were brothers of mine pass away; yet God has never left me and he has carried me through all of it. The best thing about it is we can fail, Peter became distracted as he moved on the water towards Jesus, and he began to sink. You’ll hear some pastors focus on this as the mistakes we face, which is true, but I love what happens after he begins to sink. As Peter sinks he cries out to Jesus, and Jesus lifts him up out of the water. This is such a beautiful picture of how God has saved us over and over again, all we need to do is focus and cry out to him.

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Over the weekend I saw teenagers make a choice, one that will define their lives for eternity. They chose to live their life, to not be held down by a world that tells them they are worthless and that they will fail. They chose to break free from those lies. We all must choose to live in the truth, the truth that we were not made to be mindless zombies and succumb to the creature that has cornered us. We must choose life. I have chosen life, I have chosen to live it to the fullest. God calls us to do so much more than we can even imagine, and no matter what you are facing, God will be with you. We must not live in fear, we must step out of the boat, and we must be focused everyday on what Jesus has for us. When we do that we choose life, and death has no power over us. The world is filled with things that will try to suck the life out of you, but we must fight back, because we have already won. Don’t be another victim of the world that surrounds us, finish the fight, and walk into the life that God has for you.

Choose to live life.

-Joshua Thomas

Don’t Go In There!

October is here! Temperature has changed, autumn is in full swing, and Halloween is right around the corner. I love this time of year, not only because I have a birthday on the seventh, but I love everything about this season. One of my favorite parts of this year is the incredible b-movies that seem to be on all the time. As you can see from the title of this blog site, I love a good b-movie, they’re always ridiculous and are great to riff on like Mystery Science Theater 3000 (If you have no idea what that is, please educate yourself on it, it is amazing). The best bad movies tend to be science fiction or horror, and there are some lessons that I have learned from them. I know, seems a bit odd, but I believe that God can use all things to teach us and show us some spiritual truths. This month I will be using some of these lessons in a Halloween themed posts.

Every horror movie does one thing very well. Yes it’s designed to spook you or gross you out, but there is one specific idea that never changes. There is always a scene where we know the house is haunted, an alien is now on earth, or the masked creep is trying to get us. Without fail, one of our heroes decides to go into that dark room, spooky forest, or open the barn door. It’s the moment that makes the viewer want to yell out, “don’t go in there!” Sadly, they never hear us, they go in and get attacked or grabbed by the creep. So often though, we make the same mistakes in our own lives, and no I don’t mean we go into the haunted house or are chased by melting men. We find ourselves believing that we are invincible, that we have it all together and we take risks we should stay so far away from. I was thinking about this and it just gave me a picture of that yelling at the TV to not go into the room, I think so often God watches us take risks like that and just begs us not to do it! I thought about this while reading in Timothy. Paul wrote to Timothy because he was a young man who was beginning his ministry. In the letters to Timothy, Paul warns him to be faithful of all things and one verse captures the core of why we need to be careful of all we do. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” That word timidity means lacking boldness or confidence, you see God wants us to stand up for what’s right. What that means is we need to choose not to go in that room, because that room is the temptation that we all face, coming in many shapes and sizes. That room is filled with nothing but death and sadness, something we were not made for, we were made with purpose and to be bold. We were made to be strong, to show love and to be focused on what matters above all things.

You are powerful in Christ.                                                            

Timothy was a young man who didn’t have years of experience under his belt, or have a fancy job that moved him up in the world. He was simply a man that wanted to follow after what God had for him, something that needs to be true for all of us. It’s easy for us to feel weak and want to prove our worth to everyone around us. We end up hurting ourselves more than doing the good that we so desperately want others to know about us, we try to show the rest of the group that we can fight the creature. We open the door and enter blindly, often without anything to protect us. This is such a foolish errand! One that I myself have too often tried to do, it could be in any part of our life. In ministry we try to prove to others that we are spiritual enough, or in school we kill ourselves trying to get a letter rather than attaining knowledge for our future. The thing is, we don’t have to prove anything, because God has already accepted us. He loves us so much that he wants to use us to do great things, and when we do have to face challenges, he gives us his word as a protection and guidance through all things. In Christ, we are powerful, we don’t have to prove our worth because God made us to be who we are. When we live in power, nothing can stop us.

We are called to love one another.

Paul looked out for Timothy. When the world was telling Timothy he was too young and didn’t have enough experience, Paul said he had more than enough. So often we see people, even people who claim to be a Christ follower, treat others as lesser humans. This is so tragic! We are called to treat others the way we would want to be treated, not tear each other down with our words. I have seen so many people feel beaten down because they feel like they can’t do anything, or that their mistakes define who they are forever. It is our job to come alongside one another and build each other up. We need to lift our brothers and sisters out of the trenches of sin, not push them deeper into it. We need to be bold, we need to stand up for those who are broken and hurting, we have been called to serve others. Love is an action and not just a feeling, we need to act in love and stand with those around us. When we stand together, through even the darkest times, we will not fail.

Be wise.

The last part of the verse speaks directly into each and every one of us, we need to have self-discipline. While we are powerful in Christ and we come together, we need to make wise choices. When we go back to the idea of not going into that house, we are adamant at the character to not even go near it, so why then do we in our own lives like to test the limits? It looks a little different now. So often we like to think of how close we can get to the edge when we should try and stay as far back as possible. We make compromises with God. It’s not that bad, everyone else does it, and I deserve this. We find ourselves doing things we shouldn’t. We self-medicate, we get to intimate before we say “I do,” and we watch things we know will corrupt our minds. Why not protect our hearts and minds? Why not take a stand for what we know is right, even when others don’t? So when we are with friends, maybe only have a couple drinks, or none at all. When you decide to pursue a relationship, set boundaries to guard your heart. When that Victoria’s Secret commercial comes on, change the channel, and get a filter on your computer. Don’t go inside the house, just drive past, and be wise.

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B-movies are campy and goofy, but they have truths to them that are vital to our walk with Christ. So often we want to do it all on our own that we end up hurting ourselves more than helping. We choose not to trust God, we choose not to have community, and we make foolish choices. We walk right up to the door and go inside, only to be devoured by the enemy. God has such a higher purpose for each of us, and yet so many times we choose to go our own way. People are yelling for us not to go into the dark forest, and yet we ignore every warning along the way. We need to be bold, to stand up for what we know is right, and live into the higher purpose we have been called to. We instead turn away from the dark path that only brings pain and step into the light. Nothing can hide once it is brought into the light. Step into the light, step into the vision that God has placed on you. Just as Timothy chose, live with a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. You were made for so much more than you can even imagine.

Be bold, and live with faith.

-Joshua Thomas