Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Detonating The Land Mines Of Hell" by Garris Elkins

“I will lead you back into old battlefields where you once suffered loss. I will lead you into these places to do a work of restoration and return to you what the enemy has taken. The fear of reentry will flee before us as you and I walk together into these places. My presence will consume the traps of fear that have been designed to destroy you. Prepare your heart in My presence and begin to walk forward with Me.”

Saipan was the site of major battles during World War II. Many Americans and Japanese died on the island. Remnants of the war are still visible today. Some of these remnants are only rusting relics of war. Others are hidden in the soil of Saipan in the form of land mines and unexploded ordnance that can still kill people.

My daughter, Anna, is a high school teacher on the island of Saipan, way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. “Way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean” are words used by a lonesome father to say his little girl is a long way from home. Recently, my daughter posted an article on her personal blog site that I copied and pasted to here to set up what I want to share:

“They have closed the north end of the island to detonate the unexploded remnants of WWII munitions. I wonder if this was inspired by a recent fire. Friends of ours live on the back of the island. When a small fire came close, they weren’t worried about it so much as the latent land mines it might ignite. Sure enough, they said it sounded like the 4th of July when the flames sent rusted elements of war exploding.”

Can you imagine living in the middle of that scenario? When a fire comes, instead of getting out the fire hose you duck for cover! Anna's comments caused me to ponder a few things.

In all of our lives there are remnants of past wars. These wars were fought in relationships and circumstances where people died emotionally and spiritually.

The weapons used in these wars may have been a hurtful word spoken in anger or a pain-inspired vow we made to never allow ourselves to be vulnerable again. The unkind word lies embedded in the heart of its victim and festers. The vow is still alive and pumps poison into its owner every time the vow is repeated.

A spiritual land mine can be left over from the pain suffered in divorce. These land mines can explode many years later, after the divorce is over, when a new relationship develops with our former marital issues still unresolved.

Maybe a parent hurts us and the emotional scar is still bleeding deep within our heart. When a broken relationship with a parent is left unhealed, situations can explode years later when we become parents ourselves. The innocent become victims to our childhood sorrows.

These unresolved and rusting implements of relational warfare are dangerous because they have not yet been dealt with. Explosions caused by this kind of unexploded ordnance can come as a surprise because we think the war was over long ago. These land mines lay hidden in the weeds of life and can be stepped on at some future date. They never go away. They live in the weeds - waiting.

When my daughter wrote about the forest fires setting off the old ordnance of World War II, I thought of one of the ways God has made himself known throughout the redemption story. God revealed himself in fire.

“The Lord guided them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.“ Exodus 13:21

“Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the ditch! And when the people saw it they fell on their faces and cried out, “The Lord is God! The Lord is God!” I Kings 18: 38-39

“Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.” Acts 2: 3

The presence of God is the fire of heaven. God's presence, when carried by his Church, will ignite the land mines of hell that lie in our path. The land mines only have power because we allow them to remain. These things that are intended to bring death, can be exploded before we step on them if we allow God to deal with the issues in our hearts.

When followers of Jesus Christ walk in union with Him, they are surrounded by heaven's mine sweeper – the presence of God. As we follow God's presence, and yield to his will, he goes before us into those old battlefields where the land mines of unresolved and unconfessed sin and personal failure lay waiting for our unsuspecting step. God wants to explode these things before we arrive.

Isaiah 54:7 tells us that, “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” This word “prosper” in the Hebrew language has been translated to mean, “to break out” or “to push forward” or “to effect.” In other words – to explode. No weapon that has been formed by hell, using our own failure and sorrow, will be able to explode against us if we have given those things to God. Those hidden land mines formed against us will not have the ability to break out, push forward, or affect us if God is allowed to detonate them.

God's presence explodes hell's weaponry when we choose to forgive those who have waged war against us in the past. God's presence detonates hell's plan when we renounce the self-protecting vows we made when fear gripped our hearts. God's presence sets off the bombs of doubt when we choose to believe the best about people and our present circumstances and not be surprised by the worst. God's presence destroys despair when we cultivate a thankful heart and live immersed in gratefulness.

God's presence surrounds our lives with a ring of fire that is his glory, and that fire will set off the land mines of hell hidden in the weeds of our lives. Instead of stepping on death we begin walking in freedom. The distant explosions will remind us that God has gone before us and the way is now clear.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Speaking Hope Into The Margins Of Life" by Garris Elkins

Most of us have written something in the margin of a book or a Bible. As we read along we have thoughts and observations that we want to remember. We connect those thoughts and observations with what we are reading by making notes in the margins of the text. There is actually a term for this – it is called “Marginalia.” Marginalia is a term used to the describe the notes, scribbles and commentary that are written in the margins of a book.

Marginalia has been used to describe the illuminated manuscripts that were produced in Medieval times. These illuminated manuscripts hosted beautiful imprints of gold and silver in the margins of a book and helped illuminate what the text was saying. In some ways the marginalia of these illuminated texts is similar to the icons that have been used to describe the Biblical narrative. These illuminated texts are very valuable as an art form.

Each person has a text that describes their life. This life text defines the successes and failures that visit each of us as we walk upon planet Earth. Along with a life text we also have margins on the pages of our lives that have yet to be written upon. God has words of hope and destiny that He places into those margins that illuminate His purpose for us beyond what the text of our life reveals. The Church has been called to prophesy God's heart into the margins of people's lives.

The gift of prophecy is described by Paul in I Corinthians 14: 3, “But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them.” The gift of prophecy was given to the Church to illuminate the life text of the people in our family, our workplace and those living in the distant corners of this world. God uses the gift of prophecy to write in the margins of a life and illuminate something in the text that connects what is written with the heart and purpose of God.

Sometimes we don't understand the text of our lives – the text doesn't make sense. When the word of prophecy comes and fills in the margins of our lives, our life text is illuminated with things that bring us strength, courage and comfort. Something wonderful and supernatural takes place when we know that God sees more for us than we can see for ourselves.   

Whenever God has us speak a word of hope to another person, God uses those words as His pen to write His destiny into the margins of someone's life. When God speaks into the margins of a life, the text of that life becomes an illuminated document.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"God Never Leaves Us Hanging" by Garris Elkins

When I was 8 years old I was a Cub Scout. I still have my little blue Cub Scout hat and yellow bandana. Being a Cub Scout was a big deal for me because it was the first time I was able to wear a uniform. Kids with uniforms feel important and big.

My mom and dad were asked to help locate a suitable park for our group – called a Cub Scout Pack – to have a picnic. We left our home in Los Gatos, California and drove out to Stevens Creek Park in San Jose. It must have been a week day because the park was deserted. Mom and dad sat down on one of the benches and my brother and I took off to explore.

Dad always told us to never run on trails. I am sure I logged that somewhere in the back of my yet-to-be-developed young brain. Dad's words of wisdom would make sense in about an hour.

Once out of sight of our parents my brother and I put it in overdrive. As the older brother of 8 years, I assumed the lead over my 6 year old little brother. We tore down trails in our black high-top tennis shoes and created two mobile dust clouds as we crisscrossed the park.

I remember coming to one section of the trail that was cut into a very steep mountain side. Not a good place to continue to run – but we did anyway. The trail was now only about two feet wide, with the steep mountain side climbing above the trail to my left. The edge of the trail to my right was just as steep as the mountain side, continuing for about 10 more feet down past the trail's edge and then it went vertical and became the edge of a cliff that was suspended 80 feet or so above the rocks below.

I am not sure how it happened but my foot slipped and over the edge I went, sliding down the very steep trail edge. When I slipped I landed on my stomach and I was sliding down the slope backwards. At the very edge of the cliff was a little twig-like plant clinging to life. This little twig, all 6 inches of it, caught me in the crotch and stopped me.

I didn't dare breath. My little brother was taking one long last look at his older brother before the twig gave way and he met Jesus prematurely. With a whisper I said, “Go get dad!” Off my little brother ran to get help.

As I hung there, with my legs hanging over the cliff and my fingernails dug into the dirt, I had a lot of time to think. But at age 8 there wasn't much to think about. I just waited and prayed that my twig would continue to be strong.

In about 10 minutes I heard my dad running down the trail. It is OK to run when your son is hanging on for dear life. I saw dad come around the turn in the trail and in one leap he dove over the side of the trail, hanging onto a branch along the trail and swinging over the edge. He planted his boot into the hillside and grabbed me by the pants. Dad pulled me up off the edge of the cliff and literally tossed me back onto the trail. I was alive!

Dad never did lecture me or punish me. The trail and the cliff and the impending possibility of death spoke volumes to me. This was one of my first “self-taught moments.” I could tell dad was happy to have his boy alive.

That day as a Cub Scout was over fifty years ago. I can still see some of the images of that experience in my mind. The most beautiful thing about that day was seeing my dad arrive on the scene and saving me. That is what dads are supposed to do.

Each of us are born into this world hanging over the edge of a cliff. We were born with what the theologians call “a sin nature.” We are birthed onto the cliff edge as a result of having our ancestors in the Garden fall off the trail. No matter how great a family we have, and no matter what good things we have done, we arrive into this world on the cliff. We need to be rescued. Only the God can get us to a safe place.

The way off the cliff is to realize how hopeless we are without God and call for him to come and get us. Church people call this “salvation” or being “born again.”

We will all take a last breath some day. That last breath will be followed by a fall. Some will fall into eternity without God and forever be separated from Him. Others will fall into the hands of a loving and rescuing Father to live forever in His presence.

Today I am traveling the trails of my culture looking for people who are hanging on the cliff edge. Like my little brother did – I want to run and get the Father and bring Him back for the rescue.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"A Kingdom of Power" by Garris Elkins

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." I Corinthians 4:20

It is easy for those of us in the Western Church to be enamored with our technology, our education and our programs. These things are not wrong - they simply can be done without God. The Kingdom of God is not about what we can accomplish in our own power. The Kingdom of God is about God doing the impossible through us. The impossible requires the power of God. This power heals the sick, saves the lost and confronts spiritual forces of darkness.

When the power of God is made manifest it forces people to make decisions to engage a reality that is outside of their control and comfort. If the church begins to create a culture where we only celebrate what we can do in our own power and strength then we are in trouble. Our celebration should be in what God is doing supernaturally. The church is not a community service organization - we belong to a Kingdom where our mandate is to walk in the power of God to accomplish things that seem to be impossible.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"The Blood Points The Way" by Garris Elkins

When I was a young cop I was taught about crime scene investigation in the Police Academy. We learned about blood evidence. Later, after years of working the streets, I became a detective. When a murder would take place I would arrive at the scene and begin to collect evidence.

There is something interesting about the evidence that blood drops leave behind. Falling straight down, blood will make a fairly uniform spot. But when the wounded suspect or victim is moving, the blood droplet will fall striking the ground, and then thin out, becoming a point indicating the direction the person was moving.

During this Easter season I think about the blood Jesus shed for each of us. After His death on the Cross, He was taken down and moved towards the tomb. As His blood fell to the ground He left an evidence trail of what was to come. His blood pointed to the tomb and His coming resurrection that we celebrate during Easter week.

My prayer today is that all we do as His people will also point towards His will and purpose that was empowered by His death and resurrection.