Truly open to what God’s says? Or listening for only what I wanna hear?

This is a passage that moved me exactly one year ago while reading “Moving Mountains: Praying with Passion, Confidence, and Authority” by John Eldredge – a book that was gifted to me by one of my favorite friends in the world.
“And as I do, I am also keeping my heart open to whatever answer he has for me. This is crucial. If I am really only open to hearing yes or no, if I am not really asking God’s counsel but have already decided in my mind what I am going to do, then the whole thing is play-acting. Surrender, true open-handedness, on the question before me is crucial to hearing from God.”

I worry about wanting what I want so bad that I fool myself and others into thinking it’s God’s will; or if it is His will, that I short-circuit by not waiting on Him or doing things my way.

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Devotional: Proactive and reactive dependence on Him

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” (Gen. 32:24)

This part of the story in the Bible takes place long after Jacob had fled his family for screwing over his brother Esau (he conned his brother into giving him his birthright, and poached their father’s blessing meant for his brother), and was now in a situation where he’d have to face him again. He was very fearful that Esau would take revenge on him and his family for what he did; and pleaded with God for mercy.

Jacob couldn’t use his own power to get out of this situation. He was so scared of encountering his brother that he refused to move from his hiding place without God’s protection and presence – to the point where he wrestled with one of God’s angels and wouldn’t let him go until God agreed to watch over him.

Do things need to get really bad before we depend on God with all of our mind, heart, soul, and body? While it’s amazing that God’s love is unconditional and He will always be there even when we neglect Him, it’s unfair to our Father for only coming to Him when we need him (imagine trying to do that with your parent, spouse, best friend, sibling, etc.), and you’d be selling yourself short by not having his power, provision, and protection from the beginning to end of all your circumstances.

Instead of making prayer your “Hail Mary” strategy when you’ve exhausted all of your other resources, why not make consulting with God your first line of defense and attack against difficult, disappointing, uncertain times?

Throwback: The power of prayer

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 May 23rd, 2013 (four years ago), after I had asked my CEO Dan Rowe for a temporary leave to prepare for and serve on a missionary trip in the country of Rwanda – where a team of us spent time with the poor and helped them build sustainable preschools that hopefully gave them life-changing power.  

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I don’t want to underestimate the power of prayer anymore.

People usually only pray when they are in the deep trenches of trouble – I am guilty of that crime as well. But if God always answers prayers, shouldn’t we:

1. Pray more often to increase our chances of success?
2. Pray first, before worrying about or doing anything? And
3. Turn down the world’s volume, so that you can hear what He’s telling you?

I’m currently reading a book called “Be Determined: Standing Firm In The Face Of Opposition” by Warren W. Wiersbe. It’s a dissection of the Bible’s story of Nehemiah, and it’s also a devotional for my PEACE Preschools Rwanda team while we are there serving.

It’s such an encouraging book, and I urge you to read it. But for the sake of this post…

It talks about how Nehemiah was so in love with Christ that he prayed before he took any actions, before he freaked out about obstacles in the way, and simply prayed just to give thanks. And he was heavily blessed in the process.

If God encompasses everything and makes all things possible, why aren’t we leaning on him more?

Let’s reset the idea of what prayer is all about – it’s not a ritual where you’re just citing some memorized, unpersonal verse; it’s a conversation with Him, it’s a request of Him, and it’s a worshipping of Him.

There’s no wrong way to praise Him – He’s willing to listen…if you’re willing to speak with Him.

In fact, you can even yell and be pissed off at Him – it’s in these angry moments that you become closer to and have a real relationship with Him.

Prayer has allowed me to: (1) leave my job temporarily in confidence and serve Him; (2) receive more donations than I needed for my mission trip to Rwanda; (3) love people more; (4) endure the most difficult times of my life; and (5) take away so much stress and unnecessary roadblocks in my way.

As a side benefit, prayer has forced me to be more patient and wait for God. I’m the type who likes to move fast, get things done and moving, and see results. By praying and waiting on the Lord, I am learning to not go faster than He wants me to go…and in the process, I make less mistakes; receive more blessings on the way that I might’ve overlooked; and I know for a fact that I’m not doing it alone.

“He that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isa. 28:16)

“Stand Still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Ex. 14:13)

“Sit still…until you know how the matter will turn out.” (Ruth 3:18 NKJV)

This is one of the easier RESETS with infinite ROI. You can pray about anything you’d like, right away.

My coach’s morning prayer

Below is a prayer my business coach shared with me that has been so helpful to priming my day.

“On awakening, let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. We ask Him to show us how to best be of service to others and how to be more loving and tolerant. We ask God all through the day what our next step is to be, and ask especially for freedom from self-will. As we go through the day, we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.”

We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

One of my biggest struggles is learning to consult with my Father on all aspects of my life. Not just when things are really good or really bad, but throughout everything. EVERYTHING. I’ve spent much of my adult life being independent – which has carried me pretty far – but I’ve outgrown that and need to get fed, advised, reset, and re-composed through Him.

Do it right from the start – My morning habit

Your effectiveness – in your business and personal life – is sooooo much better when you optimize the beginning of whatever you’re doing.

When you start your day, what daily habits can you implement to ensure that no matter what happens, your day ends in success?

For me, since the beginning of the year I’ve followed this ritual:

  1. Wake up at 4a-5a in the morning. This is the best time for me to have quiet and focus. I do not check my phone for any messages.
  2. Prayer. It usually goes like this: “God – please help me hear what you want to tell me. And please give me the strengthen to follow your will. And if I don’t do anything else, I want to love you more and get to know you better. And You are sovereign, in control, and always provide – I have nothing to worry about. And please help me put You first and throughout everything.”
  3. Walk/Feed the dogs. I have 3 chihuahuas (my wife is a dog fanatic, and the only reason why we have 3 is because in Irvine it’s illegal to have 4 or more lol) that I take out to the park across the street. While this isn’t my favorite thing to do at first, I get to move my muscles before I sit down to work; the cold morning air is invigoriating; and the sunrise is beautiful. Doing this and feeding them feels like making my bed (and I can’t do that while wifey is sleeping, so this is the alternate), and that’s another win I can add to the tally.
  4. Read the daily Bible devotional from Marketplace Leaders. Once a day, I get an email from this site that takes a Bible passage and dissects/explains it as it relates to our everyday struggles as a Christian businessperson, marketer, salesperson, and overall worker. It’s helped me remember that doing God’s work doesn’t happen only on Sundays, as a pastor, at a soup kitchen, on the mission field, and off work hours. Jesus did more miracles and called more people to Him in the workplace – where we spend most/all of our time; and that whatever we do for work, it’s a form of worship if we do it with the right mindset.
  5. Journal. Yep, I write there AND I write here. I use DayOne to share my confidential thoughts/challenges/wins, jot down unrefined ideas, clarify my thoughts, and document memories. This is where I brain dump, and clear the space my head for good/positive/helpful thoughts to pour in.
  6. Drink water & brew green tea. It’s universally accepted that drinking a cup of cold water will jump-start your body and prime yourself for burning calories; and green tea is my preferred method of caffeination.
  7. Meditate. Over the years I’ve failed at meditating for long periods of time; I’d give up after a few days and a few minutes. During those times, I didn’t use the relevant method for me; I didn’t have the right mindset; I didn’t have sustainable expectations; I wasn’t mature enough; I didn’t have enough BS in my life to benefit from it; and I guess I didn’t hear it nagging at me enough times until now.  I have the Headspace app downloaded on my phone and do the “Take 10” guided sessions, and they have been incredible for me. I’m now on my 3rd go-round and have increased my meditation time to 15 minutes a day. I hear from Tim Ferriss and others that 20 minutes is where the real benefits kick in, and I’m excited to get there after this rotation.
  8. Read. I feel the most fulfilled when I am reading, learning, and growing. It’s the body version of the personal finance principle “investing in yourself first.” I’m currently reading Tim Ferriss’ “Tools of Titans” (the main inspiration for this post); John Eldreadge’s “Moving Mountains” (a gift from a great friend and amazing online businessperson Dean Soto); Tony Robbins’ “Money Master the Game;” Bob Fifer’s “Double Your Profits: In Six Months” (recommended by Fransmart CEO Dan Rowe); and Brendan Moynihan’s “What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars.”
  9. Blog (if inspired).

I don’t succeed every day (I miss 1-2 of these items about once or twice a week) and I don’t follow these habits on the weekend (I sleep in; I do love being lazy, too). But whenever I get this checklist done, I feel primed and have better control over my decisions. I get the most important things done first and don’t get seduced by social media, text messages, and emails that will eat me alive…and somehow get done anyway =)

I envision my day as a big empty bucket on a beach full of sand and rocks. When you sand – the small, trivial things – to the top of the bucket, you make no room for rocks – the most important things. But if you decide to fill the bucket with rocks first, you will still be able to pour sand after, through the openings that rocks leave.

It’s interesting – When I started this post, I didn’t expect to write this much; and I didn’t think that I’d want to write another “Do It Right From The Start” post. It might even become a series.

Goes to show that you don’t need to know all the details sometimes. Just take action.

I’m interested in learning how others set themselves up for a successful day. Please share!