Fear Stinks

Fear is just the worst. I’m not talking about the type of fear that comes over us when we watch a scary movie or hear a noise in the night, I’m talking about that great and powerful, “unknown.” Think about it, we are all scared by what we don’t know. Ever been at a party and you knew no one? It’s the pit in your stomach when you were in a class and the teacher said to choose a partner, but you have never spoken to a soul in that room. You kinda just have to go with the guy next to you, but if you have the luck like I do, you get partnered with the guy who blows his cigarette smoke into his backpack. That’s a true story by the way. I have never been more speechless than that moment. Anyways, fear of the unknown is extremely unsettling. It’s the reason why you rarely see the shark in Jaws, the picture you create in your mind will always be scarier than when you actually come face to face with it (though sharks are all kinda freaky to me). I recently dealt with this amped up fear of the unknown this past week, and came face to face with some heavy lies.

I want to talk about fear today, but more accurately, how fear truly stinks.

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Fighting Through Fear

October is my favorite. It’s a season for jackets, pumpkins, and spooky movies. Some people have negatively questioned my love of spooky things, but these spooky things have helped me cope with a lot of fear I had as a kid. We often give fear too much power, and Christians are especially guilty of this. In an attempt to turn away from sin, we decided to fear the “other,” choosing to stick to ourselves in our comfort zones; we have begun to fear the people that need to hear our message the most. We see people that are different, and we fear them, we fear that their influence will be “bad” for us, so we just avoid them all together. This is a mindset we have to fight because we are called to “fear not.” Joshua in the bible faced bigger things than many of us will, and God told him over and over to have no fear, to trust God and he would give him victory over his fear. This month is coming to an end, and I have been talking about how the enemy uses fear to try and bring us down. I like to fight back fear, because to fight means that we are active, and we must actively combat fear.

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Warrior Prayer

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Ephesians 6:12

During this season of prayer and fasting, our church holds a morning prayer time throughout the week. One morning as we began worship, I saw a man take his seat. The thing I noticed about the man, was that he was shadow boxing as he got to his seat. It’s a small thing, something that can be easily disregarded, but that picture stuck with me. So, I prayed into that picture, asked God what he was trying to say to me. Then it clicked. Prayer is often looked at like a small part of our walk with Christ, that it’s an asking of God to get the things we want. This is so wrong, prayer is not small, prayer is not to be overlooked, prayer is communication with the creator of the universe.

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In the Belly of the Beast

Some of my favorite descriptions of words, phrases, and grammar come from Lemony Snicket. I gushed about his books a couple weeks ago, so check it out if you haven’t. One of the descriptions he talks of is the saying, “in the belly of the beast.” It speaks of a figurative feeling one gets when in the middle of an unfortunate circumstance, but in scripture, there is a literal event where one particular individual is in, “the belly of the beast.” Jonah was a man who God called for a great mission, but he trusted his own power and not God’s. Because of this, he believed he could not accomplish it, so he ran. Isn’t that a perfect picture of what we do in our own lives? I’m a victim of it, we have a situation we think we can’t overcome, so we run, we retreat from the promise on the other side of facing great peril. The truth is, we rely too much on our own strength when we should be trusting God. We have a God who created the universe and loves us. You’re right thinking you can’t get through it, but God can. No matter what you’re facing, God can. The calling that looks too big? God can. The mountain in your life? God can. When it feels like the world is against you and there is no hope? God can. We can learn much from Jonah, we can learn how to act in the belly of the beast.

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Calm Through the Storm

Well it’s finally here. Today is the Monday before Halloween (Unless of course you are reading this early here!). The kids will walk around your neighborhood in the costumes they are proud of, candy will be consumed in vast quantities, and many laughs after frights will be had. My family loved Halloween, at my old church the kids had a fall festival my mom put on and I would work hard on a costume with my dad. Things like, a guy in a shower, a laundry basket, or garbage bag (all were real, and all were epic). The past week has been kinda crazy. My life has started going a million miles an hour, and stress has started to build. I’m stepping into new roles, and balancing several things on my plate. On a Tuesday I had a rough day. I struggle with anxiety, fears put in my head that tell me I’m not doing enough or that I’m not good enough. On Tuesday I had a pretty rough anxiety attack, the whole day my mind was constantly racing, worrying about my role and place in the world, I was afraid that I wasn’t doing all that I should, I was worried that people hated me, and I was afraid of countless scenarios that aren’t even possible. It didn’t make sense, but it makes sense now. I had fear in my heart, doing all it could to convince me I wasn’t who God made me to be.

But fear is from the devil, and the devil is a stupid liar.

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Exposed to Light

I have an old disposable camera. I found it, and started playing around with it. I took pictures on a road trip and when the pictures were developed, they had a great yellow tint due to the expired film. The camera was easily opened, so I got the idea to re-load the disposable camera. While this isn’t the point of a disposable, I had to give it a shot. I watched how-to videos and with my girlfriend, we tried it. I got about half way and stopped as the YouTube tutorial guy mentioned that you need a dark room or else the film would be exposed. Whoops! I had exposed a good bit of the film in the process, so when the pictures were finished developed, they had red where light had polluted the film. It got me thinking though, film works by exposing in a flash to capture the image wanted. In order to get the shot, you have to expose the darkness to the light. This has gotten me thinking, and it fits in well with our topic on fear.

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Overcoming Great Fear

My favorite part about the October season is to look at the way b-movie tropes can actually teach us to grow closer in our relationship to Christ. Say whaaat? Yeah that’s right, God moves in many ways, and I often see spiritual truths in movies and b-movies. It’s like, part of my blog. One of my favorite b-movies of all time is George Romero’s, “Night of the Living Dead.” Fun fact, b-movies is an old-school film term that referred to the movie that played after the a-movie at old Nickelodeons. You just got a mini history lesson. Now we see it as meaning a “bad” movie, but often it was a lower budget film. George Romero made the movie that created the modern zombie film genre today. You know, the hordes of mindless creatures that eat people and turn them into another member of their mindless feasting (yuck!). What happens in every zombie flick is the horde of monsters continues to grow and as our survivors fall, the heroes begin to lose heart. They become overwhelmed by the horde, falling to their fears one by one. Their fears overcome them, and the same is true for many of you.

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Fear Not

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.”

Exodus 14:13

The most common commandment throughout the bible is do not be afraid. Said another way, do not fear and its variations are used over and over again throughout scripture. This month begins a season of spookiness, and one of my favorite things I do on this blog is look at themes from b-movies and monster flicks and highlight the biblical truth found in these concepts. I promise I’m not sacrilegious, but I think biblical truths can be highlighted through this season. The biggest theme through this Halloween season is fear, and fear is from Satan. Plan simple, boom, we’re done. Not really. Fear is from Satan, and we know this, but why then do we feel fear? We feel fear because we choose to not listen to the most common commandment in scripture, we choose to rely on our own power and forget to be firm in a God who loves us. When we choose independence, we choose the enemy. We are not created to be independent, we are called sons and daughters made in the image of God, so therefore, we are called to fear not. Today I want to talk about an experience I had going to a haunted woods and what God tells us about trusting him, because fear is from the enemy and nothing good comes from anything other than God.

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Fear Not

I figured we would start this post off very simply. I am very afraid, but that’s okay. I’ll rewind a sec; I’m a pretty simple guy who loves to write and help people discover their God given purpose in life. But my fears are real. I will be finishing up school soon, which means I have to start figuring the core of life out. That whole job thing is kinda important to provide for myself and a family one day. I want to write books and be in next generation ministry, and that excites me, but it can feel like an army that I have to overtake to get there. It’s easy for me to get anxiety over things, the little things like being on time or registering for classes, and it messes with me. I try to do the right things and take the right steps, but it can feel like I’m doing all the wrong things and making it harder for myself. I think we all have struggles like this. Fear is something that can so quickly enter our lives and make us want to hide away for a while. I want to hide away. Thankfully, God has so much grace for me, he is able to pull me out of the moments where I just want to quit and says that he has more for me. He says this about all of us, and he tells us to fear not.

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I’m Terrified, and That’s Okay

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

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

God has designed you with purpose.

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

God will be with you, no matter what.

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

God wants us to obey.

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

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

Be strong and courageous.

-Joshua Thomas