Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“What Others Think About Us” by Garris Elkins

One of the interesting things I have noticed in my years of public ministry are the different ways people can choose to see the life of a leader.  On one hand, someone loves and respects you and says nice things, and on the other hand, someone else makes unkind comments about you as they exit your life.  I am learning that we cannot take things personal.

Recently, I had the honor of speaking at a national conference in Los Angeles. The person who introduced me is one of the most respected and recognizable faces in the Church, both in the United States and around the world.  When I was introduced this person said some very honoring things about my life and ministry.  I was overwhelmed with the favor that had been extended to me.

That same week a woman left our church because she didn’t like me.  She came to her conclusion without talking with me and decided I was a major problem in her life. Her anger and dishonor fell on me like a load of mud.

As I reflected on these two extremes of how a life is viewed, I realized that some people will love you and others may not like you at all.  This is not just a problem for pastors – we all encounter this if we live long enough. What really matters in life is what God thinks of us.  He uses words like, Loved, Forgiven and Accepted to describe His children. God chooses to see us this way even when all our warts, blemishes, and failures are fully visible to Him. He knows all about His children and He still loves us.

When I was introduced at the conference in Los Angeles my pride kicked in and I immediately had to park the kind words spoken about me at the feet of Jesus.  When the woman left our church, I had to park her angry words at the feet of Jesus also.  Only at His feet can He touch the words spoken about us – the good and the bad – and help them become a healthy influence in our lives. When God has possession of what others think about us, He can use those experiences to grow us past the personal definitions others have, so we can begin live our lives more like the person He has already declared us to be in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

“A Choice within a Choice” by Garris Elkins

When Moses died Joshua became the leader of the nation of Israel.  Joshua made this leadership transition at a critical time in the nation’s history.  Where before Joshua could rely on Moses, now he would carry the mantle alone.

In Joshua 1:3-4, God said, I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’”

God made a choice to define the Promise Land and now He invited Joshua to walk within the land of promise and make his own choices. Whatever real estate Joshua chose to walk upon, within the promise, God would give it to him.

As a young pastor-in-training, a wise older leader shared with me a simple child-like illustration about how we make individual choices in God’s Kingdom.  This leader shared with me that a father took his young son to a carnival.  While at the carnival the little boy saw a clown selling helium filled balloons, each one a different color.  The boy asked his father if he could have a balloon and the father said yes.  He then proceeded to give his son some money and told him to go and buy a balloon.  He watched his excited son run over to the clown and look up at all the colorful balloons floating in the air. After a few moments it was obvious the little boy was not buying a balloon. Slowly the boy walked back to his father without a balloon in hand.  When asked why he didn’t buy a balloon the little boy said, “You didn’t tell me what color to buy.”  The father responded, “That was your choice.”

Our movement forward into all that God has for us is empowered by our understanding of His heart.  God has made all His promises in Jesus “yes” and now He is inviting the Church to that “yes” as a place of freedom and discovery.  This is not an undefined freedom.  This freedom is within the Person of Jesus Christ – the living Word of God. 

The choices we make, within the choice God has already made for us, is where we begin to discover the real freedom that exists for us within God’s Kingdom.  As we step deeper into the promise of God, and grow in our spiritual maturity, we become more willing to risk something new because we know God will not throw us away if we fail.

When I was a young pastor I asked Jerry Cook a question about how he and his leadership team made decisions.  Jerry said that in the early years of his ministry at East Hill Church in Gresham, Oregon, they would step out in faith in a direction they thought would be pleasing to God.  Some of the steps they took were actually God and other decisions took them down the wrong path.  When they realized they were moving in a wrong direction, they called out to God for help and He simply picked them up and placed them on the right path. 

We are serving a loving Father who has given us the freedom to make choices within the greater choice of His Son.  He desires to bless decisions that reflect His heart and character.  Our individual and unique choices reflect the very nature of what constitutes a family. We reflect the image of God that was placed in us at our creation, yet we still possess the individual uniqueness that allows us to make personal choices that will have me choose an orange balloon versus your yellow balloon or have me walk on different stones along the same pathway.

For Joshua, the Promise Land was defined by natural geographic boundaries. In the New Covenant our boundaries of promise are defined within a Person – Jesus Christ.  Paul said to the people of Athens in Acts 17:28 For in him we live and move and exist.” He is our Promise Land.

Today, chose to live in Him and make choices without living in the fear of failure. Buy your favorite colored Kingdom-balloon. Begin to step out in faith along a path that you feel will please Him. Walk around in the Promise Land like it is already yours and make decisions that you feel would best reflect the heart of your loving Father. If you somehow miss it He will pick you up and put your on the right path.