Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reestablishing Contact in 2017

Some of you feel like a satellite that has been faithfully orbiting a marriage, a business vision or a ministry calling, but you have lost communication with those who sent you on the mission. You feel lost in space. Some of you have given up hope because it has been so long since you last heard any meaningful transmission. You thought this lost feeling would be your lot in life, but God has another plan.

Something remarkable has taken place in the scientific world. A satellite launched by MIT in 1967 was abandoned and considered lost forever when its communication system stopped working. It was assumed it would become another piece of space junk that would move forever in a silent orbit around Earth. It has now begun to transmit after almost 50 years of silence. 

Scientists believe the batteries of the original communication unit have long been depleted. The transmissions coming now are being powered by solar panels on the satellite that capture energy from the Sun. The satellite has been tumbling end over end every 4 seconds. At some point in orbit, the solar panels were realigned with the Sun and caught just enough sunlight to send a short transmission of the satellite’s existence.

The satellite is a picture of what will take place for some of you in 2017. You have felt lost in a hopeless orbit. Those who sent you on the mission have given up on you. It has been so long since anyone heard from you they consider you and your circumstance to be lost in space.

Something beyond belief is about to take place. A reconnection is coming. Marriages lost in a passionless orbit will hear sounds of love once again. A business written off as doomed to failure will begin to transmit profit. Ministry callings long abandoned to an orbit of irrelevance will come back to life with new purpose.

Like the satellite that has been tumbling end over end, you have felt disoriented and spinning out of control. God is about to stabilize your orbit and reestablish communication to the control systems in your life. This will be your new orbit for 2017. The orbit of silence is coming to an end.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Watch Israel - This is a Gideon Moment

For some of us who use blogs to store and transmit what we write, it is always interesting to see the audience source for our writing. One of the tools used to track readership are the graphs provided that track the number of reads that take place in a given day.

Just a few days ago, at the time of the United Nations vote against Israel, I had a never before seen spike on one of the tracking graphs for my blog. It was not just a bump. It was a 20-fold spike in readers – a number I had never seen before. That unusual spike came from the nation of Israel. The spike was well beyond the graphing of my blog readers in the United States where most of my social media followers live. God was drawing my attention to Israel.

I say all of this to encourage you to raise your eyes above the course of events in your everyday life. Look to the nation of Israel and ask God to help you discern the signs of the times. Something unusual is taking place. We are not in a "business as usual" moment in our history. As large in significance as the Presidential election was in the United States, something larger is transpiring in the Middle East on a global scale.

We are in a moment of history like the days of Gideon when God would not use an obvious army of 10,000 to engage a coming battle, but would reduce the troops down to a group of only 300. These 300 were the ones who kept their eyes on the conflict ahead while going about a simple everyday task like taking a drink of water.

“’There are still too many! Bring them down to the spring, and I will test them to determine who will go with you and who will not.’ When Gideon took his warriors down to the water, the Lord told him, ‘Divide the men into two groups. In one group put all those who cup water in their hands and lap it up with their tongues like dogs. In the other group put all those who kneel down and drink with their mouths in the stream.’ Only 300 of the men drank from their hands. All the others got down on their knees and drank with their mouths in the stream. The Lord told Gideon, ‘With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites.’” Judges 7:4-7

Today, keep your eyes on Israel as you go about your daily tasks. Do not allow the busyness of your life to blind you to what lies before you in plain sight. God is choosing a small group of Kingdom-sighted people to accomplish something significant. You can be part of that group if you are willing to raise your eyes above the level natural sight and choose to see what is taking place in the realm of the Spirit.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Place Called Peace

I experienced two significant events 36 years apart that were strangely similar. In 1981, I turned in my badge as a police officer to step into the new role of pastor, a calling to which I had no understanding. Jan and I were rookie church planters traveling to a new place carrying only a promise from God. .

Recently, I attended my last service as a pastor connected to a local church staff. On the drive home the feeling I experienced 36 years earlier came to visit. This time, I was not going to a defined place. I was walking into an undefined future with three assignments from the Lord – write, teach and mentor. In both cases, separated by so many years, I experienced the same strange, yet beautiful, peace.  

In my new assignment, I have a function, but not a place. My “place” now comes from invitations or from those daily divine appointments that happen unexpectedly in my new detached-from-place kind of life. It is a strange feeling to step into a season of life where place no longer defines me. I am no longer, “Garris Elkins, Senior Leader of Living Waters Church in Medford, Oregon.”  I am now mobile. My place is wherever promise takes me. I like my new assignment.

The promise we carry is actually more significant than a well-defined place. Promise is what motivates us to uproot our lives and go somewhere new. It helps us stay spiritually and emotionally alive in the journey and it gives us peace when we finally arrive and set up a new life in a new place. Promise is everything.

Jan and I have always tried to make our decisions based on a sense of peace. Peace has guided our steps for the last 36 years of ministry together. Peace is something we carry in our hearts. It was never subject to what was taking place around us. Peace came as the faithful product of the promises we carried.  Without promise, peace would have been elusive. When we discover a promise from God and let it guard our hearts and direct our steps, we will always find peace no matter where the journey of life takes us.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2017 - The Revealing of the Church

Each morning, I sit down and ask God if there is something He wants me to write. It is never a challenge to find something to write. What is the challenge is finding something He wants me to write.

This morning, I asked that familiar question once again. Immediately, the Lord spoke. I knew He was speaking about His Church in all the nations of the world.

“You will become the headline in your culture. What has been hidden in places of faithful obedience will now be revealed for the world to see. You will be revealed so the world can see my love at work through my people as I transform cultural institutions many thought were beyond the reach of my righteousness. I have called you to stand atop the mountains of your culture. I have not placed you there to remain hidden. I have placed you there to become a visible announcement of my goodness. That announcement will be the headline I will use to broadcast my love from the highest places of influence in your culture.”

Some of you reading this will enter 2017 and find your work unexpectedly revealed by God. Put aside any false humility that would have you try to distance yourself from this revealing. You did not make this happen. It will be a work of God. In the moment of revealing your message is not to be what you did for God, but what God did through you. That will keep your testimony and the coming headline pure and untainted.

"You are the light of the world - like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden." Matthew 5:14

Sunday, December 25, 2016

43 Christmas Mornings

Jan and I have experienced 43 Christmas mornings together. After the birth of our two children, we created a Christmas morning family routine that has become a tradition. Jan and I get up early for coffee and Jan’s homemade cinnamon roles, a recipe given to her 40 years ago by our friend, Judy Thomas. Bing Crosby is singing White Christmas in the background. My dog is resting at my feet while Jan arranges the beautifully wrapped presents around the tree. Each Christmas morning I notice the lights on the tree are especially bright – brighter than the night before. Perhaps their brightness is the extra acuity we experience in special moments like a Christmas morning.

Even though our children are now adults they still join us on Christmas morning. This morning their arrival time is 8:00 a.m. The same hand-knitted stockings made by Grandma Parry in their early childhood hold the first of the small gifts Anna and David will open this morning. Each year for the last 40 years, Jan has placed a single orange at the bottom of their stocking as a yearly reminder of their grandfathers who received single oranges as their only Christmas gift during the Great Depression. We never want our children to live through the coming year without a reminder of true blessing.
In a few hours the kids will arrive. In all of their normal adultness will be seen a twinkle of childhood delight in their eyes that emerges each year when they begin to open their gifts. Their joy will remind Jan and me of Christmases past, and the hope of more to come. The mound of wrapping paper will begin to grow on the floor between us as gifts are opened with joy and stacked alongside each of us. Our dog, Abby, and our cat, Mister, will be found walking through the mountain range of paper sniffing, wagging and purring. When it is all over and the kids leave, it will be just Jan and me, again. It will be like it was at our first Christmas 43 years ago. 
God has given each of us the hope of a good life. He gave that potential of goodness to every human, knowing sorrow and pain can visit our lives. No matter where you find yourself this morning, look for the goodness of God. It is always present. An expectant attitude opens our eyes to see differently the brightness of Christmas tree lights or the meaning of a single orange at the bottom of a Christmas stocking. The detours and sorrows experienced in the journey of our lives can never overpower the goodness that God has planned. Believe the best and the best will find you.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Meeting of Two Mothers

I wonder what the meeting would have been like if Eve, the mother of all humanity, could have met pregnant Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I can only imagine the flood of emotion that would overwhelm Eve as she remembered tasting the flavor of forbidden fruit and receiving its sorrow for her children.  She would approach Mary knowing that within her the Seed of her own redemption was growing- a Seed that would give her offspring a second chance. That Seed of a second chance would produce an untainted God-fruit that could only be harvested in a grace-garden outside the fence line of a corrupted and closed Eden.

I can see Eve placing her hand in wonderment on the taut and bulging belly of Mary and feeling God move! Tears of joy would have coursed down Eve’s cheeks splashing on the ground between the two women. This would be the first flow of the irrigation system for the fruit of our redemption. These irrigating tears of joy flow when an impossible way is finally made possible.  That impossible way made possible is your greatest gift this Christmas.

For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37