Never Walk Alone

I’ll never forget the creepiest class I took at UNCG. I was in a “history of horror films” class that met for three hours every Thursday night. It was a blast, scared me to death, but it was such a blast. Sure, some parts of the class teetered on the “this is too much that I want in my mind,” but with an understanding professor, it ended up being a fantastic experience. The only bad part was, by the time the class had ended at nine, the campus was empty. It was dark and eerie, and after talking about horror, it made for a bad combination. I learned that walking to the bus pickup spot was really creepy alone, but luckily, I made a friend in the class who also went to the bus stop. After Jamal and I decided to go together, the creepy night wasn’t so bad.

It’s funny how much of a difference that made, and the same can be true with many different things as well. It helps to have a workout partner to keep you motivated. Going to the movies is a lot more fun when you can talk about what you just saw over milkshakes (Now I want milkshakes). Playing board games with a group leads to lots of laughter. While these are pretty surface level things, when it comes to more serious matters, we choose to walk alone.

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Blocked or Blessed

I recently have started adding podcasts to my morning runs. I normally have been listening to music to help me get hyped, so the heavy rotation was the Frozen soundtrack or Czarface, ‘cause you know, my fav Disney movie and a rap group with members from Wu-Tang Clan go together. Instead of listening to music, I started listening to podcasts to help me deepen my relationship with God and grow as a leader. I recently listened to a podcast called, “Leadership Lean in with Chad Veach.” Chad Veach is the lead pastor of Zoe Church in LA, and I really love his perspective and attitude when it comes to leadership. In the course of the podcast, he said that there is something he has learned when it comes to discerning decisions and other areas we find ourselves in. He said that God often times will block it, or bless it.

That idea hit me, because it’s so true, and it’s often the biggest hang-up we can find ourselves in.

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Circles: The Power of Small Groups

I want to share something that has made a huge impact on my life today. This has been something that empowers me and gives me a strong community. Today I want to talk about small groups. Often times we can feel disconnected or alone, and this is a dangerous place to be. Satan loves to prey on the lonely people. I know this because for a long time, I felt lonely. In middle and high school, I didn’t fit in and hadn’t found my tribe. Spiritual attack was more difficult and temptation grew stronger. Then I entered into a small group, a group of brothers my age that loved me and held me accountable for what I was choosing to do. I entered into a circle. See for a long time, the church has just been about rows; listen to the pastor and try to remember what he said two weeks from the message that spoke to your heart. We’re human, we don’t always remember messages, but when we enter a circle, we enter a dialogue. We become an active participant to God’s greater plan for our lives.

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The Long Journey is Worth the Wait

This past week I went bicycling on the Virginia Creeper trail. It was a blast of a day trip. I woke up at six, carpooled with Danielle at seven, and then spent the day riding up to the trail. We arrived at a cute little bike shop and road up the winding path with an old bus driver who told us all about his grandchildren and great grandchildren. The drive took about a half hour, then we began our trek down. The weather had fooled us, so we were a bit colder, causing us to layer up and for me to use Danielle’s extra socks as gloves (Hey, I mean whatever works, right?). We road our bikes in the cold and stopped a few times to warm up our frigid toes. We survived on Fig Newton’s (the only restaurant on the path was closed) and luckily only had my chain pop off once. It was a long journey, which took us around three-ish hours as opposed to the half our ride up, but the journey was worth it. I think the same is true in our own lives. God gives us desires and passions in our hearts to do amazing things, but the journey can often seem to be never ending, but there is a purpose in our journey. The long journey is worth the wait because God shapes who we are in moments of wandering.

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Growing Your Skills

One of the things that I believe effects almost every person, something that holds many of us back, is the idea that we know everything. If you just slightly wanted to disagree with me, you’ve just proved my point. We can easily get it in our heads that we are the best, or that we know all there is to know about life, a hobby, or in your work. This is the thing that causes us to get angry when someone disagrees with our opinion or idea. We immediately jump to conclusions, thinking that the person disagreeing just doesn’t like us as a person (Which can totally be possible) or that they think we are somehow less of a human being than they are. It holds us back, causes us to get easily offended, and stop us from growth. So, what can we do to stop believing the world revolves around us? We learn. A simple idea, and one that God wants to help us do in order to pursue our purpose. When you stop and say, “I don’t have all the answers,” you embrace humility and begin a new journey. This idea isn’t a new one, it’s something that Paul in the bible knew and one that he shared with Timothy. Paul writes in 1 Timothy, directly to Timothy as he begins his own ministry. He essentially tells Timothy, we are all sinners, which means we can never add up to the glory of God, but God had mercy on each of us and he showed us the ultimate grace. Once we live with this mindset, we then hold onto truth, seek after true knowledge, and listen to our elders who have walked before us. Paul is telling Timothy that he may not have all the answers, which means he has the capacity to learn and grow his skills.

When I was reading through this, I was reminded of a verse that captures this idea of growing and cultivating our skills. Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, “If the axe is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is required but skill will bring success.” Or another version in the ESV says, “If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” I love the simple example this verse uses, basically if your tool is breaking down, sharpen it. The same is true with our minds, if we feel like we are not learning, search for wisdom and practice your skills. I want to share today about how to press into God and learn from him. I believe that every person was made for a reason, and that every person impacts the world. Don’t sit back and let the opportunities to learn pass you by, take hold, and grow your skills.

You are unique.  

When learning a new skill, or cultivating a pre-existing one; you have to know that you are unique. We all have different styles, different ways of processing things, and different ways we see the world. This is a good thing. Can you imagine if everyone were the same? (Actually many authors have in fact, i.e. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley) It would be pretty boring and new ideas would never be created. Grace Hopper captures this idea when she says, “The most dangerous phrase in the English language is ‘we’ve always done it this way.’” This idea kills new ways of approaching things and prevents you and me from trying new things. You are unique, plain and simple. You were designed by a God who created the universe and everything in it. You may be a skilled communicator, or have musical talent unlike anything else, or maybe you have the uncanny ability for comforting those who are hurting. Whatever it may be, you are good at something because you have individuality that God has given you. So discover what that skill is, try new things. The worst that can happen is you aren’t good at it and you move on, not everyone has the bow staff and nun chuck skills like Napoleon Dynamite. You have skills, because God made you, you.

Live a humble life.

So you are talented, and you have super awesome cool skills; but be careful of pride. So many pop culture icons we can see this downfall with, a person with great talent and ability, but believe the world revolves around them. You have to remember that you are not the greatest, you have the skills, but your attitude is what speaks volumes. When we look back at Timothy, he was a young leader in the church, and he was good. Communicated well, led many to Christ, but always had a mentor. He looked to Paul that had experienced so much, I can imagine that there were times when Timothy had an idea and Paul had to say no. When we live without a humble heart, we take offense easily to an elder telling us no. When we live desiring growth and what God wants, we understand when we are told no. At the same time, if you hold a high position, and someone lower on the totem pole has an idea, don’t be offended if it doesn’t match with the way you would do things. We need to always be open to change and criticism, because only then can we grow and improve. Our lives, or careers, and our ministries can benefit from this idea. All too often ideas are shut out because a younger person wants to try new things. Be open, and be willing to listen. When we let go of our hold onto the way it has always been done, can we experience growth. So live humbly, the world will keep going if you stop, press into the new ideas and listen to the voice of God.

Never stop learning.

I love to learn. I used to hate it in school, not understanding why it was important, but there is so much value to learning. We have opportunities all around us to learn new things. Maybe it’s from a coworker, a new book, or from the wonders of YouTube. The purpose of learning is not to have knowledge or the answers for a trivia game, it is to think differently and act on that. I search for new things every chance I get. I read books to be more informed or to find new ideas, I watch TED talks to be informed about the culture and climate of the world I live in, and I listen to Pastors who speak from their heart about the wonder of God. I never want to stop learning from people with great skills. You can learn from everything, even from people that don’t believe the same things you do. One of the biggest tragedies that believers fall into, is that anything not directly tied to God is unimportant. This is so wrong! Spiritual truths come from the Lord, even when it is not presented from a believer. Now you may disagree, but I’m not saying that you should believe all you hear. What I am saying is that God uses everything and everyone to speak to us, and when we are in scripture, we can discern the truths from the fallacies. Don’t close your mind off from new ways of leadership and new ways to look at the world that you live in. Always have the mindset of learning, and never stop growing your mind.

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Never sit back and let your skills go to waste. The world we live in needs people like you. People that know they have been made uniquely, people that live humble lives, and people that are always wanting to learn more. Live into the purpose you were made for, take the steps that will move you into your passion. Dream big, listen to the people who have gone before you, and do it with an attitude of bravery. Growing your skills takes time, you may even fail one or two or twenty times to get it right, but you were made for more. You were made with purpose. You influence more people than you can even imagine. Sharpen your mind just like you would a dull axe, because only then will you be effective in your purpose. So be unique, live humbly, and always be learning.

Never hold back from growing your skills.

-Joshua Thomas

Learning to Rest in Times of Growth

Recently, my life has begun to move in a great pace with opportunity and success from hard work. It’s a great feeling to make an impact, to be using your talents and see the harvest that comes of it, but this can be dangerous. You may be saying to yourself, “Hold up, I thought you were describing things that are good? My answer to that is yes, it is good as well as a dangerous area.

Before I start confusing you, let me explain. I am currently in my second year of school at GTCC and will transfer to UNCG next semester. I am the youth intern at Daystar Church, assisting our Youth Pastor with behind the scenes planning and odd jobs that need attention. I am also Daystars Tap college ministries male community leader, essentially overseeing the small groups and empowering the leaders. I also lead a fourth and fifth grade small group on Sunday mornings in the Daystar Kids next gen ministry. I love everything that I am a part of, I am overjoyed to serve in such a great place, and I am thankful for my education.

None of these are inherently bad, but can be dangerous.

I have noticed recently that I am easily tired and often question if what I do is even worth it. This isn’t just a struggle that I have, but have seen people in my church and close family have these same issues. It’s difficult to pin point the main issue, and if you have been feeling similar lately, there is hope.

In times of busyness and growth in our lives, we take on more tasks and more responsibility. This is normal, but we must be careful, if we are not able to find rest we will fail in our mission. A term thrown around a lot in situations like this is known as, “burnout.” This can mean taking on more tasks than we can achieve, or forgetting to re-fill our spiritual tank.

If you want to accomplish anything, you must attack the problem preventing you from your goal.

Addressing the issue is not easy. Taking on more opportunities is a good thing, to a point, but once it consumes all of your time, this is the moment to re-evaluate what your mission is. Ask yourself why you keep taking on more responsibility, and yes it is perfectly fine to say no to some things. Rather than doing more, be the best at the little that you already have. Direct energy towards your ministry you have been called to, and cut out the things that cause you to be less effective in all areas. This is applicable to every area of life, whether it be in your ministry, job, or relationships with others. Move the mountain piece by piece, rather than attempting to lift it at once.

The next big problem that causes this idea of “burnout,” is the issue of doing it all by yourself. In modern American society, the theme is to be independent, but we need to be dependent to be effective. As believers, our strength does not come from us, but from our creator.

If we are not actively pursuing God in our personal life, we can accomplish nothing.

Spending time in the word, praying daily, and worship allow us to recharge when we lose strength. God allows us to find peace when life starts moving so fast, he provides us with all we need to be an effective leader in our lives. Without him, we are weak, but with him we are strong. He provides rest to us who are weary.

Now you may be thinking, “What exactly is rest?” Why I’m glad you asked, rest is a gift from God that comes in many forms. Sleep is a natural gift from God, and that’s incredibly important. Time with family is rest, these people are the closet in your life, and they know you and give you advice during the hardest times. One of the biggest ways we find rest is by doing the things we love, our passions and hobbies allow us to step back and find rest in the chaos of life.

For me, I enjoy writing, listening to music, drawing, and watching movies. These help me find rest, even when I may not have endless hours to devote to these. Even being able to spend a small bit of time doing these, I am able to have true rest and hear God speak to me. Your life may look different and you may have radically different interests, but whatever you are passionate about, find rest in pursuing them.

Life is crazy, I don’t think anyone will deny that, but we don’t go through it alone. Evaluate your priorities, remain in God’s presence, and pursue your passions. You will find rest in the chaos, the growth, and the unknown. God gives you the rest to carry on.

-Joshua Thomas