Devotional: Predestination and adoption

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The above passage comes from Ephesians 1:14.

One of the strongest desires that we human beings have is a sense of belonging and significance. I can never feel alone or neglected – only empowered – because God my Father loves me unconditionally by choice and creation, (regardless of what I do or don’t do), and I am family heir to the kingdom

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Devotional: Having faith in spite of circumstances

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He can direct your paths.” (Prov. 5:5-6)

This devotional is a reminder that there are times – most times – where circumstances happen out of my control. We may have taken a wrong turn; someone had made a poor decision that affected us; or things just hit us like a ton of bricks out of no where.

These are moments where we need to either activate our faith to trust Him, activate our faith to move forward, or both – and they’re normally painful and never easy to do.

But we need to remember that God is sovereign, you can’t lean on your own understanding, thank God in advance for His bigger plan that will be revealed, and pray for the peace that surpasses understanding. He will direct our paths and we will be getting out of this desert period.

Devotional: God’s timing

“But the angel said, ‘I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time – God’s time.” (Luke 1:20)

This story talks about a priest named Zachariah who – along with his wife – feared God and had a clear conscience in upholding His law and loving the Lord; and how the angel Gabriel had come to him during his priestly duties to give him the good news that he would have a son. Zachariah didn’t believe him because he and his wife were way too old to have children – even if the news was from God – and so Gabriel muted him until the day God delivered the son he announced.

Although verbally and consciously I am certain of God’s provision on His timing; but I’m pretty sure there are times I get ancy and exhibit disbelief in my actions. I go on ahead and do things I’m certain God will give me, but on my own time and terms. I am impatient – which is partial obedience. And I know that partial obedience is the same as full-on disobedience. And time and time again, it either doesn’t work, it doesn’t work to its fullest potential, it does work and creates an ego that destroys me later, and it’s inconsistent and unreliable. I’m tired of not doing it right the first time, and tired of getting wishy-washy results – and they always happen when God’s not at the heart of it all.

Lord – in this story, Gabriel had to mute Zachariah’s ability to speak. I pray for the strength to be able to mute my own feelings and completely, wholeheartedly, and wholespiritedly trust You on not only what You’ve promised to provide for me, but that it will come right on time when I need it most.

Devotional: Purpose versus provision

“For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Chris in God.” (Col. 3:3)

A great reminder about how things are prioritized here on Earth, and how God does things above. I easily get tempted to go after provision first, instead of the Provider. Which – if I say it that way – doesn’t make sense, right?

It’s like trying to chase a few bucks and having to do it over and over again; versus finding the ATM machine itself that will always dispense.

God promises that if we seek Him first, provision for all of our needs and more will be taken care of. He has all of the answers we will need in business, health, relationships, and finances – and they are waiting on the other side of faith and going after God’s heart. Not only that, we will experience peace and life and fulfillment of the ultimate purpose that God has put in my life to do/have/be.

Saddleback: “Finding Hope Again” by Kay Warren

Notes I took over the weekend from an amazing message by Kay Warren. Hope you find them helpful in your own battles as they do for me.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35, 37-39)

Resilience is a set of skills that can be learned in traumatic events, strained relationships, serious health problems, crushing disappointments, unchangeable circumstances, and painful losses.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom. 5:3-4)

“Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7)

“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33b)

“My days have passed; my plans have failed; my hope is gone. But my friends say night is daylight; they say that light is near; but I know I remain in darkness. My only hope is the world of the dead, where I will lie down to sleep in the dark.” (Job 17:11-13)

The Bible has already given us the heads up that life will be hard; there is no candy coating that. But God does give you all the resources needed to stand firm in your faith and your fight.

“I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world!” (John 16:33)

“Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by the renewing of your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.” (Rom. 12:2)

“By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.” (Psalm 119:105)

I can validate this verse; as I am reminded and recalibrated every day upon reading my Bible verses and the TGIF (Today God Is First) daily devotional in general.

Although there are undesirable circumstances in my life that cannot be changed, I can change my responses to them – and that’s the most powerful thing (and the only thing, sometimes) that I can control. I am fooling myself if I think I can do anything else; so I should focus on what I truly have full dominion over. Here are a few actions I can take:

1. Expand my connections. We tend to isolate, but this isn’t healthy.
“A friend is always a friend, and relatives are born to share our troubles.” (Prov. 17:17)

2. Believe you can handle anything with God.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

3. Avoid expecting the worse (“catastrophizing”).
“Lord, when doubt fills my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer.” (Psalm 94:19)

4. Practice self-care.

5. Seek self-discovery.
“We can also learn from insults and hard knocks.” (Lam. 3:30)

6. Practice gratitude.
“Plant your roots in Christ and let Him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.” (Col. 2:7)

7. Decide that I am not held captive, and that nothing can destroy me.

“You have become ‘more than conquerors’ when you make your pain and scars serve YOU” – Kay Warren

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

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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.