Tuesday, June 25, 2013

“Saving Nations” by Garris Elkins

The Church has not been called, as its first priority, to save nations.  The Church has been called to advance God’s Kingdom.  In the advancement of God’s Kingdom, nations will eventually be saved.

When we reverse this order and mount campaigns of national reformation at the expense of individual discipleship, we begin to draw on the power source of national pride to accomplish a task that can only be fulfilled by a clear focus on the mission God has given the Church.

Nationalism in any form, even for those of us who feel we live in a great nation, will end up redefining the enemy as other nations and people who oppose our way of life. Nationalism can become, if we are not careful, a blinding force to the real battle that is never a flesh and blood war, but an engagement with spiritual forces in high places. 

Some of these spiritual forces attempting to control the affairs of men and nations are embedded within our own political systems and in the various political parties in whom some place their trust.  The real battle is not nation against nation, or person against person, but against belief systems that undermine the beauty and majesty of God.

When the Church in any nation begins to walk in the fullness of who she is, the controlling spirit of that nation will begin to be compromised. In that compromise spiritual deception will begin to lose its ability to deceive the hearts and minds of the citizens who are under its control and spell. This is the beginning of true national transformation.

The plan of God to bring the nations of this world into the Kingdom of God seems less dramatic and heartfelt to some when compared to our very visual and emotional displays of national pride.  I still get choked up when I see a ceremony to honor a fallen soldier who gave their life so I can live in a freedom that I too easily take for granted. National pride is wonderful and moving, but it will not accomplish the Great Commission Christ gave the Church.

God’s plan for national transformation is to bring the occupants of every nation out of a self-sufficient place of spiritual darkness into the light of God’s truth.  This is done one man and one woman at a time. Maybe the greatest source for a national revival can be found in our loving interaction with a neighbor over the back fence who may not yet know God and who actually opposes all that we hold dear. 

The Lord said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” He did not say to go and save a nation first.  He sent us to individuals – individuals that can be hard to love at times. The changed life of a single disciple precedes the changed life of an entire nation because the individuals are the substance of the culture.

Whenever our commitment to the personal discipleship of a single human being is displaced by a larger cause, such as national reformation, our efforts will eventually become futile and frustrating.  We can actually end up dividing ourselves from the very people we are called to love because they are lumped into a larger, nameless opposing mass.  This is actually a way that hell wages war against the plans of God.

July 4th is coming in a few days.  I take pride in what this day means for me as a citizen and for all of us who make up this great nation. While I will experience some strong patriotic emotions on that day, I have come to realize it will not be my emotions of national pride that will motivate me to see my nation change for the better.  What must motivate each of us are the words and passion of Jesus. The mission Jesus gave to His Church is accomplished within the human heart. Unlocking the heart of the individual will eventually unlock the heart of a nation.

Monday, June 17, 2013

“This is the Time” by Garris Elkins

I am sensing this is a time for the Church to discover, and for some to rediscover, the significance of where we are currently positioned in heaven, in Christ, at the right hand of the Father. In order to navigate what is before us we must first grasp this truth and believe it so that our belief becomes a lifestyle more than just a theological understanding of truth.

Today, many are experiencing the nipping, biting-at-your-heels work of hell trying to discourage them and this is causing some to give up. This is a time of spiritual warfare where our greatest assault on the enemy’s camp will be the refocusing of our lives upon the reality of who we are as believers in Christ. That refocusing is the conflict. This battle will be won when we realize where he has positioned us in heaven so we can live in victory now, not in defeat.

This morning, one of my former students, who is now living in his home country in Asia, wrote these words to me regarding a conversation he was having with someone at his church:

“She asked me in what ways I had received the things I asked of the Lord in a way that made prayer seem like it is a way that we ask the Lord to do things for us and I remembered Garris' book, Prayers from the Throne of God. I explained to her my view on prayer and how it changed my walk with Him and was surprised to hear that she had never thought of it that way. If there’s one thing I learned in my time in Anthem, its that I shifted my view on prayer from being on the receiving end to becoming a watchman, calling down what is in heaven that is not yet on earth and having faith that it is when it is not.”

This is a time for each of us to reconsider the great truth Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church – we are now, at this moment, seated in Christ at the Father’s right hand with all the works of darkness in submission under our feet. It from this position we are called to conduct the business of God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Quit Waiting For A Revival - Become One!"

Many believers are waiting for the “next big thing” God wants to do. The more I think about these “next big thing” mindsets, the more I have come to realize they are illusions. The next big thing God wants to do is witihin my heart and yours. He wants us to obey His words in John 17 where Jesus said the world will believe His message because they see that we, as the Church, are one – undivided against each other. If you have picked up an offense against anyone in your local church or against a fellow believer anywhere – deal with it. The first step is yours to take. Ask God to forgive you and then go immediately to the other person and ask them to forgive you for picking up the offense, even if you were the “innocent” party. True revival is waiting on the condition of our hearts to change so the people in our communities can see the heart of God living in the people of God.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Maybe Its Time To Get Weird” by Garris Elkins

I love to read people who understand history and the development of language.  A couple of years ago I was struck by a paragraph within an article written by my Fulbright Scholar and Master of Fine Arts educated daughter:

“When I taught literature to high school students on the Micronesian island of Saipan, I began the year with the Anglo-Saxon text of Beowulf. (That juxtaposition was a bit weird all by itself.) I explained to my seniors that the word “weird” stems from an Anglo-Saxon verb meaning “to become.”  As a noun: wyrd. Unlike our contemporary version, which is slightly negative, wyrd was positive. It was linked to one’s destiny and meant “supernatural.” Wyrd is an ongoing, continual happening—“that which happens.”  (Anna Elkins – from her article, “Toward”, at wordbody.blogspot.com)

My ministry affiliation is within a traditionally Pentecostal denomination. God put me in this family and He has blessed me in so many ways because of that relationship.  I listen to conversations within my own church family and outside in similar groups that have journeyed through a hundred-plus years of history since the great Azusa Street Revival.  Some groups that started off in that Azusa Street experience have, over the years, defined themselves out of that stream because it seemed too weird and unwieldy.

Like most pastors, I have read through the Bible on numerous occasions.  It is filled with lots of very “weird” and unwieldy experiences.  Bushes talked. Rocks spouted water.  People walked across dry ocean bottoms through standing walls of water. People ate bread that fell from heaven. Ax heads floated on water. Prophets were taken up. The sun stood still. Donkeys spoke. Prayer hankies and shadows brought healing. Spit in the eyes released the miracle of sight. Poisonous snakes were shaken off.  Today, similar things are taking place around the world where the Church is actually growing.

In the last few years I have noticed some in the traditional Pentecostal camp are now beginning to repeat a phrase – “We don’t want to get weird.”  I understand why that phrase is being used. None of us want man-made or man-produced anything.  We want the legitimate and real.

As I look across the traditional Pentecost landscape in the American Church, I am actually seeing very little of the good God-weird stuff taking place.  We have become a very manageable crowd.  What we actually need to take place in our midst has a hard time getting past our disclaimers and demands about our concern for becoming weird.

What can happen, and may have already taken place, is that we actually begin to shut out the good God-weird experiences when they show up at our doorstep.  Maybe, like the Anglo-Saxon definition of the word wyrd, we actually become the Spirit-infused people we were intended to be by experiencing things for which we have no logical explanation.  Maybe “weird” is not a destination like many have come to believe, but a process that gets us to where we need to go. Without some element of the wonderfully weird works of God in our midst we will end up living with our own self-crafted image of life and ministry looking back at us in the mirror.

The weird and unexplainable things God does are part of the supernatural journey that actually leads us to our destiny. Like its earlier Anglo-Saxon usage, “wyrd” was something that was supposed to continue to happen and not stop.  When it stops happening in our midst is when we actually become weird in a negative sense.

When we construct a verbal fence with statements like, “We don’t want to get weird”, we are actually stumbling ourselves as we walk forward into the fulfillment of our destiny.  From my reading of the Bible, I find it filled with wonderfully weird experiences. God used these experiences to jump-start the hope of His people and remind them that He is still in the house.