Friday, December 31, 2010

"2011 and the Concept of Time" by Garris Elkins

This morning I was on my Twitter account and saw that some people on the other side of the globe had already begun to celebrate the New Year. Here on the West Coast of the United States we are still several hours away from 2011. Each New Year's Eve I make sure to be in bed early so I can walk the abandoned streets of my city in the quiet of New Year's morning . I am not a party animal.

As I thought of people half way around the globe already celebrating 2011, I realized the coming celebrations revolving around the earth take place depending on what time zone you live in. The New Year is happening in multiple locations in this migrating global celebration which makes me ask a question - "At what time, and on what day, would you celebrate the New Year in the depths of outer space?" Who sets the calendars and clocks out there?

Space, like all created things, is not eternal because God spoke the heavens into existence. Anything created by God in our dimension of time and space is not eternal. While we like to think that outer space is heaven it is not. Heaven is very different and represents a higher reality because it will remain forever.

As I think about what I am writing I find it somewhat amusing to imagine looking from space to earth as it spins and seeing people celebrate the New Year and yelling, "Happy New Year!", from multiple time zones. This amusement is magnified when I think of someone in the future being on a distant planet and sending Happy New Year greetings back to us from a time zone light years away - "Happy New Year from 2711!"

From an eternal reality we live in a New Day that began at the resurrection of Jesus Christ and is continually unfolding. We live in a day without a sunset. This New Day will never end and will continue to expand forever in the presence of God.

I enjoy the reality that God created a time and calendar structure for our lives. In the continuum of time, I have a birthday each year (January 1st) and each year I use the calendar to remember when Jan and I were married (August 25). For those of us bought with the blood of the Lamb Who was slain from the foundation of all that was and is to come, we are also clocking to the beat of a different timepiece that tells me each day, "This is the Day the Lord has made (the year of 2011 included) and I will rejoice and be glad in it."

I am happy for a new year and for the New Year celebration, but I'll be watching the ball drop in New York on tomorrow's news - I will be in bed.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Response Time" by Garris Elkins

If you know me you know that I was a cop prior to becoming a pastor. That part of my life was over 30 years ago. The police experience never really leaves you, it just gets toned down and will always remain in some form. My wife calls me a protector. I go into a certain mode in some situations where I sense danger is afoot. The average person would not even see the potential for danger. For a police officer the repeated exposure to danger, and the training on how to deal with it, changes how you process life.

In police circles there is a phrase - "Response Time." This is the time it takes a police officer to come to your assistance in an emergency. The national average for responding officers runs anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes depending on the location of the officer at the time of the emergency call and how much distance he or she must cover to get to you. A lot can happen to potential a victim in 3-7 minutes if a bad guy has broken into a home and wants to harm those inside. Until the police arrive we are "the police" and we are responsible to protect ourselves and those we love. Without releasing any unneeded sense of fear, this is the reality of life in a fallen world.

As I thought of this response time in a natural setting where bad guys, police and victims occasionally intersect with each other, I also thought of spiritual response times. What happens when you have a spiritual emergency? Who is the first person you call? Calling a pastor or your home group leader is great, but there is a response time before they can get to you or return your call. The devil can do a lot of damage while you wait for someone to arrive.

What if you and I first called the Lord in our times of spiritual emergency? He is always present and not distant - ever. It is good to eventually call the leaders and friends in your life, but calling on the Lord first is where your real safety comes from. Good friends and leaders, when they eventually arrive, will always direct you towards Him anyway. Wouldn't it be powerful if the next time you and I realized hell was trying to break into our lives that in our initial call to a friend to come and meet with us that we let them know while they were responding we were holding the intruder at gunpoint until they arrived?

Having a prepared heart in a fallen world is a heart that is at rest in the night because the One Who is your protector is always there and requires no time to respond in times of need. You call and He is there and this makes the bad guys think twice about messing with you and those you love.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Hidden Streams Revealed" by Garris Elkins

This morning I was hiking in the hills above my home like I do each week. I have hiked these trails for the past 8 years and come away from these times refreshed. Normally, I am a very observant person. Maybe this is because 30 years ago I was a police officer and you stayed alive as a cop by knowing what is taking place around you in your environment. This morning I realized that I was not seeing everything.

As I hiked across a familiar bridge I paused and looked out at a seasonal stream that flows this time of year when the rains come. 150 years ago this stream bed was filled with prospectors seeking their fortune in the Oregon Gold Rush.

I like the sound of moving water - it refreshes and restores me, so I paused longer than normal and just listened. As I looked out I saw another stream about 25 feet away. I took another look and realized that I had never seen this stream before. The flowing water had now made it visible. During the majority of the year this other stream is dry and hidden by brush. These two streams were now merging together 25 feet from me. How could I have not seen this one sometime in the last 8 years? The only reason I could come up with was that I wasn't present on that bridge when the rains came.

As I crossed the bridge and made my way up the trail, I paused to catch my breath and looked back down at the two converging streams and asked, "Lord, is there something in this you want me to see?"

The Lord began to download into my heart what 2011 will bring for some of us. Streams of His presence will be revealed that have been previously hidden from our sight. These streams were not seen because the flow of His presence had not yet been released into those areas. God is about to bring a flow of His presence that will make known new assignments and new direction. Where we would never expect to see God moving we will see Him at work before our eyes.

The prophet Isaiah wrote:

"Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert." Isaiah 35: 5-6

God is preparing many of us to flow along new stream-beds that will supernaturally appear in our personal deserts. These new courses have been hidden in the past. We have literally walked by them as we went about our daily lives. When the flow starts we will see His plans emerge and many will begin to move into their destiny in Christ along stream beds they have not seen before this moment. What will this mean?

The Hidden will be Revealed -

In those areas of your life and ministry that are habitual and predictable, and where you are expecting more of the same, God plans to reveal hidden stream beds that will be filled with His presence to take you to something new. Joy will return. Hope will be renewed.

The Flow of His Presence is about to Increase -

As the rains in the natural saturate the forests and produce the seasonal run-off that makes a dry stream bed rise, God is about to increase the flow of His presence and show you where to invest your life for this next season. Your greatest investment for a Kingdom return will be in the flow of what God is about to do.

God wants us to experience the refreshment and restoration that comes when we move in the power and pleasure of His River. Like Isaiah said, blind eyes will open, lame people will walk and mute tongues will shout for joy and the water of His presence will flow into your personal desert.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Random Verse


On a hike this morning

in the hills above Jacksonville

I saw a fallen leaf shaped like a bowl

filled with rainwater

becoming a reflecting mirror of my face

as I sought the face of God.


Like toy soldiers marching,

wound up but winding down, waiting

for the Hand to twist again,

to set in motion

this march towards forever.


Walking up an unmarked trail of snow

the first of the year

white, unprinted by foot, claw or hoof

circling around the mountain

in a loop

untouched, pure,

atop a canvas of frozen paint.

As I circumnavigate this path

I come back around to my first tracks

cutting the white on the trek up

and meeting myself in print form.

I stop and ask, “Am I a different man?” on this way back down,

than the one who walked this way up.

It is strange to meet your tracks once again,

footprints as reminders

of who one is, both up and down.

Snow is honest.



enemy of knowing.

Comprehending the God of all

a goal he never posed.

To be, to walk, to sense, to touch together

is the knowing.

These never designed for the comprehender

but for the lover.

Lying side by side

unspoken words

having no comprehension,

yet together.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"2011 - A Year of Revealed Change and Transition" by Garris Elkins

2011 will be a year of change and transition within the Church. This change and transition has already taken place in the spiritual realm. In the coming year these changes will become visible within the Church in greater measure. I am seeing four areas of change and transition that will take place in the upcoming year.


In the last several decades a broadened understanding has taken place regarding the ministry of the Apostle and Prophet. Movements have risen up around these two gifts. A critical linkage will develop in 2011 between Apostle and Prophet with the Evangelist for a three-cord, Spirit-empowered harvest of souls. The government of the harvest will be released. There will be a visible inclusiveness between these three gifts to prepare the Church for a supernatural harvest.


For 2011 many will make a great discovery - in midst of their failures God will show up to bless them in spite of these visible and obvious failures. There will be a revival of blessing in unlikely and unsuspecting places. A Prodigal blessing and feast is being planned and released for 2011.

When we stand in the middle of the debris fields of failure that many are experiencing, and when God comes unexpectedly with supernatural provision and blessing, that moment of mercy will produce a depth of humility, repentance and worship, that no successful faith-formula can ever provide.

Our songs of repentance amidst our failures, sung under the blessing of God, will release a deeper understanding of the mercy heart of God.


Recently, a counselor friend of mine spoke to a leader who was burned out. The counselor told the leader to stop studying, stop having daily devotions, stop making plans and simply learn to rest in God's presence. None of these things the leader was asked to stop doing were wrong. They are all part of a healthy believer's life. But in the case of this particular leader, things had gotten unhealthy. The spiritual disciplines of his life had become the places from which he had tried to draw Life. An orderly life had replaced Jesus as the giver of Life. My counselor friend wanted this leader to break the rules of religious productivity in order to come back to the simplicity of faith in Jesus.

God is breaking man-made rules of productivity that tell us doing more is holy. God desires that we lay down the deception of trying to prove our worth to God through religious duty. Productivity is the language of slaves. Inheritance is the language of God's children.

In 2011 God will ask his people to move into the deeper revelation of friendship that Jesus promised His disciples. In John 15 Jesus told these newly-defined friends that a master does not confide in slaves. Slaves are not receivers of revelation – only friends are. Slaves work from a list of duties provided by a slave master. Each day the predictable drudgery of the slave's list produces a defeated heart in the slave. God wants his friends to hear his voice. Some have mentally moved back into the slave quarters of the past and now God is calling them back into friendship and into the fresh daily revelation that comes from living in the dwelling place of his presence.


In prayer I saw an image of a large magnifying glass being held over Chicago and the surrounding communities. As a focused beam of light passed through the magnifying lens and focused its beam on this region, I heard the words, “A burn is coming.”

The great Chicago fire of 1871 burned for three days destroying the city and killing hundreds. In 2011 the coming burn of God will revive the Chicago region and bring thousands to new life in Christ. Hands raised in worship during “normal” worship services will be set on fire. People will literally feel the heat of God's presence in their bodies. A prominent mega-church will experience a work of Pentecost that will challenge the understanding of some. The wise will wait to judge what is taking place. God will raise up an unlikely spokesman from among these burning ones to champion what God is doing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Stepping Into An Uncharted Future" by Garris Elkins

Sociologists and cultural pollsters don't work with initial revelation - they study the history of past events. Those who leave a mark in this life walk into a developing history that is uncharted and undefined. Our heroes of faith are those who stepped into places where the rest of us feared to tread. They had no road signs of research to calm their fears along the unmapped path of faith.

Developing history does not always have a sociological model to work within. Those who leave a mark in our lives did not first poll for statistics to determine their next step. They simply stepped towards the Voice. I wonder what would happen today if you and I did not weigh the cost of the journey or draw from the opinions of others to determine our buy-in to God's agenda? Maybe the personal and cultural transformation we are praying for would actually take place in this God-pleasing environment of raw faith because we stepped towards something not yet seen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Reflecting Leaf" by Garris Elkins

On a hike this morning

in the hills above Jacksonville

I saw a fallen leaf shaped like a bowl

filled with rainwater

becoming a reflecting mirror of my face

as I sought the face of God.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Poised" by Garris Elkins

Poised and suspended

now attached to what is known, familiar, doable.

A release is coming,

a falling

and a rising up to meet me,

of something new and undefined.

Needing, even wanting, to see the release,

trembling like a water droplet hanging on

clinging amidst the vibration of what is coming

the trembling before the drop

a shaking me free to fall.

Ready to exchange one form for another

that is why it is called a droplet

the drop had to let

the release come in faith and anticipation

of the dropping to become a splash

a change of structure

still wet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"A Field of Debris" by Garris Elkins

I am in middle of God's blessing. This is one of the most significant seasons of God's presence and provision in my life - the most I have experienced in the last 30 years. All of this is taking place in the middle of a financial and emotional recession in our nation. In contrast to the beauty of what God is doing I have found myself arriving in this time having thought and spoken some very faithless words. These words are like a debris field after a plane crash. Body parts and pieces of wreckage are littering the landscape of my thoughts. I regret them. I want them to go away. I have confessed and denounced them. I am raking up the debris of my unrighteous thoughts and words and putting them into the spiritual trash bags of repentance and sending them to the dump.

My reasons for speaking these kinds of faithless words in the first place are as foolish as anyones faulty reasoning. The faithless words and thoughts birthed in the pain and sorrow of my life were reaching up drawing down a dark lexicon from the shelf of my vocabulary and saying things to me and into my life. Human failure is the fertilizer that gives our belief in a lie the ability to grow.

The blessing confused me at first because the debris field of faithless words yelled back at me that nothing good could come amidst my doubts and fears. These faithless words began to tell me that I had set in motion an irretrievable set of negative outcomes. Doom was ahead. Give up and run! Maybe that is why God sometimes sends blessing amidst our failures - he knows some of us would not hang around if God did not show up.

This week, as I prayed with a group of fellow believers, the Lord spoke to me and said, "I will not be held captive by your failure to understand my love." When He said these words I realized what He was saying. "You failed in your words and thoughts, but that is not the end of the story. There is more and the "more" is always about increasing your understanding of Me as your Loving Father."

I began to realize in a deeper way that I was dealing with a loving Father who uses a different measure for love than I do. When I think it is all over, because I have failed in some formulated concept of His love using the broken math of my old nature, God shows up and reveals His heart to me. God formulates His response to us based on His unchanging nature and His perfect love. He does this in a loving partnership with us. The old nature can only see the faithless words producing a crop of death. This is the language of slaves. Since Jesus said we are no longer slaves, but now His friends, we are drawn into something very different. The old nature cannot see hope and mercy. The old nature sees only enslavement. Words spoken without love and faith do produce horrible things, but God has to be bigger than my dwarfed concept of Him and my slavish responses to the pains of life. He has to be bigger and kinder than my words.

God wants to show up in the middle of our failed attempts at this faith-life, in the middle of our self-created debris fields of personal failure, and bless us. The blessing of God, not the failure of people, is where the heart of God is revealed most powerfully. These are the places where we feel we deserve nothing but the ugly fruit of our words and deeds. God has a different and more wonderful plan.

The greater discovery in times of failure is not that we come to realize our brokenness. The greater discovery is that in midst of our human failure God shows up to bless us in spite of ourselves. When we stand in the middle of the debris field we created, and then the blessing comes, that moment of undeserved love produces a depth of humility and height of praise that no successful faith-formula can ever provide.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Beginning and Ending" by Garris Elkins

I would not venture to guess
where she ends
and I begin.
Of one flesh we have become
both losing ourselves and finding ourselves
in that oneness.
Still a mystery
how we cannot tell where each ends and each begins.
Of oneness we are.

"Fire and Rain" by Garris Elkins

I've seen fire and I've seen rain

in the song and in this life.

Burning passions fired for Creator

a rain not quenching but flooding

a distant longing and its approaching rumble

has engulfed me

A burning man quenched.

"Life Bloom" by Garris Elkins

We all like flowers bloom and unfold.

From bud to blossom, new to full,

from young to old.

The summit of a life cycle no one knows

the height, the apex of life's arc

from fullness to withered petal.

But life is,

from beginning to end,

from tender shoot to brittle leaf,

all part of the bloom.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"A Soul in Drought" by Garris Elkins

To the despair in this dry place - listen
Listen to the approaching sound
of a rising tide of answered prayer
Mounting upon a wave of his presence
breaking down upon this soul in drought
upon the despair in this dry place.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Confused and Confirmed" by Garris Elkins

On Tuesday mornings I gather with other believers in the sanctuary at Living Waters Church to pray. Like we do each week, we put on some worship music and spend an hour together in God's presence. There is something powerful and spiritually fulfilling about being in prayer with other believers.

For the first half hour many of us walk around, some sit and others kneel in prayer as the Spirit leads. We pray with our mind and with our Spirit. During these times of weekly prayer things are taking place in the heavenly realm that we are not fully aware of. Systems of darkness that hold people captive are being dismantled. Families are being set free. Supernatural provision is called in. For the last half hour the music is turned down and we pray for circumstances God has brought to our attention and we pray for each other.

As a couple of the men were receiving prayer for specific needs in their lives the Lord prompted me to share a word. In essence the word was this:

"This is a time of both confusion and confirmation. Your mind is being renewed and your old way of thinking is now confused. What has worked is no longer working. God is doing a new thing in your life that He is renewing your mind to receive. New things are coming to you to confirm that this is God Who is at work in you."

God is not the author of confusion. When God is doing a new work in us His new work will challenge our old mindsets. He is not throwing the old away, He is simply taking us to a deeper place of revelation. Each new revelation builds upon the previous revelation. The Kingdom of God is ever-expanding. If we hold on to the old, at the expense of the new, we will miss the fresh work God is doing in our lives and upon the earth.

We get confused when our religious thinking and religious systems are no longer producing the life they once provided. Some people continue to hold on to the past out of fear because it is familiar and controllable. At this point we can either attempt to justify their continued existence or we can lift them up to God in exchange for something new.

The confusion we are experiencing will begin to leave when we make the exchange - the old for the new. In this process of letting go the confirmation that comes will turn our confusion into understanding.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

“A Transferable Pentecost” by Garris Elkins

Pentecost in its purest form is transferable across all models of ministry, Pentecostalism is not. Pentecost is what God did on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecostalism is a narrow human interpretation of the moving of God's Spirit. The “isms” of ministry have distanced many believers from the very things He wants to do in our midst.

A transferable model of Pentecost can work within any ministry without compromising the power and authority of the Holy Spirit or violating the unique assignment God has given a particular ministry.

In 1985 I was a burned-out young pastor. I wanted out of the ministry. We had gone to Montana several years earlier to plant a new church and we had begun to grow. We had a rented facility and a group of wonderful people, but I was tired and wanted out.

To augment our church income I worked as a pilot at a local airport. I thought I would return to Oregon, get a flying job, and become a faithful member of a local church. Jan and I made a trip to the Portland area where I was offered a job as a pilot flying for a local business.

We returned to Montana to share our decision with the church, pack up ,and leave. Then the words began to come. My brother said, “Garris, that doesn't sound like God.” A long-time ministry mentor quoted a Psalm that said, the servant watches the hand of the master and only moves when His hand moves. I was jumping the gun.

We settled back into the routine of ministry and decided to not leave. Several months went by and Jan and I traveled to Los Angeles to the International Convention of the Foursquare Church. It was my first time to Angelus Temple. It was like a spiritual Disneyland for me. I wept as I read the history of the Foursquare Church and saw the crutches displayed from the healing ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson.

I don't remember much from that convention. I do remember John Wimber who spoke in one of the evening sessions. John came out on the platform dressed in white pants and a Hawaiian shirt and said, “I am just a little fat man trying to get to heaven.” I immediately liked him.

John preached that night and uttered one sentence that will stay with me for the rest of my life. John simply said, “Go home and do what's in the Book.” John meant, “Go home and do what Jesus did.”

When we arrived back home to our church in Montana we did not change anything. We had the same worship team, the same service structure, and the same pastor – me. What changed was an expectancy I brought home that came from hearing Heaven speak to me. Miracles began to take place during worship. Serious diseases were healed. Backs were straightened. Marriages were restored. Forgiveness was granted. God simply walked into our church and began to tell His people that He loved them enough to touch their brokenness.

In some circles of the Church today, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is viewed like a free-spirited uncle who was invited to our last Thanksgiving Dinner and had too much to drink. We are not sure we want to invite him back next year so we plan around him.

On my Twitter account, one person I follow is David Platt, a Southern Baptist pastor. David posted this chilling comment : “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95% of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.” I wonder how true this might have become for some of us. The Church, birthed in power on the Day of Pentecost, has not been called to be a Rotary or Lions Club, even though these wonderful secular groups do important work in our cities. These groups are not the Church. Much of what is taking place in some corners of the Church today, any service club could do without the Holy Spirit being present. Good works alone will not accomplish God's plan.

On the Day of Pentecost the entire Church was birthed. Those in attendance that day came to the Upper Room in Acts 2 indwelled by the Spirit. Previous to the Day of Pentecost, in John 20, Jesus had breathed the Spirit into His disciples. These disciples became the first born-again humans to walk upon the face of the earth. These “new creations,” who had the Spirit of God within them as they came to Pentecost, would now be clothed in power as the Spirit fell upon them, and they would take the Gospel to the far corners of the known world.

On the Day of Pentecost the church was given an empowered voice. That empowered voice would transmit the will of heaven upon the earth through the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, which included healing, prophecy, and miracles. This empowered voice of Pentecost would be the vehicle to carry the declarations of heaven into places of disease, suffering and bondage. This voice said, “Be healed,” “Rise up and walk,” or “Come out of him.” The Book of Acts is filled with the supernatural commands of the empowered voice. In fact, the overwhelming message of the voice of the Church throughout Acts was given in the form of commands, not prayers. In Acts they commanded more than they prayed.

The unique voice of each ministry on earth today was empowered on the Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago. It will be a wise leader who discovers the sound of that voice and releases it into their unique ministry assignment.

Culture is not opened nor is the Kingdom expanded by our academics, our doctrine, our highly groomed communities of fellowship, outreach ministries, hip websites, great stage props and lighting. Culture is opened and the Kingdom is expanded because of a supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit on the frontiers of darkness. As you study the Book of Acts, cultural frontiers were breached and the Kingdom expanded because the Church spoke with an empowered voice and the darkness stepped back.

Community outreach has become a buzz word today. Community outreach is a good thing. The Church is being awakened to this neglected aspect of ministry. As we pursue a fuller expression of our calling, we need to remember that our best attempts at community outreach will only be terminal events unless we are prepared and available for an encounter with the Holy Spirit against a dark spiritual frontier where hell is entrenched. Outreach is a wonderful work for the Church to engage in, but it is only intended to be a platform from which to release a supernatural encounter with the Living God.

How would you validate your ministry? What criteria would you use to make sure you did the same things Jesus did while He walked the earth?

Jesus sent a validation of His ministry back to John the Baptist who was in prison awaiting execution. The event is recorded in Matthew 11: 1-5

"When Jesus had finished giving these instructions to his twelve disciples, he went out to teach and preach in towns throughout the region. 2 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3 “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” 4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen―5 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. ” (NLT)

This is the same John who, on the day of Jesus' baptism, saw heaven open up and the dove descend upon Jesus. John heard God speak. John saw first-hand the supernatural events that occurred that day and yet he asks, “Are you the Messiah we've been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

John's question makes no sense. John saw it all. He should have been in a place to never doubt the Lord. But being in prison, whether locked up in a real steel- barred prison cell or a prison of the mind, can cause a person to lose their grip on reality. Jesus knew that in just a matter of days John's head would be removed from his body and served up on a tray as a macabre party favor. Jesus prepared a response to send back to John to tell him he had not wasted his life and he could now die in peace.

Jesus validated His ministry to John by saying, ““Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen―5 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.” Jesus did not say that He had been painting houses, picking up trash in the community, or running a soup kitchen. These are all wonderful things to do, but they don't fully validate what He has called His Pentecost-empowered Church to do. Of the six points of ministry validation Jesus sent to John, five were outwardly supernatural in nature. Jesus made these statements to John knowing that you and I would show up centuries later and may need to hear the same thing in order to keep our focus.
Peter said something similar in Acts 2:22, “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders and signs through him, as you well know.” Individual and cultural transformation requires a miraculous encounter with God and that takes place when the power of Pentecost is released through the empowered voice of the Church. If we are seeking a validation or endorsement it is important that we reflect the very nature of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

So, what is the take-away from all of this? The take-away is in three areas.

For the primary ministry leader – make room for Pentecost in your personal life

My ministry coach is Dave Jacobs. Dave's ministry touches pastors all across the United States. I am blessed to have Dave as part of our church. Dave kindly coaches my calling each month when he sticks a spiritual thermometer into my life to see my level of vocational health. Dave asks good questions.

During my times with Dave and my own interaction with God, I have realized how important it is to create margins in my life. These are margins outside of work, my daily devotional life, my sermon preparation and my family. In these margins I am alone with God without an agenda. My margin time is on Wednesday mornings when I leave my house and hike the trails in the hills above our home.

During my margin time with God I listen for the voice of heaven. I pray in my native tongue and in the tongue of the Spirit. The longer I spend in this margin time the more I understand how to discern God's voice. We learn to speak in the empowered voice of heaven by listening to the voice of heaven.

Once we hear the word of God for our specific issues, we then have something to say to our family, our leaders and the Church.

For your leadership team – discover the unique language of Pentecost God has assigned to your ministry

It is critical for our primary leadership teams to speak the same language. Language is culture. Make room for the Spirit to speak in your primary leadership gatherings.

My pastor, Roy Hicks, Jr., once told a group of us young-pastors-in-training to never have a meeting of our primary leadership team without making room for the Holy Spirit to speak. He also went on to tell us that a public meeting should be characterized by three things – Word, Worship and the Witness of the Spirit. Many of us have a Word-language and a Worship-language, but we need to develop a Witness-language if we are going to confront darkness and bring freedom to our communities.

In Acts 13 the entire Gentile missionary movement was birthed because these leaders were worshipping and listening together before the Lord. As a result, the Gospel moved out from Jerusalem and touched the world. No gathering, no matter how small, is ever insignificant if we hear the voice of God and act upon what He said to us.

For your public ministry teams -train them how to speak in the empowered voice

The public outreach of our churches that may include our weekly public church service, some form of community outreach ministry like painting houses in town, feeding the poor and all the rest of what we do to be out and among our community, are all gracious platforms from which the empowered voice can speak. It is critical to train these ministry teams how to do their practical ministry assignment with excellence. But this alone is not enough. These public ministries will carry us to the frontiers of darkness where we will have the opportunity to speak and command life into the darkness of imprisoned lives. These encounters are supernatural and require a supernatural ministry empowered by God's Spirit.

As you train people how to minister, include in the training how to minister with their unique and personal voice of Pentecost. Our daughter, Anna, is a gifted artist who conducts Prophetic Art workshops to help people learn to hear the voice of God. Anna instructs artists, from the stick-figure-only artists to the professional, on how to hear God's voice and then interpret that voice back into their medium of art. Anna was released into this ministry when a wise professor told her that when the Spirit moves in her life she creates art. Today, people stand before artwork inspired by the Spirit and receive emotional, physical and spiritual healing.

The moving of the Holy Spirit upon believers can appear monolithic if we require that Pentecost be expressed in any limited form. The Kingdom of God is expanding and in that expansion He is raising up new and unique ways for people to hear His voice. Teach your teams to release what will validate the ministry of Christ and endorse His presence in your community.

This kind of leadership takes courage. In the early years of the Foursquare Church, Aimee Semple McPherson took hits from some of the traditional Pentecostal churches on one side and the mainline churches on the other. One side thought she was too cold and the other side thought she was too hot. She remained true to what God had called her to do because early on she discovered the uniquely empowered voice of Pentecost that was assigned to her life. Later that voice initiated a great move of God and birthed the Foursquare Church. Aimee did not allow what she heard from heaven to be high-jacked or re-translated.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Come Out Of The Clutter" by Garris Elkins

A very strong and clear word came to me recently,

“During this season stay away from over-scripted, over-studied and over-choreographed personal lives and corporate church gatherings. God is up to something new and our planning can be the very clutter that dulls our ability to hear the voice of God.”

We are living in cluttered times that have produced distracted lives. Family activities and careers ask for their fair share of our day. Ministry commitments ask us for more of our time. The needs of others stand in line at the door of our lives and want to come in. Each of these demands are good by themselves, but together they can become overwhelming in their ability to fill every spare moment of our lives. At some point we must push life back and create a place to listen to what the Spirit would say.

John the Baptist stood in the wilderness and cried out for people to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Prepare the way for the Lord's coming! Clear the road for him!” Mark 1:3

All the people in Jerusalem, and all the people in the surrounding country-side, left their known civilization and walked out into the uncluttered wilderness in response to John's voice. A friend recently told me at that time there were over a million people in Jerusalem and the surrounding region. Imagine a group of people that large walking away from the city and out into the wilderness to hear about Jesus. They left the clutter of their everyday lives and walked out into the simplicity of the wilderness to hear the message of God.

Paul addressed cluttered lives when he wrote to the Church in Corinth,

“The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. I want you to be free from the concerns of this life.” I Corinthians 7: 29-32

Later in verse 35 Paul wrote,

“I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.”

Paul was listing, among those things that can distract us, our relationships, our failures, our successes and our possessions. When all of the stuff of life begins to fill our lives we become absorbed into them and take on their shape – our image changes. Like wet clay we are crafted into an image of the distractions in our lives instead of being absorbed and molded into the image of Christ.

Profound and epic change is taking place upon the earth. Promises spoken by God are hanging above the Church seeking places to fall. God is looking for target audiences, not target audiences that come from opinion polls or logical conclusions, but target audiences that have prepared themselves for His coming. These target audiences are those personal lives and public ministries that have cleared away landing zones for heaven to touch down, much like an “LZ” (Landing Zone) that would be provided in a military operation for an incoming aircraft. Now is the time to push back the clutter and distractions of life that are occupying your time and space and draining away your energy. Heaven wants to land, but the clutter is in the way.

For the last year I have felt that much of what Heaven wants to do upon the earth is now hovering over the Church ready to fall into our midst. Words of promise spoken in the past are now in orbit over our lives waiting for God's signal to land. Heaven is prepared for this landing. God is asking His people to prepare for His coming by providing uncluttered landing zones where His Spirit can set down and do extraordinary things. Remove the clutter and distractions and welcome the coming of the Lord.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"The Spiritual Farm" by Garris Elkins

For the last several weeks I have been going through a deep pressing of my soul. God is wanting to get to the foundation of who I am and that will always stir a life. Discovery is never a comfortable process. This morning I read the following verses from Mark, chapter 4:

3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

I used to look at this text of scripture and try to pick out which soil I represented. My hope was that I would be the fertile soil. Then something happened today as I read this parable – I realized that I had all four soil types on my spiritual farm.

In the last 60 years I have accumulated a lot of spiritual acreage. Like a farmer in the natural realm, we work different parts of a large land holding based on the needs of each particular soil type. For those of you thinking I am copping out to having sin in my life, I am not. I love God, love my wife and don't want anyone to die because they crossed me. I repent daily and make heart adjustments. But maybe at age 60 I am finally realizing that I don't have it all together all the time and I need to understand what that means. This is the pressing that comes in times of intense spiritual formation.

As I look at my life I see places that used to be fertile ground where I have allowed other things access to and they have beaten a hard path across my once fertile field. I look at another section of my life where I have allowed myself to become shallow by seeking the dim and lesser things of this world. Nothing lasts long in that patch. The third parcel of my spiritual life is overgrown with thorns and I feel their choking influence as I become consumed with the “what ifs” of life. And finally, and thank God for this, there still remains patches of fertile soil from which I can compare all the others and demand that they yield to the fertility of His presence.

For the places I have allowed hardened footpaths to develop I need to limit access to who and what crosses my field. For the shallow places where I failed to go deeper, I need to allow God to take me into that ground and deal with any fear or shame that might arise on the way to freedom. For the thorn-infested places I need to pull these things up by their roots and not settle for a weed-whacker form of Christianity. And for those places of fertile soil I need to ask God how it became fertile in the first place and do more of that kind of work in all the other areas of my spiritual farm.

If you are like me, and going through a time of intense spiritual formation, God is wanting to do a work of fertility within you. To prepare the field of our lives for the supernatural seeds of His Kingdom, God needs to show us the condition of our soil and those images are not always pretty. From the parable of the sower we see that God is secure enough to throw some of His precious seed into the fields of my life that are not yet ready, and through the painful process of death and resurrection of that seed, He will create in us a heart that is fertile and inviting to His presence.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Critics and Crisis" by Garris Elkins

It seems that in each season of breakthrough two things show up - critics and crisis. At our best we will never be able to please all the people all the time. It can be a rude awakening for some to realize that not all people agree with them.

The critics, for the most part, do their critique behind closed doors. This kind of criticism is fueled in private without you being present. This criticism will grow and remain unchallenged until it is discovered. Once discovered it must be challenged in love. Unless dealt with it will spread like a cancer without the “medicine” of truth to confront it. Small groups of “friends” can gather around this kind of criticism and require of each other an alignment with their point of view. An emerging crisis of relationship begins to develop because it is being fueled by this cancerous criticism. This kind of battle is based on rules of engagement from the kingdom of this earth, not the Kingdom of Christ.

In the book of Judges there is a re-occurring theme. Israel walks in sin and God sends judges to expose their sin and call them to repentance. After these confrontations with their national sin Israel would repent and begin to live in peace. Before long Israel would return to their sin and the process would start all over again.

A man named Jephthah emerged as a judge over Israel. In one instance he was dealing with the king of the Ammonites over a land dispute. When Jephthah delivered the word of the Lord to this king the king paid no attention to what was said. As a result, Israel went to battle with the Ammonites and destroyed them.

Jephthah spoke to the Ammonite king before the battle and said, “Let the Lord, who is judge, decide today which of us is right – Israel or Ammon.” Judges 11:27.

This word delivered by Jephthah to the Ammonite king would not be confirmed in its delivery – it would be confirmed in battle. Every word of the Lord has a battle where it will be confirmed. Where and how we choose to do battle has a huge effect on the outcome and confirmation of God's word in our lives.

God is the only one who can righteously decide and define true victory. Even in a time of criticism those being criticized have something to learn from their critics. If you find yourself in the midst of a season of critics and crisis it is time to look again at the battle armor of a New Covenant believer and to make sure those protective coverings are in place.

We are called to stand fully armored and let God fight for us. This battle is fought from a stationary posture. Paul described this battle armor in Ephesians 6 as the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of God's Word.

Taking a stationary posture in battle does not mean that we don't speak the truth in love and confront sin. This means that we speak from a place of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and God's Word. We don't let the battle draw us into the battle. In this kind of warfare we evaluate our words and our response to our critics through the filter of our Spirit-empowered armament.

The weapons of our warfare are not drawn from the armory of this earth. These weapons are imported across the border between heaven and earth. These weapons look powerless to the natural mind, but they are what God will use to bring down the spirit of criticism and turn the crisis into victory.

Critics bring to their acts of criticism all of their unresolved sin, brokenness and limited observations. These unresolved issues create a lens through which they view you. We all do this. Sometimes these critics can even bring an element of truth hidden within their criticism.

What you and I can do is to step into a supernatural level of trust that hands the outcome of our crisis, and the critics themselves, over to God. None of this is personal even though it feels deeply personal. He loves your critics as much as He loves you. God's victory will always look different than what we have planned because our plan has personal vindication at its core. God's plan it different - it brings Him glory.

When we allow God to decide “who is right” a sense of rest comes because we are not expending our thoughts and energy on the preservation of our self-image. This kind of rest is deep inside our soul where the criticism and crisis cannot do battle once we close the door to their entry. This kind of rest is a spiritual resistance that confounds the real enemy (the enemy is not people) and puts him to flight.

A prayer for those under the weight of criticism in the midst of crisis might be-

"Lord, this criticism hurts. My wounds feel overwhelming. I don't understand why this is taking place. I want to run to the battle and scorch my critics with words of self-vindication. Forgive me. I ask you to first examine me before I examine others. See if there be any hurtful way in me. In this crisis I want you to do another battle within me in those private places of my own pride and fear that this crisis has brought to light. I choose to rest in knowing you will decide who is 'right.'”

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Defeating Despair" by Garris Elkins

Recently, I read an article from Central Oregon about the unusually high number of suicides within the business community over the financial losses and subsequent despair that has occurred in this economic downturn. As I meet with pastors and leaders I am finding that many ministries are facing some of the most trying times in memory. Some families are now faced with hard and painful decisions about the homes they once thought they would live in forever. There is a spirit of despair prowling our land.

The definition of “despair” is formed from two words. One part of despair means “the point that something begins” - in other words, a trigger event. The other part of the word means, “to feel like you have no way out.” Despair is not just a general malaise. Despair originates with certain events and begins to tell a person that there is no way out. The person afflicted by despair begins to feel hopeless.

In II Corinthians 4 Paul addresses despair and the circumstances that surround it:

7 “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”

Paul described us as “fragile clay jars.” Alone we could easily collapse under the pressure, but because God's Spirit lives within us, external pressure, no matter how intense, cannot crush our lives. Paul said in verse 7 this picture of a fragile clay jar filled with God's presence is a very clear witness to the world that the power to remain uncrushed is from God, not from ourselves. This is one of our most powerful testimonies.

Paul provides a way to defeat the spirit of despair in II Corinthians 4: 13-18:

13 “But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Verse 13 says, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” This means that words of faith can be spoken no matter what the pain or pressure of my despair feels like. This instruction to speak words of belief came after words like, “pressed”, “perplexed”, “crushed”, “hunted down” and “knocked down” were used to describe conditions in the Early Church. Words of belief will always trump our feelings of despair. We are able to speak these words of life because we are linked to the Resurrected One.

Paul went on to say that our reason for not giving up (vs. 16) is the provision of God's grace that reaches more and more people. When this grace comes to us it does battle against our despair. For example, when we were trapped in the despair of our sin, Christ came and redeemed us in the greatest act of grace ever demonstrated – the Cross. Grace has always destroyed despair and will continue to do so until Christ returns.

The children of Israel failed to enter the Promise Land because they complained in the privacy of their tents as recorded in Deuteronomy 1:27. They said God hated them and that He brought them to this place to die. The roadmap for the next 40 years of Israel's wilderness wanderings were charted behind the closed doors of their homes with the ink and pen of faithless words spoken in despair.

This is a season for words of grace, not despair, to begin falling from the lips of God's Church. Unconfessed words of death are like a spiritual Pit Bull on drugs. Unless repented of these words will return to bite us. If you have found yourself yielding to despair and speaking death to your future, confess it as sin and let God's grace re-craft a new response to your circumstances.

How is the spirit of despair defeated? Paul gave us the solution in verse 18, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” We aren't supposed to fixate on the despair producing events that surround us, but on an imagery this world cannot produce. If what we speak about each day are the events that produced the despair in the first place then the controlling environment in our lives will be despair. We have a choice of what we fix our eyes upon. Spirt-empowered sight produces Spirit-empowered words.

One of the missing elements in the Church today is an eternal perspective. Someday you and I will live between a new heaven and a new earth. We will walk upon an earth that no longer groans in sorrow for what it once was. We will experience the beauty of Eden. We will also worship around God's throne in the beauty of holiness. Gaining an eternal perspective is the greatest equalizer to the inequities of this life.

When we fix our eyes on the unseen world of eternity we see what we will become. Our calling, as God's Spirit-empowered Church, is to capture a vision of eternity and bring it back into this world and speak it out. This kind of eternal language, the language of the prophet, is many times mocked because it sounds other-worldly. It is!

Last week, I hiked up on top of a mountain near my home to pray in the dawn. I arrived about 10 minutes before the sun actually crested the horizon. As the sun climbed up the other side of the mountain the day began to get brighter and brighter until the full dawn exploded into my view.

I had the beginnings of this word about despair in my heart as I watched the new dawn emerge. Prior to the actual dawn I recalled the unresolved issues I went to bed with the night before and the coming issues I needed to face in the new day. As I remembered all these things that needed my attention I found that my vision was beginning to focus on the new day in an ever-increasing way. I was living for the new dawn. Somehow the issues of life that were facing me were diminishing in their urgency.

If you are living in despair I would suggest you do something that will destroy the power despair might have in your life. Grab hold of the trigger event of despair in your life. Maybe your ministry is facing a financial drain – take hold of it. Maybe your family is about to lose your home – take hold of it. Maybe the one you loved left you and you are now alone – take hold it.

Now, fix your eyes on the horizon of eternity that is beyond your despair. As you hold despair in your grip look into the unseen realm of eternity and allow God's Spirit to download your eternal destination to you. Speak about what you see and the person you are destined to become. Begin to speak words of life over your feelings of despair. As you speak these new words of life you will sense the controlling power of despair begin to diminish. Each time despair wants to raise its head take hold of it and deal with it from an eternal perspective and soon it will flee from you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Roof Duty" by Garris Elkins

This morning, after I spent some time with God, I fired up my computer to check my email and stroll through my social-networking sites. As I read down through my Twitter home page I noticed something CNN had posted about some soon- coming remarks from President Barack Obama that he would be making about the Gulf oil leak.

I went to CNN's site and there was one of those live video feed frames of the White House from a somewhat elevated view showing the flag waving on the roof. It was one of those, "we will give you this shot to ponder while the press corps and the President get ready to go live - watch the waving flag", dull videos. I usually minimize that kind of screen and enter the world of multi-tasking until the press conference gets under way.

To most people viewing the roof of the Whitehouse is a non-event. For me, I look intently for the security personnel on the roof. Today, they were visible in this distant live shot since their dark uniforms were in stark contrast to the white paint on the White House. They looked like little black ants on the roof barely visible from such a distance unless you knew what to look for. These are the security personnel - the Secret Service, military Special Forces or whomever is assigned to man the look out and the weapons that are out of sight on the roof. These are the guys that when the stuff hits the fan go into action to protect the President. I have pulled this kind of duty.

In a time long, long ago I was a young man who was also a cop. I was on one of the early SWAT teams that were beginning to dot the landscape of the law enforcement community across America. We trained with the FBI SWAT teams to learn their tactics. We trained within our own team to become a functional and cohesive unit. We trained on our our time to remain in top physical shape.

As I pondered the live feed of the Whitehouse on my computer screen, I remembered working similar duty on the roof at Stanford University while assigned to outer perimeter roof duty for President Gerald Ford. I remember when the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) terrorist trial was taking place in San Jose, California, I worked the roof again. During the seven weeks of county-wide strikes in Santa Clara County, California I worked the roof of the courthouse because the threat level was so high. Roof duty is obscure and unnoticed to most people, yet it is vital to preserve life.

A lot of life is "roof duty." You are on the "roof" of your family, your business or your ministry. You are there looking for threats. Most people don't know you are there - but you are. You are not living in fear, you are living in a state of prepared anticipation of what could go wrong. You do this kind of duty because those living in the rooms underneath your post count on you to be there when things go bad.

A parent does a lot of roof duty when they wait up at night for a newly-minted teenager to return home from a later than normal evening out. A business person works the roof when everyone else gets to go home at the end of the day. A servant-leader in the Church works the roof in prayer at night or very early in the morning when no one else would notice. Most roof duty is simply watching. In the Old Testament the watchmen on the wall of the city watched to see where the enemy might be coming from. This is the essence of roof duty. It hasn't changed much.

The roof of life and ministry is an obscure place, not a place that draws a great deal of attention. If you have been assigned to spiritual roof duty it will not be the place where you will get noticed, but it is a place where you will be providing security for the important things in life like family, home and Church. Whenever you find yourself alone in the obscure place of roof duty realize that what you are doing is never solo duty. God is up on the roof with you. God likes roof duty and He loves to empower those on the roof with supernatural sight and wisdom so those in the house below can rest in security through the night.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

“The Purpose of the Power – To Declare the Wonder and Favor of God” by Garris Elkins

I have preached Acts 2 so many times that I thought I fully understood what took place that day. The disciples came to the Day of Pentecost already indwelled by the Spirit because Jesus had breathed His Spirit into them in John 20. These same water-baptized and indwelled-by-the-Spirit believers were told by Jesus to not leave Jerusalem and attempt ministry without the equipping of the Spirit's power that was to come upon them– the power to become a supernatural witness.

When Jesus gave His disciples instructions in Acts 1 about the coming Day of Pentecost, He said that the Holy Spirit would be poured out upon them to empower them to become His witnesses; making them into a Spirit-empowered voice to the nations.

I began to ask myself, “What was the witness?” The witness was not the experience itself, but the message the disciples were empowered to deliver. When we limit the Day of Pentecost to a set of experiences, we limit the full understanding of what I believe God intended that day to be for the Church throughout history.

In Acts 2 the disciples were huddled together behind closed doors and suddenly the wind of the Spirit began to blow. As this wind touched the disciples the mockers in the crowd thought they were drunk. The noise and the manifestations were not the message. The noise was used to get the attention of the surrounding community. The message of Pentecost is tucked away in one portion of verse 11:

“And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”

The power of Pentecost was not only in the wonderful supernatural manifestations that took place that day– the power of Pentecost was the ability of the Church to supernaturally proclaim the wonderful things God has done in a language people could understand. This language is not always verbal. It can be accomplished in art, music, preaching, writing, serving and any area of life that is empowered by His Spirit.

Jesus used this same word for power in Acts 1:8 when He said,

But 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.”

A key to understanding this verse, and maybe the entire event of Pentecost, was why the disciples were empowered in the first place. The disciples were empowered to tell “people about me everywhere.

The word for power Jesus used here is the Greek word, dunamis, that we get our English word “dynamite” from – it is a word that describes power. The specific usage of this word is the explosive power of revelation that takes place when we speak in His name and in His power.

Paul used this same word in I Corinthians 2: 4-5,

“And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit . I did this so that you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.”

This word for power refers to the miraculous ability of God to change the way we think. This is God's power at work in the mind of the hearer. When we are supernaturally empowered to speak for God, the hearers of our words will receive an explosive revelation of God's heart for them.

The purpose of the power on the Day of Pentecost was to empower the church to share the wonder of God with supernaturally charged words that contain explosive power. This power unlocks the human mind with the dynamite of Heaven in an explosion expression of love.

In Luke 4, Jesus referred to Isaiah 61 when He shared the reason why He came to earth.

“He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come...”

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus was anointed by God to proclaim God's favor in the earth. The fulfillment of this ministry of favor upon Jesus Christ was transferred to us when Jesus was taken up into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Once He was enthroned, the Spirit was released to the Church. On the Day of Pentecost the Early Church spoke in new languages, and when the people heard of God's favor, they called it “the wonderful things God has done.”

As one reads through Isaiah 61, describing the ministry of Jesus Christ, and ultimately the ministry of His church, certain words jump out from the pages. This list from Isaiah 61 that describes God's favor is both impressive and wonderful:

“Good News, comfort, released, freed, favor, beauty, blessing, praise , planted, glory, rebuild, repairing, revive, double share, double portion, prosperity, ever-lasting joy, reward, covenant, recognized, honored, blessed.”

These are the kinds of words the people heard on the Day of Pentecost. Words of favor and wonder from the God who once seemed distant. These words of favor, when spoken by the power of the Spirit, would begin to transform the kingdoms of earth into the Kingdom of our Lord. This is the evidence that the power of Pentecost has been released in our midst.

As the text of Acts 2:6 reveals,

“When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running...”

The noise of Pentecost got their attention, but it was the message of favor and wonder in God that changed their world. The same is true today.

(From my book, Prayers from the Throne of God, chapter 4 - "Our Position of Power.")

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Mean People Suck!" by Garris Elkins

Jan and I were recently in Northern California for a meeting. The next day, after the meeting was over, we departed for the drive home. As I navigated the city streets I saw a homeless person across the lanes of traffic on the sidewalk. This person was pushing a grocery cart filled to overflowing with what appeared to be all their earthly belongings.

I looked several times, but couldn't tell if this was a man or a woman. It wasn't the distance that made the identification difficult – it was their appearance. This person was either a coarse-looking woman with male characteristics or a coarse-looking man with female characteristics. I couldn't tell. This person was wearing high-waisted pants and a long sleeve top. Their blonde hair was done in an Afro-hairstyle, even though this person was obviously not African in ethnicity. What confused me even further was the garish orange-red lipstick that had been unevenly applied and was smeared far outside the boundaries of this persons lips.

As I was processing all of this I saw the cardboard sign he/she had put on the front of the grocery cart. The sign read, “Mean People Suck!” At that moment the light changed and we were forced to make our way onto the freeway on-ramp for the drive home. I thought about this person several times that day and had to agree with the sign, mean people do suck!

The word “suck”, when used is this persons context, is a colloquial usage of the word that means, “to be inferior or objectionable.” It is used to indicate a particular area of deficiency – in other words, a lack.

As I thought about this homeless person, and the reason for the sign on the grocery cart, I could only imagine what might have been shouted out to him/her as this person navigated the city streets. Sometimes it is easy to be cruel at a distance when we don't have to hang around to see the other persons response to our hurtful words. It is akin to a drive-by shooting without bullets, but with words.

I have come to realize that not only do mean people suck in general, but mean Christians suck especially because meanness is not part of God's Kingdom or our intended character. I have noticed that mean Christians can gather other mean Christians who create a mean theology to speak mean words to the world. Sometimes these mean sounding Christians create mean ministries and even ask for our financial support to project their mean version of God.

The Church should be the least “sucky” and mean people on the planet. We were born into God's family because God didn't drive by us, define as hopeless and then blow us away. He saw how hopeless we were and then gave us Jesus to show just how kind He is to very guilty people like us.

The opposite word from “mean” is the word, “kind.” Paul used this word in Roman 2: 4 where he said that the kindness of God leads us to repentance. This word for kindness has been defined as something, “useful, excellent in character, gentleness, goodness.” Meanness is a deficiency of usefulness, excellence of character, gentleness and goodness. If God's kindness lead us to repentance, how can I use meanness to introduce people to the God of heaven?

Paul used this word “kindness” in several places in the New Testament.

In Galatians 5:22, Paul said that kindness was one of the fruits of the Spirit that a Christians life should produce. Fruit is what our life-style, words and actions leave behind as evidence of what vine we draw our life from. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit.” Fruit falls from our spiritual tree to identify what kind of life I am living and what kind of source I am drawing from.

In Ephesians 2: 7, Paul said that God's kindness in us is an advertisement to the world that He is real. Our life should become a living billboard that God should be able to write in big, bold words - “KINDNESS FOUND HERE!”

In Colossians 3: 12, Paul describes kindness as a garment we wear because we have been made into a holy people who wear God's personality. God provides His garment of kindness, but we must choose to wear it. Some people are naked of kindness and walk around exposing other people to conversations and actions, in the name of God, that we would rather not hear or see.

The Church can't be responsible for people who don't know God who drive by a homeless person and say stupid and hurtful things. But the Church can stop when we see signs of pain in another persons life and simply say, “I agree with your sign. Mean people do suck. I just wanted to stop and tell you that God loves you and so do I. You don't suck. Thanks for reminding me today to become a kinder person.”