Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"The Only Thing That Is Inevitable Is My Will" by Garris Elkins

Recently, I read Breaking Christian News on Elijahlist and something caught my attention. The article was about a recent vote in the New York State Senate that confirmed marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The lead to the article was this:

"Advocates for same-sex marriage have attempted to portray their cause as inevitable. However, it has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has always been understood...”

The word “inevitable” jumped out from the page. As I read this word I heard the Lord speak to me and say, “No work of hell can stand against My Kingdom under the definition of 'inevitable.' The only thing that is inevitable is My will.” When I heard those words faith began to rise within me.

The dictionary defines “inevitable” as, “unable to be avoided, evaded, or escaped; certain; necessary: an inevitable conclusion, that which is unavoidable. “ I don't like those definitions when it comes to the works of hell– not just for their meaning, but for what they can do to our faith. When we say that something is “inevitable” we remove the miraculous intervention of God from the scenario. When we slip into this mind-set we are no longer making choices to stand in the way of “inevitability” and say, “No!”

In 1990, when I first visited the old Soviet Union, it seemed “inevitable” that the USSR, then a world super-power, would live on forever in its current form. The reality from history is that the Soviet empire fell within months.

When Jan and l lived in Berlin we saw remnants of the Berlin Wall that stood as a separation between friends and family, East and West. The stone facade of that wall seemed immovable until one day in 1989 when that inevitable wall was torn down. Nothing is inevitable when God is at work.

This is a time for the Church to press through any walls of disbelief and resignation that comes when we begin to view anything as inevitable. Many followers of Jesus are weary – this has been a challenging time. In this weariness some have stopped praying for the sick in the face of what appears to be an impossible situation. The Lord shared with me recently that we are entering a season of first-fruits in miraculous healing. These first-fruits will come after the patients have been signed off to an inevitable end. This is not the time to give up and yield to inevitability.

The writer Hebrews in chapter 11, said, “It (faith) is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen.” When we begin to believe again that something is going to happen our attitudes and actions change. This kind of faith in the unseen realm is translated into prayers of faith that tell a spirit of inevitability to move out of the way because Heaven has come to earth.

Chapter 12 of Hebrews starts off with a “therefore” in verse one. “Therefore” means to consider what was just written. Chapter 11 described faith and those who lived by faith. Chapter 11 is glorious, and yet, this was the old covenant that was only a shadow of what we now live in because of Christ's resurrection. Verse one continues to say, “Therefore, ...let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.” A mind set on the inevitability of sin and disease is a mind weighted down. A weighted life will eventually slow down and begin to live without the motion of faith and eventually come to a stop. We are called to strip off these weighted ways of thinking.

Hebrews 12:2 says that we hold this steady course of faith, “ keeping our eyes on Jesus.” our eyes are on Jesus, and not the apparent inevitable course of brokenness, sin and disease, miracles are possible because we are once again moving with the Spirit of God.

Cancer wants the church to resign herself to the“inevitable” conclusion of its action in a human body as always resulting in death. But some are seeing Jesus in the midst of all the pain and sorrow of this disease and they are beginning to pray in faith and people are being healed.

The current financial meltdown can cause a follower of Christ to resign themselves to believe the days of financial blessing, for the sake of God's Kingdom, are behind us. But some people are coming into new levels of supernatural provision in this current recession because they are seeing Jesus directing their financial steps for His glory.

People with clinically diagnosed mental disorders have entire families believing that their loved one is headed towards a life of inevitable mental illness and despair. But , as I write this I see the faces of a family I know whose loved one is coming into wholeness because they have begun to believe that with God nothing is ever “inevitable.”

The lie of “inevitability” results in the sense of resignation to the existing status quo and this hinders the Church from believing for more. When faith is pulled out of the equation, and fear settles in, this fear gives birth to resignation. Resignation does not take new territory. Resignation is stationary. takes us to a place of unbelief where acts of faith are no longer seen.

When resignation settles in we begin to believe that the disease cannot be avoided, so death is certain. We begin to believe the financial loss will continue to spiral down until we have nothing left so we begin making plans for a life of lack instead of abundance. Resignation causes a parent to believe that a mentally challenged child will never experience a renewed mind so they make plans to live in sorrow.

As I began to understand the implications of the word, “inevitability,” I began to get more stirred. I realized the implications of this word has slipped into the vocabulary of some in the Church. To whatever degree, some have been side-tracked from walking in their God-given authority of establishing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. God is about to send unusual miracles to those who stand in faith and dismantle what has been called inevitable and impossible.

I looked deeper into the etymology of the the word “inevitable” - it comes from a the word - “evitable.” Evitable is defined as, “possible to avoid, avoidable – from a Latin word “to shun.”

How do we avoid being sucked into the vortex of “inevitability” thinking? This shunning of hell's sentence of death will cost us something. Our need to look socially and politically correct will go out the window when we take this kind of stance. We may lose a friend or even offend a part of the Church because we are believing for new territory. The Bible is filled with people who faced impossible and inevitable odds. These people overcame the spirit of their age by standing on the promises of God.

Abram dragged his entire family and all their belongings towards a land not yet seen. It appeared inevitable that Abram would be defined as a dreamer and a vagabond, but God changed Abram's name to Abraham and gave him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram kept walking towards the promise and the promise became a reality.

Joseph offended his brothers and was sold into slavery. It seemed inevitable that Joseph would live forever as a slave, but God had other plans and promoted him to save a nation. Joseph kept making choices of integrity and those choices kept him aligned with the promise.

Young David seemed out-gunned and insignificant as he faced Goliath. It seemed inevitable that a shepherd boy would be destroyed in the presence of a well-trained and equipped giant, but God's anointed one cut off the giant's head. David ran towards the giant instead of running away and ran into the promise of kingship.

Elijah was in an impossible situation. It seemed inevitable that Elijah would fail because he was out-numbered by the prophets of Baal and the existing political structure wanted him dead. God had another plan. Everything changed when Elijah asked God to prove Himself and the fire of God fell.

Saul watched approvingly as he held the robes of those stoning Stephen to death. It seemed inevitable that Saul would continue to kill Christians, but God had other plans on the Road to Damascus. God turned Saul the murderer into Paul the Apostle. Paul took a step of faith in the blinding Light of God's presence and became one of the most significant people in Church history.

Peter denied the Lord and went back to his old life of fishing. It seemed inevitable that Peter would forever make a fool of himself and live in exile from the promises of God, but God met him and turned him into a man of rock-like faith. On morning while fishing Peter saw the Lord and swam ashore and ate breakfast with the One Who would restore his life.

The most important example is the Lord Himself. He was crucified like a common criminal and put into a tomb and it was inevitable to those who crucified Him that He would remain in the ground forever, but God had another plan. After three days He rose and left both the Cross and the Tomb empty and took His place at the right hand of the Father.

Nothing is ever inevitable when God is involved. When God asks you to stand before impossible circumstances that have been labeled as “inevitable” stand there in faith and begin to pray, prophesy, declare and decree what He is saying to you. Let your words change the atmosphere of your circumstances. Words of faith dissolve what seems to be inevitable.

If you are facing a circumstance that has been defined as “inevitable” fix your eyes on the One who has forever destroyed the works of the “inevitable” kingdom of darkness and trust Him.

God spoke to my heart and said, “Look at Me, and pray as you look. Let the things your realm declares as inevitable and destined for death become inevitability destined for life as they come under My authority. Pray believing and you will begin to see what I have planned. Belief comes from looking at Me. As you look you will see My will rise up before you amidst your pain and sorrow. There is a victory coming – it is inevitable.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Trusting in Broken Nets" by Garris Elkins

This morning I was reading through the Book of Habakkuk. Like all of the prophets there is a context and an audience for what is written, and yet, as I was reading, some independent verses seemed to stand out and speak to me. I began to import some of these verses into my morning prayers. As I prayed God began to ask me some questions.

"Then they will worship their nets and burn incense in front of them. These are the gods who have made us rich!" Habakkuk 1:15-16

As I write this blog entry I have a beautiful painting that hangs above my office desk. It is a watercolor painting of the disciples hauling in a net full of fish. The net was breaking and the disciples are looking up to heaven from within their boat that was being tossed about on the raging waves of a storm. Their physical posture was focused upward in a petition for God to help them. I feel like some of my nets are breaking. I feel like I am in the painting.

As I read Habakkuk the first God-question came - "Has your model of ministry become an idol to you?'' Many times I think I really have things figured out. The fruit of success is coming in and then it is all too easy to begin thinking you really know what your are talking about. When the model of ministry - our current net - begins to rip, where do we look? For another model of ministry or for Him? I am wanting to become one of the disciples in the boat in the painting who looks up, not around.

"How foolish to trust in something made by your own hands!" Habakkuk 2:18

I have been doing pastoral ministry, now, for almost 30 years. It is easy to slip into thinking that whatever good things happen are somehow the result of the labor of my hands. While God wants us to be faithful, He is constantly reminding me that the eternal things are only built by His hands. He builds the church and I have been called to keep the environment within His construction project whole and honest. Health becomes a by-product of this pastored environment.

The question I heard attached to this verse was, "What are you trusting in, Garris?" The next verse, 2:19, contains a question: "Can an idol speak for God?" Am I trusting in what speaks for my life and ministry, or am I trusting in those things that don't require my promotion because what God has done will bear its own witness? It is too easy to slip into self-promotion when we don't see much of what we have done being promoted by others. Idols get carved in our insecure seasons.

"In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us." Habakkuk 3:2

Many of us who lead and serve in the Church, if we could be honest for a moment, would say, "This is a time of deep need - God come and show us again your power - save us again!" This is where I have been parked lately. As a pastor I feel my own needs and pain, but I also carry, and sometimes in a wrong way, the struggles of those I have been called to shepherd.

Then the questions for this verse came - "Do you want it your way or My way? Is your need deep enough now that there is nothing left of your abilities to come to the rescue? Do you still believe I have something to do in you that is beyond all you could ask or hope for?"

Saturday, November 7, 2009

“2010 – A Year to Stand in Heaven's Open Window ” by Garris Elkins

Recently, I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, show me what the year 2010 will bring.” As soon as those words were uttered, I saw an image. I saw someone standing inside a castle-like stone building looking out through a large circular window. This person was looking towards a distant horizon. The dawning of a new day was just beginning. The reflection of the early light was illuminating their face. The window was high up in an elevated position many levels above the surrounding terrain. Because of where this person stood they were able to see the coming dawn before those who were still sleeping in the darkness at ground-level. This image reminded me of when I used to fly airplanes. I would pilot my aircraft into some distant airport just before sunrise. As I approached my destination I would be flying into the first rays of a new day while those on the ground still slept in darkness.

As I continued to reflect on what I was seeing, I began to realize this was an image for 2010. God desires to position His people in a higher place of revelation so they can see what is coming. This higher place would change their perspective.

As I gazed at the image of this new dawn I heard the Lord speak to my heart,

2010 will be a year that I will open a window of heaven. If you are willing, you can come up higher and I will let you see the things I have planned. 2010 will be a year to see the approaching future if you will heed My invitation to come up to a higher place and stand in the open window of My purpose and vision.”

I brought you into Myself and made you Mine – heirs of promise – before you took your first step of destiny. I gave it all to you before you could perform the works of My hand. In this new dawn there will be signs of a higher purpose I want My people to see in the coming year. In 2010 look for similar signs that will manifest in the systems of the earthly kingdom. These signs will reflect My heart.

A fulness of My presence is not yet upon you. As my Word says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” I am asking you to look into the darkness and prophesy a new dawn. As you prophesy, My joy will fall in your camp. I am sending a joy to My people that will appear premature. This joy of heaven will rise in you like the dawning of a new day. There is coming a fullness of joy for My people that will be as bright as the noon day sun. This new dawn of joy will be seen by you while the world still sleeps in a lingering night of despair. The sounds of your joy will be heard in the camps of darkness before the new day is realized. You will begin to dance in the approaching dawn. Come up and stand in the window of heaven and see what I am about to do.

If My people who are called by My Name will humble themselves before Me and seek My face in this new day I will do a new thing in your midst. From the window of heaven you will see the new dawn of joy before I call it to rise into the natural realm. All new dawns break in heaven before they are seen in the earth. Come up and stand in the window of heaven and see My coming heart and purpose for 2010.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Turning 60" by Garris Elkins

As I approach my 60th year I am beginning to feel mortal. I am sensing the final curtain is probably a few decades down the road and this new realization changes things. There is something about “60” that makes me ponder such realities.

I have started to read John Steinbeck's “Travels with Charley – In Search of America” again, after an absence from its pages of almost 40 years. I read it first as a young man in college, now I read it as an older man who is responsible for teaching others. I liked the book when I was a young man because it fed a restlessness in me– now I like it because it feeds a rest within me.

For many years I lived in the limiting mindset that made me believe that people who did not align with me in spiritual truths had nothing to teach me. This is sad because I wonder who walked in and out of my life without my noticing their potential contribution.

Steinbeck is one of those writers I enjoy at a deeper and more profound level because of his personal history. He grew up in Salinas, California not far from my own childhood home. Like all great novelists he wrote of what he knew. He knew the older California where I grew up, before the freeways came and when orchards and vineyards once stood where the malls and sub-divisions now squat. He wrote from within the fruit harvests and lives of migrant workers. I feel at home when when I read his words.

When John Steinbeck was 58 years old, and preparing for the road trip, his son said that his father knew he was dying and wanted to see America in all its fullness one last time. Steinbeck had a GMC pick up truck and camper made especially for this journey and one fall day in 1960 set out from his home in Sag Harbor, New York to see how America had changed since his youth.

Steinbeck wrote to his doctor and said that “deep down in his bones” he felt he would not survive beyond his physical death and that the end of his biological life was the end of his life. I could get theological here, but really don't want to.

I must admit there have been times when I have thought it would be easier, maybe, that the end of life would be better served if it did not go on into eternity. This is somewhat controversial for a pastor like myself to admit because leaders are supposed to always be “up”. From what I have read, heaven sounds like a wonderful place. These kinds of thoughts emerge in my mind when I think I am responsible to carry the full load for the church. When I take on the unassigned weight of leadership I can sometimes get depressed and those feelings cause me to forget about things like hope, the future and the heart of God. I really do believe in a God who promises better things than our temporary seasons of earthly depression try to tell us.

Over the years I have come to realize that somewhere deep inside my still developing soul is a performance mentality that never measures up to the standard – God's standard included. I am not alone. If I were counseling someone in my office I would say to that person that they don't understand what grace is all about. I am thinking that the phrase, “growing older gracefully”, is something we do not fully understand and that maybe we should re-phrase the words to say, “growing older in grace.”

Seeing 60 coming up on my calendar is a strange process for my mind to engage. In some ways I am tired of the pretender version of youth I have held on to for the last couple of decades. My skin is changing. Some new aches and pains have come as reminders that reality trumps illusion.

Maybe that is why I am reading Steinbeck once again. It is appealing to think of Steinbeck hitting the open road in his GMC pickup truck and camper with Charley his poodle riding shotgun. I am in that place. I want a change. It is not about needing a vacation – it is about living well in transition. I want to engage this transition and learn from it.

Steinbeck warned that approaching age can get you into a way of thinking that resembles a spiritual and physical semi-invalidism. We are told to slow down. Men trade their manhood for a promise of a small increase in their life span. In this process men become the newest child in the house. Steinbeck wrote, “My wife married a man; I saw no reason why she should inherit a baby.” It is usually at this realization that a fear of loss sets in and some men go off and do stupid things. That is unfortunate because these feelings are part of a journey that can take you beyond resignation and fatalism, into engagement and hope.

Something is dying in me. I have no death premonition of a secret disease lurking within my body. What is dying is my is ambition. Of all the evils I think ambition is the sickest. Ambition can raise its ugly head at this stage in a man's life and cause you to hang on too long or reach out too harshly for some finishing work that you will be known for. Or worse yet, I have heard of some leaders who failed to engage their life-transitions and then went out and bought a sports car and ran off with their secretary to Las Vegas.

I would like ambition to die in me before I die in it. Maybe that was some of what Steinbeck found on his road trip with his poodle Charley. Another novel would not give him anything. He wrote plenty of them. In his travels Steinbeck found great joy in not being known. Once he got out of the novelist context people did not recognize him. In fact, in his entire three month journey across America, not once did anyone notice him for the public figure he had become. Maybe the gift in any transition is being able to keep your identity intact in the process of change.

I am coming to realize that approaching 60 years of age means that my life context is changing and this new journey is about learning to recognize this older guy who is looking back at my face from the reflection in the mirror.

"We do not take a trip - a trip takes us" John Steinbeck

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Restocking the Shelves of Ministry" by Garris Elkins

Recently, Leslie Keegel spoke in our church. Leslie is the President of the 1,500 Foursquare Churches in Sri Lanka, a nation just off the coast of India. He carries an apostolic anointing along with a strong gift of revelation and miraculous healing. Throughout the three days Leslie was with us he shared in various venues - in our public services, to a gathering of regional pastors and leaders and to our Anthem School of Ministry. In each setting something of the supernatural heart of God was deposited in our lives.

Leslie prophesied about the destiny of our church - Living Waters Church in Medford, Oregon. Like any true prophetic word there was both a promise and a responsibility. Leslie said Living Waters would become a well-spring of miraculous healing to this region and to the nation. That was our promise.

Leslie also said that God was asking us to be intentional as we pursue the supernatural and to be willing to take risks in faith. We were told to deal with any reluctance and reticence that would hold us back in a place of comfort. That was our responsibility.

When any leader ministers I watch and learn from them. I watch for the pauses that tell me he or she is listening for something fresh from God. I watch to see if someone is drawing from a dated bag of proven ministry formulas and principles that lack fresh revelation. I watch to see from where the things being ministered are coming from. As I watched Leslie I saw a man extending his hand into eternity, through the veil that separates what is seen and unseen, and waiting for God to place words in his hand to bring back into this realm. Leslie reached out in faith and brought back something supernatural from God. This is how miracles happen.

After I dropped Leslie off at the airport, I was alone to process what God had spoken through this anointed servant of God. I went to sleep that night pondering the future. During the night I had a dream. In the dream I saw an old basement storage room lined with wooden shelves. The shelves were partially filled with old canned goods. There was a layer of dust on the shelves and the cans. The storeroom looked somewhat neglected. The air was stale and not moving.

When I awoke the next morning I sought the Lord for a meaning of the dream. I began to hear the Lord say that many of us who lead the church need to restock the storehouse of our ministry. Many of us have been ministering with cans that have expired labels. Instead of reaching into eternity for something fresh we are reaching into a dusty and dated storeroom. These shelves are only restocked by a day-by-day fresh encounter with God. These new and fresh words from God are retrieved because we have reached into His presence in faith.

I am praying this prayer for my life and ministry - “Father, today I give you permission to lock the door of my ministry storehouse. I choose instead to reach into your presence and wait until you drop something into my hand. When I sense the weight of your word in my hand I will bring that miraculous word back into this realm expecting to see things happen that are beyond all that I would dare to ask or think. Amen.”

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Winds of Change and the Coming Shift" by Garris Elkins

Recently, a friend of mine sent this communique to thousands of church leaders around the world:

“In 1998, Hurricane Mitch wrecked havoc across Central America, especially in Honduras. The casualties were steep: 5,600 people perished, 12,300 were injured and 8,600 people disappeared. The infrastructure of roads was decimated and 150 bridges were destroyed or damaged. The Choluteca Bridge, built by Japanese engineers and donated to the Hondurans, was the most modern bridge in the region and it remained intact. While it was not damaged, the bridge was no longer necessary because the hurricane changed the flow of the river that once ran beneath it. A bridge typically spans a body of water and connects two pieces of dry land. When the water beneath it no longer flows, you can hardly call it a bridge. Without water, a bridge has lost its purpose. It is simply a monument to a past feat of engineering but it has no current relevance.”

In the church today the Winds of Change are blowing and this wind of heaven will alter the course of cultures and ministries. God's wind is now blowing and what is not based on His foundational reality will become a relic of the past.

Several months ago the Lord revealed a prophetic picture to me. I saw a vast plain that was covered with sand. As a wind began to blow, the sand was pushed away to reveal a large foundation underneath. The foundation was Christ Himself infused with the ministry gifts that He will use to transform the earth. I realized that the covering of sand was very shallow – just enough to obscure what lay beneath. This foundational truth will not be discovered by human intellect– it will be revealed by the breath of God's Spirit.

For the last several months people have come to me after some of our church gatherings to tell me that they have been feeling a wind blowing against them during our times of worship. These people were not sitting near air conditioning vents. No one walked past them and stirred the air. There was no natural explanation for the wind. At a recent conference in Africa a wind could be felt so strongly that several people were literally blown backwards off their feet during worship. The wind of heaven is blowing on the Church.

While I was in still in Africa, between meetings the Lord impressed upon me the following word: Winds of Change are coming on a global scale - no longer to be viewed in a local context. When the Winds of Change blow in your meetings, the source of the wind will not have its origin from a specific geographic location, but will come from My very breath in heaven. I am blowing a new wind from My throne upon the earth and as it strikes the earth it will disperse in all directions to touch all nations.

There is a shift taking place. This shift will re-align those hearing My voice to prophesy in the direction of My coming changes. You will at first appear to be speaking into nothing, into the lesser places – to unrecognized locations, but this is part of the shift I will bring.

This Wind of Change will stir into existence new ministries and uncover new giftings in My people. The wind will blow away the layer of dust that lies atop My foundation. Clarity will come as the wind blows.

It will appear that an old foundation has been revealed. It is neither old nor new. My revelation is from timeless eternity. As the wind blows you will begin to understand what these last years have been about. I have not given you a full understanding of this last season because understanding is not what you have needed. I have covered what I am about to reveal until this time. These things will not be discovered with the mind. I will reveal these things to you by the breath of My Spirit. I have allowed this foundation to be covered, not to hide it, but to give it time to become seasoned and strong.

Hear Me, Church. My Wind is blowing. A shift is taking place. You are about to see the effects of My breath upon the earth. Just as I breathed life into Adam, and just as I breathed life into the Church at her birth, I am about to breath a new thing upon you. My Winds of Change are coming.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"The Believing Remnant" by Garris Elkins

God never leaves His people without a believing remnant.

We have all read about the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty long years. I have personally processed this as a time when unbelief had to die off so a new generation, based in faith, could be birthed.

Just last week something occurred to me – faith-filled people like Moses, Joshua and Caleb were there in the midst of all the unbelief. They were the believing remnant in that unbelieving and complaining crowd that God used to deliver a nation. Numbers and resources don't impress God – faith does. It doesn't matter how small the believing remnant might be. Faith exercised anywhere releases life.

Some of you are in families, relationships and social groups where there is a overwhelming sense of faithlessness and unbelief. You feel alone and surrounded. Don't let the unbelief overcome your ability to believe. God has you there to give the good report of faith. You are in that circumstance to help others see with the eyes of God through the impossible maze of sorrow and tragedy into the supernatural outcome that God will eventually bring.

God always leaves a believing remnant in every circumstance of life because it is from this remnant that God will birth a new generation that won't have to take the same wilderness detour again. Your posture of faith in the midst of unbelief is an act of mercy from God. He leaves a remnant so the seed of life will stay alive long enough to give birth to a new season of hope and promise.

If you have faith in the midst of overwhelming unbelief you will be part of that great historical band of faith-walkers who changed history. You are a Hebrews chapter 11 kind of person. If you walk in faith, in the midst of unbelief, God will change the world through you because the supernatural solutions of God are drawn to faith.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Five Degrees to Separation" by Garris Elkins

A few years ago a trivia game emerged called “Kevin Bacon and the Six Degrees of Separation.” The theory goes that in this game any actor could be linked through their acting roles to Kevin Bacon, a fellow actor, within six relationships. While this trivia game is fun for actors in Hollywood, there is a more serious game afoot amongst Christians - it is called, “Five Degrees to Separation.”

Over the last thirty years of shepherding people within the church, I have noticed a strange pattern develop in some relationships. There are five steps that people go through from living in relationship with each other to a disconnect and eventual separation. The progression takes place in this order : peace, suspicion, fear, judgment and then separation.

We start in a relationship at peace with each other. The peace brings with it hope and joy and the anticipation of a long and lasting relationship. Then something happens. The peace is disrupted and a tugging sense of suspicion about the other person begins to disrupt the equilibrium of peace. After the suspicion grows unchecked, fear sets in and we begin to self-protect from the fear of hurt or abandonment that our suspicion feeds upon. The fears motivated by what could happen become a judgement against the other person and once the judgement is in place we feel justified in separating ourselves from the person we used to live in peace with. Separation is the by-product of judgment.

How does this happen? I think it happens when you and I fail to protect the peace. We can protect the peace of God in our lives when we challenge the first knock of suspicion at the door of our relationships with other believers. When we hear that first suspicious knock we should go to the person we used to live in peace with and ask, “Why am I feeling this way?” Hell cannot breed in the light. When we bring a dark knock to the light of day, the one knocking will slink back into the shadows and not approach our door.

It doesn't take long to get from peace to separation. It can happen in a day. In fact, it can happen in minutes. Romans 12 tells us that, “as far as it is possible with us, be at peace with all people.” The “as far as possible” part means that in order for it to be possible we first have to do everything possible. That can mean rebuking the words of doubt in our mind that came from the dark side taking those thoughts captive, and walking them to the Cross where we put them to death. It can mean we get really serious about this and commit ourselves to bless someone each time we think of them, so the motivating spirit of separation will flee at our resistance. We have to be proactive and fight for the peace.

The test of whether or not we have lost peace with another believer can be found in the way we think about them and how we choose to relate to that person. There are some common attitudes that surround a work of separation:

We find that we no longer want to be around the person we are suspicious of.
We no longer live in honor with them and speak words of death, not life.
We begin to talk to others about them in secret – we make secret plans.
We entertain accusations without giving the other person a chance to respond.
We start to gather a following to agree with our suspicion and judgment.
We make plans to be gone from their life.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus broke down the barrier walls that separated us from God. When God's Spirit is present and we are walking in communion with Him, walls of separation come down. When we are not following God's lead walls of separation are built.

When I lived in Berlin, Germany, the remnants of the old Berlin Wall still lingered. That wall went up to separate people. In some cases the wall was built right through an apartment complex and divided life-long friends who had lived next door to each other for years. The wall was built unexpectedly one day and stayed in place for years. The day the Berlin Wall came down the city of Berlin, and the world celebrated.

The only way the walls between believers can come down is that we live in the open and honest environment of peace with each other and fight with all we have when the first knock of suspicion is heard upon our door. What is at risk is the peace of God. This peace is worth fighting for because once we experience it, we will never want to live without it. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is peace and where there is peace, believers dwell in unity with one another.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"The Pivot Point" by Garris Elkins

Recently, I have been talking to believers about establishing their “pivot point”. A pivot point is that place where you put one of your feet conceptually and say, “This is my bottom line – I can't give this up."  There is not a lot that should occupy that spot.

The Early Church father, Clement, said, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty and in all things love.” Clement was wise. He knew that as the Church developed, some people would start to get nervous if other believers did not live their faith in lock-step agreement with them.

I have always thought the essentials should be reserved for those things that had to do with the God and Jesus as the “way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through me” kind of things. I want my feet firmly planted in those essentials because without them we don't have a biblical Christianity.

The power of having a pivot point is that I can pivot towards something new without disconnecting with the essentials and closing the door on expanding my circle of fellowship. I can pivot towards the Presbyterians and bring something Presbyterian back into my pivot point. I can pivot towards a healing revival and bring back a new level of faith from a Latter Rain revivalist. I can pivot towards a Catholic and bring back a new respect and reverence for the Lord's Table. As one pivots, with their belief in the essentials firm and unshakeable, spending time with different kinds of Christians is actually a lot of fun.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Expectation - The Power of Belief" by Garris Elkins

(This is part five in a five-part article about the “H.O.P.² E.” acronym taken from the book, “They Told Me Their Stories,” where the environment of faith was described that attracted God's healing power to that great revival. This article deals with the final letter in that acronym – Expectation.)

A good friend of mine is now in his late 60's. He grew up working on his family ranch and then he was called by God to walk away from that life and enter the ministry. He has been all over the world training leaders, planting churches and starting training institutes. He has served God faithfully, but has few of the physical possessions our culture equates with success.

My friend wrote something on his blog recently that really touched me. He said, “Sometimes I think, 'What would life have been like if I had spent the same years building a business as a missionary and pastor? Where would I be and what would I have to show for my work at this stage in my life.'  So much of what I have now is very intangible. And here's the scary thing about it – if I stop believing, I have nothing. The only way to have a sense of satisfaction and achievement about how I've spent the years of my life, is to believe- to believe that Jesus is real, that God called me to do what I have done, and eternity is what really matters.”

I was struck by the phrase, “ - if I stop believing, I have nothing.” I stopped to ask myself, where in my life am I living like this? Where is the raw belief and expectation that causes me to be truly dependent upon God? This isn't about where one lives on the economic scale – it is about where we stand in our belief. A rich man can say this just like a poor man. This believing posture is that place of faith where we choose to make God our only option.

When the Azusa Street Revival was taking place expectation was high. The people on Azusa Street were in the same place my friend found himself. They knew that unless God showed up nothing was going to happen. All they could do was believe. The saints on Azusa Street expected God to move when they gathered, and he did. They expected the blind to see; the lame to walk; an arm to grow out and the deaf to hear. Expectation changes the spiritual environment of our lives.

In 1906 people would travel into Los Angeles from all over the world for business and pleasure. Many would arrive by train. Historical records tell us that the glory of God flowed out from the meeting place on Azusa Street into the surrounding neighborhoods. People exiting the train would step off onto the arrival platform and fall down under the power of God. They had no idea that just a short distance away one of the greatest revivals in modern history was taking place. The glory of God was flooding into the city.

One young Hispanic boy lived near Azusa Street. He said each day he would look towards the building where the revival was happening. He knew the meetings had started when he saw flames of fire appear on the roof. These were the flames of God's Spirit – not a natural fire.

The City of Los Angeles was experiencing the glory of God because the Church was living in the expectation that God was at work in their midst. The hope of a city is the church living in expectation of God. Real hope for our cities is not found in a newly elected government official, a unique community program, or a well-crafted budget. The hope of a city is the Church rising in her calling and aligning herself with the will of God.

At the start of Matthew 11 Jesus had just instructed His disciples in the previous chapter to go out and preach the Kingdom by healing the sick, cleansing lepers, raising the dead and casting out demons. He told His disciples that this kind of ministry would bring them persecution. He told them to fear God – not man. He told them to take up their cross and follow Him.

Following these instructions, chapter 11 begins with Jesus saying,

“ When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region. John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”

John the Baptist was in prison awaiting his execution. In just a few days John's decapitated head would be presented as a macabre party favor for a dancer in the king's court. John is now wondering whether Jesus is the real thing. This is the same John who was there at the beginning of the Lord's ministry when the skies opened up and the Spirit descended upon Jesus and the very voice of God spoke from heaven. John saw the miraculous affirmation of Jesus, but now he is wondering. Places of imprisonment can do this to a person. The past miracles are not what comforts us in places like this. We need a real-time word from the Lord.

The answer that Jesus sent back, “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor” is an answer with evidence. The evidence is what John needed to hear to confirm that Jesus was the Messiah.  

There are some questions we need to ask.

1. What can we expect from God?

We can expect that God will be with us. “I will not abandon you as orphans – I will come to you.” John 14:18.

No matter where we find ourselves, Jesus promises to come to us with the evidence of his love and presence, affirming us as his children.

2. We can expect to be empowered by God.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

God promised to send his power to us. What God calls us to accomplish in his name cannot be done in human strength or strategy. Because God is faithful we can expect his supernatural power to be there when we need it because he made a promise that we would receive the power.

3. We can expect to do the greater works of Jesus Christ.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the father.” John 14:12

The greater works come because Jesus has sent the Spirit back to the Church. Acts 2: 33 says, “Now he sits on the throne of highest honor in heaven, at God's right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.”

The Lord sits above all power structures, disease, world governments and demonic powers. We as the Church are now seated with Him in the heavenly realms. We live in two realms - here on earth and with him in eternity. As Jesus pours the Spirit upon the Church on earth the descending flow of God's presence carries with it the power to break the chains that imprison people.

4. We can expect that Jesus will prove himself true.

“During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3

Jesus comes to His Church, and to the unbelieving world, to prove he is alive. His proof is found in the answer Jesus sent back to John the Baptist. This proof is what Peter said when he spoke to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost, “just as you see and hear today.” When God shows up, what he does will be seen and heard. God doesn't show up as a voiceless theory or an invisible concept. He makes his presence known by bringing the evidence of heaven down upon the earth.

When we expect God to come, that expectant mindset will change everything. No longer is our life a holding pattern for heaven. We begin to believe now, in this present hour, the message Jesus sent back to John in prison. That message helped John refocus on the Lord and then die in peace.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"I Don't Believe In That" by Garris Elkins

My dear friend in Central Oregon, Jim Stephens, writes some profound things on his daily devotional. A few months ago Jim wrote that he was not going to use the word “awesome” anymore, except to describe God. Jim's commitment on personal vocabulary is such a wise word in a world where we say, “I love hot dogs and baseball” in the same breath that we say we love God or our family. In our haphazard use of words we sometimes dilute their true meaning.

A few months ago I had a conversation with someone who was in a meeting where the person leading the service was moving in a free and bold approach to God. Physical healings were taking place and people were being set free – some people even fell over under the power of God.

When God moves in unusual ways sometimes people will say, “I don't believe in that!” They might be focusing on the style of what is taking place and not the substance of what God is actually doing. We all do this from time to time. When something different is happening around us that is new and maybe even uncomfortable, we want to find a place to position that experience so we can deal with it. Sometimes we say, “I don't believe in that!,” but really we are saying, “I am uncomfortable.”

Today, I have been processing how to respond better to people when they make such comments. The next time someone says to me, “I don't believe in that!” I would like to be more nurturing in my response. Maybe I could respond with words like these, “You just said that you don't believe in what you just saw. Maybe we should reserve the word 'belief' for things that deal with the person of God, His Son, the Holy Spirit, and the way of salvation. Maybe our use of the word 'believe' is getting confused with what we like, don't like, or even feel comfortable with.”

As I reread some of the Early Church creeds recently, the authors were wise enough to keep the creeds simple and focused on God and His Church instead of linking “belief” to personal preferences that can be jaded with our fears and human experience, or the lack of.

Just a thought.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Purity - The Power of Sight" by Garris Elkins

(This is part four of a five-part article about the “H.O.P.² E.” acronym taken from the book, “They Told Me Their Stories,” where the environment of faith was described that attracted God's healing power to the Azusa Street revival. This article deals with the fourth letter in the acronym – Purity. )

In the Azusa Street Revival of the early 20th Century, William Seymour, the leader of that great out-pouring, was described as having a child-like faith. He would take steps of faith that only a confident child would take knowing they were fully and completely loved. His sense of innocence, and the innocence of those around him, came because they saw themselves as children of God who had been made pure and holy by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Historians who have studied the events surrounding this and other great moves of God's Spirit realize that purity was a primary ingredient in the environment of the miraculous. These people knew God had made them into a holy and pure people at the moment of their conversion. They lived out this understanding by making pure life-choices that reflected their position before God.

Purity is not a moral code. Purity is the new condition God gave us when we came into relationship with His Son. Colossians tells us that we were transported from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. God picked us up from within the old condition that was impure and placed us into the new condition of purity. When we understand that we are pure in God's eyes we begin to align the decisions we make with that new identity. How we see our condition before God will determine how we respond to God.

The Pharisees lived with an outward moral code of purity yet Jesus described them as white-washed cups on the outside who were filled with corruption on the inside. We can get the external code of religious purity down pat and still miss the deeper understanding of what it means to be pure.

The Old Testament is filled with shadows that were cast by the person of Jesus Christ. His stance in the completeness of eternity cast a shadow into Jewish history that fell upon the implements and places of worship. The Temple image was one of those shadows cast and so were the duties of the priest. To follow the shadows of the Old Covenant will bring us to the Person of Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament a priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year to atone for the sins of the nation. Israel held its collective breath waiting for the priest to exit from behind the veil to see if their sacrifice was accepted.

Inside the Holy of Holies, and behind the veil, was the the Ark of the Covenant. This box contained a copy of the Law, Aaron's budded rod and pieces of manna. Each of these items within the Ark revealed God's provision to broken people. The existence of each of these items came because people wanted to live outside of God's will.

On top of the Ark was the Mercy Seat - a flat area where the blood from sacrificed animals was placed to cover the sins of the people. Above the Mercy Seat stood two Cherubim facing each other with outstretched wings. These figures looked down upon the Mercy Seat to signify the anticipating gaze of heaven upon the place of mercy.

In the space between the Cherubim is where God choose to manifest His presence on earth. This space was undefined and uncontrollable, just like the presence of God. God wanted Israel to know that He could not be reduced down to a simplistic and limiting man-made definition and that no human could control or contain Him.

On the Day of Atonement the priest would enter the Holy of Holies and approach the Ark. A rope was tied to his leg just in case He had unconfessed sin in his life. If he dropped dead he would be pulled out and the next priest would enter. It was very serious and life-threatening if you approached the Ark in a wrong way.

As the priest would drop the blood of sacrificed animals onto the Mercy Seat the blood became the atonement for the sins of the people for that year. Once the blood was deposited the priest would exit from behind the veil and declare the nation forgiven and the party would begin.

As God looks at the Church He views us through the lens of the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. He views us under the mercy seat of heaven that is covered by Christ's blood. In the great Doxology of Jude we are told that someday we will be presented without fault and with joy before the Father. The Church, as the Bride of Christ, has already been made pure. Now she gets to live out that purity and make decisions to keep herself pure and reserved for the Lord.

There is great freedom in knowing that we have been made pure. The knowledge of our purity before God releases us to live in a realm of supernatural faith that is only exercised when we understand that all the barriers between God and us have been dismantled. This is where revival has its greatest chance of being birthed. With this knowledge we can act like children in His presence and take risks that only come from knowing we are pure and free, and the Father is accessible.

The writer of Hebrews spoke about what Jesus did when He entered heavens Holy of Holies,

“So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:11-12)

This once and for all deposit of His blood upon the Mercy Seat of heaven covered us with God's mercy - forever. We have a forever redemption. Because of that deposit we can begin to live out a destiny that we have already been given. Our eternal destiny then invades time through the portal of mercy and begins to redefine us.

Hebrews 9:24 “For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf.”

When Jesus entered heaven's Holy of Holies to deposit His blood upon the Mercy Seat of heaven, He made this deposit above the created realm and above all rule and authority and all human failure. The blood of Christ is in a place that provides a complete covering for all who would come under its power and protection.

Ephesians tells us that the Church is seated with Christ in heaven at the right hand of the Father. Who we are is defined by that position. As we look down from this heavenly position, we are afforded a new vision of who we really are in God's sight.
When we understand the immense scope of the blood covering of Christ we will begin to move in a higher dimension of faith. We can seek God in prayer without the fear of rejection or shame. We can ask for things that the natural and impure mind would mock as presumptuous. In other words, we can be bold.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.” Hebrews 10:19.

This bold approach to God is not based on our personal strengths and self-confidence, it is based on the blood of Jesus Christ who has paved a way into God's very presence and declared us pure. When this boldness is met by God's supernatural empowerment, we call that intersection revival.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Discovering God's Purpose In Shame" by Garris Elkins

The one who trusts in the Lord will never be put to shame.“ Romans 9:33

When I was 12 years old I entered Junior High School. As a boy in the 6th grade I was warned by my classmates that the big kids in Junior High liked to pick on the incoming 7th graders. The summer of my 12th year was filled with a fearful anticipation of what was to come. Once I entered the 7th grade I was never picked on by any of the kids. My greatest sorrow was at the hands of a teacher.

Each morning all the school buses would arrive and the kids would be off-loaded and assembled in the cafeteria before the start of class. The cafeteria held about 300 kids. I could never figure out the reason for having us sit in the cafeteria for those thirty long minutes, but we did. The playground seemed a lot more fun than sitting on the hard cafeteria seats. There was a rule in the cafeteria – no one could talk and no one could chew gum. I did well on the “no talking” part, but one day I forgot that I had a piece of chewing gum in my mouth.

That morning as we sat waiting in the cafeteria, the silence was broken from across the room by the booming voice of Mr. Johnson (I have changed his name just in case he is still alive). Mr. Johnson was a tall, handsome man that all the girls really liked. 

“You there – chewing the gum, look at me!” I am not sure how many of us were secretly chewing gum that morning but I had a bad feeling Mr. Johnson was speaking to me. I turned my now pale young face his way and then he pointed his finger directly at me and boomed out a second time. “Don't spit the gum out yet...get on your hands and knees and crawl over here and spit it out in front of me!” Time slowed down and I entered the Twilight Zone.

At that point I was not sure which of my body fluids would release first. My entire world was collapsing around me into a pit of personal and profound shame. The laughter and mockery from the kids in the cafeteria rose in volume as I got down on my hands and knees and started the longest and most humiliating journey of my young life. I was wearing new pants and shoes that most kids wear early in a new school year. With each shuffle towards Mr. Johnson, my shoes and pants mopped up the dust, food debris, and grease from the floor.

As I arrived at the feet of Mr. Johnson he demanded that I, “spit it out like a dog,” and then crawl back to my seat. I was emotionally numb by now. I really don't remember much about the return trip. I cannot begin to tell you the depths of personal shame I felt that day. I realize that today Mr. Johnson might have lost his job for what he did and the school would probably be sued, but this was a long time ago. Things were different then.

Several years ago I was in the Silicon Valley of California where I grew up and where this incident had taken place. Jan and I were there for a conference, so early one Sunday morning I left our hotel room alone and drove to the old school where this incident took place. The campus was deserted on this early weekend morning. I was alone with my memories. As I walked through the campus, I came to the cafeteria and stood there looking through the windows. I heard echoes of conversations from years before. I was overcome with emotion. As an adult I could not believe that anyone would treat a little boy that way. Standing there I felt like a 7th grader all over again.

In the many years since that incident I have wondered what purpose there was in experiencing such pain. For all these years each time I thought of Mr. Johnson I prayed for him and I forgave him so that I could be set free from the prison of shame where he was the cruel warden. Forty years after Mr. Johnson publicly humiliated me I found the reason why I had been praying for him all those years.

My wife, Jan, ministers to people through listening prayer. Listening prayer allows the Holy Spirit to walk us back to the roots of our pain and sorrow to experience the freedom that only Jesus can bring when His truth replaces a lie. I asked Jan to pray with me through this event so I could see God's larger picture of what actually took place that day. 

As Jan and I prayed, I began to feel the sorrow of the young boy I had once been. I was in the cafeteria again. I heard the horrible voice of Mr. Johnson. I felt the hard floor under my knees. I experienced the feeling of shame. It felt like I was a full water canister turned up-side down and then uncorked. Everything drained out of me, leaving me empty - then I saw Jesus. He was crawling alongside of me. He was wearing a white robe. He was on His hands and knees just like me shuffling across that dirty floor. He was unaffected by Mr. Johnson's loud commands. Jesus had His eyes fixed on me! He had the look of deep and profound peace upon His face. His peace radiated into my humiliation.

As Jan tenderly walked me through this moment of freedom she asked me, “Garris, is the Lord saying anything to you?” Through my tears I repeated the Lord's words, “Yes, He is saying, 'For all these years you have been the only one who has prayed for Mr. Johnson. I am using your prayers to reveal My love to Him.'”

In that moment it all made sense and God's peace began to vacuum the shame from my heart. I wept for Mr. Johnson and the great privilege I had to be used by God to pray for this man. My shame now had an eternal purpose attached to it. 

We discover the purpose of God in our place of shame when we see Jesus. 

Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”

One of the weights God wants us to strip off his children is shame.  Shame slows us down from moving with God into the destiny he has for each of us.  We can't run with endurance if shame is sapping our strength during the race.  This race is run by keeping our eyes on Jesus, not on our shame.  Our strength comes from that vision.

When I knew Jesus was crawling on the floor alongside of me, and I could see his eyes of compassion looking back at me, I knew that I had discovered his purpose in my place of shame.  He endured the shame of the Cross so that we could be free from living under the weight of unresolved shame. Seeing Jesus dissolves the painful imagery of shame.

If we allow God to meet us in our shame, and trust Him there, He will reveal His truth and purpose to us. Peace comes when we see Jesus with us in the place of our greatest pain and sorrow. When God's presence is experienced and realized, and His purpose is revealed, the shame and the lies attached to that shame are replaced with God's heart and truth. Our painful history now becomes a place of honor. It has been a great honor to pray for Mr. Johnson for the last 40 years. I pray that God will make Himself known to Mr. Johnson and that someday I will worship with him around God's throne.

The Lord spoke this word in my heart for those who may be trapped in shame:

I will reveal my purpose in the midst of your greatest shame. Shame will no longer be your master. You think it impossible to live without shame, but I have other plans for you. I will remove from you the blanket of heaviness that surrounds you and wrap you in a garment of praise. I was there with you as shame unfolded its plan, but you did not hear Me. I am here now with you and want you to hear the words I spoke to you on the day of your shame. I was there and I am still here with you. Listen to My words – they will bring life to your place of death. I will put your shame behind you and it will become only a distant memory.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Prayer - The Power of Agreement" by Garris Elkins

(This is part three in a five-part article about the “H.O.P.² E.” acronym taken from the book, “They Told Me Their Stories,” where the environment of faith was described that attracted God's healing power to the Azusa Street revival. This article deals with the third letter in the acronym – Prayer.)

Recently, I read a testimony of a group of young men and women who went to Disneyland for a day. As they enjoyed the rides they stopped at the Food Court and noticed a young man whose arm was in a sling. One of the group felt impressed to pray for his healing. When the prayer was over the young man was completely healed and could freely move his arm. He started crying with joy because he was the star football player for his school and the injured arm would have sidelined him for the upcoming season.

For the next four hours over one hundred people lined up in the Food Court at Disneyland and got healed through the prayers of those young men and women who stepped out in faith. An equal number of people gave their hearts to Jesus because they saw the power of God. It all started because someone followed the nudge of God's Spirit to pray. The “Happiest Place on Earth” actually became its namesake when God showed up in power.

The release of God's presence and power through prayer takes place when we come into agreement with the will of God. When we pray in agreement with God's will His supernatural power is released into areas not accessible by human logic and reasoning. The continual and persistent prayers of the church are the battering rams of heaven that bring down the strongholds of hell in our lives, our community and in the earth.

In the Azusa Street Revival of the early 20th Century a small group of believers gathered for months to seek the face of God in prayer. They had a passion to pursue God and that passion worked its way out into fervent prayer, calling down the power of God into a building once used as a a livery stable.

Aimee Semple McPherson, the great revivalist and founder of the Foursquare Church commented on the Azusa Street Revival and said, “Hungry hearts were praying earnestly, however, and the Lord answered prayer in a wonderful way. They who had lost their first love caught the flame and re-consecrated their lives to service.” The seeking heart will always be found by God.

Frank Bartleman, one of the leaders at Azusa Street, wrote Evan Roberts in the Welsh Revival to get instructions on how to experience an outpouring of God in Los Angeles. Roberts wrote back and said, “Congregate the people who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God's promises. Hold daily meetings. May God bless you is my earnest prayer.”

Robert's advice was taken and history reveals what happened when people gathered to pray for God to make Himself known.

In Luke 11 Jesus taught His disciples about this kind of prayer,

“5 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 9 “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

It is easy to study the mechanics of prayer and create a methodology of how we should pray. When we do this we can forget what actually motivates people to pray – the need for results. To pray without the hope of God showing up and actually doing something will soon shift our praying into a labor intensive effort where the answers fall back on us for fulfillment. At this point we burn out and the joy of prayer lifts.

Closed doors will open when we pray.

When Jesus taught His disciples in Luke 11:8 He gave us insight into what happens when we pray. “If you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.“ When we seek God and knock, closed doors will open.

When Jesus used this illustration from His culture the image he employed is one of a home all buttoned up for the night. In the Middle East people left their doors open all day long, but at night the family and livestock would bed down in their one room home. At night this single living space was crowded and easily disturbed. Any knock at the door would wake up everyone and everything in the house. When the door closed at night it was only opened for emergencies.

When God answers this kind of prayer, doors will open that may even violate cultural norms like doors being closed at night. This kind of prayer greases the hinges of obstacles and swings them open to access the realm of heaven. When heaven is manifested upon the earth supernatural things begin to take place, like star athletes getting healed at Disneyland or someone healed in line at your local supermarket.

In the Azusa Street Revival, those who chronicled the miracles said that when the church would begin to sing in the Spirit the manifestation of miracles, signs and wonders would increase. These prayers, when sung in the language of heaven, opened up access into the heavenlies and what was hovering above this kind of prayer fell into the midst of those gathered. Sometimes we don't know how to pray but the Holy Spirit does if we will simply partner with him.

Supernatural provision will come when we pray.

Jesus said, “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Everyone.

In the illustration Jesus used the persistent prayer of the friend to release the bread of heaven. Like the manna, the bread came because God was the only one who could provide it. The bread of answered prayer exists behind doors only opened in agreement with God's will.

So much of what is missed in understanding prayer has to do with our perception of God. Jesus went on to say in Luke 11: 11-12,

“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

The word “confession” means to agree with God. This is usually associated with sin and our confession of sin. Confession is my agreement with God about something He sees in me and wants me to come into agreement with Him about. When we confess, we are agreeing with what God sees. Once our understanding about anything comes into agreement with what God is seeing, whether it is confession of sin or asking and knocking in prayer, real change is possible. This is why so much of prayer is about seeing what God sees. As we see God as He truly is we will begin to pray differently because we see Him as our Father who wants to bring His goodness to us. Confessing His goodness in prayer opens our spiritual eyes to see his heart and purposes more clearly.

We can reduce God down to someone who only gives to us based on how good we are. When we make that deduction we are saying that our actions change His character. God's character is intact and unchangeable by human frailties. He is good and will remain good throughout all eternity. He is good, not because we fully understand prayer, He is good because He can be nothing else but good. God loves to open the door to us if we will come into agreement with Him.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Obedience - The Power of Alignment" by Garris Elkins

(This is part two in a five-part article about the “H.O.P.² E.” acronym taken from the book, “They Told Me Their Stories,” where the environment of faith was described that attracted God's healing power to the Azusa Street revival. This article deals the second letter in the acronym – obedience. )

When I used to fly airplanes I would rely on ground based navigational systems which provided radio beams that were transmitted to my on-board flight instruments. My instruments would lock onto the transmissions and help me navigate to my final destination. If I aligned myself with the proper frequency and heading I would arrive safely and on time at my destination. If I ignored what the instruments were saying I could have ended up in places I had never planned to visit. Obedience is heaven's navigational system for the Church. There are many destination options out there, but only one destination is God's purpose for our lives. A pilot off only one degree of heading can literally miss an entire continent because the error is multiplied over distance.

Teaching people about obedience has been reduced to something akin to a tolerable root canal procedure that says, “This is something you really need to do.” Teaching obedience in this way has usually been done with the “what we have to” part that misses the real purpose of obedience. Obedience is about alignment. Obedience aligns us with God and takes us deeper into intimacy with Him and directs us towards His Kingdom purposes.

Jesus lived in constant alignment with the Father because Jesus was obedient. Jesus saw what the Father was doing and then aligned Himself with the Father through His obedience. In John 5: 19 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing.”

This visionary obedience can get messy. Jesus saw the Father tipping over tables in the Temple and He did the same. Jesus saw the Father spitting into the mud and putting it in the eyes of a blind man and the blind man was healed. Jesus saw the Father talking with a morally comprised woman caught in the very act of adultery. Jesus saw the Father speaking hope to her and He relayed heaven's message. Jesus accepted a dinner invitation to a corrupt tax collector's home when the practice was against cultural norms. The tax collector then made a life-altering decision to follow Jesus and leave his greed behind. Visionary obedience is messy and can be offensive to some people, but it will accomplish God's will on earth,

In the great Azusa Street Revival in the early 20th Century the leader of that revival, William Seymour, a black man, would sit in the church service with a box on his head. After awhile he would get up, take the box off his head, and then tell entire sections of those seated that they were now healed, and they were. Visionary obedience could be dangerous and open to mockery and condemnation, especially if God wanted you to do something unusual. At Azusa Street, God's Spirit also brought people together in an unusual way – there was no segregation, rich or poor, black or white. The walls of prejudice came down in an intolerant era when people aligned themselves with God.

Some people criticize doctrine and theology built on experience. Our present day doctrines and theologies of the Church are all built upon the initial encounters people had with God. It was all about experience. These theologies and doctrines were built upon the experiential response of people to God's fresh revelation.

Moses' experience on the mountain with God gave us the Law. Joshua was told that he would possess wherever he walked and from Joshua's stroll we developed an understanding of faith and spiritual conquest. David's struggles with God and life, as recorded in the Psalms, gave us a theology about the heart of God. The Early Church was gathered in the Upper Room when the Spirit fell and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was birthed. Paul's experience on the Road to Damascus gave us an understanding of a God who pursues us with our calling no matter how messed up our motives might be. John on the Isle of Patmos had an other-worldly vision experience that became our understanding of the end times. We can forget that we are in a relationship with God who is a real Person. Relationship with a Person is about experience.

When we experience God, and then we write those experiences down in our books of doctrine and theology, it is both a blessing and a concern. It is a blessing because we can refer to those truths to keep us on track. It is a concern when we think that God is no longer in the business of releasing experience to His Church . That thinking then develops into a school of thought with someone declaring that experience is no longer needed. When this happens the Church stops looking upward and instead looks into dusty books for life. How easy it is to settle for an experience-less life with God. To make ourselves more comfortable with our lack of experience, we then develop criticisms of those who pursue an experience with God and label them as simple-minded and shallow, or worse.

Jesus spoke of obedience in Luke 6: 46-49; “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

In verse 46 Jesus questioned the motives of those listening, “So why do you call me 'Lord,' when you won't obey me?” Jesus was asking a question that linked obedience to Lordship. Lordship to the Person of Jesus Christ is found in my willingness to obey Him. If I am not obedient to Him I have made a decision to live unaligned with Him and be the lord of my own life. Instead of standing on the sure foundation of God we can end up standing on the sinking platform of human wisdom and reasoning.

Jesus spoke to His disciples during His Upper Room Discourse in John 14: 14-17 and said, “Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! 15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”

Those gathered on Azusa Street one hundred years ago lived in a loving obedience that not only aligned them with God, but their obedience aligned the power of the Spirit with their lives. This alignment released the miraculous healings that took place in that great revival.

The people gathered on Azusa Street were obedient to what God was revealing. When God showed them something, they acted on it, and God was attracted to their simple obedience. God is drawn to a life aligned with His heart and purposes. When He comes to that place of obedience, He brings with Him the power of His Spirit. When God's Spirit is present wonderfully supernatural things begin to happen.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Humility - A Place of Power" by Garris Elkins

(This is part one in a five-part article about the “H.O.P.² E.” acronym taken from the book, “They Told Me Their Stories,” where the environment of faith was described that attracted God's healing power to the Azusa Street revival. This article deals the first letter in the acronym – humility. )

One hundred years ago a profound revival visited a livery stable in Los Angeles on a street called Azusa. People from the far corners of the globe visited this old rundown building to witness the healing power of God demonstrated in startling and unusual ways. Arms grew back, cancers left bodies and tumors fell off. Thousands were healed.

The revival was characterized by the visible manifestation of God's glory. God's glory lay in the building like a fog. Little kids would play in it. The glory of God was manifested in the building and also in the surrounding neighborhood. People getting off at the central train station in Los Angeles, unaware that the revival was taking place, would step onto the platform and fall under the power of God. The fire department was called because the fire of heaven was visible on top of the building and people thought the building was burning down. God was making Himself known in a powerful way.

The leader of this revival was a black man. His name was William Seymour. At the start of each service Seymour would put a box on his head and stay under the box sometimes for ten minutes and other times up to an hour. He would then get up, take off the box and walk over to a section of chairs and tell everyone in that section that they were healed – and they would be! Some people struggled with Seymour and his box. The really sick people didn't mind the box on Seymour's head because they left the building healed.

This revival birthed churches that many of us are familiar with today – The Church of the Nazarene, Assemblies of God, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Foursquare, Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard Churches. Just about anyone who moves in the Gifts of the Spirit today can trace their spiritual DNA back to the meetings on Azusa Street.

In the great Azusa Street Revival the prophets who were in those meetings prophesied that 100 years in the future, in the years of 2009 - 2010, a greater outpouring of God's glory would take place upon the earth. We are living in that prophesied time today.

As some have studied this world-changing revival several things have been discovered about the people who gathered in those meetings on Azusa Street. It is called the Azusa Code. An acronym was created for this code - “H.O.P(2).E.” This acronym is defined by the words - humility, obedience, prayer, purity and expectation. These five elements were in the atmosphere of this revival and other revivals in church history. God was attracted to this atmosphere and history reveals what happened.

The word humble means, “to press down.” It is a word picture of someone taking their hand and pushing something down. Humility is not a demeanor or a certain way of speaking. Humility is an action. Humility pushes one thing down so that something else can rise up.

When someone is humble, in the way the Word defines humility, they are someone who pushes down those things that bring dishonor to God. As they push down what dishonors God, God is able to raise up what honors Him.

I Peter 5:6 says, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.”

As we choose to live in this place of humility the power of God is attracted to that choice and supernatural things begin to take place. Humility lives under the mighty power of God. When the Church is positioned in humility under God's power, He will raise us up to new places of honor because He can trust us to carry out His agenda.

When we live as humble people, God is able to go to work for us to accomplish things that are beyond human ingenuity and strength.

James 4:6-7 tells us, “God opposes the proud
 but favors the humble.” 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

1. Humility releases God's supernatural favor.

Favor is what opens the doors that are closed in our lives. Favor turns a business deal around. Favor causes a wayward child to hear and respect a parent. Favor is used by God to make the impossible possible.

2. Humility becomes a weapon of supernatural warfare.

As we humble ourselves before the Lord, we live in the resisting presence of God that causes hell to flee from our lives. Humility is connected to heaven's power. Humility scares darkness and makes it run away.

Today, as you and I seek a greater outpouring of God's presence, we will welcome the Holy Spirit to identify those things that would raise themselves up against the knowledge of God. The presence and power of God will then come bringing supernatural change that will affect the very atmosphere of our lives and our communities.