God is not one to speak in generalities. When He whispers from the pages of Scripture or confronts through a friend's words, the Father directly addresses issues in His children's lives. With that in mind, let's look at His three goals for communicating with believers--namely, for us to:
1. Comprehend the truth. God wants us to learn His ways and principles, to recognize our own frailty, and to identify the needs of others. He does more than offer this as head knowledge--He makes truth applicable to our lives. For example, the Lord assured Paul that His strength was sufficient to carry the apostle through anything (2 Cor. 12:9). Circumstances taught the apostle that God's Word was true.
2. Conform to the truth. Our lives are shaped by our belief system. What we hold as true influences our thinking. In turn, how we think affects our character, conduct, and conversation. God is determined to mold His children into Christlikeness so that they reflect His gospel to the world.
3. Communicate the truth. Every child of God is called to make disciples (Matt. 28:19). Believers can know the Lord and walk in His light but still fall short of this expectation. We must share the gospel by sharing God's truth with others and explaining how His words played out in our lives.
Notice that each goal builds on the one preceding it. Christians are a light reflecting God's glory to this world. We shine brightly by being attentive to God's voice and following His will. And when someone takes an interest in the source of our light, we are prepared to share the good news of Christ.
Prayer: Our Time Saver
What do you think about when you wake up? Are your thoughts instantly focused on the day ahead, or are they centered on the Lord? Although most of us have busy lives that consume much of our time and attention, the most important and time-saving part of each day is that spent in quiet solitude with God.
Yet many believers feel so rushed that they don't think there's time for the Lord. They immediately jump onto the treadmill of life and then wonder why they're so frustrated, confused, and dissatisfied. Even if their desire is to follow God, they don't know where He's going since they haven't stopped to get directions for the day. There's also a disconnect because they've ignored their relationship with Him. No one can have intimacy with Christ without daily communication.
Perhaps the problem is our own human logic. We think spending time reading the Bible and praying each morning will result in having less time and lower productivity. However, when we seek Christ's direction and wisdom for the day and invite Him to control our lives, He'll accomplish more through us than we can do by ourselves. He'll give us wisdom for good decisions, increase our strength and energy, and free us from time-wasting anxiety.
Are you too busy for the Lord? If so, you're denying yourself the blessing of an intimate relationship with Christ. When you make time for Him, He'll fill you with peace and joy, guide your decisions, grant you wisdom, empower you to obey, make you more productive, and comfort you with His love.
Prayer in Times of Inadequacy
After Nehemiah heard about the desperate condition of the Jews who had returned from exile to Jerusalem, his heart was burdened (Neh. 1:3-4). By getting his attention in this way, the Lord could reveal what He wanted Nehemiah to do. Scripture doesn't spell out the man's reaction on realizing that he was to be a part of the solution, but we can imagine a sense of inadequacy probably engulfed him. How could he possibly help? He wasn't even near Jerusalem, and as a servant of the king, he didn't have the freedom to pack up and leave.
But whenever God puts a burden on our hearts, He will open a door to accomplish His will. In this case, the Lord used Nehemiah's sad expression and desperate prayer to prepare a pagan king to send him on his mission.
How do you respond when you sense the Lord is calling you to a task that seems beyond your abilities? Do you list all the reasons you can't possibly do it? God already knows everything about you and the situation. He's not asking your permission to proceed; rather, He is calling you to move forward with faith and obedience. He didn't make an error in choosing you for the task, but you will make a huge mistake if you refuse to do it.
God will equip you for whatever He calls you to do. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, we have all we need to fulfill the Lord's mission. Instead of letting inadequacy hinder you from obeying, let it drive you to your knees so you can arise with renewed insight and power.
Nehemiah was a man who lived on his knees. Whenever he needed guidance, strength, provision, or protection, his first response was prayer. Because of Nehemiah’s humble dependence, God was able to use him greatly to achieve His purposes.
This principle is still true for believers today. God can use us in the most awesome fashion if we'll seek Him and make ourselves available. He has a calling for each of us and doesn't want us wasting the opportunities He provides.
To follow Nehemiah's example of dependent prayer, we must first recognize God as the sovereign Ruler of the universe (v. 5). Although He's our loving Father and loyal Friend, we must never forget that He is also our high and exalted Creator whose holiness is beyond our comprehension. Never think of the Lord as "the man upstairs" or come into His presence in a frivolous manner.
Because Nehemiah respected the awesome holiness of God, he approached Him with confession, admitting not only his sin, but his father's and Israel's as well (vv. 6-7). We cannot hide, deny, or cherish sin and expect the Lord to hear and answer our prayers. Purity of heart and the power of God are linked. We need the sensitivity to instantly recognize when we've strayed, and the willingness to deal with sin immediately.
The reason Nehemiah stood so tall and strong was not due to his natural abilities, but because he developed a relationship of dependency on the Lord through prayer. The same can be true for you. Don't rush into your day without taking time to enter God's throne room to seek His guidance.
The Value of Obedience
Despite Peter's vast fishing experience, he returned from a night's work with nothing to show for his efforts. It's quite possible that the Lord's request to let the nets down one more time struck him as unreasonable--after all, Peter and his partners were the professionals. Nevertheless, the fisherman complied, and his obedience blessed many.
Scripture demonstrates that divine plans often defy human logic. For instance, who would design a battle strategy that involved only marching and shouting? God told Joshua to conquer Jericho that way, and doing so proved successful (Josh. 6:1-5).
Moses is another example. When he felt unsure about his leadership potential, the Lord gave reassurance in an unusual way--by telling him to throw down his walking stick. When Moses obeyed, God powerfully confirmed His choice of leader (Ex. 4:1-3).
Our Father may ask us to do something that seems illogical--perhaps to accept more responsibility when we were hoping to reduce our workload, to leave a position that He provided just recently, or to take on an assignment for which we feel ill-equipped. His plan might feel unrealistic in view of our age, stage of life, or health concerns. We must press forward in obedience, regardless of how impractical the request may appear.
To grasp the importance of obeying, think about children receiving instructions from parents or teachers. Careful listening is needed for the task to be done safely and properly. Some steps may seem pointless, but the rationale often becomes clear later. Always make obeying God your priority.
The Booster Rocket
TGIF Today God Is First by Os Hillman
"After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: "Moses My servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them-to the Israelites." Joshua 1:1-2
A rocket launch is truly an amazing phenomenon to me. Tons of weight is stacked vertically to the sky with thousands of gallons of fuel exploding in a matter of moments. Soon the rocket drops its take-off boosters and uses additional boosters to move the rocket to the next stage of the mission. The first engines have a unique purpose...to get the rocket to the next stage.
Joshua was known for almost 40 years as "Joshua, servant of Moses." God's preparation for him required years of selfless service, training in the desert, and tests of faith. Those preparation years were booster rockets designed to move Joshua into each new stage of his development and his ultimate calling.
God allows each of us preparation times to lay a foundation that He plans to build on. Some of those foundation times appear to be laborious and meaningless, yet these varied experiences are what God is using to frame your life for the message He plans to speak through you. Without these foundational experiences, the Jordan River can never be crossed and we cannot enter the Promised Land.
Embrace these times of seeming inactivity from God. They, too, are a rocket booster to your next stage of your walk with God.
Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
Visions and Dreams
TGIF Today God Is First by Os Hillman
"In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions; your old men will dream dreams." Acts 2:17"I need to meet with you," said the man from England during a break at a conference overseas. We walked outside to have a coffee break and sat down. "God wants you to know that He removed your finances in order to reserve His reward for you in Heaven. He has done you a great service."
I was shocked. I'd never met this gentleman before. How would he have known I had lost a half million dollars in the previous few years, virtually all of my financial net worth, to some unusual calamities? We shared for the next several minutes.
That week, during our lunch and dinner times, I had been enjoying wonderful, juicy oranges from this island in the Mediterranean Sea. It came time for the gentleman and I to conclude our coffee break. We bowed in prayer. As we prayed, the man began to describe a picture he was seeing in his mind.
"I see a picture of a large orange tree. The tree is full of large, ripened oranges. They are beginning to fall to the ground. You are the tree!"
Again, I looked at the man with shock and amazement, and now tears in my eyes.
"You are the third person in three years that has had a similar vision during a prayer time like this. The first two people were also strangers to me."
I went back into the meeting rejoicing that God could be so personal in my life. He used a servant who had gone through similar trials to supernaturally speak a word of encouragement in a way that I would know it was God who was speaking.
There are times when God supernaturally speaks into our lives. He does this to demonstrate His power, His love, and His intimacy with us. Do not be surprised if God sends one of His messengers to speak into your life when you need it most. Be open to how God might want to speak into your life today.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers (Psalm 1:3).
Be as Little Children
TGIF Today God Is First by Os Hillman
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1aI want to share with you a conversation that happened between a man and his wife.
"I have an important business meeting in the morning. Would you please set the alarm for 5:30 a.m.?" he said to his wife.
"Oh, that won't be necessary. Just tell the Lord what time you want to wake up. He does it for me all the time," his wife said.
He rolled his eyes in disbelief. "Well, I'd feel more comfortable if we set the alarm."
"Okay, ye of little faith. But just to prove my point I am going to ask the Lord to wake us up just before 5:30."
The next morning he awoke before the alarm went off. He looked at the clock. It read 5:15. He looked at his wife, who had just awakened at the same time with an I-told-you-so smile.
Sometimes we wrongfully view God as someone we go to for only the "big things." The idea of "bothering God" for such a trivial matter seems foolish and presumptuous. However, when you were a child and had to get up in the morning for school, didn't your mom or dad come wake you up? They were your parents, and you could come to them with the most trivial concerns or requests. Why would our heavenly Father be any less approachable? Perhaps our problem is that we simply have not developed a level of intimacy with God so that we feel the freedom to approach Him at these daily, routine levels. We often operate with an unwritten code that says our needs must have a certain degree of importance or crisis before we come to God with them. This is not God's character towards us.
Does the Lord desire this level of intimacy with you and me? The apostle Paul exhorted us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17 KJV). There is never a caution to pray only about matters of greater importance.
Today, go to God with matters that you might view as trivial and would normally avoid bringing to God. Ask God to increase your level of intimacy with Him. You may even be able to get rid of your alarm clock.
How to End Well
2 Timothy 4:6-8
Many people think about the last years of life as an opportunity to just relax. But this does not align with God's purpose for us; He wants us to serve Him all the days of our lives.
Let's look at the apostle Paul's journey and explore what it means to finish well. He spent time pouring into others until the very end of his life. Consider the letters he wrote to Timothy from a prison cell prior to being executed. In every season of life, God calls us to serve others.
And notice how, when writing about his life, the apostle chose words descriptive of a battle. He understood the human struggle against sin as well as the challenges of pain and persecution in the trials we all face--even in doing kingdom work like preaching Christ to a fiercely resistant society.
This godly servant's life was also marked by surrender. His mindset is obvious in these words: "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Rom. 12:1). He was not afraid of Nero, nor was he struggling to stay alive. Paul trusted God to determine everything about his life, including where he would go, what he would do, and when he would die. Death did not scare him, because he knew he would dwell with Jesus forever.
God doesn't require our lives to be perfect in order to finish strong. We can live life fully and be ready to meet our Maker by surrendering, walking victoriously with Christ, and serving others. If Jesus called you home today, would you--like Paul--be confident that you lived well until the end?
Building Bridges to the Kingdom
Scripture refers to "the kingdom of God" frequently, but many people are unclear as to its meaning. Let's look at the past, present, and future reality of this concept.
The first thing we must realize is that the heavenly kingdom refers to everything under Christ's control. At the moment of salvation, we are transferred from the reign of darkness to the bright authority of Jesus. And we are eternally secure in Him.
As today's verses explain, Jesus' kingdom and reign have been planned since the foundation of the world. From the beginning, God has been preparing mankind for what is to come. One way was by using prophets to foretell how He would redeem humanity and sovereignly rule over heaven and earth.
Once Jesus came and gave His life, He established the "present" kingdom. This isn't a geographical locale; it's a term describing the heart, where God's Holy Spirit indwells believers to guide, counsel, and empower.
But there is also a future aspect of the kingdom, which we can anticipate with excitement. You are probably familiar with the words "Thy kingdom come" fromthe Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:2 kjv). This speaks of the new heaven and new earth, where we will enjoy freedom from pain and sin. There, we will worship Jesus with gladness and joy for all eternity.
As God's kingdom ambassadors, we who are His children have the responsibility and privilege of sharing the good news: Through Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection, all who trust in Him are forgiven of sin and assured of eternal life with God. Whom can you tell about this amazing gift?