TGIF, Today God Is First

Having Eyes for One

February 14th, 2016 by Os Hillman

“Then they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” – John 6:21

The disciples were traveling across the lake to Capernaum when a strong wind arose and the waters grew rough. Suddenly they saw a figure on the water, and they were terrified until Jesus called out to them and identified Himself.

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Isn’t that the first thing we do when unexpected calamities or even something that we have never experienced before comes into our life? We panic until we can see that God is behind these events in our lives. In Romans, Paul tells us that, “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen” (Rom. 11:36). God has an eternal filter in which nothing can touch us unless He permits it. Even satan must have permission to touch us. And God may even use satan for His own ends, as in the case of Job.

God shows us a second principle in this story. The Scriptures say when the disciples were willing to take Jesus into the boat, they reached the shore where they were heading.

I was faced with some very difficult circumstances in my business. I had no income for some time, and I saw no immediate remedy to the situation. The circumstances created fear in my heart. The anxiety began to grow until, one day after my evening prayer walk, the Lord said, “How long do you want to keep your eyes on the circumstances instead of Me? Do you think I have brought you this far to throw you into the water?” The truth was that I was halfway in already because my eyes were looking at the “big waves” surrounding my boat. One night, in a support group for divorced men, the leader asked each of us to keep our eyes on two men who were going to walk from the room. One man represented Jesus, the other, our circumstances. “Now, I want you to keep your eyes on both people,” he said. The men stood up and began walking across the room in opposite directions. It was impossible to keep looking at each of them at the same time. So we had to choose which we would focus on.

The lesson was clear. We could not keep our eyes on Jesus and our circumstance at the same time.





Time to Hear

February 13th, 2016 by Os Hillman

“He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.” – John 14:21b

We live in a day of 12-step programs for this, four points to success for that, and all forms of programmed means of becoming successful. Have you ever wondered how you can guarantee a greater revelation of Jesus in your life? Jesus tells us how this can be done. It is all tied to obedience. In John, He tells us the following: “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him” (Jn. 14:21). The key here is in the last three words. He will show Himself to us because of our loving Him through our obedience. The more obedient we become, the more revelation of His presence we will feel in our life. Jeremiah tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).

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Many Christians wonder why they cannot hear or sense God’s presence in their life. It is because they do not seek Him with a whole heart, and they are not obedient to the things He has asked. God does not show us the next move until we are obedient to the first thing He has spoken to us. It is a progressive process. He entrusts the small things to us first, then moves us to the larger. I was like many today who are so focused on seeking the activity of God rather than seeking God Himself. Hebrews tells us that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. In the Old Testament we are told, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).

I realized if I was going to hear God’s voice, I had to make time to seek Him and hear Him. I had to spend focused time alone reading, studying, and seeking His face only. Jesus set the model for this when He often left the crowds to be alone and seek His heavenly Father. I also had to tune my “radio” to His frequency. Static comes into that frequency when I am disobedient. My level of seeking determines the power of my “radio” to reach Him. The more I seek Him, the more I hear Him. Seek the Lord today so that you may be empowered by His presence.





Worthless Idols

February 12th, 2016 by Os Hillman

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” – Jonah 2:8

Have you ever exercised your will over the will of God? Have you ever been so willful that you were going to go your own way no matter what God said? If so, you have been at the same place as the prophet Jonah. God called Jonah to deliver a message to God’s people as a warning. Jonah flatly refused. It was Jonah’s will over God’s. Guess who won?

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Talk about willpower; Jonah had it! In fact, he was so rebellious toward God’s will that he got on a ship to go the opposite direction. But he couldn’t go far enough. The omnipotence of God caught up with Jonah, and he was hurled overboard when the seas became rough and the ship’s crew figured Jonah was the source of their problems. Overboard he went and into the belly of that big fish.

God has a way of getting us to rethink our decisions, to reconsider our position. In fact, we see the extent of Jonah’s willfulness by the amount of time he was willing to hang out in the belly of that fish – three full days. Then, Jonah decides enough is enough! Obedience is better than this fish belly and seaweed.

From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.

He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and You listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all Your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You, to Your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.” And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh (Jonah 2:2-3:3a).

In the midst of realizing his own calamity, Jonah made a seemingly out-of-context statement: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Jonah was thinking of the sailors who threw him overboard and how they prayed to worthless idols. In the business world, we rub shoulders with those who cling to worthless idols every day. How tragic.

But this story’s primary message is for every believer. And I can identify with Jonah. There’s been many a man placed in the “belly of the fish” to encourage him to fulfill the purposes of God for which He called him. Jonah’s situation changed immediately upon his obedience. Obedience is a mysterious thing. Jesus had to learn it through the things He suffered (see Heb. 5:8). If Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering, what does that mean for you and me? Sometimes willing obedience requires encouragement.





Becoming a Fool

February 11th, 2016 by Os Hillman

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” – Proverbs 1:7

Marvin Wilson, author of Our Father Abraham, has written incisively about the various meanings for our word “fool”:

In Biblical wisdom literature, the pupils of the sages and mentors are the unwise, often termed “fools” (Prov. 1:7) or “simple one” (1:22). In wisdom literature, the different levels of fools – both young and old – are the raw material on which the sages had to work, and they represent the varying degrees of rawness. Perhaps as much as anything else, the term fool is descriptive of an attitude, bent of mind, or direction in life, which needs correcting. The various Hebrew words for fool occur more than a hundred times in the book of Proverbs. [Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 284-286.]

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The reference to someone being a fool was not necessarily a negative term. A simple fool, or peti, was a person who made mistakes, but quickly righted them and was restored to fellowship with God and with others. King David was a simple fool, one who made mistakes, but kept a repentant heart toward God. This is why God did not turn away from him for his many sins.

The hardened fool, kesil and ewil, makes mistakes, but never learns from them and will not listen to others. Such people can expect God’s reproof to continue and will eat the fruit of their own way (see Prov. 1:31-32). The hardened fool “returns to his own vomit.” King Saul was a hardened fool, one who made mistakes and continued in them even after realizing he was wrong. We’re going to err in our ways. The question is, once we know we have made a mistake before God, do we make the necessary adjustments that will allow Him to intervene on our behalf? And will we avoid the same course of action in the future? God says that if we do, He will pour out His Spirit on us (see Prov. 1:23). He will make known His words to us.

The third level of fool mentioned in Proverbs is the mocking fool or letz. The mocking fool mocks the things of God. This word means “scoffer” or “scorner.” When you encounter cynical people who disregard the things of God, you know these people are “mocking fools.”

The fourth level of fool is the God-denying fool or nabal. This term relates to the morally wicked person who ignores the disgrace he brings on his family and who despises holiness (see Prov. 17:21). This person says, “There is no God.” By failing to acknowledge God for who He is, the nabal declares himself to be a “God-denying” fool.

I have found that it is helpful to try to understand if people are teachable. Are they simple fools, those who make mistakes but seek to learn from them? I can work with those people. But if I sense I am working with a hardened fool, I know I should not spend much time on that person. Jesus did not spend much time trying to convince the rich young ruler. He presented truth, and let him make his decision. Some people must get broken before they can become simple fools. Sometimes it is simply better to let satan chew on people until the ground is fertile enough to present truth to them.





Precious Deaths

February 10th, 2016 by Os Hillman

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” – Psalm 116:15

The Bible often speaks of death as a requirement of living a life in Christ. This death is not a physical death, but a spiritual death. It is a death of the old so the new can be raised. It is the life of Christ that is raised in us. However, this death can be painful if we do not choose to willingly allow this “circumcision of heart” to have its way. If we are not circumcised of heart, we do not enter into God’s promises. Moses was called to deliver a people from slavery. But when he was about to return to Egypt to begin what God called Him to do, God almost killed him. He had failed to take care of the details of obedience. In this case, it was that all the males in his family were to be circumcised. This oversight on Moses’ part almost cost him his life. Imagine that – God prepared a man 40 years, and yet, he was almost disqualified because of an oversight. “At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it…” (Ex. 4:24).

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None of us will ever enter the Promised Land of full blessing with God unless we have this same circumcision of heart. The psalmist above accurately describes the process of circumcising the heart.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have freed me from my chains (Psalm 116:15-16).

We cannot be free to be God’s servant until this death takes place in each of us. When this death takes place, we become free – free from the chains of sin that held us back from becoming completely His. Oh, what freedom there is when this death takes place. No longer are we held to the sin of materialism, fear, self-effort, or anxiety, for we are dead to these things.

The Bible speaks of the seed that must die in order for it to spring up and give new life.

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. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24-25).

Each of us must ask the Lord if our seed has died. Is it in the ground now, yielding the fruit of brokenness before Him? This is the great paradox of a life in Christ – the circumcision of heart and the death process. Ask God to free you to become all that He wants you to be today.





Sowing In Tears

February 9th, 2016 by Os Hillman

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” – Psalm 126:5

Psalm 126 describes an interesting process that goes against our natural tendencies when we are taken into a difficult period in our lives. Whenever we are hurled into a crisis that brings tears, our tendency is to retreat or recoil in fear and hurt. However, there is a better way that God tells us to handle such times of travail.

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Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. “He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Ps. 126:5-6). God is telling us that if we will do what is unnatural for us in these circumstances, He will make sure that what we sow in tears will return in joy. This is one of the most important lessons I have learned when faced with difficult circumstances. Rather than sit back and allow self-pity and discouragement to consume us, we should plant seed during this time. Reach out to a person who needs a friend. Invest in the life of another. See where you can be a blessing to someone. Give of yourself.

The psalmist acknowledges that we are doing this while we are in our pain. However, during this time we are to sow seed. That seed will return to us in another form. Here is what will happen when we do this. “He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” We will receive joy and fruit from the seed that we plant during this time. Sheaves represent the fruit of a harvest. We will actually get a harvest from this seed.

“You must not let the circumstances destroy you! Too many in the Kingdom are counting on you to come through this because of the calling on your life!” Those were the words spoken to me by a friend one time when I was in the midst of a very difficult business and personal circumstance that was threatening to destroy me emotionally. This person saw what God was doing and the fruit that God wanted to bring from these circumstances. Sometimes we need others around us to push us through the difficult times. If you find yourself in a difficult place today, see where you can sow some seed. Soon you will be reaping songs of joy.





You Want Me to Do What?

February 8th, 2016 by Os Hillman

…”Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” – John 21:6a

The disciples were fishing. It was after Jesus had been crucified. Peter had gone through his most agonizing moment in which he had denied Jesus three times. He had lost a friend. No doubt he probably wondered whether the last three years were a dream. What now?

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Peter had been prepared three years, but he was not going out to preach; he was going fishing. He had returned to his trade of days gone by. He had a level of experience with Jesus that no other human on earth can boast. This was the third encounter he was about to have with Jesus after His resurrection. Jesus looked to Peter and John in their boat and made a suggestion.

“Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some” (Jn. 21:6a).

Now, if you are as seasoned in your fishing as these guys were, wouldn’t you be a bit irritated if a stranger suggested that you simply put your nets over the other side to catch some fish? Yet we find that they took this stranger’s advice. Once they were obedient, the Lord revealed Himself.

When they followed Jesus’ advice, the catch was enormous – 153 fish in total. In most cases such a haul would have broken the net. Jesus invited them to have breakfast with Him – fish and bread; He had already started the fire. I can only imagine that this scene would resemble some buddies going out and camping together.

There is so much that we are to learn in this passage about God’s ways. As a workplace believer, we must understand that after we have spent years with Jesus, this does not always mean we must leave our professions in order to fully follow Jesus. Peter went back to his profession – fishing. It was here that Jesus asked him a simple question: Do you love Me and will you feed My sheep? He didn’t say to Peter, “Fishing is a waste of time for you now, Peter.” This recommissioning was in the area of his original calling – his work. We need not feel that we must go to the “mission field” to please Jesus. Our work is our mission field. We must, however, make a paradigm shift in our thinking about our place in the work world. We must have an overriding sense of mission and ministry that comes out of that work. This is what is meant when we say that we must all be circumcised before we can enter the Promised Land. When this happens, we can expect to see God fill the nets with His blessings. He wants to do this because He now owns the net, and He can trust us to manage it.





Decision-Making

February 7th, 2016 by Os Hillman

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

This is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible related to gaining wisdom and direction from God. Yet I have never heard one teaching on this passage that teaches what I believe the psalmist is really saying. The first part is pretty easy; we are to trust with all our heart. But the next part is not so clear. We are not to lean on our own understanding. If we are not to lean on our own understanding, on whose understanding are we to lean? God’s!

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Throughout the Old Testament we find that God set up structures by which those in authority made decisions. God has always set a principle whereby we are to seek Him in all our decisions, that He might truly make our decisions. In the Old Testament, the priest made decisions based on which way the Urim and Thummim fell inside his breastplate. The casting of lots was another means of allowing a decision to be left with God. Proverbs says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). Another means of making a decision was through the agreement of two or three. No one could be guilty of any crime without the witness of two or three. This was a biblical way of confirming a matter. Still another means of making a decision is through a multitude of counselors.

Given all these scenarios, what are we to gain from these examples? We are told in Jeremiah 17:9a, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” So what really protects each of us from the deceit of our own heart? I believe it is the combination of all the above. When we get to a place with God that our decisions are accountable to others, whether that be a wife, a board, or a few close friends who are committed to the same godly ideals, this is when we are protected from the deceit of our own heart. This is one of the hardest things to yield to God-the right to make our own decisions. Yet, it is the most elementary principle God requires of us to receive His blessing in our lives.

This principle took a long time for me to appreciate. However, today I can tell you I would never make a major decision without the counsel of others who are close to me. Relational accountability has become lost in our culture due to our hunger for independence. I have experienced too often the hardship that results from making decisions that God isn’t behind. Walking in obedience is the only real freedom in Christ.





The Black Hole

February 6th, 2016 by Os Hillman

…”My grace is sufficient for you….” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

If you are older than 35, you may recall the early days of the space program. I remember the early spacecraft launch with John Glenn. One of the most exciting and tense moments of his return to earth was his reentry to the earth’s atmosphere. I recall the diagram on television of the heat shield on the capsule that had to withstand incredible temperatures to avoid complete destruction. There was a blackout period for several minutes in which mission control had no radio contact. He was in the “black hole.” It was a tense time. Either he would make it through, or the spacecraft would burn up in the atmosphere. There were several minutes of silence that seemed like an eternity. Then, mission control shouted with joy when they reestablished contact with the spacecraft. It was a time of rejoicing.

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Have you ever had a time when you were in a spiritual black hole in your life? I have. The pressure was unbearable. No sense of God’s presence. No sense of anything going on around me. God was about as far away as the man in the moon – at least from my perspective. I think every Christian who is called to make a significant difference in his world experiences times like these. These are the times when we question the reality of God, the love of God, the personal care of God. And He demonstrates to us that He was there all the time. These are “faith experiences” that God does in every person who is called to a higher level of relationship with Him. These times are needful in order to know that we have the “heat shield” that can withstand the incredible heat that comes when we follow Him with a whole heart – a heart that is radical in a commitment to fully follow His ways. Elisha had that spirit. He slaughtered his 12 oxen and burned his plowing equipment so that he would not have the opportunity to return to anything if God didn’t come through (see 1 Kings 19:21).

The apostle Paul asked God to remove the heat from his own life one time. God’s answer was not what he wanted to hear.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! (2 Corinthians 12:9 AMP)

How’s your heat shield today? Can it withstand the heat that would want to burn up everything in your life not based in Him? Christ said, “My grace is sufficient.” Is that really true in your life? Let His grace be your shield today.





Understanding Your Gift

February 5th, 2016 by Os Hillman

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. – 1 Corinthians 12:1

In First Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, the apostle Paul is teaching us about the role of spiritual gifts in the Church. He correlates these gifts to a human body, telling us that each person’s gift helps the whole Body of the Church. This is such an important principle for us to learn. I must say I learned this principle regarding my own spiritual gift the hard way.

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“God will never speak as strongly to you as to someone else,” said my mentor to me one day. The statement shocked me. “What in the world do you mean by that?” I argued with him.

“Your spiritual gift of administration/leading is one of the most dangerous gifts in the whole Body of Christ. The reason is that you can see the big picture better than anyone else, and you’re so task-oriented that you will run people into the ground getting your project completed because you think you see it so clearly. That is why the best friend you could ever have is someone with a prophetic gift to discern whether the big picture you see is actually the picture God is directing. It is the one gift that can almost stand alone better than any other – at least that is the opinion of the one with that gift.”

Oh, how I have learned this lesson the hard way! He was so right. There have been many a church staff destroyed by a person with the gift of administration. During my years as an ad agency owner, I saw how I stressed out my staff because of the tremendous load I put on them with multiple projects. It was so easy for me because the more balls I had juggling, the better I felt. I was oblivious to how my multi-task personality impacted those around me.

Today, I have some special relationships with intercessors and prophetic people whom I depend on for confirmation of direction. I have learned their spiritual gifts of discernment are of great value in determining strategic direction. I have learned that God has placed within each person a spiritual gift that is designed to make the Body of Christ function better for His purposes. When we discover the spiritual gifts God has placed in those around us, we are better able to see the Body function as a real body-totally dependent on one another. Some of us are more sensitive to God’s voice because God has gifted us in that way. Others of us are less sensitive because God wants us to depend on others in the Body for their gifts. Find out whom God has placed around you today and discover a new dimension of spiritual productivity.