TGIF, Today God Is First

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).





The Art of Waiting

August 23rd, 2014 by Os Hillman

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them….” Exodus 13:21

How are you at waiting on God? How do you determine if God is giving you the green light to move forward? Many workplace believers make the mistake of adding up all the pluses and then concluding that God has given them the green light. Several factors go into making a decision from the Lord.

It is important to do three things before you make a decision on a matter. First, you should gather facts. Fact gathering allows you to determine all the realities of a given situation. However, this does not ultimately drive your decision, but it can put a stop to it. For instance, if you were planning to build a shopping center and you knew the only way to lease the space was to rent to a porn shop, your decision would be made. God would not lead you to enter into unrighteous ventures.

Second, is the Holy Spirit guiding you in your decision? “If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm” (Ps. 37:23). George Mueller cites that the steps are also “by the Lord.” God puts hedges around us, but many times we bull our way through the hedges under the guise of tenacity and perseverance. This too is unrighteousness. One wise workplace believer stated that the greatest success one can have in business is to know when it is time to pull the plug rather than keep forcing a situation. Not all businesses last forever.

Third, has your decision been confirmed? God has placed others around us to be used as instruments in our lives to confirm decisions and keep us from the deceit of our own heart. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (2 Cor. 13:1b). This is God’s way of keeping us within the hedge of His protection.

“Write your plans in pencil and give God the eraser.”





Drawing Near to Darkness

August 22nd, 2014 by Os Hillman

“The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.” Exodus 20:21

Like the nation of Israel, we are each called to the mountain of God, but few are willing to pass through the darkness to get there. God wanted to reveal His glory to the children of Israel, but they were afraid to enter into His presence. They only wanted to know about God, rather than know him personally like Moses did. This grieved the heart of God.

Why wouldn’t the people of Israel risk entering the darkness if it meant being in the presence of God? What did the people fear?

Perhaps they had fears like each of us. The fear of the unknown. The fear of what might happen. The fear that God might not like what He sees. Or, perhaps even the greatest fear: the fear of darkness itself and what lies behind that darkness.

Many of us have been satisfied to hear about God from God’s messengers. But there is a greater calling for each of you – a calling to enter into His presence. Sometimes entering into His presence means we enter through an unexpected door – a door that appears to have nothing good behind it.

We do not need to fear entering the presence of God even if it means entering through a period of darkness. Above all else we must believe that God is a God of love. If He calls us into darkness in order to enter His presence, then that darkness will become an entry to new levels of relationship with a God who longs for fellowship with you and me.





Free to Stand

August 21st, 2014 by Os Hillman

“That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies…” Joshua 7:12

It matters not how strong you are. It matters not whether you have the greatest resources and talent. It matters not if you have the best plans and procedures. It will all fail if you have a break in your armor.

This is the message God told Joshua when he attempted to go against a small army at Ai, which was the Israelites’ second battle in the Promised Land. Sometimes we try to figure out why we are not successful in an endeavor. We look at all aspects of our performance to see what went wrong. For the people of Israel, it was not easily seen on the surface. Everything seemed just as it should be from Joshua’s vantage point, so when his army was soundly defeated, he cried out to God, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, why did You ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?” (Josh. 7:7a)

The people had been defeated because God could not bless them. One person had violated the covenant with God. They were not to take any possessions from the first battle, but one person failed to live up to this, and the whole army suffered.

Sin makes our armor vulnerable to attack from satan, who then gains permission from God to attack us in the area where we have failed to uphold righteousness. If we break down in moral purity, satan comes in and establishes a stronghold. If we give place to bitterness and unforgiveness, we will break fellowship with God and others. If we become money-focused, we will fall into greed and deception. It is a vicious cycle.

Examine your armor today. Make sure you are not susceptible to attack. Begin from a solid spiritual foundation and your chances of success will be great.