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

Taking Hold of the Vision

One of the biggest fears I have, is the question of am I moving to the place that I’m supposed to be. It’s the classic case of a kid wandering around and trying to see what their purpose in life is. I am definitely in that stage, a college kid with big dreams, ones that seem crazy to achieve. So, when I start to get fearful and over-think everything, I have to step back and look at what the vision for my life is. A vision for life is not a road map with a destination, but more like a guideline for the trip. It’s essentially how we are to live as we walk in life. I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of what my vision for life is, and more importantly what does Christ say my vision is. If you’ve read the last few posts of mine, you have most likely seen that I have been reading through Romans. I have loved reading it and thinking about what it has said, but all things end sometime, and I finished reading through it this past week. I say this because the last bit of it deals with what I think is the vision for our lives. Romans 15:5-7 says, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” From this, there are three key elements that show us how to live under the vision of Christ.

We need to own our faith, and live it.

The first part of those verses is Paul telling the Romans that God has given us essentially everything, and that we are to have the same mindset of Christ Jesus. We need to own our faith, meaning we need to not just know what the word says, but we need to live it. It’s easy to have an attitude where we know what it is we should do, but when it comes time to getting a little dirty in order to live our faith, we shrug it off and walk away. That’s not what we are called to do, we are to claim our faith. This means worshipping with all that we are, when no one is around to see. It means we read our bible even when we don’t Instagram it. It means talking to God in the good times and in the bad. Too many Christians make a show out of their faith, we need to make it personal and let our actions lead to the open doors for people around us. In order to live into our vision, we have to own our faith.

We need to come together as the Church.

Community is essential for humans. There is no worse feeling, than being lonely. When we are alone, no matter how solid we are in our relationship with Christ, we will fall, because there is no accountability. This is why it’s so vital to be in a church, serving, and proactively attending a small group. We should surround ourselves with people running after Christ, being open in prayer and helping our brothers and sisters in need. Finding that tribe to stick with will help you in your life tremendously. I’m so thankful for the close friends and mentors that have guided me through life. My family has been a huge part of my growth and I love all of them tremendously. My brother-in-law Tim, has been a great friend in my life, he’s the guy I wanted to take care of my sister. He has been someone that I can talk to, and he can talk to me. We both have struggles, because that’s a whole part about being human, but as we walk in life together, we can step away from our sin and step into our purpose. Tim is my friend and brother, I love him and his heart. People like Tim are the kind of people we need to surround ourselves with, that’s where we will have community.

We need to share our heart.

The final part of the verses in Romans say that we not only live our faith and have community with fellow believers, but we need to share our heart with those who don’t know what God can do for them. It would be crazy for us to keep the joy and the purpose we have found to ourselves, so why wouldn’t we share it? There are different answers to that question, but the main issue for me is fear. I’m afraid of what people will perceive me as or what they might say, but it’s silly to think like that. It doesn’t matter what happens, the best outcome is that they find that relationship and change the world, and the worst is they may just say, “No thanks.” Even then, I have planted a seed for Christ to start moving in their heart. Honestly the fear is a lie from the enemy, the lie may be something different in whatever your situation is, but it is a lie. We can do all things through Christ, we don’t need to be afraid of anything! We should share our heart at every chance we get, and never hide the joy we have found.

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To bring this together, our vision is the way to live our life. This doesn’t mean we will figure out exactly what we should do with our lives, it’s simply the way to live as we move forward. Do we feel lost? Sure. Do I feel lost at times in my life? Absolutely. But, I know that God has a plan for me, he takes my crazy dreams and will turn them into even bigger ones. I may not know where I’m headed, but I don’t have to be scared. I am living out my life through this vision, and by doing that, opportunities will show themselves and peace will follow. I hope that you live out this vision in your own life, and remember that you don’t have to fear anymore.

-Joshua Thomas

My Archenemy

In pretty much every superhero comic that has ever been written, the hero always has an archenemy. Batman had the Joker, Professor X had Magneto, Spider-man had the Green Goblin, and the list goes on and on. All of us deal with things that create conflict in our life, but we typically don’t have an archenemy that we face on a daily basis, or do we? This idea popped into my head as I was reading through Romans chapter 6, I’ve been reading through this book a lot recently because it is filled with tons of wisdom. Paul was writing to the people of Rome about this very topic, well sort of, he was speaking to the people on the fact that they were no longer slaves to sin, but become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:19-23 says, “Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As I read this, I began to see that we do in fact have an archenemy, someone who wants to stop us from stepping into what God has for your life.

The archenemy who was working to stop me from achieving freedom is myself.

Let me explain, the passage above said that we are slaves to our sinful desires. When you are saved however, we become slaves to righteousness. There’s just one problem with that, we have an active enemy who tries to use our weakness against us. Every day we must go to battle with the side of us that wants to give in to the sin that is all around us, keeping us from our purpose. We become trapped in fear and shame, making us slaves to sin. This happens to everyone, Satan just whispers small lies to us, and we turn them into a deadly weapon only created to harm us. We are trapped in this cycle of being a slave, but there is hope.

Although our sin causes death, in Christ we find life.

Paul says that when we offer ourselves as slaves to righteousness, which will lead us to live a life of holiness in Christ. We have hope, we have strength in Christ to fight against these lies that Satan tries to convince us of. You see our enemy is the part of us that feels like it needs to go back to its’ old master, but Paul says that we have a new master, and this master has our best interest in mind. He has a plan in mind for our lives, and he wants us to live in to our full potential. Without him though, it is impossible to fight our dark side, the part of us that wants to be a slave to the world rather than a slave to the God who loves us. God equips us to be able to stand against the fear that tries to hold us back, and the shame that causes us to hide and run away from our problems. I know that life is hard, because I have had to go through the pain that fear and shame bring. It seems like we can’t do it alone, which is true, but in Christ we can do all things.

Alone we are weak, but with God, we are strong.

We can’t fight this alone, we need the strength of God to get through the hardest situations. This means that we will have to face our fears and step out of shame. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it. I recently listened to an NPR podcast called, Invisibilia, where they were talking about fear and overcoming certain fears. In the episode, a man named Jason was interviewed about how he overcame his crippling fear of being rejected. He did this by facing his problem head on, and every day would try to be rejected at least once. He calls it “rejection therapy,” and each day he forced himself to get free from his fear of rejected by being rejected. It stuck with me because so often we feel like we are powerless from fear and we just want to run away. This man was tired of being crippled and decided to face it head on. I have no idea if he was a believer, but his story was an example for me of how to get free from the enemy that is myself. To fight it head on with the strength of Christ, because when we stand in the freedom that Christ gives us, nothing will be able to stop us.

Every super hero has an archenemy, but the hero always wins.

No matter how hard the fight is, the hero always saves the day in the end. You are set free from the sinful desires of yourself, and will live in Freedom through Christ. I hope this was an encouragement to you, because it was encouraging to me. I’m still learning every day, and I don’t have all the answers, but I do know one thing, that we find strength in the arms of our savior. I’m going to keep fighting, and I hope you will too.

-Joshua Thomas

Fearing our Dreams

As I was driving to a local coffee shop that I like to work at, I was thinking about what today’s post would be about. This idea popped in, because it is something that I have dealt with and continue to struggle with. Fear, more specifically fear of running after my dreams. One of the scariest questions I’ve ever been asked is, “what do you want to do in life.” I was asked this multiple times in high school and even moving into college. “What are you going to major in, what do you want to do for the rest of your life.” These terrified me, and to some extent still do. Why does is scare me, why does this question affect so many people. From what I’ve found is that when we are asked this question, we immediately think about our hopes and dreams for the future. We get nervous because we think about how difficult it may be to actually reach that dream.

We immediately question ourselves which in turn, makes us believe a lie that we can achieve nothing.

Our dream for our lives is what drives us, this vision that we feel we have been called to. As we think about what it will take to pull off, it becomes this giant mountain that we feel unequipped for. In that statement above, notice how I said it is a lie that we believe, meaning that it isn’t true. God doesn’t give us a vision for something that is impossible, no matter what the odds look like. Nehemiah had a vision from God to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, his dream was to rebuild the city and it became his passion. The road for Nehemiah was not easily laid out, or free from danger. The people that Nehemiah were tired and feared for their lives, and Nehemiah was concerned that his dream was going to fail, that he would never complete what he had set out to do.

Nehemiah came to a point where he could either turn away from his dream, or look to God for his strength and complete what he was called to do.

He chose the right thing to do, trust God and never give up. I think this is true in our lives, we all have dreams, these visions of what we are striving for guide us, drive us, move us towards a higher purpose. There’s nothing more heart wrenching than seeing someone have a vision that God has placed in their life, and walk away from it. We were made to face the fear and attack the lies head on, and learn from the work that it took to persevere.

Perseverance leads to wisdom and strength.

Will it be easy? Nope, as much as I would like to tell you that if you stick with it nothing will drag you down, I would be lying to you. Is it worth it? Absolutely. In my life I have been scared of my dreams, a dream to be in ministry, to prepare the next generation to do even greater things. A dream to do this through me speaking and writing to others, to empower those who feel like giving up. I want to do this because I have wanted to give up, many times I have wanted to take the easy road and walk away from my potential. I still do, but I’m ready to face the hard times. Nehemiah didn’t stand back and take it, he took steps to protect himself and the people he led, and we should do the same.

Protect yourself by living in the word and striving towards a better relationship with Christ.

I’m not perfect at this, but I will fight for the dream that God has given me with all that I’ve got. I encourage you to do the same, even if you feel like your time has passed, I assure you, God will use you no matter what your past is or how old or young you are. I know I won’t stop. I will impact the next generation, I will write books to empower others, and I will speak and teach leaders to be the best they can be.

What will you do?

-Joshua Thomas