When I Feel Like “God Has Forgotten Me…”

Mountain MailboxI have a problem with mailboxes. Not my own mailbox or the ones at the post office, of course, but I have a real problem dropping letters into one of those remote blue boxes on the side of the road. It’s irrational, but I always fear that mailbox is the forgotten mailbox, the one that never gets collected. I think, What if the post office has abandoned this particular box? How would I know? After all, I’ve never seen a mail carrier here. It’s absurd, but it tasks me. Sometimes our Christian walk can feel that way too, except we’re the blue box. When we find ourselves in a season of waiting, it’s easy to start wondering if we’ve been abandoned. That’s when we start playing the negativity game: What if God dropped this desire in my heart, but he’s never coming to pick it up? Maybe I’ve been a terrible delivery box and I’m not worth being on His route anymore. What if God has forgotten me?

Here’s the thing to remember, the success of a letter being delivered is not contingent on the quality of the mailbox. It is only contingent on the one who delivers it. God does incredible things through our inabilities so He might be glorified, and the mission he’s put on your heart is His message to be delivered. I may never see all the workings that go into delivering a letter after I put it in the mailbox, but I don’t need to see how it happens to trust that it will happen. Sometimes a mailbox needs to be repaired, that’s true, but you never have to worry that the post office will forget that it commissioned that box for a reason. As much as I’d like to be, I’m not in charge of God’s route schedule or what gets delivered on which days, but I am responsible for accepting the messages when they arrive and keeping them safe until he sends someone to pick  that message up from me (Yes, sometimes you have to go out as the carrier, but that’s a different post. Today we’re mailboxes).

God has not forgotten you. God did not place a desire in your heart and then abandon you. There will undoubtedly be times of pain and suffering in your life. There will be moments when it seems like the world is against you, and days when it feels like you’re not strong enough to go on, but God has not forgotten you:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:15-16)

God didn’t just write your name in the Book of Life, he wrote your name on His own hand! I don’t have to worry that he’s forgotten me, because he sees me every day. That’s a powerful promise to grab hold of when we’re struggling. We may not be able to control when things happen; we may not know when God will deliver us, but we can be sure of one thing: God’s grace, comfort and love are not like the mail system at all—those qualities of God are more like On-Demand service. They’re available whenever you ask for them and He’s as desperate as a father looking for a missing child to embrace you. But instead of a remote control you access that relationship through prayer and reading his Word. That is where you’ll be reassured that He’s not forgotten you.

DON’T THINK: “It looks like God has forgotten me.”
THINK: “God wrote my name on His hand, and I know he wants me closer to Him.”

Prayer: Father God, I get caught up in my own misery and know I should be putting that energy into seeking you. Teach me to find you in prayer. Teach me to find you in your Word. Help me feel your presence when I feel alone.  Amen.

Engage: Have you ever felt like the mailbox instead of a mail carrier? How does reading God’s word change your perspective?

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

Photo Credit: laffertyryan

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.

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Josh Masters and Jake "The Snake" Roberts

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

ADDENDUM:
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.

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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, “Everyone’s an Idiot”

FrustrationI’m one of those people who rehearse all the clever negative things I’m going to say the next time I see “that person” while driving down the road. “That person” is the co-worker, friend or family member who has angered you, the person you want to strike back at. Do you find there are days that seem as if everyone around you is an idiot? I know I do, and when I rehearse those zingers on my way into work I not only win every argument, but leave my foe in a huddled mess. I envision myself as a word warrior, emotionally rag-dolling my opponent like The Hulk did to Loki in the new Avengers movie. I win every argument…  in my head.

That’s the problem. My victory is in my head and the reason it’s so sweet is because I’ve transformed the person in my mind from a human being into an inter-dimensional villain working on behalf of Satan himself. That’s probably not an accurate portrayal of the person, but it gives me the justification I need to plan my attack. Now, before you start to think I’m a terrible person, I never (okay, almost never) unleash that kind of fury in real life, but I also don’t always forgive as readily as I should either.

The problem is that I’ve forgotten that the person who hurt me was operating with their own human emotions, and when I discount that I lose my ability to react with the forgiveness, compassion and mercy God wants me to respond with. In those moments when I’ve been hurt or attacked I become blinded by my own emotions and forget there may be a very good explanation behind what that person said or did. Perhaps they’re operating from a place of hurt themselves, perhaps they’re struggling and putting up a defense. Whatever their motive, attacking will always make the situation worse. Always. Don’t fall into the enemy’s trap when he whispers, “They deserve to hurt the way they hurt you.” Maybe they do, but as with all Satan’s lies, it’s based on a half truth. Maybe their behavior was wrong, but they’re accountable to God not to you. Who am I to say, “No worries about that justice thing, God. I’ll take care of this one.” When I consider how often God shows me mercy for being an idiot, I can’t build much of a soapbox to point out other people’s idiocy from.

By the grace of God and some wise counsel, here’s what I learned last week: if I stave off my attack, I’ll often learn what was truly behind the hurt someone caused me. I can’t imagine the damage that would have been done if I had attacked instead of waiting three days to listen. It doesn’t seem like as much fun, but if you really want to fight, consider listening as a weapon against our true foe. He hates that.

Wisdom is enshrined in an understanding heart;
wisdom is not found among fools. (Proverbs 14:33, NLT)

DON’T THINK: “Everyone’s an idiot. I will destroy them.”
THINK: “God shows me mercy when I’m an idiot, I think I’ll back off.”

Prayer: Father God, I get so annoyed by the people around me sometimes. I confess that my attitude is wrong, and I want to see the big picture. Help me to see the person who hurt me through your eyes and allow my reaction to be a witness to your grace for the Kingdom.  Amen.

Engage: What are the things that really get under your collar? How do you react?

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

Photo Credit: Andrew Mccluskey

When I Think, “I’ll Never Get There…”

Waiting

Waiting

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?

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

Photo Credit: Suvodeb