Sunday, August 25, 2013

“Noticing the Trends” by Garris Elkins

I use the social media tool, Twitter, as a place to park my daily thoughts. Having to limit yourself to the 140 characters required by Twitter has caused many of us to write with greater economy.  Our words need to be concise and clear enough to fit within the narrow space provided. Twitter has become a journal of sorts.  My book, God-Whispers, was inspired from a collection of Tweets just like the ones listed below.

I was prompted to go back and review my Tweets for the month of August 2013.  These entries reflect what I was hearing from the Lord during that time. I want to share these thoughts with you and see where others might also be aligned with what we feel God is doing in our lives at this time.

When I read, I look for words that describe action, direction, affirmation or reformation. I have highlighted these words to draw your attention to them. If you run across something you recognize as similar to your experience and you agree, the scripture says in Matthew 18:19, If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you”.  I would like to come into agreement with you.  

This is a new season.  God is always up to something new and life giving.  I hope these “journal” entries from my life would bear witness to some of what God is doing in your life.

When your cause has been hijacked by others don't be discouraged. Jesus experienced the same thing. God always brings realignment.

Change that is not prophetically inspired is limited in its impact because it draws direction from our current understanding of the facts.

The natural mind is linear and can only see what is straight ahead.  The prophetic gift enables us to see around corners and change direction.

What is about to take place in the Church will not be accomplished with human qualification, pedigree or experience.

Focus on the content, not the container.

The Holy Spirit likes to show up where Christian buzzwords are not defining the environment.

In the current church culture it may be believers outside the mainstream of Christianity who will help us find our way in the coming season.

Advancing the ministry of a local church can only remain healthy if, ultimately, it is the Kingdom of God we are advancing.

In an abundance of prophetic words listen wisely.  God's voice is usually the smaller, quiet whisper that can, at first, seem insignificant.

Dissatisfaction is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it is used to disconnect us from a season that has run its course.

Encourage people. In Acts, Paul's repeated ministry theme was to strengthen and encourage churches because they felt weak and discouraged.

Start praising God when your life looks like a flat-line on a heart monitor.  This is when God shows up and gives life to what appears dead.

Church "experts" are nowhere to be found when the Holy Spirit falls in the midst of a people.

Craft a life that creates honor and trust with your words and deeds. These two qualities are remembered long after fleeting notions of success.

Jesus said the world would believe when we, the Church, live as one.  Looking for the next revival? It will happen in that place where I am divided against you.

One of the greatest gifts we can leave behind in this life is to be, as far as possible, at peace with all people.

Our unrighteous judgments will always be confirmed.

Our dream can become a nightmare if God is not calling the shots.

When we think we have God figured out we tie a knot in our thinking process that gets tighter and tighter with each debate we enter.

Our compass is a Voice.

It's not enough to know what we carry as believers.  We also need to know how to unpack and deliver what we carry. Unpacking requires faith.

Spiritual shepherds wait with the people. Natural leaders run ahead and wait impatiently. In God's waiting destination loses its significance.

Telling God where we will go or not go - what we demand to make or not make - is the beginning of a detour some do not return from.

Communion is like a Red Sea crossing. We eat the bread to crush the past and drink the wine to celebrate a way opened up into a new future.

You will never find yourself in a situation where God does not have a plan of rescue in place.  Trust Him.

Try not to refill in your schedule.  Allow canceled space to be a gift from God.  He has things to say in those quiet and unfilled moments.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

“You are Qualified for the Impossible” by Garris Elkins

This morning, as I prayed about a coming new season in my own life, I began to hear the Lord speak, not only to me, but also to many in the Church who sense an old season has passed and a new season has come.

I am calling you to exploits in My Kingdom that are beyond human qualification and religious pedigree. I am calling you to places of raw faith where your first step will seem to be without reason or explanation. These exploits are not sourced in a power that comes from what you will bring to the encounter.  These are works of My presence that I will invite you to come and experience. They are encounters made manifest apart from human qualification, strength or ability.

Did Paul’s education qualify him for what I had planned for his life after Damascus Road? Was Moses qualified as a leader when he stood before the burning bush? Was David qualified as a king when he ran towards Goliath in the Valley of Elah? Was Peter qualified as an apostle to My Church when I restored him on the shores of Galilee and said, ‘Feed My sheep?’ No, none of these servants stood before Me with the qualifications of man. I used them because of their faith in Me.

These new exploits have their launching point far beyond human understanding and far beyond the resources you think you will need to gather before you obey My voice. Around your step of faith I will assemble all you need to accomplish what I will set before you. Resources that are now hidden will appear in the light of your faith. I will ask you to step through the warnings of man and the fear that has limited My people in this past season.

This is a new day that I have made and its fullness and joy is waiting for you to believe that what I have declared will be possible. I am the One – it is My voice speaking and inviting you to these exploits. Have confidence that I have created you to do what is about to take place upon the earth. 

I am calling you to stand before these supernatural exploits naked of human qualification.  Confidence in your natural strength and abilities is a thief that wants to rob you of your faith in My ability to accomplish what seems to be impossible. Trust in Me – I am the God who qualifies and empowers.  I am the God in Whom you must place your trust.

Monday, August 19, 2013

“A Place for Passion” by Garris Elkins

One morning last week, I was praying in our sanctuary.  I was seated near our drum enclosure.  This drum enclosure allows our drummers to play with freedom and passion, yet not overwhelm the room.  We have the drum set running through our sound system where capable technicians help each voice and instrument meld together to produce a wonderful mixture in our worship experience.

As I sat there praying, I looked inside the drum enclosure.  On the floor underneath the drums were broken drumsticks – several of them.  I realized that in this last season our drummers have played with such passion and freedom they were actually breaking their drumsticks.

I loved what these broken drumsticks were saying to me.  Here were talented drummers, and we have several, who were able to play with passion and excellence because someone made a place for them to express their gift without restriction. Our worship pastor and his team have created venues for expression that has released the passion and gifts of our worship team.  This is a truth that could apply to every area of the church and to life itself.

More than ever, I realize one of the most critical assignments of a leader, in any field of endeavor, is to create a place where the passion of people can be fully expressed. It is from this place of released passion that the future direction of our lives and ministries will be discovered.

Friday, August 9, 2013

“You Don’t Get to Call the Shots” by Garris Elkins

I had a dream.  It was a dream so vivid I actually thought it was real.

In the dream I was in the lobby of a large church sitting at one of the coffee tables.  The room was crowded.  The pastor of this large and influential ministry walked through the crowd towards my table and sat down.  He began to offer me a job.  He lined out the duties and the salary.  I thanked him and said I wouldn’t be able to accept his offer.  In my heart I knew I did not care to live in the state where his ministry was located and I actually thought his pay offer was too low.  He got up from the table and walked away.

Later in the dream the pastor approached me once again and offered me the same job. As I was about to repeat my rejection, I awakened.

As I awoke the Lord spoke to me and said, “You are entering a time in your life where you do not get to decide where you will serve or what you will be paid.”

In the next few hours, I processed those words from the Lord and reviewed the last 32 years of life and ministry. Up to this point, Jan and I have never called the shots on where we would go or what we would be paid.  God always brought ministry to us. We have never pursued locations or salary.  While we have been far from perfect disciples, as a result of letting God call the shots, He has been able to use us in unique ways and locales that were uncluttered by our demands.

Part of the reason I think this dream took place is that the older I have become the more I realize I have developed the tendency to settle in and begin to call the shots. It can appear to a carnal mind as a right of passage, but it can actually kill the new thing wants to do in our lives. 

A subtle lie can creep into our thinking and remind us that, “You’ve paid your dues…now, kick back and enjoy the fruit of your labor.”  While this sounds really good and has an element of truth to it, it is also part of a lie that has infected some in my generation of Baby Boomers. We can too easily tie our lives and ministries to the boat dock of an impending retirement and never sail again. In the time of life when we actually have something to share we begin to abdicate our fathering presence and tie ourselves to a docked future in a “safe” harbor. 

This fall I have been asked to speak at a pastor’s conference on the subject of fathering a city. As I ponder this timely subject, I realize the first thing a father does for his children is to give them a sense of identity.  Before we can affirm the identity of our children, both natural and spiritual, we must affirm our own.  Identity is not based on a calendar.  Our identity is sourced from eternity where elapsed time and retirement is not part of the definition.

If you have lived a good life people will eventually come and ask, “How did you get to this good place in your life?”  At this point in my life I don’t want to give the answer, “I got here because I called the shots and made all of this happen.” That would truly be a nightmare.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

“Our Compass is a Voice” by Garris Elkins

Every 11 years something significant takes place on the Sun – the polar regions reverse.  North becomes south and south becomes north. This event takes place at the peak of each solar cycle as the sun's inner magnetic dynamo re-organizes itself.

The reversal of the Sun's magnetic field is a significant event. This shift has a ripple effect throughout the entire solar system and extends beyond Pluto all the way to the beginning of interstellar space. While not as dramatic as the Sun, this shift happens to a lesser degree on planet Earth.

When I was a pilot we used maps called Sectionals.  These maps defined geographic details so pilots could navigate by visual flight rules.  Pilots would use these maps and a compass to find their way.

There are two different reference points for measuring the direction “North”. True North is a line drawn through the axis of the Earth.  True North is fixed. Magnetic North is different than True North and is constantly on the move because of the changing nature of the Earth’s molten core, which contains iron. As a student pilot, I learned that because Magnetic North continually shifts, cartographers must move Magnetic North on maps to reflect this ongoing change. 

On Earth, Magnetic North moves about 40 miles a year or about 1 degree on a compass.  This creates problems. Airport runways, for example, are aligned with compass headings.  “Runway 31” is actually 310 degrees on the compass. When Magnetic North shifts so must the runway headings or pilots will align themselves with a compass heading that is askew and a runway that is not properly aligned.

This Magnetic North movement is actually increasing each year.  Some experts believe this may be the beginning of a complete reversal of our poles on Earth. Over the years this will create problems not only for aviation and navigation, but for the migratory animals that use the Earth’s magnetic field to orient themselves along their course of migration.

The Earth we stand upon and the sun we are warmed by are experiencing continual change. On Earth what used to be north will someday, in the distant future, become south. An unadjusted compass direction will have a pilot landing on the wrong continent if he continues to fly with old maps and flawed compass headings.

While these natural compass changes can have significant impact on our way of life, an even more significant impact is taking place in the spiritual realm. More than ever we live in a time when the people of God must navigate by the voice of God.  This Voice is the voice of God’s Spirit who leads us by supernatural revelation through the maze of cultural change that can make life seems so upside down at times. 

We live in a time when some are calling north, south and south, north. Our spiritual compass is the written Word of God and the prophetic revelation of His Spirit. Both of these spiritual headings will get us to where we need to go if we are brave enough to trust God and His Word.

Responding to the Voice can draw ridicule because natural compass headings and natural ways of thinking will always tell you that you are going the wrong way.  The Voice speaks from the unchanging realities of heaven into evolving cultural and social norms.  The Voice invades our changing world with unchanging truth and directs us to take the uncommon road of revelation.

We are in good company if we choose to follow the Voice.

   - Noah followed the Voice and built an ark when no one had ever seen rain.

   - David followed the Voice and was the first person to kill a mocking giant.

   - Elijah followed the Voice and soaked the altar with water before the fire of heaven fell.

   - Jesus followed the Voice to the cross and then rose from the dead.

In retrospect, Noah did not seem so silly when the Voice directed him to enter the ark as the floodwaters rose. David was no longer seen as just a naive shepherd boy, but became a hero to the nation of Israel when the Voice directed him to sink one of his five smooth stones into the forehead of Goliath. Elijah was no longer seen as some eccentric old man when he obeyed the Voice and the fire of heaven came down and consumed a water-soaked sacrifice. Jesus was no longer just another prophet in a land of prophets when the Voice commanded Him to rise from the dead and take His seat on His throne in heaven. 

Natural ways of living and doing Church will not be able to lead us forward to fulfill God’s Kingdom purpose on Earth. In fact, relying on natural wisdom for living or someone else’s outdated map of ministry will lead us to destinations not planned by God.   

We are in a time when following the Voice is more critical that ever. One of the greatest tasks before the Church in this present age is helping people learn, and in some cases, learn again, how to hear the Voice. The biblical narrative is filled with people who followed the Voice contrary to mainstream wisdom and arrived at destinations of destiny that cannot be navigated towards using the best of human wisdom or logic.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

“The Other Option” by Garris Elkins

Last Sunday, Ryan Rhoden was speaking to our church about the transition in leadership that will take place at Living Waters Church in Medford, Oregon in October of 2014. In his message he said, "It would be unhealthy for us to stay the way we are as a church...this doesn't mean we are unhealthy as a church the way we are."

All healthy organisms must grow and change in order to be defined as a living thing.  Churches fall under this definition, as does a business or an organization. Change is challenging, but needed if life is to be experienced and sustained. 

At the foundation of this kind of change is the individual response we each bring to the process. We cannot expect Living Waters Church to become all that God desires it to be if we, as the individuals who make up the church, are not willing to experience change on a personal level. Personal change always precedes the transformation of a group. We could rephrase Ryan’s comments to read, “It would be unhealthy for me to stay the way I am.”

In order to get an image of this kind of change, I want to take another look at the most famous of all spiritual crossings – Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea.

The salvation experience for a Christian is likened to this crossing of the Red Sea. It is a powerful image of a people moving from bondage to freedom.  God opened up a way for us through Jesus to come to the Father – a way that none of us could have opened up with the best of our self-effort. That original experience of salvation is a stand-alone event, yet it is repeated in various forms throughout the life of a follower of Christ when we come to challenging places where we need to make a crossing. These are the places, where, if God does not show up, we won’t get across.

Out of a long and weary 400 years of captivity the children of Israel marched away from Egypt into the desert under the leadership of Moses.  The years they spent in captivity spanned 10 generations.  As a people, they knew only bondage. Freedom was just a word Israeli historians would reference.

For Israel, this was not just a bad week, a tough day or a challenging season. It had been a habitual, generation-after-generation way of living within the constraints of a life in bondage - they knew nothing else. If God did not deliver Israel, they would continue to live in bondage.

When Israel fled Egypt an impassable barrier stood before them in the form of the Red Sea. Behind them was their past, pursuing them to recapture them and return them to slavery. This was an impossible place. Death surrounded them on all sides.

It was in this pressing situation that God would reveal a way when no way seemed possible.  God would show up with another option – a supernatural passage – a way never seen before.

“Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one         knew was there!” Psalm 77:19

God is supernatural and He delights in making a way when no way seems possible. The Psalmist described this way as, “your road” and “your pathway”. These are ways to freedom only God knows about – they are His roads and His pathways.  He reveals these routes of rescue when it is not possible for us to create an exit solution.

God did this throughout the entire biblical record. When sick bodies were dying from disease, God made a way through physical healing.  When a marriage seemed doomed, God resurrected love. When someone’s future seemed bleak, God birthed a dream in a dreamless life. When a church needed to navigate into a new season, God showed up and led the way.

In Psalm 77:20, right after telling us that He will reveal the hidden way, the writer describes Israel as sheep needing a shepherd.

“You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.”

What we sometimes forget is that we are being led somewhere. God, the Shepherd of our soul, is always leading us to green pastures.  The destination of the green pasture is not a guarantee that there will not be some bleak and fearful places along the way to the promise.

Sometimes those green pastures will lie on the other side of what appears to be a personal Red Sea with our past and its mistakes pressing us from behind.  It is in these times that God loves to show up and affirm His love by revealing us a way what was previously hidden to the natural eye. In these supernatural passages our past is consumed and our future is revealed.

In these difficult places, before we hear the word of the Lord, we can find ourselves crying out to return to Egypt – a place that is known.  Israel did this and so can we from time-to-time. We value the known and familiar because we learned to make life work in those situations, but those choices are always at the expense of the promise. For Living Waters Church, and for each of you that make up a unique and local expression of the Church, we can find no value or security in returning to what is known.  God moves His people forward – not backwards.

What God has for His children always lies ahead of us. He never asks us return to bondage and He doesn’t want us to die on the shores of a personal Red Sea. With God we can live in the confident assurance that, “A pathway no one knew was there” will appear just when we need it the most if we continue to follow His leading no matter what is taking place around us.

Both options, going back to Egypt, or trying to swim the Red Sea, can get us killed unless God is doing the leading.  Only God, the other option, can show us the hidden way. In your personal and challenging situation, trust God. He is about to show up and reveal a way to you when no way seems possible.