When I Think, “I Don’t Make a Difference…”

Ladder Match

Okay, I admit it. I used to be a huge WWF fan. You may think that’s sweet, but I’m not talking about the “save the polar bears” WWF, I’m talking about the “throw your opponent through a folding table” WWF. That’s right, I was in attendance when Cactus Jack first won the Heavy Weight Championship at Raw; I was there when Mike Tyson refereed the championship match between Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIV. I personally smelled what the Rock* was cooking. The WWF (now called The WWE for World Wresting Entertainment after being sued by the aforementioned “save the bears” WWF), was always looking for ways to up the violence, and one of those concepts was something called a Ladder Match. They would hang the championship belt or a briefcase of cash 20 feet above the ring, place some ladders around the squared circle then wait to see who could fight their way to the top first. No rules. No disqualifications. All that mattered was getting that prize. It was spectacularly violent and horrifying.

Sometimes our lives feel that way too, like we’re just climbing a ladder trying to get the prize. The problem is that other people try to pull us down or knock over our ladder so they can get the prize we’re reaching for. We get so busy trying to “make it” that we don’t have time to make a difference in the world. At least, that’s what we think. God has hard-wired us to want to make a difference. We’re designed to be a reflection of His grace and mercy, so when we don’t feel we’re making a difference it gnaws at us. But the truth is you are making a difference—every day. The question isn’t, “Why aren’t I making a difference,” but is instead, “what is the difference I’m making right now?” The truth is that every interaction you have with another person makes a difference in their life. Are you primarily making a positive or negative difference in the lives of your co-workers, family members and or even strangers you meet? How do our every day interactions with people change the perspectives they have of God or the Church? Paul addressed this question when he wrote:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)

Help during an air raid drill

As we climb the ladder, there are two major issues that can distract us from positively impacting the lives of others. The first is blind personal ambition. Are you so focused on reaching the top of the ladder that you don’t care how many people fall off the rung and through a folding table as you climb? The second issue is that we’re struggling to climb the ladder ourselves. Does the next step seem too hard? That can keep us from making a positive difference in someone’s life too. Chances are, if you’re still reading this, you fall into the second category (since the blind ambition group  probably stopped reading somewhere after the Stone Cold Steve Austin bit). Are you clinging to your ladder rung, unable to move forward, and feeling bad because you haven’t helped anyone else either? Well, sometimes there’s a reason you can’t move forward. It’s not always because you’re not strong enough. Sometimes God has you in a place of waiting because there’s someone on the rung below you who needs a hand up. That’s worth waiting for.

Here’s the great thing about God’s ladder: there’s not just one prize. We don’t have to fight for a single championship belt because God has a separate reward for each one of his children. The difference between God’s ladder and the WWE ladder match is that God’s not concerned about whether or not you get there first. He’s only concerned about how you climb the ladder and that you’re trying to reach Him, not a prize. There’s no penalty for stopping on a rung to make sure the person behind you makes it up safely. God has a purpose for your life and he wants you to succeed:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

God may be calling you to volunteer in a ministry or work on an outreach project. Those are important, but don’t forget you’re already making a difference. You make a difference with every smile or every scowl you share along your climb. Stop worrying about whether or not your making a difference and start paying attention to the difference you’re already making.

DON’T THINK: “I don’t make a difference.”
THINK: “Everything I do makes a difference. I’d better pay attention.”

Prayer: Father God,  Thank you for the opportunities you give me to change people’s lives. Open my eyes to see those around me as you see them. Show me where I can make a positive difference in someone’s life today. If there’s a project or a ministry you want me to work in, show me and I will follow leading, but don’t let me be complacent in the difference I make every day. Amen.

Engage: How do the things you do affect those around you? Tell us about a time when you unexpectedly made a difference in someone’s life.


Josh Masters and Jake "The Snake" Roberts

This is either David and Goliath or
Josh and Jake “The Snake” Roberts

For those of you who are wrestling fans, don’t think the world of professional wrestling can’t make a positive difference in the world. I encourage everyone to watch this inspiring video about professional wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page, who changed the life of an injured Gulf War veteran by simply believing in him.

*For those of you who are not wrestling fans, do not confuse “The Rock” mentioned above with Jesus. They are not the same person.

Please see the Condition of Use for this blog.
© Joshua J. Masters and Think This, Not That, 2012.

Photo Credits: Wresting Ladder Match by jrandallc, Air Raid Drill from the State Library of Victoria Collection.

When I Think, “I’ll Never Get Out of Debt…”

(Today’s guest post is from my wife, Gina Masters. She is the author of the healthy living blog, free to be, food and me. You can also follow her on Facebook)

This is one thought that Josh and I know very well, unfortunately.  It wasn’t always that way though.  As someone who never even owned a credit card of any kind until the age of 22, I never imagined that someday I would be nearly $80,000.00 in debt.  But fast forward ten years and that’s exactly where we were.  While it can happen to anyone regardless of their spiritual walk, the majority of our financial mishaps happened when both of us were living far away from Jesus.  The world had gotten a hold of both of us and we fell into the lie that we could “buy now and pay later.”  And boy oh boy, did we ever pay for that mentality!  As we sank farther and farther towards bottom, this thought truly had grabbed a hold of us.  It seemed hopeless and we could not imagine a way out.  We really believed we could never get out of the hole we were in without some sort of worldly solution.  But, then one day in 2008, our eyes were opened and we saw, through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, that God and His word actually did have a plan for us and our money.  If we would just be faithful and follow it, we could be free!

In fact, the Bible instructs us on money more than any other subject, including love. This sounds strange, doesn’t it?  After all, doesn’t Jesus say that the most important commandment is to love one another?  But we’ve learned over the last three years that how we handle our money is incredibly important to God because it shows, at its very core, where our true desires lie.  Do we desire God and His way or do we desire our own agenda?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”  (Matthew 6:21).  For many years, our treasures were anything that helped us “keep up with the Joneses.”  Sound familiar?  Clothes, cars, trinkets, and so-called treasures, that meant nothing when compared to the incomparable love of Jesus.  Instead of placing our faith in Him, our faith was in our paycheck, our checkbook and any solution the world sold us. We’re being sold all the time that we just need to “consolidate” our debt, file for bankruptcy, borrow against our homes, and rob Peter to pay Paul.  Beloved, please know that we truly understand your hardships and the temptation to try to attack this problem on your own, but I promise you that God has another way that will not only set you free, but pays incredible spiritual dividends!

Money is such a tool of the world that we have a hard time believing God cares about this, but He does.  The day we began moving forward in His plan to get rid of our debt, being completely faithful to Him in every financial decision we made, we saw God’s incredible provision begin to lead us out of the dark and towards freedom.  Like all battles, this one begins in the mind.  We must believe God is faithful, and that we are precious to Him, more so than anything He has created:

“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 why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 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.” (Matthew 6:35-34)

When you are battling debt, remember that God sees your struggle and He is caring for you.  God does not want to see His children in bondage!  He sent His son Jesus so we could be free to live with Him and His righteousness, free from the lies of the world.  Start with this empowering truth and then take action according to God’s Word to begin battling your way out with Him by your side.  We are proud to tell you that by starting with this truth ourselves and putting Dave Ramsey’s program into practice, three years later we have paid off $70,000.00 of our debt.  We did not use a debt service, consolidation plan or any sort of bankruptcy.  We gave faithfully throughout, “counted the cost” of every decision we made, joined in the battle together in our marriage instead of allowing it to separate us, and prayed for deliverance every day.  Most of all, we believed that He would deliver us.

DON’T THINK:  “I’m in too deep, there is no way out.”
INSTEAD THINK:  “God cares for me more than anything He’s created and He is my deliverer!  Nothing is impossible with God”

Prayer:  Father God, I know I have made mistakes and I confess I have not been faithful with my finances.  I have relied on the world when I should have relied on You. I thank You, that You see my struggle and that I have nothing to worry about because You love me above all creation.  I ask you to come along side me and give me wisdom through Your Word to deliver me from this debt.  I place my faith, my hope and my trust in You, believing that You will lead me into freedom.

 Engage:  What fears or doubts do you have that are preventing you from trusting God with your finances?

Please see the Condition of Use for this blog.
© Joshua J. Masters and Think This, Not That, 2012.

Photo Credit: Flickr Commons 401k

When I Think, “I’ll Never Get There…”



Waiting… oh how I hate thee. Have you ever been on an airplane and then had the airline delay takeoff? Agonizing. You’re not in any real danger, and though it may be cramped, it’s not as if your in solitary confinement or stocks. Yet it’s still agonizing because you have no control over the situation and you have to wait (often with no indication of how long you’ll have to wait—which is the worst part).

Sometimes it can feel like we’ll never get where God wants us to go. You’ll never get that new job, you’ll never start that ministry, you’ll never lose weight, you’ll never finish writing that book. The “you’ll never” is the lie we replay in our heads, and it’s actually the only thing stopping us from accomplishing whatever it is God wants us to accomplish. Yes, God sometimes makes us wait. Sometimes it’s because we have some growing to do before we can handle the success of whatever he has planned. Sometimes he has us wait because he’s got a better opportunity lined up than what we currently see. Whether the “you’ll never” is an indication that you have some growing to do or a lie from the Enemy because he’s terrified you’re so close to doing it, don’t waste your wait time. Just because God has you in a holding pattern doesn’t mean you can’t be productive, and it certainly doesn’t mean God doesn’t believe in what he’s called you to do. Don’t get trapped thinking “someone else could do it better,” or  “I’m not good enough” just because you’re waiting. Moses spent 40 years waiting to go get his people out of Egypt and then another 40 in the desert with them. Abraham waited until he was 100 years old before he got the son God promised him (I hate those examples because I always think, “Waiting a few years has been terrible, I hope God doesn’t make me wait that long”). Here’s one more to consider: Jesus had to wait 30 years before God allowed him to start his ministry. Don’t you think Jesus was ready before then? He was teaching at the age of 12, but God had him wait because God’s timing was more important than Jesus’ timing. Woah… Hold up. The Father made Jesus wait? Yes. In fact, the Father has Jesus waiting right now—he’s waiting to return and save his loved ones, he’s waiting to redeem Israel, but only the Father knows the day and time that will happen (Matthew 24:36).

Sometimes you waiting is more about God’s timing than your ability, but here’s something you can be sure of: if God has called you to do something, have something, or find something, it will most assuredly come to pass. I have a tendency to start projects and never finish them, but God’s not like that. If God’s put something on your heart it will happen:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:4-6)

But don’t use waiting as an excuse to do nothing. Most waiting is designed as a period of preparation.  Be productive while you wait. Serve in the community, hone your skills, spend time with God, practice what God has put on your heart. These are the things that will reduce the wait time, and the next time you’re stuck on a plane with no hope of taking off, pull out your Bible and start reading. Kill two waits with one Bible (I’m thinking that phrase might not catch on).

DON’T THINK: “I’ll never get there.”
THINK: “God started this, and I can trust him to make it happen.”

Prayer: Father God, I’ll be honest, I hate waiting. I really do, but I understand that you know a lot better than I do what’s best for me. Please show me anything in my life that needs examining to prepare me for what you’ve called me to do. Show me what you want me to do while I’m waiting. I trust you and love you.  Amen.

Engage: What are you waiting for and what are you doing to make that wait time productive?


Please see the Condition of Use for this blog.
© Joshua J. Masters and Think This, Not That, 2012.

Photo Credit: Suvodeb

When I Think, “I’m Not Strong Enough…”

Medieval Tower

The Lord is my fortress
and my refuge.

I’ve always had a deep desire to become a knight. When I was young (although not as young as one would hope for such a thing), I wrote a letter to the Queen of England asking what deed I might perform to make me worthy of knighthood in her eyes. That was about twenty-five years ago—but the Queen is very busy; I’m sure she’ll get back to me soon. The truth is, I don’t always feel like I have the strength to be me, let alone the strength to be a knight.

There are events in our lives that knock the wind out of us, events that make us feel we don’t have the strength to fight or even stand. The truth is, we probably don’t have enough strength to stand on our own in those moments. That’s why God offers His strength to us. When David’s people wanted to stone him, he found strength in God (1 Samuel 30:6), because those who put their hope in the Lord have their strength renewed (Isaiah 40:31 ). Yes, God can give us the courage to fight, but he can also serve as a protector when we’re being attacked. During the darkest hours of your life, he will surround you with his compassionate protection as he nurtures the strength he’s placed inside you:

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)

Every knight has a castle where he rests in safety, a fortress where he doesn’t have to rely on his own strength for protection. When you find yourself in those overwhelming moments of weakness, “look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11).

DON’T THINK: “I’m not strong enough.”
THINK: “I can use God’s strength in place of my own. He is my fortress and my refuge.”

Prayer: Father God,  You are my strength and my salvation. I can’t stand on my own today, but I give you praise and ask for your strength in these moments of weakness. Protect and encourage my heart as I trust in you. Amen.

Engage: What areas in your life do you most need God’s strength? How do you use God as your fortress?


Please see the Condition of Use for this blog.
© Joshua J. Masters and Think This, Not That, 2012.

Photo Credit: ShadowRave

When I Think, “The World is Against Me…”


The world is not that intimidating

I’m not going to lie; the world can be a pretty rough place to live. If you were told life would be easier when you became a Christian, somebody sold you a bill of goods. In fact, the Bible guarantees you’ll face trials in life. Unlike some of the other lies we tell ourselves, this one’s mostly true. In a general sense, the “world” is against us. (You: “I thought this blog was supposed to be uplifting.” Me: “Keep reading.”) Just because this little recording we play in our heads has a seed of truth doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to re-frame the way we think about it. In fact, that’s all the more reason. Satan’s favorite lie is one seasoned with a pinch of truth; it makes it easier for him to convince you that you’re defeated. Yes, Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble,”  but that was not the end of his statement. His point wasn’t one of defeat, but one of victory because he concludes his proclamation with a promise, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The world may be against us, but it’s already been defeated! All the little things that attack us, even the big things that attack us, are not truly strong enough to defeat us. We only give the world power against us when we forget we have access to a greater power within us:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. (1 John 4:4-5)

DON’T THINK: “The world is against me; I can’t fight it.”
THINK: “Greater is he who is in me than the one who is in the world.”

Prayer: Father God, Give me the focus to remember your strength in my weakness. Reveal to my heart what the world wants to conceal, that you have already claimed victory on my behalf. Amen.

Engage: What does the enemy do to convince you that you’ve been defeated? How do you fight him off?


Please see the Condition of Use for this blog.
© Joshua J. Masters and Think This, Not That, 2012.

Photo Credit: Jakub Krechowicz

When I Think, “I’m Not Good Enough…”

One of my favorite movies stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. They’re outlaws, so I don’t want you to use them as role models, but there are a lot of character lessons in that film. One tight spot the lovable thieves find themselves in is hiding between a rock and a rather high cliff while being surrounded by gunmen. That’s a bad day. Their only way of escaping  is to jump off the cliff into the river below, but for some reason Sundance just won’t do it. He’d rather stay and fight to the death (a fight he’d surely lose). It turns out Sundance can’t swim. Sometimes our fears stop us from thinking we can succeed. Sometimes we’d rather face certain failure instead of uncertain success, but God has created us with gifts and a purpose:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8)

The term “walking with God” implies that we’re actually moving. Sundance would have accomplished nothing by staying behind the rock. Sometimes God only gives us one direction to go because He wants us to learn He can be trusted, He wants us to know He’s perfectly capable of teaching us to swim if there’s a river he needs us to cross. Don’t be paralyzed by a fear of the unknown or because you think someone else can swim better than you. God has mapped out a path for you and your specific talents. That path is important to Him, so it should be important to us.

Don’t Think: “I’m not good enough.”
Think: “God has created me with gifts and a purpose.”

Engage: Have you ever felt like you weren’t good enough, that you’d be better off just staying put? How did you fight that feeling?


Please see the Condition of Use for this blog.
© Joshua J. Masters and Think This, Not That, 2012.

Photo Credit: Jesse Therrien

When I Feel, “There’s No One I Can Trust…”

TrustThere are moments in my life when I feel like Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne—like there’s no one I can trust. I share their paranoia without their exciting life or ability to jump from one rooftop to another. There are days when the jukebox in my head repeats a depressing medley of hits like:

“You Can’t Trust Anyone at Work”
“You Can’t Trust Family”
“You Can’t Trust Your Friends”
“You Can’t Trust Anyone at Church”

It’s not a great album and I never should have bought it (it’s even worse than the Regis Philbin record I once bought on a whim). Those ideas, of course, are not true. People will certainly let us down, but most of us have people we can trust in our lives. But even if we don’t, we have a God who delights in keeping his promises. In fact, God makes promises not because He’s obligated to, but because he loves to bless his children:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

God has called us by “his own glory” and made “great and precious promises,” not because of anything we’ve done, but because of His grace. We can trust his promises because they’re not contingent on anything we’ve accomplished. They’re based on what He’s already accomplished.

Don’t Think: “There’s no one I can trust.”
Think: “God has made me promises I can trust and count on.”

Engage: When have you felt like there was no one you could count on? How does the verse above change your thinking?


Please see the Condition of Use for this blog.
© Joshua J. Masters and Trust This, Not That, 2012.

Photo Credit: Dave Dufour