Devotional: Love one another

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
We have so many things going on in our lives – bills that need paying; kids to be fed/clothed/taught/cared for; household chores to complete; people to meet; errands to run; work to carry out; and the list goes on. It can make one feel overwhelmed, stressed, tired, agitated, behind, and hopeless.
These to-do’s are important; but checkmarks, accomplishments, possessions, and every other aspect of life are secondary – nothing, even – if there is no love. It’s the most important thing, and the only thing that matters. I desire to remember this as I’m doing all these crazy things, and are at risk of losing sight of what God commands as most critical to make my life count.
“And now these three remain: faith, hop, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (Cor. 13:13)

Devotional: Waiting on God

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” (Isaiah 30:18)
Today’s Marketplace Leaders devotional hit home for me. While I’d love to see The Halal Guys hit 50 stores already; all of Operation Christmas Child’s fundraising needs met and have all 2,400 boxes assembled and ready to bless people; my mortgage paid off in a year; and a variety of results happen at the flip of a switch…God doesn’t work that way.
Moses took 40 years before God tasked him with leading the Israelites out of Egypt and start the journey into the Promised Land. Joseph was enslaved and imprisoned for 17 years before God decided he was ready for leadership. Jacob endured 20 years of waiting and hard work before he was released from Laban. Abraham and Sarah didn’t have their first child until they were well into their old age.
He does this in order to make sure we’re truly ready to do His work, His way. Prematurely doing work out of impatience or thinking we magically know more than God leads to failure or subpar results; and too much focus on the outcome doesn’t respect or give you appreciation for the process, the learning, the character building, and the dependence God for provision and preparation – and I’d choose His power over my limited, untapped, unreliable capabilities.
And the outcome shouldn’t even be a concern, anyway – if we are walking with God daily, then we have succeeded, and the rewards of that are infinitely better than the end result – which happen anyway when you’re doing and focusing on the right thing.

Devotional: What can God do through you?

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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My family and I went to church this past Sunday and was met with an incredible message. Like usual.

Saddleback Church is currently teaching angle of the Bible called “Everyday Heroes” – where God takes ordinary people like you and I and equips us to do meaningful work with His power, and not our own, limited capabilities. This squashes the excuses we give ourselves and others to why we can’t do things that matter, and eliminates the roadblocks to change our lives and that of others.

Below are a few verses from the Bible, takeaways from Pastor Buddy Owens, and my commentary on them.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us years ago.” (Eph. 2:10)

The call to be saved is the call to serve. When you accept Jesus into your life, your priorities change from being worldly, selfish, and/or short-sighted goals; to loving and serving others. And love is one of the only things that lasts far beyond our human lives and into eternity.

“He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” (Eph. 3:20)

This is a reminder that we need to stop making decisions based on our own abilities or knowledge – they equal to only a grain of salt compared to the power and wisdom that God makes available to us if we tap into His grid (the Bible).

Not using it is like driving a car past a gas station on every corner, never stopping in, and running it until it’s dead on the road.

“Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years He gave them into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:1)

God is a loving parent who will take away things and put me in difficult situations to build my character, change my bad habits, and learn to depend on Him instead of other idols (possessions, power, prestige, etc.). This verse scares me a bit because I know I have to learn the hard way for many things. I’m super stubborn like that.

“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12)

I love this verse – it gives me a lot of hope.

For context – this story is about Gideon, who is the youngest child in the weakest family in the smallest clan of Israel. By social status measures, he was an absolute nobody; but with no military training or no noteworthy strengths or skills of any kind, God still called him “mighty.” The reason why is because he didn’t fight the Lord’s battle on his own merit or with his own weapons, but humbled himself and let God’s power fight the fight.

And because of that, his small army of 300 men were able to defeat 135,000 enemy soldiers. That could only be won on faith and with God’s help.

“‘But sir,’ Gideon replied, ‘if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian.'” (Judges 6:13)

This is the part in the Bible where Gideon complains about why his nation – the Israelites, supposedly God’s people – are being oppressed and why it seems as if their Heavenly Father has left them for dead. This reminds me of times where I feel discouraged, alone, angry, and neglected when something doesn’t happen the way I expected, or I don’t get what I worked hard for or did the right thing to achieve.

Pastor Buddy shares that Gideon doesn’t have the right perspective and isn’t looking at it from both sides. While he’s trying to victimize himself and shift blame, he forgets that his people have lost their way as well – in worshipping other idols, committing countless immoral transgressions, and not listening to His guidance. And like a loving parent who wants what’s best over what’s comfortable or pleasant for their child, God needs to take things away in order for their children to realize what they’ve done.

Gideon also forgot about the process and only cared about results and his circumstances, and that’s something I want to remember in my own situations. I need to first hold myself accountable for wrongdoings that may have caused my struggles in the first place; understand that God is putting me in the desert to build muscle, depend on Him, and teach me something valuable; and have faith that He is working everything in my life for the good.

There was also a section in the Bible where Gideon thought he heard God speak to him, but he wasn’t sure, and conducted a few tests with fleece and the ground. I won’t get into details of that exercise, but what I wanted to focus on was that Gideon didn’t doubt God, but he doubted his ability to hear Him.

It’s a healthy practice to find out whether ideas are truly answered prayer or not; and that I’m not trying to force my own agenda and sell myself and others on it, or that I am being seduced by the devil. That happens a lot.

“The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14)

When there is an idea that you are inspired by and know it’s answered prayer (for me – I get excited and consumed by a thought, it’s consistent with the Word, the current circumstances validate it, and it’s an opportunity to serve others), it most likely will be so big and far-fetched that you’ll feel incapable of achieving it.

Be excited to know that if the calling isn’t big enough, you’re not living by faith; if it scares you half to death, you’re probably on the right track; and if God has compelled you to pursue it, go with what you have and He will provide the resources needed to carry it out.

“If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.” (Ecc. 11:4)

Don’t make excuses or wait for circumstances or levels of comfort in order to jump in when you know it’s what you should be doing. God isn’t looking for ABILITY; He is only looking for AVAILABILITY.

As Pastor Rick Warren says: “God’s will done God’s way never lacks God’s help.” If He’s sending you, then He’s obviously confident that you’ll get the job done, and I’d put my bet on that.

Devotional: Hearing God

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

Famous Bible teacher F.B. Meyer wrote: “When we want to know God’s will, there are three things which always occur: The inward impulse, the Word of God, and the trend of circumstances. Never act until these three things agree.”

This is helpful for me as a person who really wants to hear His voice and seek Him, and has trouble because I am so distracted with all the noise of work, barricaded from my sinful nature, and especially so manipulative. I tend to do what I want to do, and do a great job selling myself and others on why it has to be “God’s will” and why it’s the best plan – even when it’s not His plan.

Using this simple, 3-checkbox criteria will keep me tune into His frequency more often, and avoid a lot of selfish, ineffective, unsuccessful actions, thinking, and results.

1. Do I feel very inspired – did an idea just consume me like a fire and become difficult to ignore?
2. Does this idea comply with everything God has said in the Bible that you know of? Is it an expression of love, does it serve others, does it give Him the glory?
3. Are there situations in my life right now that also point you toward this direction?

Devotional: Desert training

Desert.jpg

Pictured: An hour outside of Dubai

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Ps. 63:1)

I didn’t think about it this way, but today’s devotional brought up the fact that a lot of God’s work in us happens in the desert. My mind probably just dismissed the setting because there are a lot of regions in the Middle East that are desert land, and there was no more to it.

But if I look deeper, I’ll understand the physical and symbolic meaning of this environment. David wrote part of the Book of Psalms while in the desert of Judah, hiding from his son Absalom who was trying to replace him as king of Israel. Joseph was thrown into a deep pit in the desert, and that started a long journey towards his eventual ruling over Egypt. Jesus was in the desert in prayer while he was being tempted by all sorts of comforts, pleasures, and luxuries meant to derail His purpose on Earth.

Not that being in the desert is fun, but the next time I am in difficult circumstances, I’d like to have a different perspective of why things are happening (or not happening) the way they are. God is building my patience, my faith, my character, and in the absence of resources He is teaching me to depend on Him for provision, purpose, and prosperity (I like how I got the three “P’s” in there lol!).

Devotional: Brokenness is necessary

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Prepare it with oil on a griddle; bring it well-mixed and present the grain offering broken in pieces as an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” (Lev. 6:21)

There is a common denominator among people in the Bible who went on to do incredible things that changed history. It happened when Paul was struck on his way to Damascus, and was blind for days. It happened to Joseph when he was sold into slavery by his own brothers and experienced many more hardships along the way. The stories go on and on…and the main theme throughout is that God can only exhibit His power when we are broken.

What scares me a little bit is that this brokenness can’t be summoned on our own, or by demand. God needs to break us, and it’s never a comfortable, predictable, happy, or desirable experience.

I fear being broken through loss of a loved one; losing all of my possessions; feeling without a purpose; being betrayed; and whatever else my imagination runs wild with, that I currently enjoy and am thankful for.

This is going to happen no matter what, and no one who seeks the Lord is immune from it. With that in mind, I can only hope to have the strength to accept it, let the Lord bear the pain with me, and allow Him to transform it for good – and the sooner the better. What’s worse than being broken is being in denial or angry, and inadvertently being the bottleneck for letting God heal me and equip me for something more meaningful.

The next time my world comes crashing down, or the fear of it plagues me…I will do my best to thank the Lord in advance, since He’s about to give me bigger purpose; pray for the peace that surpasses understanding; and dive in.

Devotional: Becoming a servant

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…” (Matt. 20:26)

Reading this passage makes me think about all of the career positions I’ve held in the past.

Before I re-dedicated my life to Christ and put my identity in Him, I wrongfully put my identity in labels that my work gave me: Senior Director, Partner, Founder, and Co-Owner, etc.

I felt pretty hot giving people my business cards and sending emails with with signatures that held these job titles.

Now – I’m reminded that being a real leader has never had anything to do with rank; but how many people I can truly help. When you solve problems for people, you have influence in their lives and can make a real impact.

Today – when you step out of the house and start your day, think about how you can help a perfect stranger; someone who needs a mentor; a boss, a partner, a colleague, or someone who works for you; a client or vendor; someone who has helped you; someone who can’t help you…anyone, without any expectation of repayment.

Grace, blessing, and compensation are byproducts – so don’t worry about it. Worry about serving.

Devotional: Hebraic thought

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” (Psalms 111:10)

Today’s devotional reminds me that education is obviously critical for equipping, protecting, and growing one’s self…but it should never, ever be the primary means of gaining wisdom.

Anything other than reading God’s word, listening for answered prayer, and following His will that is your main operating system are grounds for subpar or undesirable results and lack of fulfillment.

Wisdom in biblical times was gained by obedience – not by logic, reasoning, and analysis. While we are grateful for Greek culture giving us tools for gaining, understanding, and applying knowledge – and they definitely have their place in our lives – it’s time for a reboot and return to this principle.

I am so guilty of this – I consume books, podcasts, teachings, and conversations and apply their takeaways most of the time without consulting God first and asking if my education and actions adhere to His wishes – that it honors God and serves people.

I’m done with gaining wisdom that isn’t sourced by God. Nobody knows a creation better than its inventor; nobody loves me more perfectly than my Father; and the truth never changes – which is why the Bible has endured and empowered people for so long.

Throwback: If you want to make $1M…

This is part of a series called “Throwback” – where I revive journal entries and blog posts written/posted on this very day, years ago.

Written on June 30th, 2015 (two years ago), I started reading Tony Robbins’ new book at the time. I loved this passage.

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…find a way to help people make $10M, or add $10M of value. It’s all about just making yourself more valuable in the marketplace than what you’re paid.

Thought of the day.

From Tony Robbins’ “Money: Master The Game”

Throwback: Calling myself out

This is part of a series called “Throwback” – where I revive journal entries and blog posts written/posted on this very day, years ago.

Written on June 30th, 2016 (one year ago), I found myself being super irritable with everyone around me and almost all circumstances that day, and there is a simple reason why.

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I can always tell when I have not been seeking God. The cares of this life, the urgent over the important, and the petty irritations – these are the symptoms of a life that has not been in the presence of God.