Dreamer

“The message I give you waits for the time I have appointed. It speaks about what is going to happen. And all of it will come true. It might take a while. But wait for it. You can be sure it will come. It will happen when I want it to.”

Habakkuk 2:3 

I dream a lot. My mind often wanders about things I want to achieve in life, things that I feel a burning in my soul to accomplish. As a kid, I loved going outside to play. I would create vast worlds in my mind a live out a series of stories and adventures. Sometimes it was being a superhero or Jedi having to face great odds, a villain bent on destroying all of existence. Other times I would be a knight or samurai, a part of an army keeping the land safe. I dreamed awake, creating ideas and solving issue of the world. As I grew up, I continued to dream, talking about the future and the things that I was going to accomplish and save the world from. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received, was from a girl named Ellen in high school. She told me she wanted to join my group project in science because I was always dreaming and creating things. As I’ve grown in my walk with Christ, my dreams have shifted. I used to want to be a screenwriter making movies with beautiful stories, I wanted to create stories that spoke to the core of others and impacted them, but the Holy Spirit had more in store. The Holy Spirit shifted my mind, it was hard and my flesh didn’t know how to handle it, but my eyes were opened. God made me this way, not to be a screen writer, but a pastor. A mentor, someone who empowers others; a dreamer for a kingdom minded world. God made me a dreamer, and the truth is, he wants us all to dream bigger.

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Fun.

Confession time, I absolutely love the band Paramore. In middle school the album, “Riot!” and “All We Know Is Falling,” were on repeat often for me during school. Now, I do listen to music that isn’t targeted for angsty teens, but I always have fun listening to Paramore. In 2013, there was a song they put out on their self-titled album, called “Ain’t it Fun.” (I promise this is going somewhere) it basically starts by saying “Isn’t it fun how crazy and scary life is?” It then goes on with the idea that there are a million people in the world, so you can do it. I think that’s what fun does, it gives us a chance to get out of our own heads and worries and enjoy what God has around us. In this month of November, you are probably seeing many posts about what people are thankful for, and one of the things I’m thankful for is fun. I think it’s vital for not only our mental health, but spiritual health. You see fun is a blessing, one that God has given us to live in freedom.

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Be an Encourager

“So encourage each other and build each other up.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Ahh yes, the November weather has finally come! At least sort of here in North Carolina. I love this month, I love October, but I really like the themes that surround November. Thanksgiving time is here, which means many blogs about things we are thankful for, but one of the things I want to do is talk about ways to treat those in our lives. Family is big to me, not just biological, but my friends; brothers and sisters in Christ. One of my favorite memories about November and thanksgiving is that each year, my family would open up our home to people who couldn’t make it home or may have not had family. It was always awesome to me, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for later (no spoilers). I think so often we talk about what we’re thankful for, but sometimes don’t always show it. Talk is great, but God gives us actions to live out faith. Today I want to talk about something that many of us don’t do nearly as much as we need to, because we all need it desperately. We need to be an encourager.

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Speak Life

“Don’t let any evil talk come out of your mouths. Say only what will help to build others up and meet their needs. Then what you say will help those who listen.”

Ephesians 4:29

I love words. It’s one of the reasons I love to write, so many words with deep meaning can come together and create a complete thought. That thought can then translate into an idea, and ideas become unstoppable. They create change and leave an impact, but we have to be careful with our words. Many times, we get excited by the power of positive change and movements from people because of words, also have the capability to tear down and destroy others. I have a deep love of words, but I also understand that they have a dark side to them. It all depends on how we utilize this powerful tool. We all have a responsibility with our words, one that we can use to build up and encourage, or tear down and crush others. Today I want to talk about the impact of speaking life can be towards another person, because we need this more than ever.

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Radiant

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27

I love this verse. It seems so simple yet it reveals so much about who we are and the purpose that we have been created for. I used to not think this way. I used to feel like I didn’t have a purpose or that I wasn’t good enough. My self-image was based on what other people would say or treat me like, and this made me feel so crushed. I used to be self-conscious about my body; I’m a very tall and skinny guy with a large nose, and kids I used to go to school with would rip me apart because of it. I hated it. I would wear hoodies all the time to hide my arms and never tried too hard to stand out. At home and with my close friends I felt great, they made me feel the way all of us should feel; wanted and important. Then I would go to school, it was difficult. I have always been a geeky kid who read comics and watched science fiction TV (If you couldn’t already tell by the name of the blog). I felt bad about who I was, yet I was exactly who God made me to be. The truth is, I think this is true for many of us, for you. We feel as if we don’t add up to the super-model standard that society seems to adore. We feel that we have to like what everyone likes, have a perfect body, have a picture perfect life; but we weren’t made for that. God made us for more, because he made us in his image, and those implications mean so much more than we can imagine. God created us to seek and save the lost, to bring hope to the hopeless, to fight for what is good and right. God made us to be radiant.

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You Make the Difference

Vulnerability moment: Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m making an impact. I love serving and do it each week because I love speaking life into others, but there are moments where I wonder if any of what I do means anything to anyone. I know that this isn’t true, when we serve others we make the difference, but it isn’t always easy to feel that way. I think the same is true for you. In your job, in your home, at the church where you volunteer; you have a hard time believing that people actually see the difference you make and the skills you bring to the table. We can feel unnoticed, wanting to be given a thank you or a simple thought from someone confirming that you do matter, but we don’t always get that. Now before I go any further, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a post for me trying to get anything from, I simply am trying to be vulnerable because I think we get into places where we feel this way. We have an active enemy that is trying to twist your thoughts to make you feel worthless, powerless, and alone. I want to help you win at life because you have a creator that says you are worth it. Your life has value. You make the difference.

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Pieces

There is something I have noticed in the bible. Over the past year I have been reading the works of Paul and focusing in on the wisdom that he had when it comes to a relationship with Christ. He is such a powerful writer, his letters went to each place where he addressed key aspects of their life that they needed to re-order. Each book is a letter, which caused me to stop and think, I love writing (I mean, why else would I do this each week!) and often I will analyze how another writer works because I want to grow my skills. My brain started thinking about Paul, and there is something that he does in each letter, each book that he authored in the bible, which have one common device. In each letter, he opens with a personal greeting to each of the churches, and ends with a final charge for that church. The content is different, but the opening and closing are always intentionally the same. He personally calls out to each church and ends with a prayer over them and gives them credit for the work that they are doing and continue to do. You see, I think Paul knew something very important, something that we as leaders in our communities need to understand and realize, the pieces make up the puzzle.

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Finishing the Fight

It never ceases to amaze me on how fast life changes and moves all around me. People are in your life and then go separate ways, a career can change in an instant, and what was once unknown has now become a reality. In my own life it feels like I’m moving towards one direction with everything I’ve got, yet now has been shifted dramatically. This seems to be the story everyone has faced since the beginning of time, it’s what life is filled with. Many times these changes and shifts in our path are for the better, and sometimes they are things we wish we never would have to face. In both situations, we have fear that influences us about how we react and what decisions we make. It would be much simpler if we had the ability to delete the hard and always accept the good things, but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Weather you and I like it, we have been placed in front of a decision. We can either let the fear of the hardship or possible failure control us or we can finish the fight.

It sounds daunting, and to be honest, it is daunting. Unless you are someone who knows what to do when the unexpected hits you or changes your direction, it is intimidating. The thing is, is that we don’t have to be blind, meaning that while the answers and secrets to life may not always be spelled out for us, we do have a guide to how we approach this fight. This fight is simply the opposition that tries to stop us from moving forward and growing into the people that God designed us to be. So this fight, is something that we may face daily, or it may be an event or drastic life change that tries to hold us back from becoming who we are meant to be. These are a few things that I have learned and have clung to during moments in life that try to stop me, from the hardship and the sucker punches that happen all the time.

Running away accomplishes nothing.

The first thing we need to know when life throws trials at us is that running away accomplishes nothing. Our problems will only catch up with us, kind of like a kid hiding from their parent after breaking something, it will always catch up. Once it does, the problem only becomes that much bigger! The book of James describes how we should first react when we first run into the struggle. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Instead of running away, we must address it head on, and know that through this trial, good will come. It will never be easy, but when we look at our problems and struggles from the perspective that perseverance will bring wisdom, we can take on anything.

Peace will come when we endure.

Once we choose to face the issue, we undertake the hard part. Maybe this means having a tough conversation with someone, it may mean having to distance yourself from a group or situation, or it may be something we cannot tangibly address. Dealing with loss, watching someone close to you while they hurt, or the feeling that what you once thought was your purpose, now has shifted. We don’t know how we can continue, but we are given the power to overcome all struggle and all trials that we face, big or small. As we endure the hardship and trust God during the things we cannot control, we become unstoppable. We step into the true design that we were created to do. James 1 continues with verse twelve that says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” As we place trust in the creator of all things, we are able to make it through the other side of the fight with blessings that will stay with us for the rest of time. We can endure, because God is bigger than our struggles. When we face our struggles and relying on the strength that comes from the Lord, we receive a peace unlike anything else.

No matter what happens, approach it with love.

This may be the most difficult aspect to wrap my own head around, how can I not let fear or anger control my actions when life gets difficult. So often in my times of hurting and fearing the unknown, I want to lash out at some of the smallest things. I feel like the Hulk ready to rage and go destroy anything in my path, but we can’t do that. I can’t do that. We would only cause more hurt towards those around us that may actually care about you deeply. Romans 12:17-19 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” And then ends with verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The biggest weapon in our arsenal is love, an action that diffuses the rage we feel we deserve to access. So in every situation, and every fight you end up in, choose love and you will be victorious.

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I think we all are facing challenges and struggles. We have dreams and visions for our futures, we want life to be simple. Yet we are in the midst of a chaotic world, some want to hide, some once had a desire to be more, and some have become tired of fighting. Many of us have a warrior spirit within us, I know I do, but it becomes hard when we keep having to fight and carry on. Often times what I forget is that I am not alone, Christ is with me, I just have to put trust in him. When I rely on my own strength I will fall, but when I abide in him, I become invincible. It’s like the movie, The Sword in the Stone, a boy who everyone sees as weak and is treated like an outcast, is able to take the sword because he is worthy. He takes his place, one he was destined to be in. You are like Arthur, you are worthy. I am worthy. We just have to have the courage to take hold of the sword and receive the power that it gives. So in you struggle and trials that you may be going through, take hold of the only thing that can give you true strength. Trust in Christ and you will be able to finish the fight.

-Joshua Thomas

Staying Calm through the Frustration

Frustration is simply the worst. Recently I have noticed a trend in my life and those close around me that as soon as one begins to gain ground and start making their way, opposition immediately decides to push back. It’s disheartening, it prevents the momentum that was started, and it leads to frustration. Sometimes I just want to scream because it feels as if everything is trying to stop me from moving forward. As we grow in leadership and stand up for what we know God wants of us, people, work, and self-doubt creeps in. It makes us frustrated.

Frustration disconnects us from what God knows we can do.

This often causes us as people to run away or feel hopeless. I know this, because I deal with this on a regular basis. I get started moving towards what I think God wants me to do, then someone makes a disrespectful comment, or I find myself in a situation where I thought I was prepared but end up falling. Life is never easy, if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re probably crazy. Moments like this make me want to quit, to give in during the battle. Sometimes God feels distant, like he left me on my own or that maybe he doesn’t even care at all.

The biggest lie the enemy tells us is that we are alone, and God has left us.

I was talking to my sister today as I talked about the frustrations that I face in my life, the biggest encouragement, was that she has the same feelings. That may at first seem a bit strange that I was encouraged by the fact that we both struggle, but it showed me that all of us as humans will struggle. We aren’t perfect, that’s pretty much the basis for everything that happens in the bible. We are fallen, and we need a savior to make us whole. The enemy likes to tell us that we are alone in our struggles and that everyone else has it figured out. When in actuality, we need to come alongside one another and encourage our brothers and sisters because we all struggle. After talking to my sister we were able to encourage each other and speak life into each other. I’m so thankful for my sister and my family, and as believers we should encourage those who are in our spiritual family.

God has a purpose in our time of frustration.  

As hard as it may sound, God uses our hardship to grow us and help us rely on him for all that we need. How do I know this, well the book of Romans has a clear message about the conflicts and trials we face. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called according to his purpose.” Notice how that verse doesn’t say in some things or in the good times of our lives, it says in all things God works for the good of those who love him. We have been called by God, chosen to accomplish different parts of his vision, and even when we feel alone or like we’re going nowhere, God will use us. When we start looking at hardships through this point of view, it relieves us of frustration and prevents us from sinning in our anger.

When we rely on God for support, encourage fellow believers, and live life viewing hardship as an opportunity, nothing will stop us from building the kingdom of God.

Life will be hard and we may feel like everything is against us, but nothing will get in the way of our relationship with God. The last few verses in Romans 8 capture this idea and set it in stone. Romans 8:37-39 says, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This verse encouraged me today as I was feeling like I couldn’t make it, like I was failing my vision, yet when we rely on Christ he gives me strength. This verse encouraged me and helped me through my feelings of frustration, giving me peace from my anger, it was what I needed to hear.

I hope that this encourages you, helps you during whatever you may be struggling with. You aren’t alone in this battle, God has put you where you are for a reason. He wants to see you grow and gain wisdom from the hardships you face, nothing will separate you from the love of God.

-Joshua Thomas