Grateful Heart

November is here! I always love this season. The leaves have changed, the weather is perfect for jackets, and the thanksgiving season is all around. I love what thanksgiving represents, not the whole pilgrims being murderer’s thing, but the mindset of being thankful for the things in our lives. Family, friends, passions, dreams; all of it have been given to us by a God that loves us. Sometimes, life pushes against this mindset. The enemy attacks, we enter hardship, and find it hard to have joy in our lives. We have blessings, but choose to have bitterness of what we don’t have. We have a choice to make. Do we let what we perceive as failures and setbacks as an excuse to live bitter? Or do we let these propel us into our future? This is something I have been wrestling through; walking through these rough moments that make me question what God’s plan in all of it is. The truth is, and this is a truth for all of us, God has a plan, we just have to trust him with a grateful heart.

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Spiritual Victory: Know My Name and All of My Hideous Mistakes

The title of this blog comes from a song by one of my favorite artists, Julien Baker. My close friend Daniel turned me onto her music, and it came just at the right time of my life. You see, this past year has been a season of unknowns. Lots of questions and self-doubt keep creeping in, causing me to grow more and more anxious. I ask myself, where do I fit in this world? What’s my place? What’s my purpose? I have these questions swirl because one moment, I feel like God is calling me to a certain area, and the next it feels like I can’t win. It’s hard being a graduate, everyone wants young fresh ideas, but want someone with years of experience under their belt. Not to mention the stereotypes that are perpetrated about millennials, things like we don’t work hard (except for the fact that many of us have two or three part time jobs to survive…*sips tea*). It’s easy to then translate these unwinnable odds as marks against myself, that I’m not good enough, but the truth is; we are called and we are gifted.

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Faith in Motion

For many of us, this current season has been one of change and filled with new things. The end of that holiday season brings back the reality of life. We have to jump back in the swing of things with work, school, relationships, and everything that comes with real life; these moments can seem like a growing beast that you have to get a handle on. For my life right now, big things are happening. Good things, nothing terrible, just big. I’m working part time at my church and stepping into more responsibility as well as being part time in an after school program. I love it. I feel like I’m hitting my stride, but with any exciting and new thing, the enemy can sneak in and try to lessen it. It happens so fast, and often in seasons that are busy, the enemy will try to sneak in. Maybe you’re in a busy season, or stepping into something new, in these moments you have to remember to keep moving. We have to keep fighting for what God has claimed over your life, we need to have faith in motion.

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Seeking His Presence

It’s now been a full week into the New Year. How have you done with your resolutions so far? Yeah me either. It’s funny how quick we can lose doing a resolution, so I’m trying to set goals for myself. While these seem similar, my goal is going to be things I aspire towards, where a resolution is a hard start and if you fail, it feels like you have made a huge mistake. I choose to set goals that I want to do daily in order to strive for more out of my life. Last week I talked about the characteristic I choose to take on for this coming year; how I want to be like an avenger. Goals are a bit different. Some goals I’ve set for myself this year are things I want to do that will help me be better at my daily walk. I want to write each day so that I can get better and grow as a writer. I want to read at least fifty pages a day, which is a lot, but I want to continue to read more and learn more through reading. I want to meet more people and learn their stories. I want to spend money wisely and avoid things in life that bring me down. The biggest goal I set for myself this year is this, I want to seek the presence of God each day and step into what he has set out for me.

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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

21 Days of Prayer and the Leadership of Joshua

As I sit in a coffee shop here in town, I have been reflecting over the past twenty-one days of prayer that just wrapped up at Daystar Church. It has been an incredible three weeks, filled with prayer and extended time in my mornings to read the word and study it. There’s something refreshing about being able to start one’s day off in the word, and actively pursuing Christ throughout my day. At the end of these three weeks, Daystar held its’ revival over three nights. This was a time filled with worship, teaching, and reflection over where we as the church are headed. It was empowering and encouraging to stand there with Daystars five locations, Cross-point Church, and Iglesia International, all coming together in worship. Needless to say this was an incredible time.

A habit of mine, typically, is to choose a book of the bible that I feel God wants me to spend time in and reflect on it during the twenty-one days. The book that I studied during this time was the book of Joshua (pretty good name of a book if I do say so myself). I love the book of Joshua because it encompasses the meaning of what a true leader is, and how his character should reflect the heart of Christ. Joshua was one of Moses’ close friend and follower, one who stood on the word of God. Basically he got it, he understood the power of Christ and did all that he could to best serve God and his people. He wasn’t born with supernatural bravery when he was called to lead the people into the Promised Land after the death of Moses, he trusted in God. As I was reading over his book, a few ideas popped out to me and I think it is important to share for people striving to be a leader that God has called us to be.

God Is Always There In Our Time Of Need.

Joshua was handed the responsibility of leading all of the Israelites into the Promised Land, this was a big duty and he felt overwhelmed, at first. Joshua was fearful of failing in his leadership, but every time he questioned his abilities, God immediately tells him to not be afraid or discouraged, because God said he would never leave him. It’s easy when in a leadership position to fear failure and question our ability, but God tells us that as we pursue him, he will pursue us. We need to trust him because he is the place where we will find the strength to lead.

God Will Use You If You Are Willing to Give Everything To Him.

In the city of Jericho, Rahab, who was a prostitute, took two spies sent by Joshua and protected them from the city guards. Because of her faithfulness and changing of her heart, not only was she saved when the city fell, but her entire family. Rahab changed her ways, and became a part of the lineage of Christ. Had Rahab never given up her past, she would have perished like the others in Jericho, and never live into God’s calling on her life. In our own lives, it’s easy to hold on to the sin of our past and refuse to let go, but if we don’t, we will never live into our full potential.

Be Wise About Who You Build Your Team With.

After Joshua and the people conquer to city of Jericho, and God tells the people to not rebuild the city or their people in the fallen city or they would fail in their next battle. The people listen to this warning accept for one man named Achan. In their next battle, many Israelites perished and they failed to take the city. Joshua was angered by the dissention that had occurred with those he was leading. The actions of one man caused failure. Achan confessed to his actions, but by then it was too late, the blood was already spilled. He was stoned for his actions due to the law. Now that doesn’t mean if someone makes a mistake they should be stoned, the message here is that in our team, we should choose people who are sold out for the same vision that you cast. If not, your ministry can be drastically affected and end up leading to nothing. Build a team that is sold out for the mission and let go of the people who are not passionate about the mission.

When We Fail, Don’t Lose Hope.

Joshua, like many leaders, became discouraged after this failure among his people. God speaks to him again and tells him to not be discouraged, but to learn from the mistakes and press on. We will all fail at some point in our lives, as leaders it can be easy to want to quit after things get tough, but don’t quit! God will use our failure and turn it into something beautiful. Wise leaders learn from mistakes, make the changes to be more effective, and finish the race.

And finally…

Your Life Is A Monument To God’s Power.

Over and over, Joshua is given victory over his enemies, and after every triumph, creates a monument to show God’s power. As a leader, your life is being looked at by everyone, and it can either reflect the power of God or turn others away. We need to be careful on how we use our influence and ask ourselves the reason behind our actions. Is it to bring glory to God, or to make me look good? Joshua took every opportunity to show others that God was in control and that He was the one giving him strength. Your life reflects if you are finding your power in God, or from yourself.

I hope you can take these ideas and apply them to your ministry. You are a leader, whether you see it or not, you have influence in someone’s life. Follow the example of Joshua and find your strength in Christ.

Thanks for reading, and as always, stay awesome.

-Joshua Thomas

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