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.

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: Do what’s best

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“May He equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen!” (Heb. 13:21)

“God’s will done God’s way never lacks God’s support,” as Pastor Rick Warren would always say.

If I am doing what I am shaped to do; if I am doing work at the highest level, with love, with the intention of giving Him the glory, and that serves my brothers and sisters…I have nothing to worry about, and God’s strength will be with me and it will be successful.

It might not be success on our terms – money, possessions, power, recognition, or even results that payoff in my lifetime – but it’s something that lasts forever, is important, and I will be rewarded.

If the work I do doesn’t inspire me, doesn’t exhibit His love, doesn’t serve the people that Jesus died for, and I can’t or won’t do it to the best of my ability…I’ll need to eliminate it, and make room for activities that do fit the bill. I don’t have enough resources for mediocre, misaligned work that won’t have an eternal ROI.