A Guide for What Happens Now

“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.”

-1 Peter 2:21

A lot of crazy stuff happens in life. That should be its’ definition, a bunch of crazy stuff that comes up and you have to face. It can be difficult, like really difficult. We have heartache, pain, loss, and countless other factors that can change our lives. The first step in all of it is to trust God, but often we are left with one question. Now what? What happens when we make that choice to follow God, what am I supposed to do? This is a question that I think we all must come to terms with at some point in our walks. Whether you have just made a decision to follow God or have been following him for what seems like ages, we all must come face to face with this question. Because here’s the truth, when you make the decision to follow Christ, he wants all of you. He doesn’t just want you on Sunday mornings or in some Instagram post of your quiet time, he wants you. Last week I wrote a piece about the love note that God has written to each of us, and this week I want to share the guide map that he has laid out for us to follow.

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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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Altered State of Mind

Last week I talked about making a very important choice, a choice that will affect the rest of your life, but what happens afterwards? How do I go about living my life? So often we are able to make the choice, but we continue to live our lives as they were. This isn’t me saying we should all become hermit people only reading the bible every moment of the day, not a bad thing just basically impossible if you have to drive and interact with people, what I am saying is that we become changed people. A relationship with God isn’t some checklist to complete, that isn’t a relationship. We are in relationship with so many people, friends, family, co-workers; but the most important relationship we have is with our creator. When we spend time with these people in our life, we make an effort to connect with them, that’s what God wants for us. When we make the effort to connect with him, our outlook is altered.

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The Most Important Choice

Hello again my good reader! Over the past couple of months on this blog I’ve been focusing on different aspects that we can learn and use to build our arsenal against the trials that life throws at us. It has been somewhat of a theme, but today I want to focus in on the reason behind why I’ve been writing about these traits. My reasoning is because I have seen that only you can strengthen yourself. Here’s what I mean, we as people can listen to inspirational speakers, read the best books, talk to the wisest of people, but there’s one thing that we all forget. All of these are good, but it comes down to the fact that only you can make the choice over your life. This is one of the most beautiful lessons that Jesus teaches us, a gift he gives us. We all have a choice, and this choice is the decision of life or death. Yeah, that serious. Paul gives us the two options in plain, clear, view. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life.” One of the things that is so good about the bible is that things are so simple, a choice of living in sin, or turning from sin and running into freedom. It’s the choice, meaning the only choice we need. Do we follow the world, or do we choose to follow Christ? Without choosing to have a relationship with Christ, you can still work on the skills that I’ve written about, but it isn’t sustainable. Think of it like an environmental standpoint, if we keep using a non-renewable resource, we are left with nothing. Things break down, we lose the ability to live like we once were. The same is true without Christ, without having a daily renewal, we break down. We need to make the choice.

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Uniquely Created

I want to talk about something today that I feel like doesn’t get talked about enough. Creativity. We look around every day and look at a world filled with beautiful nature, excellent craftsmanship, and individuals who are each unique in every way from us. We look at it all, but something doesn’t quite sink in. We live in a world that was designed by an all-powerful creator, yet we forget to acknowledge the power that is in that. We forget the intricate processes of the body that allows us to function on a daily basis. We forget the fact that nature has an inner working system that literally gives life. And we forget that we have been designed with the ability to use our own creative minds. Each of us is unique, designed by a creator, each with the ability to give back with our own gifts. All of us have talents and abilities that add to the kingdom and the world we live in.

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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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Trusting Him with Everything

I hope you all are staying warm and safe from the icy roads! I am currently in a hotel in Lillington after spending a day visiting a friend. It was very crazy having my dad call me to tell me that the roads were too dangerous for me to try and make it, so I made reservations at the hotel. It’s currently raining and freezing from outside a coffee shop here in the town, and this situation, as well as what I’ve been learning throughout this week has lead me to one central idea. Trust. Trust is something that is hard for me, the word itself means to have a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. That’s a pretty big role to fill, yet God wants us to put our complete trust in him alone. For me, it’s hard to trust things and people, because all of us are sinners, people who are not perfect. If we expect imperfect people to be perfect, we will be disappointed. I often make that mistake, I really do mean often. I look to other people to trust in, because I can tangibly hear and see them, but I make them into a higher position than God himself. This is a dangerous way to live, Jesus called out the religious leaders of his time because they similarly put their trust in the law, while missing the son of God who was in front of them. I think that’s the danger of putting trust into someone or something until it turns into faith, and that’s something hard to admit.

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Persevering for Restoration

Life gets hard. If there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that fact. Sometimes it happens in unforeseen ways, giving a sucker punch to our gut. Other times, our own dumb mistakes can bring on heartache and pain. I know for me, both are true. I’ve faced storms throughout the past year and this year has been a fight as well. I’ve made mistakes, let my anger take over in moments of weakness. It’s a challenge I’ve always had, anger. Anger against those who hurt me, anger towards those who hurt others, and anger towards myself. I hate that part of me. I seek peace and a laidback nature, but when I don’t let God have control, I lose it. I’ll say things I can’t take back, whether true or not, the words will hurt. I share this because I struggle. I’m not a perfect person and neither are you. Maybe you struggle with anger like me, or maybe your thorn is of another kind. Addiction, holding on to grudges, pride, judgement, abuse; all of these many of us struggle with on a daily basis. All of these can cause a fracture in our relationships, hurting our families, friends, or our overall persona that people perceive of us. The funny thing is, we expect everyone around us to be the perfect person we are not. The dichotomy becomes our expectation of others perfection to counter our imperfection, thus creating the fracture. The only thing that can counter our imperfection is God’s complete perfection.

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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