The New Year

This is always an exciting time for me. I get a chance to reflect on the good and the bad, but I get to move forward with a new vision of the year to come. A new year brings with it new chances to learn, new memories to make, and new adventures to undertake. This post may seem a bit different from my usual style, but I’m writing it this way to try and help you look at the year gone by and how you will take on the New Year that is to come. You see, this past year was filled with what seems like a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. It wasn’t easy, but then again, God never promised us easy lives. I saw friends pass away, friends that were like brothers to me, friends that showed me that I had value and loved me. I saw my brother-in-law (whom I call a brother) struggle with the dangers of addiction. I experienced the passing of my two grandmothers and the effect it had on my family. There was stress with college classes, responsibilities I have, feelings of doubt in my own talents, and watching other friends close to me suffer similar losses. But guess what? Even in all the hurt and pain, I found joy. I had a chance to remember the fun times I had with my two friends who had passed, I was able to reflect on how their lives shaped my own. My brother is now getting help for the addictions he battles, and God is truly working in and through him even in the midst of the pain. I saw my family grow close together in the loss and discover the value in time together. In the stress I learned so much in my classes on how to communicate, to make organizations function well, and present myself in a way that is respectful and wise. I learned that no one can take away what God has given me, because God designed me this way. My friends that were hurting, God let me be there for them, and I will always be there for them in the hurting. So much more happened as well, I met an incredible girl that I love spending time with; I’ve been able to see students in my small group step into their passions for poetry, music, and art; and I myself have discovered a desire to help others in their own walks of life. It was a hard year, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Over the past three years or so, every New Year I decide to take a character trait and apply it for the New Year. This is something that is similar to the My One Word system, but because I like to be a rebel sometimes, I’ve morphed it into a trait I want to live into. It is a trait that I view life through, because I believe it will guide me and teach me to not only follow God in a deeper way, but to make myself better. In 2013, I chose to be a servant, one who looks at the needs of others and helps them in whatever way they can. In 2014, I chose to be a hero, one who sacrifices their own life and desires for that of a greater cause. And in 2015, I chose to be an adventurer, one who takes on new challenges and experiences, and thrives. Last year truly was filled with challenge and experiences that made me stronger, and in that I was able to gain the reward that God used to teach me. This year, I spent a while in my devotions and quiet times really praying over what I want to live into this year. The catch with claiming what trait you will live into in the year, is that most of the time, it becomes true. I experienced the way it feels to serve others, to sacrifice my own wants, and to be thrown into an adventure. I always love a challenge, because people will tell you it’s impossible to achieve, and then when you achieve it, those same people will look up to you. This year I chose something that encompasses what I want to do, something that I will use to help as many people as possible, and something that God wants of me.

This year, I choose to be a doctor.

Now before you jump to conclusions, I’m not going to start med school, nor do I plan on doing back alley creep surgeries. No need to worry about me becoming the guy from Re-Animator and making a zombie. What I mean by I choose to be a doctor, is I choose to encompass what a doctor does. A doctor is one who heals the sick, one who takes in the broken and brings them back from the brink of death. I don’t have the power to keep people from dying, or heal people from physical disease. What I can do is be there for the people who are hurting, the ones who face the chasm of despair, the ones who feel alone; I can be a doctor for them. This trait is a promise to myself. That no matter what happens, I will never be cruel or cowardly. I will never give up, nor will I ever give in. A doctor comforts those who are hurting, and seeks out the solutions for the ailment one faces. I want to be like a doctor, when I see my family hurt, when I experience the sting of death, or when those close to me feel alone; I want to be there for them, and I want to seek out the solution for their struggles. The best part is, I know the solution, and the solution is Jesus. Because Jesus is in me, I can do all things through him. I can be a voice of comfort, one that uses his words for life and never to tear anyone down, even in joking. I can use my gifts and abilities to reach people who are wandering and are lost. I can help those who are hurting, because I have experienced hurt. For a long time I felt like I was worthless, but with the voice of people speaking life around me, I was able to know my worth. I choose to be a doctor because I think more people need to know that they are worth it.

Big things are coming.

Along with my trait of being a doctor, this year I want to be intentional with everything I do. Some of my goals (basically a better word for resolutions, because whoever keeps those?) for the coming year are big. They are big because I have a big God. My first goal is to continue to make this blog more effective. That means making it a place where you can come and be fed from the word and have resources to grow in your own walk. This means sharing it with people (it really does help me) not for my own sake, I don’t want that, I want people to come because God is guiding me as I write and I want more people to have that. I have created a new tab thingy that has some essential books that have helped me in my walk, as well as the books that I read throughout this year so you can have recommendations from me. My second goal, and this is the big one, is to write a book. Yup, a book. I have been praying and God has shown me that this is something I can do, so this year I will be writing what is tentatively titled, “Coffee Shop Thoughts.” It will be going through the fruits of the spirit, and how to live a life of freedom through them. I’ve never written a book before, so why not start now! I will most likely use an ebook format through Amazon, and I can’t wait to figure all that out! My intent is for the book to be a simple devotional as well as be material used in a small group format. My plan is to have it done and produced by summer, and in the fall, have a small group based on it at Daystar Church. My third and final goal is to never lose sight of Jesus. No matter what happens, I want to focus on the one who even made it possible for me to do anything at all. Jesus is the one that brought me out of the depths and saved me, so I want to run and never stop running towards him.

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So what does this year look like for you? You’ve been able to see my heart over the past few paragraphs, but what does this year look like for you. Think about what you truly want out of this New Year, what character trait do you want to have that will grow you and push you to be all that you can be? If you feel like no one is in your corner on this one, know that I’m with you. I may know you, or I may never know you. What I do know is that you were made by an amazing artist and one who built the universe. God made you. So this year, set goals, find a trait that you will latch onto, and choose to have joy in all of it. I’ve learned that we are not guaranteed anything, so make the most of every minute you have been given.

Make memories, take on new adventures, and love life.

-Joshua Thomas

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Live in Victory

As November comes to a close, so does the mindset that Thanksgiving brings. It happens every year, we get excited about the coming holiday and forget the things that we have been blessed with, simple things like the device you are using to read this on. God has blessed us with so much, but we don’t deserve any of it. This past month and even the past year has been filled with crazy things for me, I have seen addictions take their toll on people I love, I have seen friends suffer and lose the fight of depression, and I have experienced the death of family; but I am blessed. This isn’t a post to get attention from you or to gain sympathy, I am simply here to share with how much God has given me, even when it seems like the world is falling. During all of the craziness God still moves, I have seen the healing of addictions, I have seen the support of the families that lost their sons, and I have been surrounded by people who truly care for me and my family. 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “You are all sons (or daughters) of the light and sons (or daughters) of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” I have been reading though this book in the bible over and over, and every time, the idea of living in victory keeps reigning true.

None of us are worthy of the blessings we have been given, yet God still gives them. That doesn’t even make sense! God has saved us, he has given all of us a purpose. This past Sunday my mom, in our Daystar Kids small group huddle, was reflecting on how people have served her during this time of craziness in life. All people have a choice. We can either live in victory, to be in the light, or we can live in defeat. That verse from Thessalonians is both a truth and a call to action. We have been redeemed when we grow in relationship with Christ, and then we must choose to live completely in the light. So…how do we do that? Well if you look just a little further down in the book, it tells us! (Aw yes! So nice of it to do that.) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Three simple statements that can alter the reality and mindset that you live in. I want to spend the next little bit expanding on what these look like practically and how they have dramatically changed my life. God has blessed all of us, even when we struggle and don’t deserve it at all.

Be joyful always.

It can be easy to misinterpret this one, being joyful sounds simple enough, but that always is where it can get tough. Life isn’t always the most joyful, we have people that treat us poorly, we have stress from school and work, and we are surrounded by a world that is divided and thrown into chaos almost every day. Being joyful isn’t the emotion of feeling happy, it is the choice to not let our struggles control us when we are not happy. Think of it like a relationship. If you truly love and care about someone, you work to make the relationship stronger even when you might not always “feel” like it. A choice, not a feeling. The choice of saying I will not let my circumstance control how I live my life. You are a child of God, one that has a purpose for more than you can imagine, choose to live in the light. I try to live my life with joy, it doesn’t mean I’m super human or perfect, it simply means that I have to actively choose joy even when life throws punches at me. So when I have the chance to have fun and be surrounded by people that bring me joy, I grasp tightly to it. Too many times people get bogged down by dwelling on the world around them, and this is so tragic. Trust God, in him you will have joy and he will give you the moments to enjoy. This past weekend I was able to spend time watching Doctor Who with my girlfriend, simple moments that I absolutely love. Why? I was able to spend time with someone I care about, to laugh and enjoy life, to grab hold of the moment that I had been given. I am a son of the king, and I choose to live in joy.

Pray continually.

This one is so vital. Prayer is the way that we communicate to God, the way we build a relationship with the creator of the universe. Prayer is rather simple, which shocks most people when I say that. The common picture of prayer is the getting on my knees, hands put together life that emoji (you know, the one that could also be a high five), but this isn’t the case. While that is definitely a great way of humbling one’s self, it’s not practical when driving a car or roller skating (yes roller skating. I’m not really sure why I said that either.). I like to make the joke in small groups when talking about prayer that it can be as simple as asking God if I should eat pizza or a taco, both solid options but never both. Simple things you ask God prepare your heart when you need to come with the big prayers. The ones that you need the creator of the universe to help you in, the ones where you cannot possibly make it through alone. That’s the beauty of prayer, you are never alone. God doesn’t want us to just come to him when we need something, he wants us to be in a daily conversation with him so that when the big things come, he is already listening. Prayer doesn’t mean a get-out-of-jail free card, it is the foundation on which you build your relationship with. It is a choice to speak to the one who has loved us since the beginning.

Give thanks in all circumstances.

Note that the verse doesn’t say, “In the month of November” or, “When you have the best day ever.” All circumstances means every day all year round. Like the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, “the best of times, the worst of times.”(Literary reference, check.) This is the last of the three choices we must make, and this is the one that truly opens our heart to what God has. Focusing on the negatives in life will hurt us, emotionally and physically, but when we choose to look at our situations and be thankful, we have life. The story of my mom this past weekend really made me think about how much people have come alongside of me and my family through everything. We have to look at the world through new eyes. Look at how Paul lived his life, we wrote many of the New Testament books from prison. He didn’t wallow in his situation, he simply saw that God had placed him there for a reason. Think on your own life, the disappointments, the bad choices, and the people that may have hurt you; all of these things led you to where you are now, to this moment in time. You and I have grown and matured through hardship, we have a story we can use to help others. Your circumstance can be used to save a life. You just have to choose to be thankful in all things.

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Three simple choices. Three choices that can either help us live in victory, or fall into the hands of the enemy. We are sons and daughters of the light, we don’t have to live in darkness, and even when it seems like there is no hope, God provides the way. We are all in a battle, one that is a daily fight; but God has already won, he defeated the enemy. We are all fighting, but the world has too many warriors, we need doctors to save those who are lost. We must choose to step into all that God has for us. As I look at my life, I am so blessed and thankful for what I have experienced. If I had never struggled, if everything had been easy, I would never be where I am today. I would have never learned what it means to live with true joy. I would not understand how vital my communication to Christ is. I would never have learned how to be deeply thankful for every blessing, and neither would you. I thank God for all he has done; I am running after a dream that seems crazy, I have a family that I love and keeps me strong, I have a relationship with an amazing girl, and I am surrounded by people whose stories empower me and fill me with passion. So when you feel like you are surrounded by darkness, look up to the sky and see the light that God is leading you towards. You are a child of the most high.

So live in victory.

-Joshua Thomas

Thankful for Family

I love this time of the year. November has always been a time when one can reflect back on all the blessings and gifts we have each been given. I love the day of Thanksgiving especially for this time, it gives me a chance to remember all those that have helped me make it to the place I am in now. Family. Often when I think about family I think of my immediate family, my mom and dad, my sister and her husband; my family. Recently I have realized that my family is so much more than just my relation by blood. As believers, we are all family. As I continue to read through the works of Paul, I’ve noticed that every letter to the churches he writes, he always addresses the people as brothers and sisters. He goes a step beyond just knowing these people and takes it to another level. To me family is a special bond, one that is strong and can’t be broken. People that you would fight for, people that you trust when you struggle, the people that stand by you in the darkest of moments. Family is one that will pick you back up when you fall, and you all have family. No matter what may have happened in your biological family, maybe someone left you alone when you needed them, maybe you were abused verbally of physically, maybe your family treats you like an outcast; no matter what has happened, you have a family. God places people in our lives and surrounds us with people that are our family, God designed you to be in relationship with others, and he has given you a spiritual family; whether by blood or not.

This past year this concept has been more real to me than ever. My biological family has dealt with some tough hardships, and it was hard to make it through all of it, but there was hope. God used people in each of our lives to speak life into us and keep us above water. I know that we all struggle, and it’s easy in those moments to believe the lie that we are alone or that no one wants us. This is a great lie, one that can keep secrets in the dark, and cause us to suffer alone. We need family. I want to share a few reasons why family is so important, and to show that no matter what your biological family may be, you have a stronger spiritual family that God has placed in your life for the reason of encouraging you and equipping you to do your mission. As you read, think about the people in your life that do these simple things. Thank them, use the thanksgiving time to contact some of these people while you eat copious amounts of food. God made you for a reason, and he uses family to empower you to do it.

Family is diverse.

Traditionally when I think about family, a Norman Rockwell painting comes to mind, I’m sure you’ve seen it. The one with the Thanksgiving meal, it’s a classic image, but I believe family is so much more than the classic 50’s white middle class family. Family is diverse, meaning that we are not cookie cutter, but that we come from all walks of life. We come from different ancestors, different times, and different styles of life; and this is so good! Diversity allows each of us to look at the world differently, and the kingdom of heaven is so incredibly diverse. Your community and even the family you were born into are all different, and God uses this to open our eyes. So many times I look at a problem one way and my dad sees it in a totally different view. I meet with my dad for breakfast each week, and each week I learn so much from his experiences to problems that I face, and I am able to help him look at his questions through different lenses as well. We need to have diversity in our life, because without it, we will never grow. When we are in a family, our picture changes from Norman Rockwell to a Jackson Pollock, an explosion of color and emotion (I’m a bit of an art nerd). When you are in the family of believers, you are able to grow and look at the world in a new beautiful way.

Family is life giving.  

When we are in a family of believers, we are encouraged and able to encourage others. This is such an amazing thing that all of us need. I think back on my life and reflect about the way different people spoke life over me when the world around me was telling me I would fail. When I was in ninth grade, I was first starting to attend my current Church home of Daystar. My family was attending and I slowly started to go and attend the youth group. I connected with a small group, and grew close to them so much that they truly were like brothers to me. We have grown and changed and some have passed away, but they are all still my brothers that I will hold onto. I love them so much. Another memory I have is of that ninth grade summer, where my youth pastor, whom I consider a close friend and brother, Seth Tanner, invited to me to with him to a camp he was speaking at. I was unsure at first, but decided to go; it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. That week filled me with a desire for the next generation and gave me a calling I could not ignore. God used Seth to empower me when the world told me I wasn’t good enough. I will always remember these people, people who were my family, not by blood, but a true family that God used to speak life over me. If you take anything away from this, it should be to get into a community of believers that fills you with life, it will be the best decision you will ever make.

Family is motivating.

The final part of the importance of family, is the fact that family causes us to take the extra step. My family was always great at this. In school, I did not do very well, but my family always motivated me to do my best even when I felt like quitting. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting a c in your math class after you have failed over and over, and my family would always push me to keep going no matter what. As I’ve grown older, they continue to push me into taking the next steps of chasing my dreams that God has placed on my life. God used them to push me further in my faith, and now I can do the same for others. As a high school small group leader, I am so encouraged to see my students press into their passions and pursue all that God has for them. Last week as I was travelling for funerals, two of my students Ross and Chris, were given the opportunity to lead students in worship and teaching to their peers. Moments like this are so encouraging to know that God is using them in such a mighty way, and that they will one day change the world and be future leaders. They are a part of my family, and I want to motivate them to step into God’s plan for their lives just as I was motivated to do the same. Find your family so you can not only be motivated, but so you can motivate others.

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Family is incredible. It is diverse, it brings life, and it motivate us. I am so incredible thankful for the people I hold dear, the ones I can laugh and cry with. The people who I want to spend countless hours with. Through the good and bad, I love my family, by blood or by my spiritual family. I love each and everyone one of them. This week as you may be meeting with your own families or spending time with your friends over the holiday, remember how much they have truly shaped your life. Enjoy your time with them, hold them close to you. God has put these people in your life for a reason, one that will bring out the best in you and lead you towards the greater vision for your life. Use Thanksgiving not to celebrate the pilgrims (who, let’s be honest, were really terrible to Native Americans), but instead use this time to be grateful of the people that have walked with you through the fire. The people that will stand with you through it all, these people who fight with you, these people are your true family.

Be thankful for your family.

-Joshua Thomas

A Hope for the Future

Ever been in a situation or moment in time where it feels like everything bad that could happen did, and it seems like no good will ever come? Well, I ask this because recently I have felt like I have been living this idea over and over again. Through a series of events this past year, I have been left to ask myself, what else could possibly happen? Even when the good things come, five more bad things happen. It’s like an insane hydra that just keeps coming back. I thought a lot about this while lying in a quarantine area of a camp in Nashville this past week. What I thought would be an awesome week as a camp counselor, turned into me feeling horrible with a case of strep throat and some crazy weird skin infection that made me look like a zombie. To be honest I felt like one too. Lying on a hard church floor, eight hours away from home, wanting to die. Not a fun week as you can probably imagine. During this day of boredom, I thought a lot, about a lot of different things. Some were crazy fever dreams, but some about this whole first half of my year. I initially thought of all the horrible moments, isn’t it funny how as humans we immediately think of the worst parts? I thought about my struggle against the feeling lonely, feeling as if I was walking through life as a lone wolf. I thought about the death of a dear friend that came so suddenly. Watching old friends seem to fade away. Walking through the struggle of addiction with family. All of this gave me a sense that frightened me and left me with a single thought. Satan is winning. In the exact same moment, I began to pray and read the word, which left me with a better thought. There is hope for the future.

It would have been easy for me to believe the lie, and still continue to believe it, but this new truth became more apparent. In every situation, good came through. My family was able to find help, even though it seemed impossible. Old friends faded away, but I also created bonds with those that didn’t. I saw the church come alongside of the family of my friend who died. I thought about the new community that I am forging with a few. Every situation turned from failure to victory. Satan didn’t win, God did. Through that struggle, I became stronger. The pain is real and I’m not sure if it will ever go away, but one thing is certain, I need to always find a new hope in every situation. God is so much wiser than I, and yet he freely gives us all we need to make it. I think God showed me a few things about how to find hope and how to make it through the darkest of nights.

Know that a bigger plan is waiting.

It’s a cliché to say that everything happens for a reason. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, you can figure it out if you want, but what I’ve learned is that God has a bigger plan in mind. Sure we do things to speed it up or get off track, but God designed you with an ultimate end in mind. Yes, you. Especially you. Whether you feel like a misfit or like a cookie cutter human, you are unique and can never be replaced by anyone. God made you to be exactly who you were meant to be, he is going to build you up and it’s going be hard. Trust me when I say I know what you’re going through, because I probably have walked through it or been close to someone who has. In the moments where life gets tough, I have wanted to run away from God, but every time I am shown a bigger plan. The first step into holding on to hope is knowing that God has a plan for you.

Run even harder towards Christ.

My first reaction is not this, but I want it to be. It’s so easy for me to hate God for what he let happen, but this is such a foolish thing for me to do! Proverbs 1:5 tells us that wise people seek wisdom, I would be foolish to run from true wisdom. So when we face strife, our reaction should be to run to the word. I think hope comes from relying on the power of God. So immerse yourself in the word, listen to music that fills your soul, meet with those who have gone before you, and you will find hope. In my life I have seen my mom and dad both follow this principle. All growing up, no matter what happened at my dad’s job or the struggles my mom faced against people that spoke death, they always came to the Lord first. I am so thankful that I saw a real example of what it meant to follow Christ even when the world seemed to be falling apart. Remember to run to God, rather than run away from him.

We have already won.

Say what? Yes, don’t take my word, take the word of scripture. John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” What this means is that, our hope is here because God has victory over all of it. God is like the cheat code for life, stick with him and you win. Simple. Now I know that it doesn’t feel simple, in fact, it often feels like we will never win. That’s because the loser is trying to bring you down with him. Don’t live chained down and feel like you can’t make it up for air, live in victory. Live in freedom. You may say, “My life is so much worse than you know.” Remember, I have walked through some of the worst things, but if you don’t trust me, think about Job in the bible. He lost everything he ever had and then some, God literally said the devil could do whatever. He chose Christ, and he was rewarded more than he could even imagine was possible. Live in victory, know that you have already won.

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One of the many reasons I love comic books, is that every hero struggles. Spider-Man lost loved ones, Iron man struggles with alcoholism, Hulk has some anger issues, and Wolverine feels alone. Every hero struggles, but they all find redemption. They each save the world, and the world needs more heroes. You and me, we were each made for a bigger purpose. We were meant to be heroes, we need to hold onto that hope. You and I don’t have time to let fear control us. Fight for your future, fight to see the end. Walk through life following Christ and holding onto hope. Build a life that would honor others, stand up for what’s right. When problems come, and they will, run to God and follow him through all the pain. Then at the end of your life, you can look back and see how God used that pain and turned it into a masterpiece, I know that’s what I’m going to do. Hold on, believe in the hope, and follow Christ.

Roll credits.

-Joshua Thomas

Finding Joy in All Things

This past weekend was one of the biggest rollercoasters of emotion I have ever been on. I attended a funeral, a wedding, and a going away party in the span of two days. Not a typical weekend for me as I’m sure you can imagine. I went to the funeral of one of my friends who I have known ever since I attended that first small group that changed my life (See previous weeks post). It was unexpected and devastating to hear, the kind of thing you never think would happen to someone close to you. It didn’t feel real when I found out, but it was. On Saturday morning, I went to the church of the funeral with my brother-in-law, and said a final goodbye to a dear friend. About an hour and a half later, I was sitting in my home church for a completely different reason. Two people who are close to myself and my family, Becky and Jeremy who are basically a part of our family, were celebrating their marriage through a beautiful ceremony. Weddings are such a beautiful picture of commitment and how Christ laid down his life for the people he loves. It was such a great time. The next afternoon I went to a surprise going away party for another close friend who I have known ever since I can remember. My friend Ben is going into the Marines and his family set-up this surprise to show how much he is loved and how much his friends and family are supporting him in prayer. Three events, two days, and one big rollercoaster of emotions.

It’s easy to be joyful during the wedding of two of my friends and to be joyful about the places another is headed, but what about the lowest times in our lives? I have been struggling with this idea and wanted to know how I can find joy, no matter how hard the situation is. I began to read James 1:2-4 which 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.” A few verses later, James 1:12 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.” I think these verses really outline how to possess joy in every situation, good or bad, that we walk in each day.

You will face trials.

Really encouraging statement right? As much as I’d like to believe that everything will be good all the time, the reality of it is, life gets hard. We face addiction, anger, loss, and a multitude of other struggles all the time. This stems from the fact that we live in a fallen world, but there is hope. The first part of the verse in James says to consider it pure joy when we face the hard stuff in life, because it will grow us. That’s my own paraphrase version, and it’s true. The scripture doesn’t try to dance around the truth, it simply says that we will struggle, people will say things to hurt you, you will fight against temptations, but this will lead to perseverance. Essentially, finding joy during the trials that we will all inevitably face, will make you stronger and build your faith even more.

You must be patient in the growth.

Having joy in all things will take time. We can’t speed through the growing process that the persevering brings. I want to have full joy in every situation, but I can’t expect to have this ability in an instant. The second chunk of that verse says that we must let this process finish if we want to be fully mature and not missing anything. I don’t like this concept because I want everything right away all the time, that’s basically how we have all been told to live through society. But in order to grow spiritually and have joy during hardship, we must be patient. The only way we grow, is if we are continually striving for more and spending our time reading and meditating on Christ’s word. Joy takes time because growing our faith takes time, but the reward is so much better than we can imagine.

You will be blessed when you persevere.

As we choose to say I will have joy in this situation, this brings praise to Christ and he blesses our perseverance. We face trials and grow our faith, and Christ gives us so much more than we could have ever imagined. He gives us a testimony to help others. He gives us wisdom to walk through future situations that we find ourselves in. He gives the leadership knowledge to be effective and show others the way. As we follow Christ, we are able to find life and live out its’ full potential. We were made to praise and worship our Savior, and through the perseverance of all trials, we can bring honor to his name. Does this mean life gets easy, no, what it means is that we get stronger and more equipped to take on future trials that will arise.

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This past weekend was like being on a Ferris wheel, experiencing the great lows and the great highs that life presents us with. I will take the highs as a blessing and cherish the friends and memories past and present, being joyful in them. I also choose to have joy in the lows, seeing them as a growing part of my life that will give me a strong testimony. I will remember the times spent with my friend and brother Seth seeing them as a blessing, just as I will remember the day Becky and Jeremy became one, and the celebration of Ben pursuing his dreams in life. I choose to find joy in all situations, no matter how high or how low. I choose joy.

All Things

Have you ever had a week where you thought nothing else could get worse and then suddenly it got worse? Well I sure do, it was this past week. It started off pretty normal, then out of nowhere a sucker punch knocked me on my feet. I found out something that happened to someone very dear to me and my family, and for that reason I am choosing to not to share the personal details of the situation. When I found out, nothing really set in, like I was numb to what was being said and explained. My mind began to race, not out of anger, but out of confusion and fear. Why is this happening to me? Why does this happen to the people close to me? What good can come from this? I know of several friends that have been dealing with similar situations, situations that shake reality. Things that make ones heart ache like no pain ever before, my heart aches like it never has before. It feels as if nothing can come out of this, but that isn’t true.

There is hope.

During the past few days one verse has helped me to stay above the waves. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I just kept thinking about this verse over and over in my head, even now as I sit here, it keeps me calm. The thing that makes this verse so real to me is the two words, “all things.” It doesn’t say, in the times of really happy fun times, or in times when it feels like God is so close to me. All things. Times when we feel alone, when we feel hurt, in times when we feel like we can’t take it anymore. When I look at it this way, it changes how I read the verse, “I (Joshua) can make it through this pain and hurt through Christ who strengthens me.” It will look different for everyone who reads it and how it applies to your circumstance, but the truth stands firm.

We have a mighty Father.

A good father cares for his child, our God is a father who loves and wants guide us in life. He wants to equip us and lead us through our darkest times, no matter how bad our situation is, He will give us strength. That’s such and encouraging part of that verse, not only is God with us in all things, but he strengthens us. Alone I don’t feel very strong, but when I trust God, I feel like I could fight a thousand armies and never grow weary. I want you to know that I’m not telling you this because I have it all figured out, trust me, I am telling this to you because it is helping me in a time where I feel weak. Our Father wants us to rely on him, not on our own flesh. Our flesh is weak, but in Him, we are strong.

Good will come.  

This week has been tough and my heart still aches, but I have also seen the good that our Father can bring. I was able to help on a shoot for a Daystar bumper video, I was able to hang out with the family of a student in my small group, I was able to mentor another student, and I was able to pull off a Vert event with the help of a great team. I am surrounded by people who care, people striving after the kingdom, people who showed me love, even when they didn’t know how crazy my life was becoming. My family is finding healing and hope for the future, and never giving up on each other. I am so overwhelmed by how God is moving all around me, and even when I feel hurt, He brings healing and joy. I say all this to encourage you and to tell you that our God is good, in him I forgive, I find joy, and I find restoration of relationships. I wish it was easy and I wish that I could prevent anyone else from being hurt, but I don’t have that power. Our God has that power and no matter what you’re going through, I say this with tears in my eyes because looking silly in Geeksboro, He will keep you strong in all things.

With a thankful heart,

-Joshua Thomas