Thursday, March 31, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

“The Jesus-Journey” by Garris Elkins

Someone asked me if I preached, “Jesus crucified.” I answered, “Yes, I preach Him crucified, but I also preach Him as the resurrected Lord and the enthroned King.” The cross and the tomb are empty, but His throne is now occupied. Sometimes the Church can park at a single image of Jesus and miss the bigger picture.

Jesus is all three images. He is our sacrifice on the cross. He is our victorious Lord Who rose from the dead. He is our King seated in glory. He is not just one image, but all three. When we preach Him as crucified we must include His resurrection. When we preach Him as the resurrected One we must let people know that He now sits upon a throne because neither the cross nor the tomb could hold Him any longer. His complete victory had a God-ordained sequence.

We can limit the fuller image of Who Jesus is when we only deal with a single aspect of His victory. Each image has a message. The cross lets us know that things must die before life can come. The empty tomb tells us that He rose up from something and went somewhere. The occupied throne tells us that the work of the cross and the emptying of the tomb were critical parts of His journey to His current destination on His throne. From this enthroned place all the powers and authorities of this world that fight against life are now under His feet.

This complete, three-part image of Jesus is critical if the Church is to walk in victory upon the earth. The very outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was possible because an enthroned Lord would send His Spirit back to a group of disciples who were left on earth staring at a bloody cross and an empty tomb.

Easter Sunday morning is coming soon. The angel told the women who gathered on that historic morning, as they stared at the empty tomb with puzzled faces, “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” The angel was trying to point these disciples to a greater reality than the one they were seeing.

An empty cross leads to an empty tomb and that tomb leads to an occupied throne – that is the full Jesus-journey. On that throne sits the One Whom we will worship this Easter Sunday.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Defining the Blessing" by Garris Elkins

In the life of each believer there are times when it is obvious that the favor of God is resting upon our lives. In these times of visible favor we will see doors open and access granted that previously had not taken place. I am in one of those seasons. As I see God's visible favor upon my life I also recognize I have a problem - I haven't clearly defined the difference between the state of being blessed by God, simply because I am His and He is mine, and those by-products of His blessing that come because of my relationship with Him. Let me try to explain.

I have walked with God for many years. In these years I have seen God do some wonderful and remarkable things. These blessings have been sprinkled along my path and I have truly thanked God for each of them. In this time of my life, however, the sprinkles have become a flow of blessing. Blessings in my family, ministry, writing and an expanding favor in relationships, are all around me.

As believers, we live in the favor of God, all the time, because we are in Christ. The favor of God is Christ and we belong to Him. Because of that continual position of favor some wonderful things will begin to take place as a result of our relationship with God through Christ. These blessings that flow from our relationship with God are the by-products of God’s favor, they are not the favor itself. Maybe someone will write a book, or get asked to speak somewhere, or someone will sell a product to a company they never dreamed would take notice of them and what they were trying to market. These good things are not the favor itself, but the results of God’s favor.

However we define it, favor sets in motion events and passages that are not navigated in human strength and wisdom alone. The favor of God makes possible what is not possible in our natural abilities. Here is where the challenge comes.

It is too easy to not draw a line between living in the perpetual state of favor with God and those by-products that come because of that favor. The result of this blurred, and sometimes non-existent line, is that when “things” are not happening we can begin to think we no longer live in His favor. Or, when “things” are happening, we think they are actually the favor of God and not simply the by-product of His favor.

Unless we clearly define the difference between these two we can begin to link our identity to the by-products of God’s favor instead of finding our identity in Him, the source of our favor. This becomes a dangerous place for a believer because we can begin to try and make things happen to somehow validate the favor of God in our lives. In the end this fights against the grace of God and leads us into a distorted identity of human effort and self-promotion.

The beginning of victory in this area comes when we actually see that we have blurred the line between the Blessing and the blessing. Once we see this blurring, then through confession and repentance, we can realize once again that intimate union with God that is filled with His unchanging and secure favor. We will no longer need to live in the compromise that emerges when we think a blessing is the Blessing. Our identity is in the Blessing Himself, not in what flows out of that blessed union.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Marriage Communion" by Garris Elkins

For several months, Jan and I have been taking communion together each morning. Something very powerful, and yet subtle, is taking place. Like many couples, Jan and I have tried to find that place where we can come together spiritually each day. I think we have found that place in sharing communion together.

As we hold the bread and the cup we bless them both and invite His presence to come into our act of communion with Him. Jesus said to do the act of communion in remembrance of Him. We pray and thank God as we begin to remember Jesus at the start of the coming day. We remember Him as our healer and deliverer. We remember Him as the Lord Who loves our children. We remember Him as the Shepherd of the church we pastor. We remember Him over what is unknown. In the remembering a beautiful anticipation is released that He is walking with us and ahead of us into the coming day.

When we finish this sacred act together, I end our time by kissing Jan and telling her I love her. I am seeing communion as a act of loving connection, with God, and with my wife. The intimacy of communion is changing and deepening our love and our lives together. I think this is some of what Jesus had planned when He took the bread and the wine and blessed them. In the communion is the blessing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Moving Our Tent Pegs" by Garris Elkins

Recently, the Lord spoke to my heart and said,

This is a time for expansion. I am about to move My people into a new experience with My presence. I need them to be mobile and ready to move with Me. The tent of My presence is expanding. Pull up the tent pegs that lie before you, but leave the tent pegs of your history intact. My expansion plan includes both your past and your future. Look ahead. Get ready. Expect movement. Expansion in all things is upon you.

When our family went camping during my childhood, I remember watching my father putting up our old Army-surplus tent at the family campsite. It was one of those World War II surplus canvas tents that smelled like oil when the hot July sun would beat down upon it for hours during the midday heat. We had lots of fun watching my dad, and listening to his comments about the tent, as he struggled to put it up. Our tent had wooden pegs that anchored us to the earth during our camping adventures. Our family tent was stationary and immovable once dad was finished with the assembly process.

We are in a time of Church history when God is asking us to pull up the tent pegs that are in front of us. These tent pegs of thinking keep us stationary and immovable. What is good for a camping tent is not good for a believer. God desires to extend the capacity of our thinking to reflect the expanding greatness of His heart. Pulling up our mental tent pegs keeps us mobile and moving forward into the destiny God has designed for each of us.

Our calling and God’s Kingdom are never stationary. As we pull up the tent pegs of a limited and stationary way of thinking, and walk into our unfolding future, we need to leave the tents pegs of our history intact. These tent pegs are the ones behind us. History is important because it tells us where we have camped previously. God does not lead us forward by living in our history – He uses our history to teach us how to live in our future. We learn from our history.

There are some things that can keep us immovable:

Immovable lives are camped in places of fear.

In the past some have experienced failure and now live in the fear of a future failure. This fear has them camped in an immovable place. They live weighted down by ungodly vows that declare they will never go that way again.

Often unconsciously, and on occasion noticeably, I have recognized part of my heart was camped in a place of fear. I was stuck in a memory of failure and the fear of repeating that failure. It is a gift of grace from Jesus to help us recognize this kind of blockage to mobility and expansion. Mobility comes when we are able to see what we have done and then renounce the vows we made in fear and allow God to move us forward.

              Immovable lives are camped in the past.

Some of us are realizing that the productive methods we used in the past are no longer working today. What was once fresh revelation is no longer fresh because it does not draw on faith.

Sometimes, I have found myself immovable because I have camped in methods that worked well in the past. They were comfortable to me because they were familiar. Some of us have found ourselves relying on methods that worked in seasons past more than seeking something new from God that requires a new equipping for a new out-pouring. God is doing a new work that will require steps of faith into uncharted territory.

             Immovable lives are camped in familiar places.

The immovability of sameness has come upon some of us. Where we were once were fresh and innovative some have succumbed to the familiar.

In the past, when I have not been movable and expanding, I found myself trying to fit in to the group at the expense of being a truly unique creation of God. This kind of immovability is a fear of appearing different and allowing the group to dictate our identity. We can miss out on the fresh and innovative expansion of God’s Kingdom if we live in the fear of being different. Our anointing for ministry is found in our uniqueness. Our differences reflect the creative heart of God and should be celebrated.

Unlike the tent my father used to put up each summer, that only stayed in one spot and remained the same size, the tent of God’s presence is always expanding forward upon the earth and is increasing in its capacity. God is inviting us to join Him in that forward expansion.

Leave the tent pegs of your history intact: they are important because they tell a story. Undo the tent pegs that are in front of you – this is where your future expansion will take place. Walk into a new way of thinking and living that comes from allowing God to expand you forward. There is something new God wants to do in each of us. What God is about to do exists in our future, ahead of us in that unexplored supernatural campground called the Kingdom of God.