You’ve Got What It Takes, Kid.

I love hero stories. I’ve always loved comic books and epic hero movies where one individual faces an incredible challenge, and they make it through the toughest fight. I look up to stories like that because I want to make a difference. I want to stand up for what is right, defend the weak, and repair what has been lost. I think the same is true for you, it’s the reason why we love movies and books where one individual, whom no one thinks is strong enough, has what it takes to save the day. Often we feel like we can’t make it through our situation, or that the mountains we face have no chance of being moved. This is simply not true, we have a God who is so much bigger than the trials we face. God picks us up off the ground, the moments when we feel defeated and all alone, and he looks at us and says, “You’ve got what it takes, kid.” Now this isn’t scripture and we may not hear God actually say this to us, but the point is, God created us for a reason. God created you to be more than what you think you are, God made you to be exactly who you are, and He made you with supernatural abilities that will change the world. Over and over in the bible we see stories of simple individuals, people that would normally be looked over in their daily lives, and God used them to do amazing things. They may not have been able to control minds, have spider-like abilities, or fly; but God gave them incredible power. God wants to give you the same power.

Hebrews chapter eleven is a perfect example of what I’m trying to convey to each of you. This chapter is the “By faith” chapter, it records how different individuals in the bible were able to do super natural things by faith in the one true God. People like Noah, who built an ark to save humanity, Abraham, whose descendants grew mightily when his wife was barren, and Moses, who stood up to tyranny and led people into freedom. Each one of these people chose to live in faith, they chose to trust God even when it seemed impossible. God had a purpose and vision for each of these individuals and called out to them saying that they had what it took. You see, God has a purpose and vision for our lives to. He calls to us, telling us that we have what it takes, that you have a power within you that is awe-inspiring, and one that cannot be stopped. All we have to do is live by faith, trusting that God will guide and protect you, and you can do great things. I want to spend the next few paragraphs describing how we can awaken this power within us and become more than who we are.

We have to accept the calling.

In every epic tale, the hero is reluctant to take on the responsibility. Luke is reluctant to train as a Jedi because his family needs his help on the farm, Peter Parker has amazing abilities that he doesn’t know how to use effectively, and Katniss is tied to protecting her family from an oppressive regime. All three of these characters were created by different people, all have different settings and worlds, but each has one big thing in common. Each has the strength to do so much more, and each has to accept the calling on their life. This happens through a catalyst, an event that requires them to stand up and face the fight. Luke’s family is killed and the universe is threatened, Peter Parker watches as his uncle is murdered by a criminal, and Katniss takes the place of her sister that is placed in certain peril. Each one has a choice. We all have that same choice. Do we accept the calling on our lives, or do we stand back and let the world go down in flames around us? God gives us a choice, and he lets us live with the consequences of whatever we choose. Our God loves us, but he lets us make the choice all on our own. This is the first step. If you choose to not accept the calling, well, you will continue to live and not make an impact. Your legacy will blow away like dust in the wind. However, when you choose to accept the calling, choosing to make a decision and have that real relationship with a God who loves you deeply, your journey begins. You’ve listened to God’s voice, and you believe that you can make an impact. You will live a life of meaning, one that will shape the world forever. You must make a choice to accept the calling God has placed on your heart.

We must surrender your selfish desire.

As people, we want to do what we want to. It’s what makes us selfish, we think about what we want, with no thought about others. Great leaders think about everyone. They think about the people who are always with you, and they care about the quiet and shy ones who hide in the background. When we look at the people who lived by faith in the bible, we see people who thought about the future. Thought about the people they were impacting, the lives that would go on to make a difference. This sometimes means not getting all the credit, not being in the spotlight, and not having adoring fans. Sure that can be nice, but the purpose is not to glorify yourself, it is to impact the lives around you for the better. To look at those around you and help heal the broken, lead the lost into freedom. Every great hero we see in literature and films defends the people, they sacrifice their own safety and comfort, in order to save others. We must take on the calling for our lives, and we must live serving others. This will give us the power to change lives and make that lasting impact on everyone around you. We have been designed with purpose, and God wants us to lead others into his kingdom. We need to lay down our own selfish wants and comforts, in order to step into the power that God has given you, because when you do, you will impact everyone.

We must trust with everything.

This is the final step into your journey of taking on what God is calling you towards. Each person in the bible fully trusted God, it wasn’t always easy, but they trusted him with everything. One of the guys in the by faith chapter is Elijah, and he lived trusting God with everything, even with food as he had to hide away in the desert. God sent birds to feed him, and if God can do that for Elijah, he can do that for you. It probably won’t entail trusting that God will send you a bird with food, but maybe it means living with a trust that can will bring you out of this pain. Maybe it means trusting God with your finances, with your relationships, or with your struggles. We need to live with Jesus every day, we have to trust that he will guide us with every aspect of life and any struggle we may face. You have been given talents and abilities that are unique, but we need God to accomplish what we have been called to do. Every hero has a mentor, someone who has walked the path before and can guide us. Luke had Ben Kenobi, Peter Parker had Uncle Ben, and Katniss had Hamish. The same needs to be true in your life, we need a sensei because you are a warrior. We need to trust God with everything, so that we can accomplish anything.

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I’ve always loved hero stories. Heroes that stand up for what’s right, heroes that fight for the weak, heroes that are looked down upon even when they have done such great things. I think everyone has a desire to make a difference, to be someone with great power that changes the world. We all have a power inside of us, we have the ability to lift people off the ground and help them find freedom. We need to accept the calling, surrender our selfish desires, and trust in God completely. When we do this, we are unstoppable. Life will still get tough, things won’t always go by plan, but God will always be with you. We can live by faith, and accomplish so much. We just need to choose.

You’ve got what it takes, kid.

-Joshua Thomas

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Meaningful Memories

The past few weeks this idea of making memories has been a heavy thing on my heart. It’s an idea I’ve never really thought much about before, but I think it is not only important, but vital to our lives. This past year has been crazy, crazy for my own life, crazy in the life of the world all around us; there has just been a feeling of uncertainty that seems to have clouded the year. For me, the future is always a big mystery, one that I can get so caught up in. So, when the moments of chaos happen, I tend to immediately look ahead, I start to plan on my own strength. I think this is true for all of us, each of us wants to have control over our life and what happens in it. No matter how much planning and stressing over what may or may not happen, we ultimately have no control over what happens tomorrow. This may sound bleak, but this is just the opposite of what God tells us. God doesn’t want us to stress over tomorrow because he will take care of tomorrow and the next day, we should live for what today will bring. James 4:14-15 says, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” This verse really captured this feeling I have been having about making memories, living for the moments that today will bring you, because we are not promised tomorrow.

I was watching an interview from the band that was playing at the Bataclan, during the Paris attacks recently. The “Eagles of Death Metal,” gave an interview to Vice about what happened during the attacks, what they experienced and how terrifying it was. It is a great interview. (Note: there is explicit language used, not gratuitously, but it is evoking their feelings. Viewer discretion advised.) The main theme that kept coming up was how scary it was and how they were not sure if they would make it through the rest of the night. I reference this because it is a sentiment that we all share, we are not promised tomorrow, but that does not mean that we should live in fear. In thinking and praying about what it means to live in Christ day by day, and how we can take hold of every opportunity and moment we are presented with, I have three simple sentiments that I think God wants us to make memories in our lives.

Life is short, don’t miss out.

This may seem like a cheesy statement, but it is one to be taken seriously. We are not going to live forever, sorry to crush your dreams if you thought otherwise, but we are so fragile. So what is holding us back from making the most of everyday? Each day we are given multiple opportunities, opportunities to speak life over people, opportunities to show the love of God, and opportunities to lead others into the kingdom. I think about the ministry of Jesus, he spent his time with the people who were outcasts and those who were hated, because he had the opportunity to show them the truth and to save them. Each day we come in contact with people from all over, all walks of life, and we have no idea what they might be dealing with. Now this isn’t meaning that life is short, so go cliff jumping or act foolish, this is a call to make memories of impacting others. We are not promised tomorrow, but we can make a memory today that can be carried by others for the rest of their lives. Just like the verse in James talks about, press into what the Lord is leading you to each day, and make memories that impact others.

Live with compassion.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make is holding onto grudges. You know, not letting go of something that really doesn’t matter in the big picture. Learning to forgive is a challenge, but it is one that will only help you in the end. This is something I have had to learn to really do, to show forgiveness to those who have hurt me, even if they never apologize for the hurt caused to me. When we hold onto grudges, we feel the hurt that was caused over and over again, and our entire life is affected by it. Our attitude is filled with anger, we lash out at people who only want to help us, and we lose sight of our relationship with God. I’ve never met an angry person who has an intimate relationship with God. You may want to argue with me about that fact, but I think our relationship with God reflects our outward attitude towards others. I can say this, because I am a victim to the power anger can have in our lives. Many people in my early schooling life treated me poorly, bullying me for the person God made me. I still know their names, faces, and what they said; but I forgive them. I choose to not live with chains binding me down, I choose to live with joy and in freedom. When we choose to have compassion and to forgive those that hurt us, our chains fall off and we can continue to walk towards our vision. When we do this, we make new memories, ones with love and joy, memories that have the faces and names of people we deeply care about, and we hold onto the good memories we make. When we live in anger, we miss out on the opportunity to make memories that will impact us, and we lose the wisdom that comes from those opportunities.

Meaningful memories take a chance.

Some of the best memories I have made have been spur of the moment chances. This past summer my dad and I went on a road trip to New York, and all along the way we would stop at random diners, local antique shops, and comic shops from TV. These were simple, not planned weeks in advance, just simple fun moments that we took a chance on. As a family, my parents would do something fun with my sister and I each Friday. We would do goofy things like have ice-cream and waffles for dinner, or eat under the table. Simple moments, but I will never forget them. Or recently when I was last minute able to see my girlfriends Christmas choir concert, simple moments that mean so much. All of these memories take a chance, they may require you to use some gas, to possibly make a mess, or to lose a little bit of sleep. We can make excuses, but these excuses will make us miss out on some truly joyful moments, moments that God has presented us with. Everything we have can vanish in an instant, so take hold of each day, and take the chance on making a meaningful memory.

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We are never promised tomorrow. Life is chaotic, things can happen in an instant and take us off guard. So many tragedies have happened this year, and even in the recent months. We live in a world that has been separated from God, a world where we are so busy focused on what we want and not what God wants for us. No matter how many laws are passed, or safeguards we put up, we will never be at peace. Our trust needs to be placed in the creator of the universe. Each day we need to know that we have a chance, a chance to impact the people around us, a chance to make a memory that will direct our life. When we live each day listening to what God has for us, no matter what happens to us, we can know we have victory over the enemy. In times of tragedy like the recent attacks in Paris, or the daily struggles of not feeling worth it, or when it feels like the world is crashing down around us; we can use our words to speak life, we can comfort those in need, and we can rally around those who feel like they can’t do it alone. We can make memories that will last forever and impact what we do and how we live forever. So take hold of every opportunity, have compassion to everyone around you, and take a chance on the moments life presents you with.

Make meaningful memories.

-Joshua Thomas

Pausing to Live in the Moment

It’s so easy in life to get caught up in what might come next and prepare for the next big step in our journey. I know for me this can cause huge anxiety and make me fear the next steps or fear starting a new chapter in life. What would happen if we were to stop and live in the moment, taking each step as it comes and not worry about what may come? I have been thinking about this idea a lot over the past few days, especially because many of us will be starting a new chapter and the end of the summer. For me, I am attending a new university after spending time at a community college. To be honest, I am nervous. New situations are always seem to be a giant beast in my life, new faces and places can fill me with anxiety, yet I have nothing to be afraid of. Sure the possibility of something going wrong is present, but I have nothing to be afraid of. I think everyone struggles with this to an extent, we all have fears that can cause us to have a high anxiety about what may come. The funny thing is that what we think may happen often never comes at all! We get trapped in an endless cycle of fear and forget something that might be the most important factor in our life. This one key idea can cause us to move from a state of fear, and into a life of freedom.

As I was reading in my bible this morning I read a verse which instilled in me a sense of peace, not just for moving into a new environment, but standing against the fear that causes us all to hide. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This verse makes things start to click together. When we trust God, we don’t have to worry about anything. That’s the key, no matter what situation, trusting God will guide you through anything. You might be thinking, “Well that’s great but it’s easier said than done.” Which is a true statement for most things, and that’s why I want to share today how and why this is the best option from my personal experience and what I am currently dealing with. My goal is to help you and me get through any situation that brings us anxiety and come out trusting completely on God.

Talk to God daily.

This is the biggest and easiest advice I have learned. When we focus on talking to God, we open up a conversation with the creator of everything. This begins a relationship, just like any other you have, you build communication and strengthen that relationship each time you come together. Reading the word will help you narrow in on the answers you need for every situation you find yourself in. Surrounding yourself in the wisdom of God will give you courage to take on anything that may come your way. I find this to be true over and over again, when I am reading the word and talking to God each day, my life feels more guided and direct. It gives me a sense of direction and opportunity to grow and help others, but when I am not in the word, an opposite effect occurs. Yes it’s true, sometimes I don’t read my bible and talk to God each day, and it hurts. Whether I think I have a good excuse or not, when I’m not in the word, life stinks. That’s the best way to describe it, I lose opportunity and lose my direction. All that happens then is I try to redirect my thoughts and steer myself in my own strength, causing me to crash. That’s why it is such a crucial part of my journey and yours as well. Even if it has to be quick in your morning, on your drive to work, talk to God and meditate on his word. You will be amazed at how much that will change everything in your life.

Live in the now.

This is the second part of having peace rather than anxiety. I constantly find myself thinking about what’s next, what do I have to have done by tomorrow, next week, in a year. My thoughts escalate so fast and create fear in me about failure to achieve that which I want so dearly. I forget to focus on the day in front of me. I end up missing the conversations with those around me, forget to look at the opportunities in front of me. I lose what could have been. I never want to miss out on the things that are right in front of me, so why would I choose to miss it when I don’t have to! We need to learn to stop dreading the future and live for the now, because the now in here and tomorrow might not be. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so live for today. This doesn’t mean party like it’s the end of the world, it means that we should use today to get wiser, be more intentional, and not miss out on what God wants to show you today. Is it an easy task? Well of course not, but we weren’t mean to do it alone. God wants us to come to him and trust that what he has to show us today is better than anything we could ever want. So live in the now, because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Be thankful for what you have.

This is the final step to having joy in moments where you begin to feel anxious. We have all been given so much, I mean if you can even read this you have some device that gets you on the internet! This is something that I have to remind myself of a lot, especially when it feels like the world around you is crumbling. You have a family, if that’s by blood or your friends, we all have a family. We are a part of something bigger than ourselves, we have been called to do great works for the kingdom of God. We have been blessed with talents that we can use to help others, we have been given a community of believers to rally around when life gets tough. You have so much, I have so much. Most of us aren’t millionaires or highly influential in a political scale, but none of that really matters. We have been put in the situation we are in for a reason, to use our situations to influence and help everyone we meet. You have been blessed by the creator of all things, have your heart be thankful for every blessing that is big or small. You are blessed.

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This past week my dad and I went to New York City for a few days and this idea really struck me. My thoughts are always trying to see what is coming next or being anxious of what may happen next. My dad and I both have this similar way of thinking, so when you go to a bustling city like New York that could easily be a bad place for us to be. It had an opposite effect, because we were trusting God, and when we focused on that the trip was great. We relaxed, had an awesome time, and were able to make memories in our time of rest. No matter what might be going on in your life or what kind of stress you’re feeling, give it to God. Trust me when I say this because I do it daily. It’s a necessity for me. Trusting God isn’t a one-time deal, it must be a daily choice to stand in him and not our own strength. One thing that I have learned is that God can do all things, no matter what happens. Everything changes, but the love and presence of God lasts forever. You and I, we don’t have to fear anything. So no matter what situation you face, God will walk beside you and fight for you when you give him control.

Pause from your fear and live into the moment that God has given you.

-Joshua Thomas