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

Desert.jpg

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: 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: 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.

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.

Devotional: Encountering the supernatural in our everyday lives

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in Me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

I want to experience miracles every day in my life. Assurance of this requires two things: that I ask for unexplainable blessings every morning in His name; and that I have a change of perception. Every day that I’m alive, breathing, playing with my kids, being with my beautiful wife, doing meaningful work…all of that is a supernatural thing.

Devotional: Avoiding judgment

This is part of a series called “Devotionals.”

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“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Luke 6:37)

Mother Teresa said: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” I can only choose one of the two options – love or judgment – to occupy my heart.

If I don’t like the feeling of being judged, I need to stay away from judging others. And if I can only house my heart with one tenant – either love or judgement – I should decide on the one that makes God smile, inspires and encourages others, increases compassion, and gives me even more power the more I use allow it to stay.

The other occupant doesn’t pay, stinks up the rest of my being, and drains me and others.

For me – I find myself having judgment issues when it comes to my kids (with my unreasonable expectations and lack of compassion) and politicians. If I know this about myself, I need to (1) stop listening to the news – as it’s information overload and negative all-around; and (2) ask myself how I could handle anything with my kids with God’s love.