TGIF, Today God Is First

God’s Motives

May 30th, 2015 by Os Hillman

“He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” – 2 Samuel 22:20

Questioning someone’s motives for their activities can become an overriding response to those to whom we relate. Wrong motives can result in broken relationships, poor business decisions, and falling out of God’s will. Sometimes we do not know the motive of another person. It is wrong for us to assume what their motive is until we have confidence that we know their intentions. When we respond or react prematurely, we become judge and jury over them.

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God has a motive for every one of His children. His desire is to bring us into a spacious place. He wants us to go beyond our borders of safety and security so that we might experience life at a level that goes beyond ourselves. What do you think of when you think of a “spacious place”? No limitations? A large, grassy field? Open air? These are positive images. Sometimes these spacious places encourage us to step out in faith into areas where we’ve never ventured. Sometimes we need to be rescued by the Lord. When Peter walked on the water, God was inviting him to a spacious place. He went beyond the borders of his boat and ventured into a whole new world. He didn’t have complete success in his venturing out, but it was a process that would lead him to the next victory in his faith walk with Jesus. Sometimes failure is what is needed in order to move us to the next level of faith with God. However, we must be willing to fail and let God rescue us.

The Lord delights in this process. His motive for His children is always love. It is always to bring us to a new level of trust and dependence on Him.





One of the Twelve

May 29th, 2015 by Os Hillman

“And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” – 2 Corinthians 5:15

It is believed that there were about 5,000 believers during the time of Christ. Among those believers, it was thought there were three types. The largest number of believers were those who came to Jesus for salvation. They served Him little beyond coming to Him to receive salvation. A much smaller number, say 500, actually followed Him and served Him. Then, there were the disciples. These were those who identified with Jesus. They lived the life that Jesus lived. Each of these ultimately died in difficult circumstances. They experienced the hardships, the miracles, and the fellowship with God in human form.

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If you had to say which group best represented your life, which one would you fall into – the 5,000 who simply believed, the 500 who followed and sought to implement what they were learning from the Savior, or the 12 who identified completely with the life and mission of the Savior? Jesus has called each of us to identify with Him completely. “This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1 Jn. 2:5b-6).

Pray that God will allow you to walk as Jesus did. Experience His power and love in your life today so that others will see the hope that lies in you.





Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

May 28th, 2015 by Os Hillman

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land He promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'” – Genesis 50:24

I was boarding the airplane in Frankfurt, Germany, when a mentor of mine asked me this question, “Would you consider why God referred to Himself as the ‘God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’? Why didn’t He simply say, ‘the God of Jacob’?” What a strange question, I thought to myself.

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For the next hour I racked my brain trying to discover the meaning to this question. I had never read it in a commentary, and the Scriptures do not really say why this is so. It became a good exercise with the Holy Spirit that led to some interesting observations – one from my mentor, one from my own insight.

First, could it be that the Lord has given us a “type of trinity” in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Abraham was considered a father figure to the nation of Israel. Isaac was the son who had to be sacrificed on the altar. Jacob was the man who had to learn to walk according to the Holy Spirit instead of his flesh. Each of these patriarchs had a particular relationship with God to fulfill.

My friend asked about an hour into the flight, “So, what did you discover?”

I told him of my observation.

“Hmm…that is interesting. I believe that what we also see in the patriarchs are examples of three distinct types of personalities. If the Lord had cited only one of the patriarchs, we would tend to seek to model that leader. However, the Lord has given us three distinct personalities in whom He performed His work. Abraham was the pioneer who ventured out into unknown territory and was considered righteous for his faith. Isaac was faithful to follow in his inheritance with few ups and downs in his life. He had the fewest calamities among the three. He was called simply to be faithful to what had been already given. Jacob had extreme conflict in his life. He suffered more pit experiences than either of his predecessors. He had much conflict in relationships that became the source of his inheritance. Each of us can identify with one of these men in how God has related to them.”

God works in each person’s life uniquely, and He has provided examples of lives for us to identify with from the Scriptures. Who do you identify with most in your Christian pilgrimage? Discover this for yourself. You will find encouragement as you seek to learn from someone who has gone before you.





The Greatest Test

May 27th, 2015 by Os Hillman

“I know, my God, that You test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” – 1 Chronicles 29:17a

God tests His children to know what is in their hearts. God’s desire for each of His children is to walk in relationship with Him, to uphold His righteousness and integrity. It is a high calling that we will fail to achieve without complete dependence on Him.

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The greatest tests come not in great adversities, but in great prosperity. For it is in prosperity that we begin to lose the sensitivity to sin in our lives. Adversity motivates us to righteousness out of a desire to see our adversity changed. Prosperity fails to provide this motivation for obedience. We fall into a satisfaction and confidence in life that is based on our prosperity rather than on God.

Hezekiah was a great godly king. He was a faithful, God-honoring king most of his life, but toward the end he became proud. God wanted to find out if he would still honor Him and recognize His blessings in his life. He failed the test when God sent an envoy to his palace to inquire about a miracle that God performed on behalf of Hezekiah. The test was designed to find out if Hezekiah would publicly acknowledge the miracle performed on his behalf.

But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart (2 Chronicle 32:31).

Hezekiah’s failure resulted in his children failing to carry on as rulers of Israel, and the nation would eventually be taken over by Babylon.

The lesson of Hezekiah is clear. If we are to remain faithful to our Lord, we must remain steadfast in our obedience to Him. Prosperity can be our greatest test. Ask the Lord to give you the grace to be a faithful follower during times of prosperity.





Hearing the Father Speak

May 26th, 2015 by Os Hillman

“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” – John 10:27

An Englishman tells a true story of his encounter with a Muslim man while walking in the country. The Englishman wanted to share the gospel with this man but knew little of Muslim beliefs. The two men talked as they walked and agreed they would each share their beliefs with one another. The Muslim went first and dominated the time of sharing. The Englishman asked the Holy Spirit how to share his faith with the Muslim man. “Do you consider your god your father who speaks?” asked the Englishman.

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“Certainly not,” replied the Muslim man.

“That is one of the big differences between your god and my God. I consider my God as my Father who speaks to me personally.”

“You cannot prove that,” stated the Muslim man.

The Englishman again prayed to himself, “Lord, how do I prove this to this man?” A few moments later the two men began walking toward two young ladies on the other side of the road coming toward them. As they approached, the Englishman spoke to the ladies and made small conversation. He then said to one woman, “I believe you are a nurse, is that correct?”

The woman was startled that a man whom she had never met had just informed her of her occupation. “How would you know that? I have never met you before,” she questioned.

He replied, “I asked my Father and He told me.” The Muslim had his proof.

Many of us do not hear God’s voice because we do not believe He speaks or desires to speak to us. In order to hear, we must listen. In order to listen, we must believe that He speaks. Ask the Lord today for a listening ear so that others might know that you have a heavenly Father who speaks.





The Goal of the Christian Life

May 25th, 2015 by Os Hillman

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” – John 12:24

The goal of the Christian life is death, not success. A popular teaching says that if we follow God, we will prosper materially. God may, in fact, bless His people materially, but few can make this claim among third-world countries. Wealth must never be the goal of a person’s life, only a by-product.

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A missionary to a Middle-Eastern country has shared a motto among their ministry team: “God does not require success, but radical, immediate obedience.” Jesus’ obedience gained Him the cross. It did not gain Him popularity among the heathen, the religious or financial success, or a life of pleasure. His obedience resulted in His death on the cross. This is the same goal Christ has for each of us–death of our old nature so that He might live through us. That may not sell well among outcome-based Christian workplace believers, but it will result in an eternal reward that far exceeds any earthly reward. “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).

The Christian life is a paradox–the first will be last, death in return for life, and we are encouraged to offer praise to God to overcome a spirit of heaviness. It requires faith in a God who operates from a different set of values that are sometimes difficult to measure from human standards. Let death work in you a life that only God can raise up.





Working Versus Striving

May 24th, 2015 by Os Hillman

“So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.”‘” – Zechariah 4:6

Your greatest obstacle in fulfilling God’s purposes in your life is the skills you have acquired to perform well in your work life. One of the great paradoxes in Scripture relates to our need to depend on the Lord; yet at the same time, we’re instructed to use the talents and abilities God gives us to accomplish the work He gives us to do.

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It has been one of the most difficult principles to live out. How do we know that what we achieve is by the power of the Holy Spirit in our life versus our own abilities, and is there a difference? When we reach a level of excellence and performance in our fields, it actually becomes an obstacle to seeing God’s power manifest in our work. What we naturally do well becomes the object of our trust. When this happens, God retreats. You see, God allows us to develop skills, but these must be continually yielded to God’s Spirit. There will be times when God will use these skills to accomplish His purposes. There will be other times that God will not use any of our skills just to ensure that we know it is by His power that we can do anything.

It is the oxymoron of all oxymorons for Christian workplace believers. Learning not to act until God shows you to act is a sign of maturity in God. “Do not lean on the natural skill which you have been given. Let God manifest Himself in what you are doing,” said a mentor who has learned this balance of skill and walking with God. “You must almost restrain from doing those things you know you are prone to do and actually go against them.”

I was learning this lesson recently when I was asked to participate in a large event that would give great exposure and much needed financial increase to my ministry. It made all the sense in the world to participate. Then I prayed with a friend and asked the Lord His mind on it. The Lord showed us this was not His plan for me. I declined the invitation.

Ask God to teach you what it means to walk according to the power of the Holy Spirit in your business life. Develop a listening ear to the small voice inside that wants to direct your efforts by His Spirit.





Wrestling With God

May 23rd, 2015 by Os Hillman

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

All that Jacob had lived for was coming down to one event – his reunion with Esau. More than 20 years had passed since Jacob had manipulated his father’s blessing away from his brother Esau. During these years God had been changing Jacob from a controller and manipulator to a man who was learning to trust God. He was now ready to meet Esau. However, he was fearful that Esau might take revenge on him and his family for his past sin, so he sent a gift ahead, while he retreated and sought mercy from God.

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As an angel appeared to Jacob, he realized the only hope he had was in God. Only if God blessed him would he survive this ordeal. In the past, Jacob would have sought to solve his problem his way. Now, he wanted only God’s way. He wanted Him so badly that he wouldn’t let go of the angel. He was striving with God, but it was the right kind of striving. Jacob was striving to have all God’s blessing on his life. He was seeking God with all that he had. “When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man” (Gen. 32:25). The only way to overcome the strong will of this man was to physically immobilize him. The angel touched the socket of Jacob’s hip. It was painful; it broke him. This was the final stage of removing the old nature from Jacob. It was the place of complete brokenness and surrender. No longer would Jacob walk in his own strength. He would now have to lean on a cane, symbolic of his leaning on God alone.

It was the final act from God in Jacob’s life that was celebrated with a new name – Israel. No longer would he strive with God or man. The process was now complete. God could now bless this man abundantly. He gave him favor with Esau and restored their broken relationship.

What does God have to do in our lives to remove the controlling and manipulative nature that so often is part of a workplace believer’s life? Perhaps it will require a time of immobilizing, loss of a job, loss of income, loss of health, loss of a close relationship. These are His methods of preparation. Your new nature will not be complete until you’ve stopped striving with God through your own self-efforts. If God is taking you through this process, be encouraged; it is because of the inheritance He has prepared for you. However, the inheritance can only be received when God brings us to total dependence on Him.





God’s Preparation for Moving Out

May 22nd, 2015 by Os Hillman

“In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys.” – Genesis 30:43

Jacob left his homeland after suffering a broken relationship with Esau for stealing the family blessing. He went to work for his uncle Laban where he stayed for 20 years. It came time for him to leave, but he had no physical assets to show for those years under Laban. Laban had taken advantage of his nephew in every way. (In some ways, Jacob was reaping the seed he had sown his entire life as a manipulator and controller.) Nevertheless, God’s hand was on Jacob, and He had plans to prosper him.

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However, Jacob had one problem – he had no resources of his own. For Jacob to launch out on his own, he would need resources. In those days, resources often meant large flocks of animals. God gave Jacob a dream that resulted in a strategy for creating wealth by multiplying his sheep. Even though Laban sought to thwart Jacob’s efforts, God overcame the evil in Laban to allow Jacob to prosper.

There are many important lessons for us in this story. First, when God decides it is time to move you into a larger place of His calling, He has the ability to provide the resources you need to support the call. God gave Jacob a dream that resulted in a strategy never used before to build wealth. It was totally from God’s hand. It was creative and new. God called Jacob to move out after he had demonstrated his faithfulness in 20 years of serving Laban. He learned to live under authority and served Laban faithfully, even though he knew he was being taken advantage of.

God will do the same for you and me. However, a word of caution: Be sure the strategy is born from above, and not from self-effort. The difficulty for most of us workplace believers is to learn the difference between the strategies born of God versus the strategy of self-effort.





Becoming Aware of God

May 21st, 2015 by Os Hillman

…”Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” – Genesis 28:16

Jacob was forced to flee his family after receiving the blessing of God from his father, Isaac. He ran as a result of his broken relationship with his brother, Esau, who threatened to kill him. He was alone after leaving his family and was sleeping in the wilderness area at Bethel. It is here that Jacob encountered God personally for the very first time. He had a dream in which Heaven was opened up to him. The Lord spoke to him there and gave him a promise to give him the very land on which he was lying.

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This encounter with God made him realize that God was in this place, even though he had not been aware of it. God had to remove Jacob from all that was of comfort to him in order to reveal Himself to Jacob. What began as a crisis that forced him to be removed from his family and friends led to an encounter with the living God and a fresh vision of God’s purposes for his life.

How often we go about our daily routine and fail to recognize that God is in the place where we are. God had to bring Jacob to a place of separation from his old life and remove all his worldly possessions. He was alone with God at Bethel; nothing else could distract him from an encounter that would change his life.

God often must do radical things in the life of the servant in whom He has special plans: separation from family, removal of physical and emotional resources, an encounter with God. These are often the hallmarks of ownership by God that build a vision into a life.