Tuesday, November 26, 2013

“Writing A New Future for 2014” by Garris Elkins

Recently I was teaching in a training school for emerging leaders in California.  During a question and answer session someone asked me, “What are you seeing for the year 2014?”

I responded to the question by saying that at the end of each year I would normally ask and wait concerning a word from the Lord for the upcoming year. I did not, however, have a specific word at that time.  As I was responding to the question, the Lord gave me a picture.

I saw an immense sheet of paper that covered a huge tabletop.  The sheet was so large it extended out to the edge of the visible horizon line where it disappeared.  The paper was brilliant white.  Nothing was written on the paper – it was a clean sheet.

The next day, after returning home from the ministry trip, the image came to me once again.  This time I saw a large pen – one of those antique feathered writing pens - descend down into the image and rest just above the surface of the unmarked sheet of paper.  As the pen was suspended over the paper the Lord began to speak to me.

I want you to write something new. I did not just erase words from the past. Rather, I have provided a new place for you to write a fresh script for your life. This is something new I am inviting you to write.

This is your assignment. I want you to write a large future  - a future that may seem presumptive at first.  I give you permission to presume on My goodness.

Write like a person who has discovered My love for the first time. I want you to write in excitement without punctuation.  I want your writing to be breathless with anticipation and expectation – a writing that flows from an increasing excitement at what might be.

I promised in My Word to give you the desires of your heart. I instructed David to write the words, “Delight yourself in Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  I am telling you to delight yourself in Me as you write and I will give you the desires of your heart. As you write, your inspiration will come from the increasing level of your delight in Me.  Write as a lover would write from the depths of a shared passion.  Write from your delight in Me and let your passion for Me fuel your text.

When the Lord finished speaking, the pen was still suspended above the sheet of paper. I sensed the pen was waiting for a hand to reach out and take it and begin writing.

God has provided us with prophetic paper, pen and ink.  He wants us to believe He is comfortable with His children writing out a new future as He watches.  Our delighting in the Lord protects what will be written. Our heart’s desire is purified when we first delight in Him.  Our delighting in God must precede our desire for a new future if our desire is to remain pure.

Pick up the pen and begin to write.

         Write a new future for your family.
         Write a new future for your health.
         Write a new future for your church.
         Write a new future for your finances.
         Write a new future for your nation.
         Write a new future for your dream.
         Write a new future for your ministry.
         Write a new future for your city.

Write! Write! Write with a delight in God’s goodness.  The words you write will invite the promises of God to come and join the text of your future. This new script will become the story of a new chapter in your life that is about to unfold in 2014.

Friday, November 22, 2013

“Together in His Presence” by Garris Elkins

Some couples don’t like to talk about death with their spouse, but Jan and I are comfortable with such a conversation. Unless we both enter eternity together – one of us will remain behind. That is a reality of life.

Fourteen years ago we moved to Southern Oregon.  Our first home was in Medford, but after three years we moved to the neighboring historic community of Jacksonville.  This was before the housing bubble began to swell and we could actually afford the little one thousand square foot home we eventually purchased.

Shortly after our move we were visiting the Applegate Trail Museum in Sunny Valley, Oregon.  I was fascinated with the early history of Southern Oregon and the facts surrounding the first wagon train into our area.  After our visit to the museum, I was researching the Applegate Wagon Train of 1846 and came across the manifest listing those present on that historic journey. On the manifest, I found something that amazed me beyond belief.  There on the manifest were some of my relatives. I began to get emotional as I discovered this piece of my history.

On the manifest was listed a man named Alphonso Boone.  Alphonso was a grandson of Daniel Boone, the historic figure from the early history of our nation.  I am also a descendant of Daniel Boone.  I am one his nephews.  My mother’s maiden name is Boone. 

Alphonso eventually settled near Portland, Oregon and his family set up a ferry business along the Willamette River.  That ferry business operated through the mid-1950’s until bridges were built over the river.  Today, Boone’s Ferry Road is a well-known roadway in the area.

Shortly after buying our home in Jacksonville, we purchased burial plots in the historic Jacksonville Cemetery.  We feel the Rogue Valley is our last stop on our earthly journey so buying the plots made sense to us.  Our plots are located on a sloping hillside overlooking the valley.

After finding my relatives on the Applegate Wagon Train, I also discovered some of my other relatives are buried in the cemetery in Jacksonville.  One of those buried here is Alphonso Boone’s son, George.

As you read this, I hope you don’t feel uncomfortable talking about death.  As a believer in the promises of God, death is something that should not sting us with its reality.  We will cry when someone we love dies, but in the end, our physical death will usher us into a promise of something wonderful beyond our wildest dreams.

Jan and I love each other.  We have loved each other for the last 40 years of marriage.  She is my girl and I am her guy.  We only have eyes for each other.  I honestly don’t know where she ends and I begin. That is what oneness is like.  However, a reality exists in our future – someday one of us will die.

Several years ago, as Jan and I walked through the Jacksonville Cemetery we talked about some of the beautiful words engraved on the tombstones we were passing.  I said to Jan, “I think I know what words we should put on our tombstone.”  As we continued to walk I said, “We should put the words, ‘together in His presence.’”

I said we should only capitalize the word, “His”, because we want people walking by our graves someday in the future to know that we were talking about Him – the Lord Jesus.

I shared with Jan the scripture that says the Lord inhabits the praises of His people.  When the remaining one is left here alone, and they begin to worship the Lord, He promises to inhabit their worship.  The one who went on ahead will also be in the presence of the Lord because the Word says that when we are absent from this body we will be present with the Lord.

In other words, both the one left behind and the one in eternity will be together in God’s presence.  They may not see each other, but they will be together in His presence. The closest we would ever be to each other after one of us dies is when the remaining one chooses to worship.

Last week, I was walking alone through the cemetery.  The cemetery is not a spooky place to me.  I love the history and the tender remarks carved into the old headstones by loved ones left behind.  The inscriptions can bring you to tears.  Some were about little babies taken from life who were not yet a year old. Others were killed in the Rogue Valley Indian Wars of the 1850’s. Some lived long and faithful lives.  Each one tells the story of a life.

As I walked down the hill to where our plot is located, I saw a doe deer.  She was standing atop where our physical bodies will someday be buried. I made a remark in jest to the deer about her taking care of our place until we arrived and then I was reminded of a future reality. 

Someday either Jan or I will walk past this same spot – alone.  In those moments when we will surely miss each other the most – the remaining one will make a choice to worship and in that moment become together again in His presence.   

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Just do what's in the Book" by Garris Elkins

Many years ago, I heard John Wimber say to our Foursquare Convention at Angelus Temple, "Just go back and do what's in the Book." That single sentence changed everything for Jan and me. We returned to our church in Montana and the Spirit fell - not because we changed our worship songs or restructured the Church. The restoration and supernatural healings released in that season took place because we brought home a new measure of faith in Jesus that He is the same yesterday, today and forever - still doing what "is in the Book" if we will simply believe.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

“Transition Thoughts” by Garris Elkins

In October of 2014, I will complete a transition out of the Senior Pastor role at Living Waters Church in Medford, Oregon.  The man God is raising up to fill that role is Ryan Rhoden.  Ryan is a good and godly man with a vision for the future.  We have been in this transition for a few years.  In the process of our transition, I have collected some proverb-like personal thoughts I would like to share with anyone making a similar transition.  What follows is that collection.

Without a transition plan you will be found grasping onto the doorframe of your current ministry assignment afraid to let go and move into the new season God has planned. 

All healthy transitions move forward with a word from God.  Don’t move forward until you have this guiding word. It will dig you out of the ruts that are present in each journey.

You can actually stay too long.

You can actually leave too soon.

A good time to plan for your future transition is now. 

Resist the urge to build a legacy in your departure. This is something we cannot write honestly or accurately.

“Pastor Emeritus” can be a title that tells others, “I am having trouble letting go”.

God is waiting for you in a place you cannot yet see and you think might not even exist.   

Transitions are like cars – if over-corrected they can lose control and crash. 

You hope the leader who follows you is merciful. Because your successor will inherit your dysfunctions after you leave.

We have a tendency to see each life-transition as an isolated event.  Transitions are actually part of the single journey of our life. Try to understand the larger picture. 

Your gifts made a way for your current assignment and they will be used to make a way into something new.

Go back and repent of the judgment calls you made on the leaders that went before you in your current assignment.  This is for the sake and safety of your transition and your future.

Every transition will reveal your insecurities. One of the gifts of transition is exposure. God exposes us so He can heal us and prepare us for what is coming.

Emerging leaders need room. The transitioning leader should make a place for a new gift to function without restriction.

The voices that cry the loudest, “Please don’t leave!” are the ones that may need you to leave the most.

Once you realize a change is needed it is generally a bit late.  Don’t worry if you have missed your best opportunity.  God knows how to accelerate things to bring your transition up to speed and in line with His plan.

The lessons you learned in the first five years of ministry will help guide you in the finish of your ministry.  Revisit those lessons and learn them again.

Bondage is anything we do to prove our worth.

Park your regrets in the mercy of God.

Learn to discern the difference between obligation and discernment.  Obligation will have you tied to things you need to let go of.  Discernment will reveal those things that can hold you back from what God has planned.

A transition will involve the subject of finances. The transition plan should never be directed or held hostage to financial solutions. Follow the word of the Lord first and foremost and the financial element will follow your obedience.

Sometime we make sacrifices on altars that do not exist.  We can actually make a sacrifice in a transition where a blessing was God’s actual intent.

One of the greatest gifts you can leave behind in a transition is to be, as far as possible with you, at peace with all people.

A new vision is new, not better.  Deal with the pride that would cause you to hold onto the uniqueness of your past at the expense of someone else’s future.

New ministry teams will get formed outside your input. This is not rebellion. This is life. This is change. Embrace it. Support it.

God’s voice is your compass, not your transition plan.

Invite people to the transition narrative early in the process.  This creates a partnership and lessens the possibility of a fearful response to change.

There exists in healthy transitions a sliding scale where the departing leader chooses to lessen their influence to provide the incoming leader with an increasingly visible platform.

Healthy transitions possess a visible architecture.

You can remain in the place of your current ministry assignment only if your heart is right. Who wants an old grumpy previous pastor polluting the future of a ministry?

Don’t view your transition as a cliff where you will fall off into nothing.  There are no cliffs with God – they only exist in our minds where fear has been allowed to rule.

Telling God where we will go or not go after our transition is the beginning of a detour some do not return from.

Deal with your sorrow at missed opportunities.  Trust that God has raised up new leaders to capture those missed opportunities and turn them into victories.

We should not continue to create the model of ministry we will give to those who follow us. Invite them early into the transition process to begin developing the new model they will carry.

When you feel the transition is being aborted don’t forget that God is always at work behind the scenes birthing something new.

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

The older we get the less we want to experience change. Change is what living things experience.  Without change we get “old”.

If you are a spiritual father you will find joy in what makes your children joyful.

Nighttime can be the worst time.  This is when hell begins to speak the loudest and tries to turn your rest into restlessness.  Your fatigue in life and ministry will not come from a packed schedule, but from a mind filled with unresolved fear about the future.

Self-pity is a spiritual terrorist who wants to sneak aboard your life. It is a destructive attitude with a bomb strapped to its back. Detonate it in prayer and away from innocent bystanders.

We can make our plans, but in the end it is the Lord who is directing our steps.

Looking into the future without faith is a spawning ground for fear. Faith looks ahead and declares that God is good and He has made a way.

Letting go will be harder than you think. Start letting go today no matter how far in the future your transition may be.

Be realistic – you can always do a transition better.  No transition will ever be perfect.  “Perfect” is not the goal.

In your transition leave room for mystery and wonder.  This is a spiritual endeavor not a business plan.

Your time in ministry made a deposit.  It is not for you to define that deposit – history will reveal what you left behind.

Once the crowds came to Jesus He did not try to hold them. He fed them and walked away. Compromise comes when we try to hold the crowd.

In your transition you will cross a spiritual frontier.  All spiritual frontiers have demons guarding them.  Don’t ignore the reality of this battle.  Stepping through the gates of transition will cause them to react.

In this transition you will need to make yourself more available to God than to people.

In a life-transition the greatest battle you will face is to believe the best. Hope is the hinge on the door of a healthy transition.

Ending is far more challenging than beginning.