Devotional: Changing our paradigm

“While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.'” (Acts 10:19-20)

This story takes place at a time when it was against Jewish law for Peter and other Jews to associate with Gentiles. God needed to change Peter’s attitude about this, so He gave him a vision that gave him this permission and inspiration. Because of this, so many miracles were possible and so many people came to Christ.

Lord – today I am open to whatever you say and whatever you call me to do. I understand that my way of thinking can sometimes be remnants of my past life – one idolizing work, believing that I have to be the main provider, and that I know the best way to handle things; but I want extraordinary results – one that only You can allow me to experience, and one that I can only experience by being down for anything and everything You inspire me with.

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SHAFT: Thank you so much for your donations!

You can read a little background on our nonprofit here

Hi All,

THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH to everyone who contributed to Operation Christmas Child so far! Your donations, prayers, encouragement, and sharing us with others are felt and are making a life-changing difference!

I wanted to send one more request for donations to buy the remaining items needed (we are about 60% complete) before we start planning the assembly of the 2,400 shoeboxes.

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We and the kids wiping out the entire notebook supplies at over four Big Lots in the county!
 
If your family feels called to contribute – as much as you can now is appreciated, any dollar amount helps, and remember that your funds are tax-deductible.
You can easily send the funds these ways:
  1. Sending a Venmo to @shaftfoundation); sending a Chase QuickPay or Paypal to (paultran92@gmail.com); or sending a BillPay (please reply privately for address).
  2. Writing a check to SHAFT Foundation, Inc. (please reply privately for address).
  3. Depositing funds into our bank account at Chase Bank (our account number is 136626535).
The deadline for this to happen is next week, September 15th (in two weeks) – as we need to finish buying the necessities and toys, organizing them, assembling them, and sending them away by late-September.
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The boys taking inventory of what we currently have.
 
We’d also love it if you could forward this to any friends, family members, and businesses that would like to help as well.
Thank you again for being a part of this mission that matters, and for caring about it dearly as we do. We and thousands of kids and their families who have benefitted from this initiative (and wil be benefitting!) appreciate you, too.
The Tran Family

The power of incremental progress

This was a great read for the morning, week, month, year, and life ahead in general.

My favorite takeaways:

People never follow through on their goals because they think about the big picture too much, and don’t focus on the daily, small, precise, digestible, actions needed to help them achieve great results. The big picture is scary and paralyzing – so people can’t do anything; and at the same time it is also vague and allows one to easily cop out – so people don’t do do anything.

“Consistent action coupled with time guarantees lasting progress. Small improvements add up to massive differences. Compounding works in other areas besides money.”

You don’t have to take massive action for massive results. You just need to take a step that’s seemingly laughable, achievable, and builds confidence; and when you make the step very easy, don’t rush it either by trying to steps a ton of steps at once. It’s not sustainable and will most likely lead to a halt.

Just make it a part of your every day routine and take assurance that transformation is happening, even when you don’t see it. You never see it coming, and that’s the way it should be.

“Small, Smart Choices + Consistency + Time = RADICAL DIFFERENCE.” – Darren Hardy

Don’t focus on the outcome and the big breakthrough; concentrate on your small actions. The former will be the natural, inevitable byproduct.

Big goals require momentum, and momentum can’t happen unless you start small and build your muscle, consistency, and capacity.

Realization: Why I haven’t blogged consistently

I love writing. Not sure if I’m any good – but that doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to go by anybody’s standard but mine; and it has saved my life, expanded thoughts, kept me sane, inspired me, kept me focused, and opened up a dialogue with God.

There was a lack of blog post activity over the last few weeks. I’ve continued to write in my Day One journal almost every day – but I’ve realized the reason why they haven’t made it onto my blog.

One thing I used to do on my blog posts was to categorize them with key word tags; and while I hated doing it, I felt like I needed to do it in order to have “blog etiquette.”

I am not doing that any longer. It doesn’t honor the goals I expressed on the first paragraph – it prevented me from sharing what I love doing; I don’t need to meet any standards of blogging; and tagging and organizing has nothing to do with achieving focus, clarity, inspiration, sanity, and salvation.

Bam. The bottleneck has been eliminated.

Makes me think about what else I’m putting off because of some kink I can eliminate because it doesn’t matter…

Devotional: Turn, turn, turn

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

Lord – thank You for another reminder (and I’ll ALWAYS need another one) that life is short. Like Francis Chan explains in his rope example – it’s only the tip of a rope as long as the circumference of the world (it’s actually infinite, but just for scale).

I need to make the most of it, make it count, and do what matters.

Today’s devotional talks about how the world seems to (key phrase “seems to”) turn so slowly that you don’t even notice it at that moment; but the clock is definitely ticking, you will look up and see how much as past you, and you are either taking steps to move forward in the direction you are called, or you are moving backward.

Even if you decide to take no action, you are by default going backward.

“Remember how fleeting is my life. For what futility you have created all men!” (Psalms 89:47)

A great focuser for the short week.

Devotional: Free to stand

“That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies…” – Joshua 7:12

Today’s devotional hit home for me. You can have the best laid plans, the best people on your team, the best rituals to achieving a goal…but can still fail, if the battle isn’t in God’s will for you, but more importantly – if there is a break in your armor.

The above verse talks about how the Israelites were defeated by the Amorites – when they were certain they could win, and had every advantage on their side…except their spiritual purity. And because they didn’t have that, they didn’t have God – the most important weapon in their arsenal, and the only thing needed to win.

It makes me reflect on all of my best laid plans for my wife, my kids, my businesses…and there are times when I am impatient and lacking faith, I think/say/do horrible things that God would not approve of…and I need to fix these breaches before I go into battle.

Lord – help me do this by staying in Your Word, being in constant connection with you, cutting off unhealthy/negative/ineffective/wrong thoughts and behaviors, and by always saying/doing things in love.

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?