Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Living on Both Sides of "And" by Garris Elkins

Whenever the word “and” is used in the scriptures I pay attention. When God uses this word He is trying to connect things for our benefit.

When Jesus walked on this earth He was modeling for the church what she would become after His death, resurrection and ascension. When Jesus walked on earth in His first body, before the Cross, He was modeling for us what we would look like when He was carried by His second Body, the Church, after the Cross.

A danger can exist in our lives when we read the word “and” in God's Word and then choose to live on either side of that word and feel OK with it.

It is interesting to see where the word “and” is used in the New Testament. In Matthew 4 the ministry of Jesus is being described and the word “and” appears.

“23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. AND he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed―he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went―people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.” (italics and capitalization are mine).

Jesus taught and announced the Good News and the Kingdom of God, AND, He healed every kind of disease and illness. The full expression of the ministry of Jesus was not an either-or situation. He was not either an Evangelical or Pentecostal expression of the Church – He was both.

In another text where the word “and” is used, John the Baptist is waiting in prison about to be served up as a macabre dinner gesture. This is the same man who was there at the Baptism of Jesus when the heavens opened up and the dove of God's presence descended and the very voice of God spoke to those present. It doesn't get more vivid than what took place that day. But John was now having some doubts about Jesus. Prisons, both in the natural and the spirit realm, can mess up our perception of reality.

John sends His disciples to ask Jesus the question, “Are you who you say you are or should we wait for someone else?” In Matthew 11 Jesus sends a response back to John's prison cell that allows John to die in peace knowing that Jesus was truly the Messiah.

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. 6 AND tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” (Again, the italics and capitalization are mine)

What does this mean? A balanced ministry will live on both sides of “and.” Some people are more comfortable simply preaching the salvation message. Jesus wasn't. Others feel like they should only press into signs and wonders. Jesus didn't. He did both and so should we. The expansion of God's Kingdom, through signs and wonders, has to walk hand in hand with populating heaven with new believers. If we assign either side of “and” to a less than visible position in our lives and ministries then we will not be walking in the fullness of His assignment for us as the Church.

Life and ministry is a constantly swinging pendulum that moves from one imbalance to another. Our pendulum moves over God's perfect will with each pass. The shorter the cycle of that pendulum swing the more mature the Church becomes. If the pendulum gets hung up on either side of “and” the Church can look like a one legged man trying to win the race by hopping down the race track instead of the well -trained and balanced athlete sprinting towards that for which we have been empowered to become.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Hope is a Person" by Garris Elkins

My daughter Anna is a student at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California. Our home is in Medford, Oregon just a few hours away by car. Recently, my daughter's new computer had a problem. Anna was home on a break from school when the computer problem took place, so she sent the computer in to the manufacturer who did a quick turn around for repairs. A problem emerged when Anna had to return to school without the computer. The delivery was left in the hands of mom and dad.

Several days later the computer arrived at our home in Medford so we sent it Next Day Delivery through the mail service. I got the tracking number and followed its overnight delivery and arrival at the post office nearest to our daughter's apartment. For 18 hours I tried to reach Anna via her cell phone to let her know her computer was waiting at her post office. Our daughter lives in a rural setting with limited cell phone coverage. Anna usually picks up her phone messages when she goes into town and has cell service. Anna was waiting, not knowing the needed computer was sitting at the local post office. Eventually Anna got the message and picked up her computer. Life returned to normal.

This is what hope is like. Many believers live their lives without the power of hope because they have failed to realize what is available and waiting for them. God has sent a message to us about hope. Hebrews 6 tells us that our hope is anchored in eternity, immovable by the events here on earth. This hope is not altered by our challenging circumstances. This hope is anchored in a Person – Jesus Christ

Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone there for us.”

Hebrews 6: 18-20

Because we have Someone in our future directing our lives in the present moment, we do not have to live a life of desperation and hopeless. Our hope is not that life and circumstances will change. Hope is an unchanging Person. Jesus is not held prisoner to our present reality. He always brings hope when He arrives. Our hope comes to us directly from the hand of a good and loving God in the Person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus arrived on planet earth He revealed God to us. When we see and hear Jesus we are seeing and hearing a perfect representation of the heart of the Father.

Jesus arrives in our moment without any regret or fear because regret and fear are not part of God's nature. His arrival always carries with it the purity of something that cannot be altered by the brokenness of this realm. This is why our hope is unaffected by what takes place on earth. Our hope is in a Person living in timeless eternity Who alters our current reality with the arrival of His hope.

We live in an experience of time that unfolds along a linear and chronological time-line. Seconds become minutes and minutes become hours that become days and months and years. Time unfolds so that the human experience can be birthed and lived out in the framework of time. Seasons require time to develop as does a human body.

When God influences our lives with hope the reality of Heaven invades our earthly reality. As we live on this linear line of unfolding time we are captured in the moment. A mentor of mine once said, "Our present moment is only a memory of our most recent past." In other words, no matter how hard we try, we will never arrive at a place called “the future” because when we get there it is still just the moment we are living. This is why intimacy with God is not a future event. Intimacy with God is to be experienced now. Our moment, our only reality in the earthly realm, is a capsule of time that migrates with us through life. When we arrive at tomorrow it is only a present moment, not a future event.

When God reveals Himself to His people, this revelation is not from the future, but from eternity. Eternity is a realm without time – it has no past, present or future. The arrival of hope in our lives comes from a realm not limited by time and space.

From God's perspective He views our linear time-line as happening all at once and at the same time, fully complete. He sees the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea and Columbus sailing in 1492, all happening at once. He sees Abraham sacrificing Isaac and the Apollo astronauts landing on the moon, all happening at once. He makes His decisions about our lives from this eternal perspective. He sees the beginning and the end of all things. He sees us as we are in union with the Father and the Son. From the perspective of hope we are, and are becoming who we already are.

How we view God will influence how we relate to the existence of hope in our daily lives. If, in our future there exists an angry and unapproachable God, then our present moment will draw from that fearful image. If, in our future there exists a loving and good God, then we will begin to view our life and circumstances through that lens of love and acceptance.

The gift of prophecy is a ministry of hope. When we hear a word from God, and then bring that word of hope into this realm, that word of hope will alter how people view God and their relationship with Him. As we prophesy we speak words of hope and the responsibilities that align a life with hope so that people can make adjustments in how they live in order to better reflect a life of hope.

A repeated theme in Paul's ministry was his strengthening and encouraging the churches wherever he traveled. He strengthened the Church because at times she felt weak. He encouraged the Church because at times she felt discouraged. Paul brought words of encouragement that linked weakened and discouraged saints to the hope that is anchored in eternity out of the reach of chronological time and its accompanying pain and sorrow. This hope changed the world because words of hope step onto the unfolding line of natural time and divert people and events into the flow of God's will for their lives.