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.

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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.

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.