Fear is a Punk

Have you ever been in a season of new? The past year of Danielle and I’s life has been filled with new. Since we got married last September, we thought it would be great to do all the things. From moving to job changes and doing life together, it’s been a wild journey. Everything is new, and new often means that fear begins to creep in. This is a perfect concoction for anxiety, isn’t anxiety just the best? I’ve talked about it on here before, but I’ve dealt with anxiety for a long time. The hard part was is that I was never really open about that fact, I tried to put on a face that I had it all put together, but the truth was, inside I was letting fear rule me. There were situations in high school that made me feel like if I didn’t have it all figured out I wasn’t enough. That led into college where everyone seemed smarter than me, and I would feel inferior to ask for help. I had been in a church job where if I wasn’t “cool” enough or got enough attention, I was seen as someone who wasn’t cut out for ministry or that I didn’t have enough “woo.”

I don’t say this to gain sympathy from you, reader. I simply talk about this because there was a moment during that college phase that helped me realize that the root of anxiety is fear, and fear is a punk.

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Be Effective With Your Talents

Everyone has a talent. If you’re like me though, your first reaction is, “I don’t think I really have one.” This reaction to me saying that you do have one, is due to the fact that we often look down at ourselves. Now if you don’t, awesome, but if you’re more like me, it’s quite easy to not see the gifts that you hold already. This thought came into my head recently as I was trying to evaluate where I am and if I am being effective with what I have been given. Trust me, I have had plenty of time, especially being a student on summer break with much more time that can go wasted. Recently, I have been feeling like I have not been using my time and talents wisely, basically, I get lazy. The biggest trap to get caught in, whether this is due to boredom and just plain not wanting to face the responsibilities that life has, I’m not sure. That’s the thing about laziness, we can give any excuse in the book to not do something. What I want to do today is share some things I am learning and doing to slay the dragon of laziness (see I made it sound cool so now you want to keep reading).

I’m writing this for you, my super cool reader, and myself (pretty heavy, right?). I think one of the biggest barriers that holds people back is this idea of laziness and being complacent. We get so comfortable with where we are that we forget we were made for such a bigger purpose. I want to see a generation of people stand up and say that we can use our gifts to help change the world, and I sure want to be a part of that. I want you to be able to see that you have a talent and I want to help you move from having one, to using it in order to be effective in every part of your life.

God gave you a specific skillset.  

The biggest lie that we hear from Satan is that you are not good enough. This is such a lie because over and over in scripture we hear God speak about how he formed us in his image, to be unique and made for a purpose. Of course the enemy doesn’t want us to believe that, because when we believe the lie, we box ourselves in from what we can really do for this world. Know that God has given you a skillset that is your key to being effective. This can be anything. For me, I am very good at communicating to others and helping them find their potential, as well as, a passion for writing that I hope will one day influence a great many people. Now I know it may sound like I’m being prideful, but when God has given you a talent, he wants you to realize it and take hold of it. So your talents may be similar to my own, or completely different. That’s the beauty of it, you are an individual and you have a talent. Take a moment and think about what you have been gifted at. Maybe you sing like an angel, maybe you love helping the homeless, or maybe you feel a passion for showing love to those who don’t have a lot of love in their life. All of these are examples of talents, you have been given a talent!

Use your talent as much as possible.

This is the first step to killing your lazy spirit, now that you have discovered some of your talents. Start taking steps towards using your talent, start serving in your church, practice your skill in any way that you can. It would be really easy for me to know what I think God has gifted me with and then choose not to do anything with it. That would be such a tragedy for your life. Believe me I know it’s easy to make any excuse for why not to do something, but start pushing yourself out of what you feel comfortable with and step into the unknown. The worst thing that may happen is you find out that maybe this isn’t where I’m the best gifted at, and try again. That’s the great part, the world won’t end if you don’t get it right the first few times! You have nothing to be afraid of, God tells us this. Romans 8:15 says, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Not only has God not given us a spirit of fear, but he calls us his son and daughter, he loves you so much. Live in freedom and choose to take the steps to pursuing Gods purpose for your life.

Be generous and brave.

After you find your talent and begin walking into your purpose, we face the foes that will try to stop us. These enemies are known as pride and complacency. We can get prideful as we master our talents and this can cause our ministry and life to rot away. It makes us look down at the people we should be helping and speaking life to and says that you’re better than them. The second enemy is complacency, this guy tells us that what you’re doing is good and there isn’t a reason to strive for more. This doesn’t ruin your ministry, but it prevents you from listening to new ideas and prevents you from growing things into better skills. So what can we do to fight off these nasty guys? Well, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 says, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” This verse is not only talking about our money, but I believe it also refers to what we have to offer with our skills. We kill pride by giving our abilities with a cheerful heart, being respectful of those we serve and those we serve under. We kill complacency by choosing to give more as we are given more, and reaping to rewards from what we learn. Be generous in your talents and be brave to take the next steps that will help you grow continuously, this will make you effective no matter where you are.

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You are a child of God, and with that comes great things. You have been given gifts and talents that will help you in all areas of your life. No matter what you may be going through, you have the potential to do something that will change the world. Even when it seems like we are alone or that no one cares, your intentions are speaking to people like no other. You may be told that you aren’t good enough or that you are inexperienced, these are lies from someone who doesn’t want you to step into the purpose that God made you for. It’s okay to try new things, to make mistakes, and to ask questions. We were not made to be complacent and fearful of stepping out. We were meant to be brave and live with complete trust in Christ. We are not made to be prideful and put ourselves on a pedestal, we were created to be generous and care for everyone around us. So at the end of this, you have a choice, I have a choice. We can choose to use our talents and be as effective as possible, or we can live comfortably and accomplish nothing.

What do you choose?

-Joshua Thomas

You Are Valued

The past couple of weeks have been tough, I have felt this sense of spiritual drought and I have been questioning what my purpose is. It’s not the first time this has happened, or will it be the last. Whenever I find myself in this situation I am reminded of one simple thing, I am valued. It’s a sentiment that I am able to cling to because it is true. I think this is a sentiment that more people do not know, which is tragic. So often the enemy tries to tell me that I am not capable of accomplishing anything or that I am unworthy to serve my savior. In some way or another the enemy says this to all of us, when we are moving up or in time of darkness. We hear these lies everywhere, whether through entertainment, someone we trust, or from our insecurities. For a long time it was easy for me to believe what people would say about me, causing me to look down upon myself. It’s an awful feeling, but it’s an absolute and total lie. I know this because I began to block out the enemy and focus on the truth.

I want to share some scripture that has helped and continues to help me fight this sense that we are not worth it. I have a passion for others to know they are valued and help them find their true purpose. We have been created for so much more than a simple life, our creator designed us to be people that make a difference. He built us with purpose because he knows we will be able to achieve it.

You are a valued part of the body.

In 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31 has Paul describes how the body is made up of a multitude of parts that makes it what it is. Each part is unique and serves a purpose, our body is not made up of one part because if it was, we would not be able to function. What Paul is showing us is that the anatomy of the human body is an allegory for our individual contributions as the church. Each of us have talents and gifts, some big and some small, but each one of us contributes to the world and to the people we are around. I am unique, there is no one else like me out there. You are unique, there is no one out there exactly like you. We work together, we enjoy being in each other’s company, we have the power to build each other up. We need each other because we make up the body, we can’t do it alone.

You have a higher purpose, you just might not see it yet.

To show you what I mean by this statement, we are going to look back in the Old Testament and talk about a time when Solomon built the temple. To make this even more in line with how you may be feeling, we will be looking at a man named Huram Abi, ever heard of him? Most likely not, and that’s because he is only mention in a few verses. In 1 Kings 7:13-14 we see that Solomon sends for one of the most skilled bronze workers, enter Huram. “Huram was highly skilled and experienced in all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.” What happens next is we see a description of all the ornate work that he achieved. Then that’s it, that’s the last we really hear about Huram, but what he created was renown in many places. He was good at what he did and did it to the best of his ability, and we still know from history the majesty that the temple had in its’ time. Huram didn’t know all the glory that would be given to God in this temple or the lasting effects it would have, but he was used to create something incredible.

You must be in pursuit of God, for his vision to be revealed.

When I discovered that little revelation, I was so encouraged reading that small piece of scripture. I had read that part before and had heard Pastors talk about the temple, but never thought about someone that seemed so small in the large picture. My thoughts then went to the fact that if God can use a simple bronze worker, who had not been able to have the relationship with Jesus like I have found, how can God use me to step into my potential? What I believe is that as we make a daily pursuit to hear what God has to say, read his word, and lay down our selfish nature; we are able to walk into the vision God has set for us. I am a unique being who doesn’t know what the future holds, all I know is that in my pursuit of Christ, he will use me. I believe that he will use you, you just have to run after it.

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If you are feeling like you are wandering in the desert without purpose, I understand. I understand because I have been there. I know what it’s like to believe the lies from the enemy, I know that struggle it is to fight against it, but keep fighting. You are unique, you may not see the impact you will have, but as you pursue Christ things will become clear. I say this to encourage you, because I have to tell myself this each day. I am valued by Christ. You are valued by Christ. Believe the truth, seek after your relationship with Christ, and always remember that even deserts experience the beauty of a sunset.

Thanks for reading,

-Joshua Thomas

Treasure Every Moment

With the stress from upcoming exams or whatever life begins to throw at me, I find myself focusing on the next task or what tomorrow looks like. In moments like this I forget that I need to be present in where I am now, not where I will be. Where I will be is unknown, I don’t know what life will be in the next year or the year after and so on. So why do I and so many others get caught up in what will happen next, rather than live in the present situation I am in? A week ago, I was sitting with my Tuesday small group when one of the people in the group, Anthony, said one simple thing that caused me to think about this question. As we were enjoying laughing and eating pizza, he said that this is what we should be focused on, little moments we spend together. He said that life is too short to be worried about what’s next. This stuck with me and I absolutely agree with the sentiment. I began to read in Matthew, which spoke directly to this point. In chapter 6 verse 25-27 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” And later on in verse 33-34 it says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This verse reveals some very key aspects about how we should live our life each day, in order to be effective and honor God.

God will provide.

It’s easy to worry about our lives each day. Finances, school, work and more always pile up in our minds, filling us with this stress and constant fear about what will come in the future. This is one of my biggest struggles, it’s difficult to see that in all things God will provide for me, yet over and over again I am blessed in ways I would have never guessed. The main problem is that I don’t want to fully trust in him, to give up what I think is best and let God lead. It’s something that I believe most people struggle with, to not be in full control of our own lives. I have to remind myself each day that God is in control, that I give complete trust in him and let him lead me. Once I do this, my fears and worries seem to be so small, because I know that I am able to face all things with Christ. God takes care of the birds, and he will take care of me.

Struggles will still come at us.

This verse doesn’t say that once we trust God for today all our trouble goes away, I wish that were the case. We will still face it, but we should only face what we must each day it comes our way. Essentially trusting God with the small bricks and not focusing on the castle that is life. Everything takes time, we don’t complete a large task in one day. We must face our problems each day and trust what God wants us to do in order to grow in wisdom. Strive towards what is good and gives life, and avoid the temptations that the enemy uses to distract us from our purpose. Take hold of every moment in your day, using every opportunity to pour into someone else and fill yourself with things that please Christ. Trust him with all of your struggles and they won’t seem so big.

Value the simple moments.

We were not made to be worrisome or fearful people, we were made to enjoy the creation that God made for us. So enjoy it! We are not guaranteed tomorrow, so focus on the relationships you have during your day. Speak life to others, use your influence to change someone else, be the light to others. We should always prepare for the future, but don’t get lost in your thoughts about it. Grow in your relationship with Christ, live in full community with others, and trust in God.

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Remember to enjoy what you have now and trust that everything has a purpose. So the next time you feel like you are too busy to spend time with a friend, or are too embarrassed to have some fun, remember that we aren’t promised tomorrow. Does this mean make foolish decisions? Of course not! Living life to the fullest doesn’t mean make poor decisions, it simply means to take hold of what we have been given and enjoy the Gods’ creation. Have some fun, and always place your trust in the one who has the big picture in mind.

This week I will be attending the Orange conference which is all about next generation leadership. I am very excited about this opportunity and the fact that I won a ticket to the event! I will talk next week about what I saw and heard and can’t wait to share with you all that I have learned. I plan on enjoying every moment and taking hold of every opportunity that may push my comfort zone. What will you do to take hold of life? Thanks for reading.

-Joshua Thomas

Recharge

Have you ever had your phone die on you at the worst possible time? I have, and it’s the most annoying thing because I find myself relying on it all the time during my day. What happens when the same thing happens to our own life? This idea of being burnt out or just stressed to the level of always wanting to pass out and just get some rest, often finds its way to me. I find myself being put in that position one to many times in my own life. What is the reasoning behind this? This was a question I was asking myself recently, and with my fall break on the horizon I found myself needing to recharge my life. I was dealing with a drain on my life, I was lacking time in the word, and I was cluttered by distractions that were all around me. Some good and some foolish, but I knew I needed a time to recharge my soul, a time to plug into the best energy source that’s out there.

The name of a place called Stone Mountain was in my head, not quite sure why, could have been my urge to get into the wild or because of the recent Childish Gambino mixtape, but I felt like Stone Mountain was the place I was to go. It’s a beautiful national park about an hour and a half or so from Greensboro. The plan was simple, leave early in the morning and head back home in the evening. I had one goal in mind, get away from the clutter and spend uninterrupted time with God.

I arrived in the morning and all that was around me was fog and rain, but I didn’t care, this was my time set aside and nothing would prevent me from it. I took the longest trail which allowed me to go up to the mountain, come back down and finish the loop at the Stone Mountain falls. It was beautiful. Even in the midst of the fog and the drizzling rain all around me, I knew God was trying to show me something. I felt very alone, yet I felt like God was there and that this was the best way for God speak. Now you may be thinking, “Josh must have had an incredible revelation!” Or, “I bet he met someone there and it later turned out to have been a messenger sent from heaven!” While these would have been cool (and slightly exaggerated), God doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes he is simple in what he is trying to show us, we just like to overcomplicate things. My purpose was to get rid of the distractions around me to get closer to God, and that’s exactly what I learned. Confused? Are you thinking, “It has to be more than that?” But that is one of the biggest keys I have learned in life! I was reading in 1 Corinthians a while back and verse 7:35 spoke to this idea, “I am saying this to you for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” It was right in front of my face the whole time, I may not have even needed to take the day trip. That idea of getting rid of distractions was such a big thing for me. I often find myself in what free time I have outside of Church and school to watch endless hours on Netflix, or just avoid spending time in the word even though it is so vital to my life and walk. Another verse that I found on the mountain that day was James 1:21, “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” Boom, can’t get clearer than that can you?

So…what does that mean in my own life? You may be asking yourself the same question. My answer, prioritize. We all have responsibility, things we have for fun, people we want to spend time with, and it’s all important, but how do we approach our relationship with God. Is He first? None of the things I mentioned are wrong or evil, but when we put other people, things, jobs, whatever it may be in place of God, it becomes an idol. So in my life this may mean cutting out the hours of Netflix in the evenings, it may even mean saying no to extra activities even if it isn’t necessarily bad. God should be the number one in our lives, everything else can fall into place after that. In the same way your phone can’t help you when it’s dead, we can’t do anything without being plugged into the best source. Prioritize your life and relationships, put God first, and cut out the junk that clogs our thoughts. Learn to recharge your spirit. After all, you are royalty, Sons and Daughters of the king. Step into your potential, build strong relationships with those around you who are running after the same thing. Get your strength from the source, your heavenly Father, the King of all Kings. Learn to recharge your spirit.

Thanks for the read,
-Joshua