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

This is always an exciting time for me. I get a chance to reflect on the good and the bad, but I get to move forward with a new vision of the year to come. A new year brings with it new chances to learn, new memories to make, and new adventures to undertake. This post may seem a bit different from my usual style, but I’m writing it this way to try and help you look at the year gone by and how you will take on the New Year that is to come. You see, this past year was filled with what seems like a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. It wasn’t easy, but then again, God never promised us easy lives. I saw friends pass away, friends that were like brothers to me, friends that showed me that I had value and loved me. I saw my brother-in-law (whom I call a brother) struggle with the dangers of addiction. I experienced the passing of my two grandmothers and the effect it had on my family. There was stress with college classes, responsibilities I have, feelings of doubt in my own talents, and watching other friends close to me suffer similar losses. But guess what? Even in all the hurt and pain, I found joy. I had a chance to remember the fun times I had with my two friends who had passed, I was able to reflect on how their lives shaped my own. My brother is now getting help for the addictions he battles, and God is truly working in and through him even in the midst of the pain. I saw my family grow close together in the loss and discover the value in time together. In the stress I learned so much in my classes on how to communicate, to make organizations function well, and present myself in a way that is respectful and wise. I learned that no one can take away what God has given me, because God designed me this way. My friends that were hurting, God let me be there for them, and I will always be there for them in the hurting. So much more happened as well, I met an incredible girl that I love spending time with; I’ve been able to see students in my small group step into their passions for poetry, music, and art; and I myself have discovered a desire to help others in their own walks of life. It was a hard year, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Over the past three years or so, every New Year I decide to take a character trait and apply it for the New Year. This is something that is similar to the My One Word system, but because I like to be a rebel sometimes, I’ve morphed it into a trait I want to live into. It is a trait that I view life through, because I believe it will guide me and teach me to not only follow God in a deeper way, but to make myself better. In 2013, I chose to be a servant, one who looks at the needs of others and helps them in whatever way they can. In 2014, I chose to be a hero, one who sacrifices their own life and desires for that of a greater cause. And in 2015, I chose to be an adventurer, one who takes on new challenges and experiences, and thrives. Last year truly was filled with challenge and experiences that made me stronger, and in that I was able to gain the reward that God used to teach me. This year, I spent a while in my devotions and quiet times really praying over what I want to live into this year. The catch with claiming what trait you will live into in the year, is that most of the time, it becomes true. I experienced the way it feels to serve others, to sacrifice my own wants, and to be thrown into an adventure. I always love a challenge, because people will tell you it’s impossible to achieve, and then when you achieve it, those same people will look up to you. This year I chose something that encompasses what I want to do, something that I will use to help as many people as possible, and something that God wants of me.

This year, I choose to be a doctor.

Now before you jump to conclusions, I’m not going to start med school, nor do I plan on doing back alley creep surgeries. No need to worry about me becoming the guy from Re-Animator and making a zombie. What I mean by I choose to be a doctor, is I choose to encompass what a doctor does. A doctor is one who heals the sick, one who takes in the broken and brings them back from the brink of death. I don’t have the power to keep people from dying, or heal people from physical disease. What I can do is be there for the people who are hurting, the ones who face the chasm of despair, the ones who feel alone; I can be a doctor for them. This trait is a promise to myself. That no matter what happens, I will never be cruel or cowardly. I will never give up, nor will I ever give in. A doctor comforts those who are hurting, and seeks out the solutions for the ailment one faces. I want to be like a doctor, when I see my family hurt, when I experience the sting of death, or when those close to me feel alone; I want to be there for them, and I want to seek out the solution for their struggles. The best part is, I know the solution, and the solution is Jesus. Because Jesus is in me, I can do all things through him. I can be a voice of comfort, one that uses his words for life and never to tear anyone down, even in joking. I can use my gifts and abilities to reach people who are wandering and are lost. I can help those who are hurting, because I have experienced hurt. For a long time I felt like I was worthless, but with the voice of people speaking life around me, I was able to know my worth. I choose to be a doctor because I think more people need to know that they are worth it.

Big things are coming.

Along with my trait of being a doctor, this year I want to be intentional with everything I do. Some of my goals (basically a better word for resolutions, because whoever keeps those?) for the coming year are big. They are big because I have a big God. My first goal is to continue to make this blog more effective. That means making it a place where you can come and be fed from the word and have resources to grow in your own walk. This means sharing it with people (it really does help me) not for my own sake, I don’t want that, I want people to come because God is guiding me as I write and I want more people to have that. I have created a new tab thingy that has some essential books that have helped me in my walk, as well as the books that I read throughout this year so you can have recommendations from me. My second goal, and this is the big one, is to write a book. Yup, a book. I have been praying and God has shown me that this is something I can do, so this year I will be writing what is tentatively titled, “Coffee Shop Thoughts.” It will be going through the fruits of the spirit, and how to live a life of freedom through them. I’ve never written a book before, so why not start now! I will most likely use an ebook format through Amazon, and I can’t wait to figure all that out! My intent is for the book to be a simple devotional as well as be material used in a small group format. My plan is to have it done and produced by summer, and in the fall, have a small group based on it at Daystar Church. My third and final goal is to never lose sight of Jesus. No matter what happens, I want to focus on the one who even made it possible for me to do anything at all. Jesus is the one that brought me out of the depths and saved me, so I want to run and never stop running towards him.

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So what does this year look like for you? You’ve been able to see my heart over the past few paragraphs, but what does this year look like for you. Think about what you truly want out of this New Year, what character trait do you want to have that will grow you and push you to be all that you can be? If you feel like no one is in your corner on this one, know that I’m with you. I may know you, or I may never know you. What I do know is that you were made by an amazing artist and one who built the universe. God made you. So this year, set goals, find a trait that you will latch onto, and choose to have joy in all of it. I’ve learned that we are not guaranteed anything, so make the most of every minute you have been given.

Make memories, take on new adventures, and love life.

-Joshua Thomas

An Active Pursuit

The year is coming to a close, and what a wild year it has been. Filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, but no matter what has happened, you made it through. Just take a moment on that thought, the problems that you faced and all the hardship you endured throughout the year never stopped you. I know that with the end of the year it doesn’t mean that you don’t have any struggles, I’m just simply reminded you and me how God continues to be with us no matter what. In thinking about what to write about this week (yes, sometimes I have writers block too), I was looking at Pauls’ letters that he wrote to Timothy. Timothy was a young leader in the church, he was untrained, had little experience, and he was passionate about building Gods’ kingdom. So often I think we feel the same, that we are young, unexperienced, and have very little training, yet we have a passion for Christ. Paul speaks to Timothy, but at the same time he speaks to each of us. We are all experiencing hardship, or have experienced it in the past, and Paul says that we should not be passive but be active in our pursuit of Christ. 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.” Such an awesome message, and I do mean awesome. It is an awe inspiring message directed to each of us. To the ones who feel unexperienced, the ones who feel like they are looked down upon because of their age, and the ones who are completely sold out for the kingdom.

One of my biggest fears is that I’m not making an impact on the people and world around me. I love people, and I love this world, but it is easy for me to fear what they will think of me, or fearing the failure that may come to me. I become timid, a word that means to lack courage or confidence, someone who is easily frightened. I think many of you may be timid. You’ve been beaten down by people around you. Maybe you’ve lost someone close to you, or maybe you feel alone. Maybe people have only ever said how you can’t do something, when you know you have a passion for it. I know how it feels, because I have gone through what you’re going through, but more importantly, Jesus knows your hurt and is the one who can pick you up off the ground and tell you, “Well done.” I think a lot of us need to hear that. We need to be active in our pursuit of Christ, because Christ did not make us to be timid. We have a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline, and when we believe this and pursue Christ, he meets us in the hard times. Instead of being passive and believing that we don’t have the courage or confidence, we must be active and pursue Christ even when it seems impossible.

You have a spirit of power.

Paul says this to Timothy for a reason. Not to boost his pride or make him feel like he is better than someone else, but it is a call to action. It’s a call to action for all of us. When you have a relationship with God, you have power. Not the kind of power that lets you walk on walls, or gives you a spider-sense, but one that gives you strength to make it through the hard times. It’s a power that lets you know that you have an all mighty creator who made a plan for you, it allows you to live in freedom rather than in fear. You have the power to have a conversation with the creator through prayer, no long a slave, but a part of royalty. It gives you the confidence to stand up for what you know is right, and speak life into those around you who are hurting. As a kid, I loved the X-men comics. It was always a bunch of misfits who had great power but were rejected by the world they lived in. They were hunted by people who hated them because they were different. The reason I loved these characters (and still do), is because they still used their power to save the people that hated them. What a beautiful picture of the Christian walk, even when people hate you and try to put you down, you have the power to save them. You have power. You may not be a mutant, but you have the power to save lives. Don’t live in fear, live with a spirit of power.

You have a spirit of love.

I like this one a lot. No, it isn’t referring to the chick-flick/ teen romance movie kind of love, but a love that is active. This is the type of love that does work, a type of love that works hard and doesn’t leave when problems happen. Love means taking risks, going up to the person that looks like they’ve had a rough day, listening to your sister share her struggles with you, or helping a friend laugh after they’ve only been able to cry. My sister demonstrates this all the time. It’s been a tough year for her, yet each and every week she leads a team and listens to their struggles and empowers them to lead the next generation. She comforts those around her and has a desire to actively pursue Christ no matter what. She shows love to everyone, even though she owes nothing. I’ll always remember in high school my sister would drive me home after I would have a rough day. She would listen to my struggles and be there for me, she was always there for me and loved me. Jesus showed us the perfect example, he died for us so that we could be saved. He was perfect, a sinless man, yet he chose to take on all our sin and shame so that we could be free. My sister has that spirit in her, I have it, and you have that spirit too. You have a spirit of love, one that is a choice, and one that requires you to take action. So step out in love, sometimes it may require a sacrifice of time, it may mean you don’t get to catch a favorite show, or do everything you want, but it is worth it. Don’t live in passivity, live with a spirit of love.

You have a spirit of self-discipline.

This is the nuts and bolts of what it means to be active. Just like if you were starting to exercise, you need a plan. You start to eat right, set a schedule, and set goals. The same is true in our walk with Christ. You need to fill your mind with the good stuff, so you read the word, spend time in prayer, and cut out the junk. What is the junk you ask? Well, it’s different for each of us. For me, it’s the endless hours of Netflix, the unlimited time on my laptop, and the endless hours of Call of Duty. These things are not inherently bad, but when I don’t set limits, I can get lost in them. So I set a schedule, I wake up and pray. Simple start to each morning. Each day I set a schedule, like on Monday’s I get up, head to Geeksboro, and write. Then you set goals. Maybe for you it’s to read more books this year, maybe it’s to start a quiet time, and maybe it means to start serving in some capacity. For me, I plan to read more books, continue to do my quiet times, and to write a book this year. I want to take this idea of self-discipline seriously, because I am serious in my active pursuit of Christ. The new year is a great time to set goals (I’ll talk more about this next week.), so I’ve set goals for myself and chose a word that I want to live through in the coming year, similar to what I’ve done in the past. I plan on reading more and keeping a section on the blog updated with what I’ve read so that I can help you read some great books that I have enjoyed. I plan on writing an eBook this year, and I will talk more about that later (Spoilers). Christ wants us to live a disciplined life so that we can grow ourselves and be effective in all aspects of our lives. Don’t live a lazy life, live with a spirit of self-discipline.

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An active pursuit. Complacency hates when we are active, complacency feels safe, but it only brings death. Complacency means that we are okay with the world around us, that we feel like life is fine. This is such a lie. We are surrounded by hurting people, people who need to be saved and need to find value in something greater than themselves. We ourselves have struggles this past year. We have seen people leave, experienced heartache, and have been beaten down. One of my favorite movie quotes is from Batman Begins. There is a scene when young Bruce Wayne falls into a well, and his father rescues him. Thomas Wayne then says to Bruce, “And why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Throughout all of our lives we continue to fall, and each time we learn to pick ourselves back up and continue our pursuit. You see, when we are with Christ, we understand that struggles produce perseverance. We no longer have to live timidly, but we understand that we have a spirit of power, and of love, and of self-discipline.

Actively pursue Christ with your life, and you will find true courage.

-Joshua Thomas

Give Generously

Well, Christmas is this week! Kinda crazy to think about how fast time flies when I look back at the year. Christmas really is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Whether it’s the music, the lights in the neighborhood, or the smell of a good ole pine tree in your house. I love it. I also love this time because we have the chance to give gifts to the people we love in life. Finding the right gift is always fun for me, trying to think about the person and what they would really enjoy. Oh and in case you are a last minute shopper, Amazon Prime is your friend (so you should jump on that!). Also, I’m not sponsored to say that, but if Amazon is listening, hello! Anyways, giving gifts is a great part of the season, and yes, receiving gifts is always great! It is a season filled with joy and reflection for me. I get to be with my family and loved ones and just share time with them, and there is no better feeling than that. Being generous doesn’t have to be the giving of physical gifts either. In Daystar Kids yesterday, I was able to lead the second hour service. The life app we have been looking at is compassion, and yesterday I shared the lesson about how Jesus was the greatest gift any of us have ever received. God sent his son to save humanity, humanity that is corrupt and is a fallen people. Humans that are imperfect, given a savior who was perfect. A savior that came in the humble form of a child. God gave generously.

God wants us to give, but he wants us not to just give a tithe, but he wants us to humble ourselves. We can give our time, abilities, and heart to others. When I think back on the memories of people who gave to me, its’ always been a time spent together, an empowering word, or just a real conversation about how we can change the world. Giving generously is simple, my fourth and fifth graders show me this any time I ask about how they can show love or compassion to people around them. One of the kids has a lot of siblings, so when they say things like, “I can help do the dishes,” you know they are giving generously. Another kid said they love doing art, so they could make cards for people. The best thing about working with kids, is that they are wise beyond their age at times. One of the students said they could sit with people at school who are alone, because they know what it’s like to be bullied and alone. That was a fifth grader. She knows how to give generously. Moments like this are the ones where I get teared up and probably look silly in this coffee shop, but it’s because I see the heart in each of these kids. In moments when we feel alone or that someone doesn’t care about us, we can give generously and change someone’s life. I’m writing with tears in my eyes because someone gave generously to me, and told me I was going to make a difference, that’s why we must give generously.

Give your time.

This is a hard one for most of us. It’s so easy to be self-oriented, that our agenda becomes more important than investing in the lives of others. I think about the times my parents would give up time for me and my sister. Each week we would spend time together, doing things like eating ice-cream and waffles for dinner, or eating under the table. There was one time where my mom and I went to see Star Wars when one of them came out, I love those movies, and my mom went with me even though she was confused about the story. She gave time. She gave generously. It taught me to live like that as well, I give up time to pour into students on my Sundays, and I meet with a couple high schoolers in the week, and I do it because I want to give generously in their lives. Sometimes Netflix binging can wait when those close to us need us. Something that many of us can learn. Give with your time, we aren’t guaranteed it anyways, so use it wisely to impact people in your life.

Give your abilities.

Last week I talked about how unique each of us is. You have been designed with incredible gifts and talents. I love working with the next generation because they see the value in using their gifts to create a better world and spread the name of Jesus. So why is it that when we get older we start to live like we can’t make a difference? That is so not true! Everyone is important, there has never been anyone who wasn’t special. If you are silently judging me and thinking I’m the kind of person that wants everyone to get a medal, you are looking at things all wrong (Yup, I just called you out). Too many people live with a cynical mindset, trust me, I can be very cynical. When we look at life this way, we miss out on the chances to take a leap or help someone chase their wild dream! All too often we tell people they can’t, and rarely tell them they can. I think that’s sad. I think it’s sad because God made us with a purpose, we make larger ripples in the universe than we even can imagine. I have a dream to reach the next generation and help people find their purpose, so I decided to start a blog. I told my sister that when I first started (She is wise beyond her years) and rather than saying that’s silly, she told me to do it. She gave me confidence to put myself out there, and I am so thankful for that. You, my dear reader, have been given gifts. No matter how old or young you may be, you can change the world. If no one has ever told you can do it, know that I believe you can do it. Give generously with your abilities because God will use your effort to change the world.

Give your heart.

No, I don’t mean donate your heart (you can’t live without that, silly!). What I mean, is that before we can truly step into what God has for us, we need to give our life and place our trust in Christ. The first step to opening up a door to the vision of your life. When you do this, your life will change. You will begin to look at the world differently. When you have a relationship with Christ, you begin to treat others the way you want to be treated. You start to speak life giving words over others, and hold back your tongue when someone crosses you. God has much for you, so give your life to him. When you live differently, people notice. You make a bigger impact when you give your heart. I’ll always remember a certain moment in my life where things clicked, where I knew that God had more for me. It was in a passing moment with my middle school pastor who would invite me to serve at a local elementary school in a not so great part of town. My pastor, Marshall Johnson, knew that I felt alone and not worth anything, and he simply said, “Joshua, you are going to do great things one day.” Now I know it may seem like I’m trying to humble brag right now, but far from it. I’m simply sharing a simple memory that altered my life. I’m sharing it, because we have the ability to use our words and change lives of the people around us whom may be struggling. Give your heart, because when we do, we accept the responsibility of changing lives for the better.

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Giving generously is so much more than a present on Christmas. Giving generously means looking at the world around you and seeing how you can show love and compassion to another person. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose affair, it could simply be a text to that friend you haven’t seen in a while, laughing with the people you love, or sitting with the person who feels like they are fighting alone. Giving shouldn’t be a Christmas time feeling, it should be an everyday choice. A choice to give your time, abilities, and heart to grow closer to God and follow his vision for your life. You have dreams, and they may seem crazy, but God wants to use your dreams to impact this world. Speak life to the people around you, use your abilities to serve others, and give your heart each day to accept what God has in store for you. Live a generous life. So when you see moments where you can give to someone else, take hold of it. God gave his own son to save you. He gave the ultimate gift. So help your siblings wash dishes, draw a card for your friends, and sit with the person who may feel the same way you did. That is how you can live a life that honors God.

That is how you give generously.

-Joshua Thomas

 

Meaningful Memories

The past few weeks this idea of making memories has been a heavy thing on my heart. It’s an idea I’ve never really thought much about before, but I think it is not only important, but vital to our lives. This past year has been crazy, crazy for my own life, crazy in the life of the world all around us; there has just been a feeling of uncertainty that seems to have clouded the year. For me, the future is always a big mystery, one that I can get so caught up in. So, when the moments of chaos happen, I tend to immediately look ahead, I start to plan on my own strength. I think this is true for all of us, each of us wants to have control over our life and what happens in it. No matter how much planning and stressing over what may or may not happen, we ultimately have no control over what happens tomorrow. This may sound bleak, but this is just the opposite of what God tells us. God doesn’t want us to stress over tomorrow because he will take care of tomorrow and the next day, we should live for what today will bring. James 4:14-15 says, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” This verse really captured this feeling I have been having about making memories, living for the moments that today will bring you, because we are not promised tomorrow.

I was watching an interview from the band that was playing at the Bataclan, during the Paris attacks recently. The “Eagles of Death Metal,” gave an interview to Vice about what happened during the attacks, what they experienced and how terrifying it was. It is a great interview. (Note: there is explicit language used, not gratuitously, but it is evoking their feelings. Viewer discretion advised.) The main theme that kept coming up was how scary it was and how they were not sure if they would make it through the rest of the night. I reference this because it is a sentiment that we all share, we are not promised tomorrow, but that does not mean that we should live in fear. In thinking and praying about what it means to live in Christ day by day, and how we can take hold of every opportunity and moment we are presented with, I have three simple sentiments that I think God wants us to make memories in our lives.

Life is short, don’t miss out.

This may seem like a cheesy statement, but it is one to be taken seriously. We are not going to live forever, sorry to crush your dreams if you thought otherwise, but we are so fragile. So what is holding us back from making the most of everyday? Each day we are given multiple opportunities, opportunities to speak life over people, opportunities to show the love of God, and opportunities to lead others into the kingdom. I think about the ministry of Jesus, he spent his time with the people who were outcasts and those who were hated, because he had the opportunity to show them the truth and to save them. Each day we come in contact with people from all over, all walks of life, and we have no idea what they might be dealing with. Now this isn’t meaning that life is short, so go cliff jumping or act foolish, this is a call to make memories of impacting others. We are not promised tomorrow, but we can make a memory today that can be carried by others for the rest of their lives. Just like the verse in James talks about, press into what the Lord is leading you to each day, and make memories that impact others.

Live with compassion.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is holding onto grudges. You know, not letting go of something that really doesn’t matter in the big picture. Learning to forgive is a challenge, but it is one that will only help you in the end. This is something I have had to learn to really do, to show forgiveness to those who have hurt me, even if they never apologize for the hurt caused to me. When we hold onto grudges, we feel the hurt that was caused over and over again, and our entire life is affected by it. Our attitude is filled with anger, we lash out at people who only want to help us, and we lose sight of our relationship with God. I’ve never met an angry person who has an intimate relationship with God. You may want to argue with me about that fact, but I think our relationship with God reflects our outward attitude towards others. I can say this, because I am a victim to the power anger can have in our lives. Many people in my early schooling life treated me poorly, bullying me for the person God made me. I still know their names, faces, and what they said; but I forgive them. I choose to not live with chains binding me down, I choose to live with joy and in freedom. When we choose to have compassion and to forgive those that hurt us, our chains fall off and we can continue to walk towards our vision. When we do this, we make new memories, ones with love and joy, memories that have the faces and names of people we deeply care about, and we hold onto the good memories we make. When we live in anger, we miss out on the opportunity to make memories that will impact us, and we lose the wisdom that comes from those opportunities.

Meaningful memories take a chance.

Some of the best memories I have made have been spur of the moment chances. This past summer my dad and I went on a road trip to New York, and all along the way we would stop at random diners, local antique shops, and comic shops from TV. These were simple, not planned weeks in advance, just simple fun moments that we took a chance on. As a family, my parents would do something fun with my sister and I each Friday. We would do goofy things like have ice-cream and waffles for dinner, or eat under the table. Simple moments, but I will never forget them. All of these memories take a chance, they may require you to use some gas, to possibly make a mess, or to lose a little bit of sleep. We can make excuses, but these excuses will make us miss out on some truly joyful moments, moments that God has presented us with. Everything we have can vanish in an instant, so take hold of each day, and take the chance on making a meaningful memory.

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We are never promised tomorrow. Life is chaotic, things can happen in an instant and take us off guard. So many tragedies have happened this year, and even in the recent months. We live in a world that has been separated from God, a world where we are so busy focused on what we want and not what God wants for us. No matter how many laws are passed, or safeguards we put up, we will never be at peace. Our trust needs to be placed in the creator of the universe. Each day we need to know that we have a chance, a chance to impact the people around us, a chance to make a memory that will direct our life. When we live each day listening to what God has for us, no matter what happens to us, we can know we have victory over the enemy. In times of tragedy like the recent attacks in Paris, or the daily struggles of not feeling worth it, or when it feels like the world is crashing down around us; we can use our words to speak life, we can comfort those in need, and we can rally around those who feel like they can’t do it alone. We can make memories that will last forever and impact what we do and how we live forever. So take hold of every opportunity, have compassion to everyone around you, and take a chance on the moments life presents you with.

Make meaningful memories.

-Joshua Thomas

Live in Victory

As November comes to a close, so does the mindset that Thanksgiving brings. It happens every year, we get excited about the coming holiday and forget the things that we have been blessed with, simple things like the device you are using to read this on. God has blessed us with so much, but we don’t deserve any of it. This past month and even the past year has been filled with crazy things for me, I have seen addictions take their toll on people I love, I have seen friends suffer and lose the fight of depression, and I have experienced the death of family; but I am blessed. This isn’t a post to get attention from you or to gain sympathy, I am simply here to share with how much God has given me, even when it seems like the world is falling. During all of the craziness God still moves, I have seen the healing of addictions, I have seen the support of the families that lost their sons, and I have been surrounded by people who truly care for me and my family. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “You are all sons (or daughters) of the light and sons (or daughters) of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” I have been reading though this book in the bible over and over, and every time, the idea of living in victory keeps reigning true.

None of us are worthy of the blessings we have been given, yet God still gives them. That doesn’t even make sense! God has saved us, he has given all of us a purpose. This past Sunday my mom, in our Daystar Kids small group huddle, was reflecting on how people have served her during this time of craziness in life. All people have a choice. We can either live in victory, to be in the light, or we can live in defeat. That verse from Thessalonians is both a truth and a call to action. We have been redeemed when we grow in relationship with Christ, and then we must choose to live completely in the light. So…how do we do that? Well if you look just a little further down in the book, it tells us! (Aw yes! So nice of it to do that.) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Three simple statements that can alter the reality and mindset that you live in. I want to spend the next little bit expanding on what these look like practically and how they have dramatically changed my life. God has blessed all of us, even when we struggle and don’t deserve it at all.

Be joyful always.

It can be easy to misinterpret this one, being joyful sounds simple enough, but that always is where it can get tough. Life isn’t always the most joyful, we have people that treat us poorly, we have stress from school and work, and we are surrounded by a world that is divided and thrown into chaos almost every day. Being joyful isn’t the emotion of feeling happy, it is the choice to not let our struggles control us when we are not happy. Think of it like a relationship. If you truly love and care about someone, you work to make the relationship stronger even when you might not always “feel” like it. A choice, not a feeling. The choice of saying I will not let my circumstance control how I live my life. You are a child of God, one that has a purpose for more than you can imagine, choose to live in the light. I try to live my life with joy, it doesn’t mean I’m super human or perfect, it simply means that I have to actively choose joy even when life throws punches at me. So when I have the chance to have fun and be surrounded by people that bring me joy, I grasp tightly to it. Too many times people get bogged down by dwelling on the world around them, and this is so tragic. Trust God, in him you will have joy and he will give you the moments to enjoy. This past weekend I was able to spend time watching Doctor Who with my girlfriend, simple moments that I absolutely love. Why? I was able to spend time with someone I care about, to laugh and enjoy life, to grab hold of the moment that I had been given. I am a son of the king, and I choose to live in joy.

Pray continually.

This one is so vital. Prayer is the way that we communicate to God, the way we build a relationship with the creator of the universe. Prayer is rather simple, which shocks most people when I say that. The common picture of prayer is the getting on my knees, hands put together life that emoji (you know, the one that could also be a high five), but this isn’t the case. While that is definitely a great way of humbling one’s self, it’s not practical when driving a car or roller skating (yes roller skating. I’m not really sure why I said that either.). I like to make the joke in small groups when talking about prayer that it can be as simple as asking God if I should eat pizza or a taco, both solid options but never both. Simple things you ask God prepare your heart when you need to come with the big prayers. The ones that you need the creator of the universe to help you in, the ones where you cannot possibly make it through alone. That’s the beauty of prayer, you are never alone. God doesn’t want us to just come to him when we need something, he wants us to be in a daily conversation with him so that when the big things come, he is already listening. Prayer doesn’t mean a get-out-of-jail free card, it is the foundation on which you build your relationship with. It is a choice to speak to the one who has loved us since the beginning.

Give thanks in all circumstances.

Note that the verse doesn’t say, “In the month of November” or, “When you have the best day ever.” All circumstances means every day all year round. Like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, “the best of times, the worst of times.”(Literary reference, check.) This is the last of the three choices we must make, and this is the one that truly opens our heart to what God has. Focusing on the negatives in life will hurt us, emotionally and physically, but when we choose to look at our situations and be thankful, we have life. The story of my mom this past weekend really made me think about how much people have come alongside of me and my family through everything. We have to look at the world through new eyes. Look at how Paul lived his life, we wrote many of the New Testament books from prison. He didn’t wallow in his situation, he simply saw that God had placed him there for a reason. Think on your own life, the disappointments, the bad choices, and the people that may have hurt you; all of these things led you to where you are now, to this moment in time. You and I have grown and matured through hardship, we have a story we can use to help others. Your circumstance can be used to save a life. You just have to choose to be thankful in all things.

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Three simple choices. Three choices that can either help us live in victory, or fall into the hands of the enemy. We are sons and daughters of the light, we don’t have to live in darkness, and even when it seems like there is no hope, God provides the way. We are all in a battle, one that is a daily fight; but God has already won, he defeated the enemy. We are all fighting, but the world has too many warriors, we need doctors to save those who are lost. We must choose to step into all that God has for us. As I look at my life, I am so blessed and thankful for what I have experienced. If I had never struggled, if everything had been easy, I would never be where I am today. I would have never learned what it means to live with true joy. I would not understand how vital my communication to Christ is. I would never have learned how to be deeply thankful for every blessing, and neither would you. I thank God for all he has done; I am running after a dream that seems crazy, I have a family that I love and keeps me strong, I have a relationship with an amazing girl, and I am surrounded by people whose stories empower me and fill me with passion. So when you feel like you are surrounded by darkness, look up to the sky and see the light that God is leading you towards. You are a child of the most high.

So live in victory.

-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

The Dangers of Going Alone

Life is filled with unpredictable things. Things we don’t always see coming, good or bad. It can be easy to feel like we are just completely helpless, like we are powerless over what happens to us. These events can hurt and leave us speechless, but we can also have events that lead us to be better people. No matter what happens to you, God wants to use it to build you into a stronger person, and he doesn’t want you to go alone. As we continue with the Halloween month (insert wolf howl here) I want to take a look at one of the number one issues that people in b-movies have, and that is that they try and go it alone. It’s the number one mistake of any bad boy from any movie, the whole “I got this” attitude has never helped anyone. God over and over again in the bible shows examples of people who try to go it alone, and just like the classic line from the Legend of Zelda, it’s dangerous to go alone. For me, I can get caught up in trying to be independent from God, thinking that I can do it and don’t need any help, but this is the opposite of what we should do. God wants us to be dependent on him because he will guide our every move. So how do we begin to live dependently? How can we go into every situation ready for what might come our way? Well I believe three things found in the book of Acts outlines what we should do. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

I want to spend the next bit talking about three vital things to help us take on any challenge that we will ever face. I want to talk about them because they are things that have helped me so much throughout my life. From the good and the bad, I have trusted God and continue to learn and grow each day. My hope is that you feel empowered and grow stronger yourself. The truth is, you were made for more. You are designed for something so much greater than you can even imagine. God has a purpose for you.

Wield the sword.

This is the first step to being prepared. The bible is the place where we find all that we need, the wisdom to take on every opportunity that happens to us. The bible talks about how the word is a sword, a weapon capable of stopping the enemy where it stands. This is such a good truth, so many times we can feel discouraged or feel beaten down by the words spoken over us or the trials we face, but God’s word lifts us back up and enables us to fight back. Our enemy is real and he wants to stop at nothing to keep us from pursuing the kingdom. It reminds me of the crazy Evil Dead movies (viewer discretion advised, like watch the TV version) where the main character is faced with hundreds of skeleton and zombie enemies, and even his own hand is turned evil (literally). So he arms himself with a chainsaw and a shotgun and fights, it’s a weird movie series for sure. So many instances in my own life have been filled with people around me speaking death and even my own thoughts tearing me down, but when I read the word daily, I arm myself against any attack from the enemy. God’s word is a sword designed to teach us and give us protection no matter what comes our way. He doesn’t want us to go alone, he wants us to take the word and guard our hearts.

Surround yourself with a team.

So we have the arsenal, the teachings from the apostles, but now you need the fellowship. When I think of this I think of two teams from classic 80’s movies that take care of the creepy creatures. The Ghostbusters take care of all your ghost problems, and The Monster Squad, fighting off the ghoulish fiends that try to hurt you. Two hilarious movies with an important lesson. You need a team. The first step is getting armed, but then you need people to surround yourself that push you to be the best you can be and that will stand by your side in the darkest hour. For me, this changed my life, being able to have godly men that I call brothers now join with me through any pain, and lift me up saved my life. It gave me courage and I was able to then lift up those who helped me. This is why small groups are so important to me, because they have the power to lift people up and speak life over each other. God designed us to be around each other, to be in community, don’t try and go it alone. Choose the right people to stand by, these are the people that deeply care about you and lift you up, if they tear you down with words, they won’t stand with you in the tough times. You need a team, because it’s bad news to split from the group, which never ends well for the lone wolf. Stand with a group of believers and fight the fight together.

Be prepared for anything.

The third and final component from this verse, is being prepared. Prayer is the way we do this, it is the open conversation with Christ that gives you the ability to take on whatever comes your way. You have the arsenal, the team, and now you have the guidance from the most powerful person in the universe. It makes me think of the Frog brothers from The Lost Boys, two kids who know how to handle any kind of terror you may face. Zombies, a whack to the head. Vampires, wooden stake and garlic. Werewolves, silver bullets. Okay so we know that these aren’t real things, but when we talk to God, he gives us the wisdom to handle anything. If it’s choosing that career you want, or wondering if the decision you’re making is smart or not, God gives you the preparation. So we need to speak and listen, God has something for you every day, so don’t miss it! Prayer is so vital because it will guide you in every moment of every day. Prayer prepares us for anything that may come our way.

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It is so dangerous to go into any situation unprepared and alone. While it may seem silly to use all of these examples from goofy movies, there is such powerful spiritual truths found in them. For me I have tried to go it alone, try to take on the world by myself. I have always failed. The reason I fail is because I am imperfect, and so are you. Christ was perfect, the only perfect person who gave his life to save us, the ultimate story of a martyr. Life will hit you hard, so don’t try and take on the world. God wants us to meditate on his word, find community, and continually have an open conversation with him. Don’t go alone, be dependent on the one who created all things, who knows you, the one who wants you to help change the world. Be wise, choose him. Get ready for the daily battle you will encounter. Wield the sword, surround yourself with a team, and be prepared for anything that comes your way. When we all do this, we have victory over the enemy.

Don’t go it alone, stand with the creator of the universe.

-Joshua Thomas

Revealing Your True Identity

People are funny things. We are individuals with unique talents and interests, yet so many times we try to hide our true selves behind a mask. I’m sure you’ve seen what I’m talking about, that friend who will change their whole personality based on who they are around. People that act one way in front of you, then act like they don’t even want to be seen with you. Ouch. Experiences like that never feel good and when it happens to me, I get so frustrated, but the sad thing is, I’m guilty. We are all guilty of pretending to be someone we are not. As I was thinking about the idea of hiding behind a mask, I was reminded of Scooby-Doo. In every episode there is some ghoulish thing creating chaos in an old mine, abandoned mansion, or creepy museum. The gang of teenagers and their dog jump into the mystery machine in order to solve the case, and every time, it is revealed to be just a simple person hiding behind a mask. Usually it’s the keeper of the house trying to protect what they value, a thief who just wants the jewels, or the business man trying to run someone out of their home. They are all looking for what they believe will make them happy, yet they forget that when we hide behind a mask, we lose sight of what is really important. In the process, we end up hurting ourselves more than helping when we hide behind the comfort of a mask.

This month I’ve been doing themed topics around Halloween, and this was one of the biggest topics I wanted to make sure to cover. I love being able to dress up in a costume and have fun with friends. It’s silly and fun, but in life, it is such an easy task to just put on a mask, to be someone God never wanted for us to be. For me, in high school, I hid behind a mask I made. I was afraid to be myself because I thought the person I was wasn’t good enough. So many times people had judged me for what I liked and the way I acted, I was afraid to step into who I really was. For a while I hid, and each day I kept hiding behind this façade, but I never felt complete. I was missing out on what God wanted for me, and the people close to me could tell. I wasn’t connected to the church because I didn’t want it, I had experienced hurt and saw my family struggle with it, and I wanted nothing to do with it. That all changed, when I came to my current church, I met a group of guys who were themselves, people that weren’t afraid to be different and most importantly, they weren’t afraid to be running after God. That’s what I want to talk about today, I want to help you (yeah you!) to learn how to remove your mask, and be the person God made you to be.

Different is good.                                                                            

You are a unique person, no one else is like you, even if you have a twin, no two people are the exact same. That’s a good thing! Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone were the same? It would be so boring, we would never grow, we would never have fun, and we would just be the same. So why do we want to fit in with everyone? We are afraid to be different. It’s such a foolish idea, if you love something, don’t give it up to fit in. God gave you talents and abilities so you can use them to impact those around you. Just look at the leaders of the church in the bible, each one was different in their own unique ways, and they were used to do extraordinary things! Once you realize that you are different, you can begin to take off the mask. Don’t be afraid to stand out, people will follow someone who chooses not to be of this world, and God wants to move in your uniqueness.

Be in community.   

Nothing is more important than surrounding yourself with others that will build you up rather than tear you down. Many of the times we put on a mask is to impress a group of people that doesn’t deserve your time. Every 80’s movie depicts this, the geeky kid wants to fit into the group of cool kids. That was me, the geeky kid, who just wanted to be what I thought was “normal,” but normal isn’t nearly as exciting. Just like every 80’s movie, the kid discovers that being cool isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, and they find a group that they truly fit in with. That is such a good piece of truth, we need a life giving community to help us be accountable and build each other up. We all need community, we all need people around us to walk through life together and look out for one another. You are different, and so are other people, come together and learn from each other. We all have a different story, and your story will help someone more than you can even imagine.

Take chances.

One of the biggest tragedies that happens when we wear a mask, is that we miss out on opportunities to step out in faith and take a chance. I used to be so petrified to stand out and take a chance on something, it made me miss out on opportunities. Now, I go into every situation with a trust on God, because often the worst thing that can happen is I fail, and try it again. We learn through the experiences in our lives, we learn through the key observations we make in every situation. I took a chance in starting this blog, I felt like I had some things to share and didn’t know how to share them. So I started writing, a lot, and made this blog with the purpose of getting my thoughts out there that God had given me. Now, I love writing, I love being able to do this each week, but had I never taken the chance, I would have never cultivated a passion for writing. Think about your own life, what is something you’re afraid to do because it may be a failure? I encourage you to try it (unless it’s to be a shark whisperer that I bet takes a ton of training.), the worst that can happen is that you don’t succeed. So you try something else, all while listening to what God is leading you towards. Take a chance.

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Just like in Scooby-Doo, we like to be the person hiding behind a mask because we are so lost. To be honest it’s hard to be your true self, to reveal your identity that Christ gave you to the world, but it is so worth it. We stop being the bad guy, and we become the group that wants to solve the mysteries in the world with others around us. For me it meant that I’m a geeky guy who is passionate about Christ and reaching the next generation. For you it could be standing up for what’s right in your career, or just simply stepping out and encouraging that friend you know is struggling. God made us to be individuals, to not hide behind a mask of doubt and fear, but to step into his presence and follow him. Be yourself, because your true self is more beautiful than you can even imagine. Don’t fake your way through the struggles around you, come into your community that brings life, God wants you to trust him with everything. So be different, stand with fellow believers in community, and don’t be afraid to take a chance. Remove the masks that you hide behind in life.

Reveal your true identity in Christ.

-Joshua Thomas