Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Trials Becoming Trails" by Garris Elkins

Recently, the Lord downloaded something into my heart – “If you move the letter “i” in the word “trial” it becomes the word “trail.”

Trials without the hope of their becoming trails can feel like desperate and discouraging seasons of life. Trials seem static if they are not leading us somewhere. Trails have with them the hope of a destination.

Above our home in Southern Oregon are a series of trails that compromise a trail system of about 14 miles in total. In this trail system are trails with various names like: Petard Ditch, Rich Gulch and Chinese Diggings. Each trail takes you somewhere that reflects the Gold Rush history of Southern Oregon. When I hike these trails each week I hike them knowing they will lead me somewhere.

Some trials in life are so life-altering that we can become lost in the pain of the trial and miss the greater work God wants to do in our lives. In the trials of my life there have been times when I missed this greater work of God because my focus was solely on getting myself out of the trial. I have come to realize that trials have within them a redefining work of God that can take place if we will move our focus off of self and onto God.

What changes a trial into a trail is where I position the letter “i” - the “i” meaning my focus on my self-interests. Whenever self-interests are primary, like getting out of a trial or wishing I wasn’t in such an experience, the experience will be seen only as a painful trial because my primary focus is on self and the pain.

When we properly position self-interests to come into line with God’s interests our trials can take on a radically different nature. The trials that seem hopeless become trails of expectancy. If you are in the midst of a trial, move the letter “i” and all the interests of self-protection that go with it and allow God to redefine your trial into a trail. It will make the hike a lot more enjoyable.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Are you a Doctor?" by Garris Elkins

Today, I helped my wife with something I really don't like to do - moving stuff. A friend donated a load of furniture for us to give away, so Jan and I planned to spend the morning unloading several shipping containers at a local storage facility. We are on vacation so I wasn’t all that excited to be doing anything that was not related to a real vacation.

In route to the storage facility, I stopped at the local supermarket to buy some beverages and snacks for the friends who would meet us to help unload the furniture. As the checkout line moved forward I finally stood in front of the checker.

Out of the blue the checker asked, "Are you a doctor?" I said, "No, but I work for the Great Physician." The "Great Physician" comment didn't register. The checker went on to tell me she had a terrible headache explaining her malady like she was my patient and I was her doctor. As other customers began to line up behind me I asked, "Have you ever thought of prayer.” The remark on prayer seemed to hang in the air and this dear woman was not sure what to do with it. Seeing her stalled look I simply said, "Be healed in Jesus' Name."

As she went on to finish my transaction, I asked, "How does your head feel now?" She stopped, paused and then looked me squarely in the eye and said, "Better!" Her face carried the look of subtle amazement. As she handed me the receipt I said, "It will get better today." She then asked me, “What’s your name?” After I told her my name I picked up my goods and left the store.

As I drove on to the storage facility, I realized that many times I can let an encounter like this one slide by because I am on my way to something like awaiting furniture or an important meeting. It is easy to let the clock of earth override the clock of heaven and miss what God is doing. This morning we were able to give furniture away to some wonderful people, but the thing I loved the most about this day was giving the love of Jesus away. That is my kind of vacation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Risking The Message" by Garris Elkins

Today, I took my weekly prayer-hike in the mountains above our home. I love this scheduled appointment with the Lord. I come away refreshed and renewed each week.

As I finished my hike, I stopped at a hillside concert area called, "The Britt". The Britt is positioned on a sloping grass hillside that provides a music venue each summer for some of the best music acts on earth. The month of August is devoted to classical concerts. Each morning the orchestra practices in the refreshing morning air for the coming evening concert. It is a great place to cool down after a long hike. I stopped to listen to the music and sat under a tall pine tree.

As I sat there I heard the Lord say to me, "If your voice is not perceived as crying from a wilderness place you are probably not announcing the coming of the Lord." The reference to the ministry of John the Baptist was obvious to me, but there was more. As I meditated on what I thought the Lord said, I began to realize that when God is about to do a new thing He will give someone a word that may seem as strange and unusual as the words and ministry of John the Baptist.

New and unusual instructions from the Lord can be dismissed because they don't resemble the sound of what we are hearing because it is uncommon. Commonness can dull our hearing over time because we have a tendency to tune out all but the familiar.

We all want to appear normal and be part of the crowd, but that need must be parked if we are going to allow God to speak to us and through us the new things He wants to do. We spend a lot of time crafting our self-image and our presentation. This crafting can radically change what God initially said to us. The problem with some of this is that we are actually crafting our words to create a self-image - what we want others to see in us. Jerry Cook recently told a group of us that the problem with our self-image is that it is usually fake.

While we never want to be odd for odd sake, we do have a lot of Bible that says the saints of God simply told it like it was and let the words fall where they may.

Many times I try to figure out the varied perceptions people may have about me and the words I speak. God wants us to end that fear-based way of living and risk the platform of a wilderness where our words may cause an interruption in a slumbering culture.

Like John the Baptist, his message of repentance was shouted from the wilderness and historic records indicate that the entire population of Jerusalem, estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, left the city in response to his voice and walked out into the wilderness to listen. When they got to the wilderness the messenger looked as strange as his message sounded, yet what happened was profoundly supernatural. Heaven opened up, a dove came down and the voice of God spoke. I will risk my image and my cultural status if these are the kind of results obedience brings when we speak as one in a wilderness.