Be an Encourager

“So encourage each other and build each other up.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Ahh yes, the November weather has finally come! At least sort of here in North Carolina. I love this month, I love October, but I really like the themes that surround November. Thanksgiving time is here, which means many blogs about things we are thankful for, but one of the things I want to do is talk about ways to treat those in our lives. Family is big to me, not just biological, but my friends; brothers and sisters in Christ. One of my favorite memories about November and thanksgiving is that each year, my family would open up our home to people who couldn’t make it home or may have not had family. It was always awesome to me, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for later (no spoilers). I think so often we talk about what we’re thankful for, but sometimes don’t always show it. Talk is great, but God gives us actions to live out faith. Today I want to talk about something that many of us don’t do nearly as much as we need to, because we all need it desperately. We need to be an encourager.

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Let’s All Be Weird

I’ll never forget the first time I read a comic book. My dad and I were at my grandparents’ house, where he found an old box of comics that he had as a kid. The first one I read was The Amazing Spider-Man #132, “The Molten Man Strikes Again!” Pretty exciting stuff. I remember reading that and loving it, Spider-Man was a hero who stood up for people even when he faced terrifying villains (even though we’ll probably never see Molten Man in a movie). From this moment I knew I wanted to stand up for people, wanted to reach others for the kingdom of God. My parents always showed my sister and I the power of God in their lives, which in turn we were able to see the power of God in our own lives. In my life I have learned to view the world through this lens, a lens that says I can be a hero and that I can make a difference. That’s not normal, that’s weird.

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Growing Your Skills

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

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

You are unique.  

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

Live a humble life.

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

Never stop learning.

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

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

Never hold back from growing your skills.

-Joshua Thomas

Don’t Go In There!

October is here! Temperature has changed, autumn is in full swing, and Halloween is right around the corner. I love this time of year, not only because I have a birthday on the seventh, but I love everything about this season. One of my favorite parts of this year is the incredible b-movies that seem to be on all the time. As you can see from the title of this blog site, I love a good b-movie, they’re always ridiculous and are great to riff on like Mystery Science Theater 3000 (If you have no idea what that is, please educate yourself on it, it is amazing). The best bad movies tend to be science fiction or horror, and there are some lessons that I have learned from them. I know, seems a bit odd, but I believe that God can use all things to teach us and show us some spiritual truths. This month I will be using some of these lessons in a Halloween themed posts.

Every horror movie does one thing very well. Yes it’s designed to spook you or gross you out, but there is one specific idea that never changes. There is always a scene where we know the house is haunted, an alien is now on earth, or the masked creep is trying to get us. Without fail, one of our heroes decides to go into that dark room, spooky forest, or open the barn door. It’s the moment that makes the viewer want to yell out, “don’t go in there!” Sadly, they never hear us, they go in and get attacked or grabbed by the creep. So often though, we make the same mistakes in our own lives, and no I don’t mean we go into the haunted house or are chased by melting men. We find ourselves believing that we are invincible, that we have it all together and we take risks we should stay so far away from. I was thinking about this and it just gave me a picture of that yelling at the TV to not go into the room, I think so often God watches us take risks like that and just begs us not to do it! I thought about this while reading in Timothy. Paul wrote to Timothy because he was a young man who was beginning his ministry. In the letters to Timothy, Paul warns him to be faithful of all things and one verse captures the core of why we need to be careful of all we do. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” That word timidity means lacking boldness or confidence, you see God wants us to stand up for what’s right. What that means is we need to choose not to go in that room, because that room is the temptation that we all face, coming in many shapes and sizes. That room is filled with nothing but death and sadness, something we were not made for, we were made with purpose and to be bold. We were made to be strong, to show love and to be focused on what matters above all things.

You are powerful in Christ.                                                            

Timothy was a young man who didn’t have years of experience under his belt, or have a fancy job that moved him up in the world. He was simply a man that wanted to follow after what God had for him, something that needs to be true for all of us. It’s easy for us to feel weak and want to prove our worth to everyone around us. We end up hurting ourselves more than doing the good that we so desperately want others to know about us, we try to show the rest of the group that we can fight the creature. We open the door and enter blindly, often without anything to protect us. This is such a foolish errand! One that I myself have too often tried to do, it could be in any part of our life. In ministry we try to prove to others that we are spiritual enough, or in school we kill ourselves trying to get a letter rather than attaining knowledge for our future. The thing is, we don’t have to prove anything, because God has already accepted us. He loves us so much that he wants to use us to do great things, and when we do have to face challenges, he gives us his word as a protection and guidance through all things. In Christ, we are powerful, we don’t have to prove our worth because God made us to be who we are. When we live in power, nothing can stop us.

We are called to love one another.

Paul looked out for Timothy. When the world was telling Timothy he was too young and didn’t have enough experience, Paul said he had more than enough. So often we see people, even people who claim to be a Christ follower, treat others as lesser humans. This is so tragic! We are called to treat others the way we would want to be treated, not tear each other down with our words. I have seen so many people feel beaten down because they feel like they can’t do anything, or that their mistakes define who they are forever. It is our job to come alongside one another and build each other up. We need to lift our brothers and sisters out of the trenches of sin, not push them deeper into it. We need to be bold, we need to stand up for those who are broken and hurting, we have been called to serve others. Love is an action and not just a feeling, we need to act in love and stand with those around us. When we stand together, through even the darkest times, we will not fail.

Be wise.

The last part of the verse speaks directly into each and every one of us, we need to have self-discipline. While we are powerful in Christ and we come together, we need to make wise choices. When we go back to the idea of not going into that house, we are adamant at the character to not even go near it, so why then do we in our own lives like to test the limits? It looks a little different now. So often we like to think of how close we can get to the edge when we should try and stay as far back as possible. We make compromises with God. It’s not that bad, everyone else does it, and I deserve this. We find ourselves doing things we shouldn’t. We self-medicate, we get to intimate before we say “I do,” and we watch things we know will corrupt our minds. Why not protect our hearts and minds? Why not take a stand for what we know is right, even when others don’t? So when we are with friends, maybe only have a couple drinks, or none at all. When you decide to pursue a relationship, set boundaries to guard your heart. When that Victoria’s Secret commercial comes on, change the channel, and get a filter on your computer. Don’t go inside the house, just drive past, and be wise.

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B-movies are campy and goofy, but they have truths to them that are vital to our walk with Christ. So often we want to do it all on our own that we end up hurting ourselves more than helping. We choose not to trust God, we choose not to have community, and we make foolish choices. We walk right up to the door and go inside, only to be devoured by the enemy. God has such a higher purpose for each of us, and yet so many times we choose to go our own way. People are yelling for us not to go into the dark forest, and yet we ignore every warning along the way. We need to be bold, to stand up for what we know is right, and live into the higher purpose we have been called to. We instead turn away from the dark path that only brings pain and step into the light. Nothing can hide once it is brought into the light. Step into the light, step into the vision that God has placed on you. Just as Timothy chose, live with a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. You were made for so much more than you can even imagine.

Be bold, and live with faith.

-Joshua Thomas