Devotional: Purpose

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“But He said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.'” (Luke 4:43)

This reminds me of the famous quote by Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Since resigning from Fransmart, I’ve been feeling some confusion, loss, and frustration to finding out what my next move is as part of my purpose. A big part of who I was, was embedded in my 10-year tenure at Fransmart; which actually tells me it was a little unhealthy (not the company but my inadvertent placement of its priority in my life) and a validation of why I had to leave.

My identity should be in Christ, and that Fransmart – or any work I do – is just a vessel for exhibiting God’s Good News, love, and opportunity to have meaning and impact.

The goal isn’t to make money or to make a name for myself. The goal is to make a name for God and serve the Kingdom with the collision of my gifts, talents, passions, relationships, and assignment from Heaven. Provision always follows obedience.

I can breathe easier at the reminder that knowing and serving my purpose is a life-long journey of self-discovery; and that instead of focusing on the fact that I’m not there yet, I could focus on what I DO know about my purpose.

It’s to love the Lord; it’s to serve as many people as possible; and it’s to share my story. If I do my part, isn’t the problem of figuring “it” out actually not mine but God’s to provide? And hasn’t He always provided?

Devotional: Setting goals in faith

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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When you change your mentality from “this is all there is to life” to “this life is preparation for the next” – you will set your priorities very differently.

The first thought process will compel you to not care about people nor do meaningful work, and to instead accommodate your selfish, short-sighted, and wrongful desires. The second thought will remind you that how things go down in the next chapter of your life will be dictated by what you do during this short, temporary stay on Earth; and to encourage you to do what matters most – bringing as much of His Kingdom here through loving God, loving people, and living out your purpose.

God is more interested in why you do what you do, instead of what you do or how you do it. The logistics aren’t as important as the reason for doing them. Prioritize accordingly.

People tend to make goals out of fear, guilt, pride, peer pressure, jealousy, greed, or material things; and God will not bless those reasons. He will bless goals that are made out of love for God and others. When you don’t set goals out of love, people just become projects and things to use.

And try to set goals that are out of your comfort zone or human ability; it will demonstrate faith, build strength, and force you to depend on God to execute with you. And when God’s involved, miracles and purpose are sure to happen.

Devotional: Has God taught me NOTHING?! Maybe (in a good way)

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

I’m wondering if God called me out of employment to teach me…nothingness.

At least, from a worldly sense.

Today’s “TGIF” Marketplace Leaders devotional gives us a heads up that there will be times in our walk with God where he will place us in a state of isolation and waiting. Where our past experiences are of no value, and there are no new opportunities to activate us and keep us busy. A situation in which expected resources or activities are removed and there is nothing I can do to change them.

It’s a super uncomfortable feeling for me. From age 15 until now, I’ve built a ridiculous work ethic. In high school I had full-time classes and homework during the weekdays and a full-time work shift on Saturdays and Sundays. In college I had work from 9a to 5p and classes from 7p to 9p every weekday, with homework to fill in the gaps. And up until I submitted my letter of resignation at Fransmart, I was working full-time at the company and also developing The Halal Guys restaurant chain with my partners in Southern California.

Grinding was just part of my DNA for the last 20 years.

I have to laugh, because while I am currently unemployed from the standpoint of having a W2 paycheck, I’m actually still doing quite a bit of work: I’m still growing The Halal Guys; I’m still working with Fransmart as an independent developer; I started a nonprofit organization; and I’m consulting and managing projects here and there.

I guess I’m just feeling weird about not having a “job” job, and I’m thinking that maybe God is telling me that what I have is enough to focus on. I should probably heed this nudge now and be thankful for what I’ve got, or He may play the “tough love” parent card and continue taking more away from me until I realize that He is more than enough and that I just need to depend on Him and not the tangible, temporary provisions of the world that I am guilty of leaning on.

An image that comes to mind is the performance of a full computer hard drive, versus one that has less in storage. The latter doesn’t wear out the hardware; what currently is in the system operates faster and more optimally; and there is less crashing.

Lord – help me be comfortable with this uncomfortableness; help me be stronger than the natural inclination to add more projects; help me be thankful for what I already have, because what You’ve given me is enough; help me be present, still, and know that You really are God.

Devotional: Walking with God 24/7

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Enoch walked with God.” (Gen. 5:24)

In Marketplace Leaders, Os Hillman writes that “the true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the daily grind of everyday life when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening.”

From my ability to remember anything until now, my dad has always told me pray as the first thing I do when I wake up, the last thing I do when I go to bed, and every moment in between. Zen Habits taught me to be present – even in the most simple activities like washing dishes, taking out the trash, and handling an email. And my time at Saddleback Church has taught me that anything and everything is a form of worship…if I make it so.

All of this has strengthened my resolve to walk and talk with Him all through the day – about my wins, losses, struggles, confusions, my moments of happiness and sadness, and/or any random topic that comes to mind. I want to speak with Him like I would any other family member, friend, or someone I just met whom I crave to learn more about and befriend. I feel horrible when I only come to Him when I’m knee-deep in some altercation; He still helps me out of it and stays with me through it like an unconditionally loving Father…but that’s not the kind of relationship I want to communicate to Him.

I want to seek God with all of my heart, body, mind, and soul the way David did; the way Enoch did. It’s the relationship that matters the most to me – and I pray that You’ll help me know it and live it at 100%, 100% of the time.

Leaving my 10-year career at Fransmart

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This picture was taken at a very pivotal time in my life. I was at the 14th Factory Museum in Los Angeles with my family (a MUST visit – even if you’re not an art fanatic), and while I was admiring the exhibit, I wasn’t entirely present. My mind was immersed in one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

For the past few months, I was feeling conflicted about my job. Which was the strangest thing, because I love the work I do at Fransmart – acquiring small food concepts and growing them into global restaurant chains, and helping entrepreneurs and investors win in the process.

It didn’t make sense that I felt pulled in a different direction. My job was rewarding on so many levels.

After a lot of time in prayer, thinking, and discussions with my wife and other loved ones…I felt a calling that told me it was time to leave Fransmart and put more chips on my entrepreneurial aspirations.

Telling you I was nervous was the understatement of the century. I felt tremors coursing through veins just thinking about leaving. While The Halal Guys was growing by leaps and bounds, we haven’t taken a distribution for two years; all profits went to either repaying our investors or reinvesting into fortifying our organization and new store development. Fransmart was my family’s main source of income; I love the company, my CEO Dan Rowe, my teammates, and my senior post; and I have insurance, a retirement plan, and other perks. I felt stupid and crazy for having these thoughts.

But if I look back at all of the game-changing moments in my life – leaving college DURING MY LAST SEMESTER BEFORE GRADUATION to pursue my first restaurant; being employed by Fransmart when I was trying to franchise my own restaurant; going through a difficult divorce after only six months of marriage; meeting my wife at church when I wasn’t looking; her kids adopting me before I later realized I couldn’t have kids; embarking on The Halal Guys as the largest franchise partner in the chain….I’m reminded that none of these events were ever planned, that these couldn’t happen by my own power, and that they were not decisions I would’ve normally made had it not been for God’s persistent calling and provision.

I put up a fight with myself and God. “Why?!” “This is my main bread and butter until the revenue from my other projects eclipse what I do at Fransmart. Isn’t this a little premature?” And “I’m able to handle multiple projects at the same time; there’s no need to leave if I don’t have to!”

Time and time again, without fail, and in the Bible as well as in my life…thinking I know better than God always fails. Not following His will always fails. Delayed obedience is still disobedience, and always fails as well.

So back to the museum story, where this picture was taken…I was moving from one exhibit to the next, where I was directed to exit the indoor part of the museum. The internal conflict of whether I should leave or stay with Fransmart was hit in the face with a sign that said “EXIT” and “MORE THIS WAY.”

It wasn’t even part of the exhibit, but it was the most important artwork for me. It helped tipped the scale towards leaving. It was God’s way of yelling at me – all other subtle whispers and mediums to move me didn’t shake my indecision for months until this moment.

That night, I submitted my letter of resignation to Fransmart, and the new adventure began.

Ten years of service. Ten years of working long hours. Ten years of traveling all over the globe. Ten years invested into a career that I thought would last until retirement. But as the investment disclaimer always says: “Past performance is no indication of future performance;” success and comfort zones both breed complacency; and God tends to strip you of the life you knew so that you can depend on Him, build spiritual muscle, and give you more purpose.

I’m scared out of my wits for leaving – but it’s proof that I was dependent on my job more than Him. I’ve learned that when I’m scared, I am on the right track. And the Bible teaches me that there is only enough room for one of the two – fear or love. If I replace this fear with love, then I’ll remember that God cares for me unconditionally, is much wiser than my own knowledge, and has a plan bigger and more meaningful than I can ever imagine. So with that encouragement from Him…I am super excited.

I am thankful to have left my employer on good terms, as I plan on doing independent consulting for Fransmart; but now I have a clean slate to use my experiences, talents, and passions I’ve gathered along the way to help people the way I believe God has called me to help. I never really had a plan to transition to, but that’s a good thing – since I’m letting Him lead me; I just need to be comfortable with uncertainty. I’ve already received some excitement for my departure and opportunities from my network, and so having a clean slate definitely makes room for interesting and meaningful work (it also can attract jobs I shouldn’t be doing, too; but I’m trying to create boundaries in front of them).

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Here’s to the end of one chapter; and on to the next.

Devotional: When to move fast and when to move slow

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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Today’s devotional came from Daily Hope – messages taken from Pastor Rick Warren‘s sermons at our Saddleback Church. It’s how I get my daily bread when I can’t wake up to read at my leisure, have to be on the road somewhere, and still want to start my day with God.

Here is the message, and below are my takeaways.

* Don’t move fast if you are angry, stressed, or depressed; it almost never is an optimal result. Move slowly when you feel this way – because feelings lie and are temporary at best; and doing so creates time to ask God for His direction. And His wisdom is always better than ours.
* Whatever you aspire to do, consult with people who have done it before you. You are not meant to go at anything alone; it will save from critical, avoidable, and stupid mistakes; and God speaks through other people as well – use this valuable resource.
* The Bible says to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). Most of us do the exact opposite of these principles and that’s why there are so many relational rifts on all levels – in business, in the work environment, in politics, family, etc.
* When you are slow to speak you have a better understanding; you are thoughtful; and you give God a chance to enter and say the right things through you.
* What is happening in my life right now right need to slow down?
* Proverbs 4:26 says: “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet…” If you carefully consider your decision, you have a better chance at success. Ask yourself what you need to do today in order to achieve what you want tomorrow. Ask if what you’re doing right now is honoring your goals.
* After you’ve planted that seed, be patient and trust God. Know that the season in which you sow is different from the season you reap. Don’t constantly dig up the seed to see if it is growing. Know that whatever you plant you will always get back more than what you put in – be it negative or positive.
* On the flip side, know what needs to happen immediately, like following your purpose or keeping God’s commands. Partial or delayed obedience is still disobedience, and a blockade for God’s blessing.

Devotional: Are you horizontal or vertical?

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isaiah 5:21)

Before I re-dedicated my life to Christ, I was handling all of my circumstances in a horizontal fashion.

I processed incoming news – good, bad, and uncertain – using my own knowledge and that of books and my friends, family, and counselors in a secular fashion.

While there was some success here and there with these avenues, it was never consistent; they were always short-lived; there was always a better way in hindsight; it was exhausting; and it felt unfulfilling.

Looking sideways and down weren’t the right operating system for the results I wanted, and I needed an upgrade.

I am learning to look up and vertically integrate more often. My experiences, talents, thought processes, education, loved ones, and people I look up to are all wonderful resources to consult, and they are necessary – but they are only secondary resources on their own, and I can only adhere to them when God speaks to me through them.

Knowing this requires prayer and listening for advice that moves me, that is consistent with what the Bible says, and serves God and others.

The rest of my inputs – regardless of how good and well-meaning it sounds – must be passed on in order to make room for His answer.

It’s something I still struggle with and will continue to struggle with it for the rest of my life…but the more I shift the ratio of worldly-powered decisions to God-powered decisions, the more successes and purpose I will experience.

The world’s credit versus God’s credit

Even if people don’t recognize or appreciate your ministry, God knows all about it & will reward you accordingly. No deed goes unnoticed by the Father.

Creditworthiness by the world’s standards is either counterfeit or loses value very quickly. Your accomplishments for the Kingdom compound infinitely.  Invest and work accordingly.

Throwback: Don’t be too busy

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 12th, 2014 (three years ago), I was caught in the middle of a tornado of my own making – doing too much work and being buried alive in them. Re-reading this journal made me realize how history can easily repeat itself so easily without you even knowing or being able to fix them.

But God is a God of grace and second chances; I can overcome this with His help; and this message will help me be fed up with busyness even more, in hopes of real change towards doing less of my own, misguided and/or selfish pursuits so that I can do more for the Kingdom.

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No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” – 2 Timothy 2:4 KJV

I seriously need to cut down. Here is now I am not fighting for The Lord when I am too busy:

* I don’t have the patience needed to love people – my family, Christine, the kiddies, my friends…people who need me
* I don’t honor my body with adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition
* I don’t give my purpose enough attention & focus – whether it be The Halal Guys project, Fransmart, various other projects, and their subsequent tithing abilities