What I Learned From Failure

I love failure. Now I don’t love the feelings that come with it, the rejection, the pain, the heartache; but I love failure. It’s something that I’ve experienced a lot of throughout my life. In high school I failed Spanish class. It was a humiliating moment, I had to repeat the class and every day sat in with students who were younger than me. It was a humbling moment, I felt like a screw up, but God taught me perseverance. I applied to colleges, and every school I applied to declined or waitlisted me. I remember sitting on the floor screaming out until my voice went hoarse. Failure hurts, but failure is good. We don’t learn the oven is truly hot until we touch it by accident. Failure is the greatest tool, because failure allows us to re-think what was done. One of my favorite quotes is by writer, Grant Morrison:

“It’s good to mess up! Sometimes when you mess up, you find new things and new ways to work.”

Continue reading

Advertisements

Piñatas, Star Wars, and Jesus; Stories of Hope

Can you believe it? In exactly one week, Christmas will be here. Wow, that’s kinda frightening, especially if you have to finish gift shopping and gearing up for the family travels, there are many working parts that happen during this time of year. Not to mention the high levels of depressing that this season can bring, losing lost ones, thinking about fears you have of the future, wondering if what you do actually means anything; the struggle hurts in a very real way. I’ve been thinking a lot about this. The stress and the sadness that surrounds Christmas can seem overwhelming, but the truth is, we can have hope during this Christmas season.

Continue reading

Made Worthy

“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.”

Hebrews 10:10

This new season in my life has become very strange. For the first time in a very long while, I have a direction about where my life is headed. I know it sounds odd, but I have a better idea of what the destination is starting to look like. If you’ve been reading for a while now (thanks!) you know that I have often struggled about the future because it seems like there was no end in sight. It’s not just something I struggle with, but one that many have to face. We are told at young ages to have our lives planned out, but when things don’t go as planned, we freak. We ask ourselves questions as to why this happens, and then we start to look at ourselves. We don’t look at the good about us or the opportunity God can bring, we often turn inward and start to believe that there is something wrong with us. We start to look at the success of others, the nice job, the young couple who just got married, that cool guy who travels the world on social media; it’s easy to look at others and feel like we aren’t worthy. The truth is, we are made worthy.

Continue reading

Reclaiming Prayer

I think we have lost something. Lost something that brings us closer to God. Something that is a necessity of life. Prayer seems to be put on the back burner of most of our lives. I know for me, I often don’t think about the importance of prayer, so I’ll get caught up in serving others and pursuing God’s vision and I forget to come to him first! It’s such a silly thing, I’m running after what God wants for me, yet I forget to come to him first in all things. I think that is a trait that has been happening to many believers, we are running after the vision, but we forget to come humbly to God in prayer first. Now I know some of you may be thinking, I haven’t lost prayer, I pray in the mornings and before I eat a meal! This is good and is vital to our walk, but I think there is more to prayer than just once in the morning and before I eat. There is a power that comes with stepping into the presence of God. Prayer is direct communication with God, it’s the way we are able to cultivate that relationship with him, and it is the main way to prepare our hearts for what he wants to bring us. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, I feel myself getting set in a routine and trying to check it off my checklist. Pray in the morning, check. Read my bible, check. I am so focused on checking things off, that I miss what God wants to teach and reveal to me for that day. I meet with my dad each week and we started talking about this very idea. It was interesting to see that he felt the same way, that prayer has become a routine, when it should be a necessity to living life! That’s what I want to focus on today, how we as believers need to reclaim the power of prayer, because it will change and shape our life for greater things to come.

Continue reading

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.

kid-super-hero-700x466

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

Give Generously

Well, Christmas is this week! Kinda crazy to think about how fast time flies when I look back at the year. Christmas really is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Whether it’s the music, the lights in the neighborhood, or the smell of a good ole pine tree in your house. I love it. I also love this time because we have the chance to give gifts to the people we love in life. Finding the right gift is always fun for me, trying to think about the person and what they would really enjoy. Oh and in case you are a last minute shopper, Amazon Prime is your friend (so you should jump on that!). Also, I’m not sponsored to say that, but if Amazon is listening, hello! Anyways, giving gifts is a great part of the season, and yes, receiving gifts is always great! It is a season filled with joy and reflection for me. I get to be with my family and loved ones and just share time with them, and there is no better feeling than that. Being generous doesn’t have to be the giving of physical gifts either. In Daystar Kids yesterday, I was able to lead the second hour service. The life app we have been looking at is compassion, and yesterday I shared the lesson about how Jesus was the greatest gift any of us have ever received. God sent his son to save humanity, humanity that is corrupt and is a fallen people. Humans that are imperfect, given a savior who was perfect. A savior that came in the humble form of a child. God gave generously.

God wants us to give, but he wants us not to just give a tithe, but he wants us to humble ourselves. We can give our time, abilities, and heart to others. When I think back on the memories of people who gave to me, its’ always been a time spent together, an empowering word, or just a real conversation about how we can change the world. Giving generously is simple, my fourth and fifth graders show me this any time I ask about how they can show love or compassion to people around them. One of the kids has a lot of siblings, so when they say things like, “I can help do the dishes,” you know they are giving generously. Another kid said they love doing art, so they could make cards for people. The best thing about working with kids, is that they are wise beyond their age at times. One of the students said they could sit with people at school who are alone, because they know what it’s like to be bullied and alone. That was a fifth grader. She knows how to give generously. Moments like this are the ones where I get teared up and probably look silly in this coffee shop, but it’s because I see the heart in each of these kids. In moments when we feel alone or that someone doesn’t care about us, we can give generously and change someone’s life. I’m writing with tears in my eyes because someone gave generously to me, and told me I was going to make a difference, that’s why we must give generously.

Give your time.

This is a hard one for most of us. It’s so easy to be self-oriented, that our agenda becomes more important than investing in the lives of others. I think about the times my parents would give up time for me and my sister. Each week we would spend time together, doing things like eating ice-cream and waffles for dinner, or eating under the table. There was one time where my mom and I went to see Star Wars when one of them came out, I love those movies, and my mom went with me even though she was confused about the story. She gave time. She gave generously. It taught me to live like that as well, I give up time to pour into students on my Sundays, and I meet with a couple high schoolers in the week, and I do it because I want to give generously in their lives. Sometimes Netflix binging can wait when those close to us need us. Something that many of us can learn. Give with your time, we aren’t guaranteed it anyways, so use it wisely to impact people in your life.

Give your abilities.

Last week I talked about how unique each of us is. You have been designed with incredible gifts and talents. I love working with the next generation because they see the value in using their gifts to create a better world and spread the name of Jesus. So why is it that when we get older we start to live like we can’t make a difference? That is so not true! Everyone is important, there has never been anyone who wasn’t special. If you are silently judging me and thinking I’m the kind of person that wants everyone to get a medal, you are looking at things all wrong (Yup, I just called you out). Too many people live with a cynical mindset, trust me, I can be very cynical. When we look at life this way, we miss out on the chances to take a leap or help someone chase their wild dream! All too often we tell people they can’t, and rarely tell them they can. I think that’s sad. I think it’s sad because God made us with a purpose, we make larger ripples in the universe than we even can imagine. I have a dream to reach the next generation and help people find their purpose, so I decided to start a blog. I told my sister that when I first started (She is wise beyond her years) and rather than saying that’s silly, she told me to do it. She gave me confidence to put myself out there, and I am so thankful for that. You, my dear reader, have been given gifts. No matter how old or young you may be, you can change the world. If no one has ever told you can do it, know that I believe you can do it. Give generously with your abilities because God will use your effort to change the world.

Give your heart.

No, I don’t mean donate your heart (you can’t live without that, silly!). What I mean, is that before we can truly step into what God has for us, we need to give our life and place our trust in Christ. The first step to opening up a door to the vision of your life. When you do this, your life will change. You will begin to look at the world differently. When you have a relationship with Christ, you begin to treat others the way you want to be treated. You start to speak life giving words over others, and hold back your tongue when someone crosses you. God has much for you, so give your life to him. When you live differently, people notice. You make a bigger impact when you give your heart. I’ll always remember a certain moment in my life where things clicked, where I knew that God had more for me. It was in a passing moment with my middle school pastor who would invite me to serve at a local elementary school in a not so great part of town. My pastor, Marshall Johnson, knew that I felt alone and not worth anything, and he simply said, “Joshua, you are going to do great things one day.” Now I know it may seem like I’m trying to humble brag right now, but far from it. I’m simply sharing a simple memory that altered my life. I’m sharing it, because we have the ability to use our words and change lives of the people around us whom may be struggling. Give your heart, because when we do, we accept the responsibility of changing lives for the better.

candid-15

Giving generously is so much more than a present on Christmas. Giving generously means looking at the world around you and seeing how you can show love and compassion to another person. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose affair, it could simply be a text to that friend you haven’t seen in a while, laughing with the people you love, or sitting with the person who feels like they are fighting alone. Giving shouldn’t be a Christmas time feeling, it should be an everyday choice. A choice to give your time, abilities, and heart to grow closer to God and follow his vision for your life. You have dreams, and they may seem crazy, but God wants to use your dreams to impact this world. Speak life to the people around you, use your abilities to serve others, and give your heart each day to accept what God has in store for you. Live a generous life. So when you see moments where you can give to someone else, take hold of it. God gave his own son to save you. He gave the ultimate gift. So help your siblings wash dishes, draw a card for your friends, and sit with the person who may feel the same way you did. That is how you can live a life that honors God.

That is how you give generously.

-Joshua Thomas

 

Destiny Awaits

Everyone has a yearning for something greater, we all have been given a drive to leave our mark on this world. I think about this a lot, like a lot a lot (too many lots?). I know I’m not the only one whose mind is drawn to be something greater, because I know that God made us to be more than where we are. There is a problem that can come up, we look to the wrong things to pursue. Isn’t that the terrible truth, we want to find our passion and purpose, but we lose sight of the path that God has placed us on. While thinking about this, I began to watch one of the greatest movies of all time, Star Wars. The movie is filled with great truths that can be applied many ways, but one theme jumped out to me that had never before. Our main character Luke, in the beginning is a simple farm boy on a distant planet, and later becomes the warrior that he was called to be to bring peace and justice. That’s a pretty great calling, we all want to become great, to save others and bring peace to those around us, but Luke didn’t want to do this. The first time we see Luke, it is apparent to see that he doesn’t want to be a farmer, he wants to be a pilot. Not a bad passion to pursue, but when we see the old Ben Kenobi, he tells Luke that he was made for so much more. Like all of us, Luke is so focused on what he wants, that he almost misses his true purpose. Now I know some of you may have glazed over while I was talking about this amazing movie, but the fact is, the movie reveals something that we all fight.

We all have an enemy actively working against us (See previous post for more on that topic), but we also fight ourselves. So often this thing called pride jumps in our way when we ask God what he wants of us. We begin to idolize our pursuits. This could be the pursuit of a job that may make you more money, but take away your influence and doing what you enjoy. It could also mean pursuing an unhealthy relationship when you really should know better, our idolizing the idea of needing a relationship to be complete. This could be a pursuit of earthly pleasure rather than seeking God for our joy. We begin to believe that our way is better, that maybe this is what God wants me to do. We stop listening to the Ben Kenobi’s in our life that have gone before us and have wisdom we can’t even imagine. Pride makes us want to be a space pilot rather than a hero of the universe. Today I want to talk about some ways that God has taught me to fight against pride, and these are things that I still have to actively press into, because none of us are perfect. I want to help you to find what God has for you rather than your own plans, because God has given me a greater vision for my own life.

It’s not about us.

This is the first thing we need to understand in order to step into purpose. God made you with a specific purpose to be a beautiful man and woman after his image, but you are not the most important person in the world. My mom used to say to my sister and I, “The world doesn’t revolve around you.” Now twelve year old Joshua would get mad, but it’s true, and it’s something the bible says very clearly. Galatians 6:3 says, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Now don’t feel depressed and think that you don’t have a purpose, that’s another lie. The truth is, in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You play an important role for the kingdom, you were designed from the start for something big. It’s not about us, because it is about Jesus. Once we live into that truth, we are on our way to beating pride.

Humility Brings wisdom.

What we just learned is the basis for living a humble life. Pride hurts us and causes us to be foolish, but when we live in humility, we gain wisdom. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble comes wisdom.” Wisdom is such an important virtue to apply to your life. When we are living wisely, each decision we make is looked at through a different lens, we choose what will help and what will hurt. So when we live wisely, we think about how that new career will change us, or that maybe this relationship shouldn’t go any further, wisdom reveals what God wants for us, rather than blindly following what we think we know. We get wisdom from God’s word. That’s the reason we have the bible and the reason why people say you should read it, because it is so important for your life! Wisdom comes from the understanding of what God freely gives. Be humble and let God speak.

Listen to wise people.

This is the last piece of the arsenal to combat pride. God has placed people in your life strategically to help you make the best choices. Even in wisdom and humility, it can get hard to see if what you begin to pursue, really is the place for you. When you find yourself in situations like this, stop, look around you, and ask. Everyone, no matter how perfect they may seem, has someone they go to talk about ideas with and ask for help. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” In Star Wars, Luke chose to follow his true path and he had Ben Kenobi train him. In any movie, book, or important person in life, all of them have a mentor. Finding one may seem daunting, but trust me when I tell you it will be the best thing you could ever do. Over and over again I find myself in situations where I don’t know what to do, or why the world feels like it’s crashing down around me. In those moments I know I can talk to my mentor, and even if they don’t know the answer, they always join me in prayer to fight against the things I am facing. We are warriors, we all need sensei’s.

tumblr_njxah3TdZW1r0p7xuo1_500

The world is big and filled with unknowns. We are all made for so much more, God designed each and every one of us to do great things. You may feel like you don’t know where you’re headed or if where you’re going is where you know you should be. Don’t fear the unknown, trust on the one thing you can know is constant through all things. You have a destiny that will play a part in things you can’t even imagine. You will influence people in ways you may have never even fathomed, and you may not see the effect of what you have done. Take heart, God will use you, because he made you to be exactly who you are. I know for me it’s hard to believe that you were made for a purpose, because I have had to face adversity and people telling me I’m not good enough or strong enough to do anything important. This is the biggest lie, and if anyone says something like that to you, know this: You are special, you can do all things, you are important, and you are unique. No matter how many people would say things that cut like a sword, and sometimes still do, my family always reminded me that God made me. When you live into your royalty of Christ, no one can ever stop you from achieving your destiny. So be unique, be different, be who God made you to be.

Your destiny awaits.

-Joshua Thomas