TGIF, Today God Is First

Triumphant Defeats

September 2nd, 2014 by Os Hillman

“This was now the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.” John 21:14

William Wallace was a Scotsman who sought freedom from a tyrannical king of England in the 1200s. He initially took up this cause in retaliation for his own personal family losses. His cause grew among the people, and it became an insurrection against England. Wallace entreated Robert the Bruce, the future king of Scotland. However, Bruce betrayed Wallace in return for lands from the king of England. Wallace was turned over to the king of England to be tortured to death for crimes against England. Bruce realized his betrayal against Wallace and his own country. This remorse led to real repentance and a return to his commitment to the people of Scotland. He finally took ownership of the mission to free Scotland from England. He led the people of Scotland into subsequent battles against England and freed them. Wallace’s defeat ultimately led to victory through Bruce. It took the lives of many, including Wallace, for victory to be accomplished. [James Mackay, William Wallace, Brave Heart (Edinburgh, Scotland: Mainstream Publishing, 1995).]

So often defeat is what is required before victory can be won. Jesus said that unless the seed dies and goes into the ground it cannot bring forth fruit (see Jn. 12:24). The death of a vision is often required before the fulfillment can really take place. Have you failed at something in your life? Have you not seen the vision fulfilled you thought you were given? The vision may yet happen.

The disciples thought they suffered their greatest defeat when Jesus died on the cross. However, this defeat became the greatest victory on earth. Christ’s death gave liberty. Forgiveness came to all men. New life came forth-new strength for the disciples. Resurrection and new life came as a result of a “defeat.” “There are triumphant defeats that rival victories” (Montaigne, French philosopher).





Faithfulness to Convict

September 1st, 2014 by Os Hillman

“When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:8

I had recently come back from a mountaintop experience. As I attempted to get back into my routine, I found a great cloud of oppression come over me. Each day I attempted to press through it, but with no success. Fear, anxiety, doubt, and unbelief were setting in. I knew I was fretting over my future. I had been in a long period of transition in my work life and was tired of the place of waiting. Yet I didn’t understand the oppression. It was definitely spiritual warfare. That night I was reading a book regarding our calling from God. The author made mention that we can become envious of others when we get into a place where we are dissatisfied. Suddenly, I realized I was guilty of envying where other workplace believers were in their lives. I was “subconsciously” angry that the calling God had placed on my life had such adversity. I had to repent.

As if this were not enough, the next day the Holy Spirit confirmed my assessment in the most unusual way. That morning I turned on my computer to read my own Workplace Meditation that is sent to my computer. The message was on “Envying Others” and included the same Scripture reference as the author’s in the book. Imagine God using my own words to convict me of sin! The nerve of Him! To make matters worse, at lunchtime I tuned into the local Christian radio station to hear an interview with the same author as he cited the very passage I had read the day before. I was shocked to realize how the Holy Spirit could be so precise in His ability to convict and give proof of His activity in my life.

Do you question if the Holy Spirit is active in your life? The Lord has promised that the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin when we move away from Him. It is His responsibility as our guide.





True Repentance

August 31st, 2014 by Os Hillman

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

What does it mean to repent? When you or I wrong another person, or we sin against God, do we simply say we are sorry and move on?

A few years ago I was involved in a business situation that taught me a great lesson. A client severely wronged me and ultimately took our company for $160,000. In a court of law, I probably would have won the dispute. However, after I had already filed suit against the man, I realized that there was one aspect of the matter that I was wrong about, involving a third party that could no longer be held accountable. I could not effectively resolve the matter without taking the first step in owning the responsibility for my part in the matter.

I made a decision to drop the lawsuit. However, after calling my attorney, I discovered the client had already filed a counter suit. This made the situation even scarier. I was completely exposed if I dropped my suit.

I was unable to reach the business owner because he would not return my calls. I got his secretary on the line. “I want you to take this message down and give it to your boss, word for word. Please do not change the words at all. ‘I have sinned against you. I know I do not deserve your forgiveness, but I ask your forgiveness for filing the lawsuit against you. You are no longer obligated to pay the balance you owe me if you feel you do not owe it.’ ” The secretary knew me and the gravity of what I was saying. She began to weep. She could not believe what she was hearing.

A few hours later I received a call from this client. He said, “I received your message. I accept your request and I forgive you.” He dropped his counter suit. A few days later, I went to see the man and had dinner with him. He did not offer to pay any of the balance. It took three years to pay the vendors related to this situation. It was difficult because I knew he was not taking any responsibility for his contribution to the problem. However, I knew I was to let go of it. The Lord was glorified in this situation and He provided for my needs.

Is there anyone you need to seek forgiveness from? Acknowledging our sin is the first step. Humbling ourselves and taking actions to restore is the next step.





Defining Moments

August 30th, 2014 by Os Hillman

“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.”Acts 9:3

For Moses, it was the burning bush.

For Peter, it was walking on water.

For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, it was walking through the burning furnace untouched.

For Paul, it was being blinded and spoken to by Jesus on the Damascus road. For Daniel, it was deliverance from the lions’ den.

For Joshua, it was parting the Jordan River and crossing into the Promised Land.

There have been many defining moments in the lives of human beings that changed their lives forever. These defining moments often set the course for the balance of their lives.

We could go on and on. Each of these servants had years of preparation leading up to their defining moment. These moments forced the servants to be involved in something beyond their human experiences. It took them outside their own paradigms of life. God had to move them outside their own boxes. And when He did, their lives were never the same.

You may be in one of three stages of life: You may not have had your “defining moment” yet – God may be preparing you with many important life experiences. You may have had your defining moment and you are living out your call. Or, you may be toward the end of your journey and you have already experienced what I speak of. We are all called to a relationship with God; and we are all called vocationally, which is often ushered in by a defining moment. And there can be more than one defining moment, each pointing you down a path that God foreordained from the foundation of the world. The secret of a great life is often a man’s ability to discern the defining moments given to him, understanding them, and learning to walk in the path that leads him to his ultimate destination.

Once you have had a defining moment, you are never the same. Pray that you have eyes to see and ears to hear when your Master brings a defining moment into your life.





Going Against the Flow

August 29th, 2014 by Os Hillman

“But the whole assembly talked about stoning them.” Numbers 14:10a

Have you ever had to stand up against the majority for a cause that wasn’t popular? God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and promised He would lead them into a land of milk and honey. The process of moving out of Egypt was difficult. They could no longer do things the old way, for the old ways didn’t work in the desert. God provided for them during this journey. But there came a point in which the people forgot what God had said. Their discomfort changed their belief about God.

Whenever God is slow to answer our prayers, what we believe about God is revealed. Do we change our plans and move in a different direction when pressure mounts? Or do we continue on the path God has directed for us? Four men believed what God said and were willing to stand; however, the crowd wanted to stone them.

Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the Tent of Meeting to all the Israelites (Numbers 14:5-10).

Notice Joshua and Caleb’s response to the situation. They had spied the land. They believed God. They challenged the crowd. They seemed to know that if the Lord was not pleased with them they would not enter into the Promised Land. Those who grumbled did not enter the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb and a new generation saw the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Has God called you to stand for a cause bigger than yourself? You will have opposition to His call; sometimes it even comes from those in your own camp. But if God has called you, then you can be sure He will make a way. He has already opened the way before you. But you must walk in faith, joined with Him to take the land. “…Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).





Motivations to Call

August 28th, 2014 by Os Hillman

…”Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Mark 10:49

Do you recall the circumstances when God first called you into relationship with Him? Were you in need of something? Were you in a crisis situation? Every day God calls someone into relationship with Him through different circumstances. More often than not, the circumstances relate to a need in their life that only God can meet.

Bartimaeus had the need to see again. He was a poor blind beggar, who had heard about Jesus and the miracles He had done. The crowds rebuked him for seeking Jesus, yet he continued to cry out. “Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’…Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus” (Mk. 10:48,50). That day, Bartimaeus saw for the first time. But more than that, he saw with spiritual eyes for the first time.

Each workday, we rub shoulders with someone who has not met this Jesus we know personally. God uses needs to draw us to Himself. What need has He placed in a coworker that only Christ can meet? Perhaps you are the instrument He wants to use to introduce that person to Himself. It requires availability and a willingness to look for people with needs, then point them to Christ to meet their needs. Pray for divine appointments today.





Grace

August 27th, 2014 by Os Hillman

…”Peace be with you!” John 20:19

How would you respond to a group of fellow workers if you were their leader and you poured your life into them, teaching them all you know for three years, only to have them disband and go their own way when troubles came? What would you say to them after you were reunited for the first time? Perhaps you might scold them. Perhaps you might cite each one’s offense. At the least, you might shame them for their lack of faithfulness and courage.

After Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead, He appeared to the disciples. His first words to them were, “Peace be with you!” The word grace means “unmerited favor.” When someone loves you unconditionally, without regard to your behavior in return, it becomes a powerful force in your life. Such was the case for the disciples when Jesus appeared to them. They could have expected reprimand. Instead, they received unconditional love and acceptance. He was overjoyed to see them. They were equally overjoyed to see Him.

Jesus understood that the disciples needed to fail Him as part of their training. It would be this failure that became their greatest motivation for service. Failure allowed them to experience incredible grace for the very first time. Grace would transform them as human beings.

Have you experienced this grace in your life? Have you extended grace to those who have hurt you? Can you let go of any wrongs that have come through friends or associates? The grace you extend may change their lives – and yours.





Our Plans and God’s Plans

August 26th, 2014 by Os Hillman

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”Proverbs 19:21

Have you ever heard of someone who spent years of preparation for one vocation only to end up doing something completely different? Perhaps this could be said of you. Quite often we have in our minds what we believe we want to do only to have a course correction. Often the course correction comes through a major crisis that forces us into an area that we would never have considered.

Such was the case for Samuel Morse. Born in 1791, Morse grew up desiring to be an artist, and he eventually became very talented and internationally known. However, it was difficult to make a living as an artist in America during that time. A series of crises further complicated his vocational desire when his wife died; then his mother and father also died soon after. He went to Europe to paint and reflect on his life. On his return trip aboard a ship, he was captivated by discussions at dinner about new experiments in electromagnetism. During that important occasion, Morse made the following comment, “If the presence of electricity can be made visible in any part of the circuit, I see no reason why intelligence may not be transmitted by electricity.” In the face of many difficulties and disappointments, he determinedly perfected a new invention, and, in 1837, applied for a patent that became what we know today as the telegraph. He also created Morse code. It was only later, after many more setbacks and disappointments, that his projects received funding.

Samuel Morse later commented, “The only gleam of hope, and I cannot underrate it, is from confidence in God. When I look upward it calms any apprehension for the future, and I seem to hear a voice saying: ‘If I clothe the lilies of the field, shall I not also clothe you?’ Here is my strong confidence, and I will wait patiently for the direction of Providence.” Morse went on to create several other inventions and can be recognized today as the father of faxes, modems, e-mail, the internet and other electronic communication. ["Glimpses," Issue #99 (Worcester, Pennsylvania: Christian History Institute, 1998).]

God’s plans may not always seem to follow our natural inclination. Perhaps God has you taking a path that may not lead to His ultimate destination for you. Trust in the Lord, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge Him in all you do, and He shall direct your path (see Prov. 3:5-6).





True Repentance in a Nation

August 25th, 2014 by Os Hillman

“When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.” 2 Chronicles 34:19

Josiah was a godly king in Israel. However, before he came to power, the nation had fallen into all kinds of evil. One man, Manasseh, had brought the nation to a condition of inexorable evil. God finally had enough.

“Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down” (2 Kings 21:12-13).

Josiah came into power just before this judgment. He began to clean up the evil by burning all the idolatrous temples, ridding prostitution and homosexuality from the streets, and destroying occult shrines. He did this without the benefit of even reading God’s Word, but through the Holy Spirit working in his heart. Then one day the ancient Scriptures were discovered in the temple that had lain dormant for years. They had a profound impact on King Josiah.

When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book” (2 Chronicles 34:19-21).

Josiah was broken. He tore his robes in repentance. He fell to his knees and repented for the wickedness of his nation. He stood in the gap, and God honored Josiah; however, it wasn’t enough. God still had to judge the nation for its previous wickedness under the reign of Manasseh.

“Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what He spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before Me and tore your robes and wept in My presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Now I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.” … (2 Chronicles 34:27-28).

God spared Josiah during his reign, but after he died judgment came upon the nation.

No nation is immune from God’s judgment. Pray for your nation today. Pray that your nation will have a repentant heart among the leaders and the people.





God’s Recruitment Strategy for Leaders

August 24th, 2014 by Os Hillman

“Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing.” Acts 9:8a

When God calls one of His servants into service, there is often much travail. There are many examples where God makes His presence known through circumstances that tax the individual to his very soul.

Consider Paul, who was stricken blind on the Damascus road.

Consider Peter; when he denied Jesus after the crucifixion, he was in total despair.

Consider Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were thrown into the fiery furnace.

Consider Daniel, who was thrown into the lions’ den.

Consider David, who was forced to flee his former employer for many years and lived as a fugitive.

It may seem strange to us that God uses such incredible adversity to prepare His servants for greater service, but this is God’s way. God knows that the human heart is incapable of voluntarily stepping into situations that take us beyond our comfort zone. He intentionally brings us into hard places to prove us and to drive us deeper into the soil of His grace.

In arid regions of the world, trees cannot survive unless their roots grow deeper to where the water table can be found. Once they reach the water, these trees become stronger than any tree that can be found in tropical climates. Their root systems ensure that they can withstand any storm. In the same way, God brings us into extremely difficult situations in order to prove His power and drive our spiritual roots deeper.

Friend, God may take you through times when you will question His love for you. In such times, you must cling to His coattail so that you see His purposes in it. Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him’” (Hebrews 10:36-38).