Preacher's Blog

Preacher's Blog

About the Author: I am Joshuah Ellis and I have been working, full time, with the Hub City church of Christ since June 1, 2016. I have never considered myself much of a writer. Perhaps that is why I like the blog format so much. For me, it feels like there is less pressure to be perfect with a blog as opposed to a more formal article In this blog, you will find personal stories, anecdotes, humor and maybe a bit of sarcasm, but the aim of each post will be the same: to encourage, inspire, and challenge the readers to dig deeper and work harder in their service to God. If you would like to offer feedback, leave a comment or contact me here.

 

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Christian Living

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3 Things You Should Not Teach Your Children

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

 

Parenting might be one of the hardest jobs on the planet. Do it right, and you will have raised a great human being who contributes to society and makes the world a better place. Do it wrong, and you will be responsible for the strange person who lives behind Wal-Mart in a house made of Popsicle sticks and old Tootsie Roll wrappers who barks at people as they walk by.

 

No pressure, right?

 

 

As Christians, our responsibilities go even further. Not only are we trying to mold our little monsters into functional people. We also want to make sure that they are fully equipped to serve the Lord and to get to heaven one day. I would love to be able to tell you that my kids epitomize everything on the forthcoming list. I can’t. I would also love to tell you that I am the master of teaching these elements. I can’t do that either. So, it is my hope that this blog will help us all as we strive to raise our children “in the training and admonition of the Lord.”

 

Here are some things you should NOT teach your children.

 

1. Do NOT teach them to obey you. Instead, teach them to honor you as their parent. Yes, of course, obedience is important, but the command to honor is much stronger. It was given by God (Exodus 20:12) and reinforced by Jesus (Matthew 19:19). So, what’s the difference? Obey means to be in compliance whereas honor is more about respect. Teach your kids to honor you, and they will absolutely obey you. If you focus ONLY on obedience, there is a greater chance that once your eyes are off of them, what you taught them will be out the window. This sets them up perfectly to serve a God whom they cannot see nor to whom they will answer immediately after each choice is made.

 

2. Do NOT teach them to sit quietly during services. Instead, teach them to worship! So often, I have seen kids (who are old enough to participate) drawing with their glitter pens while the rest of the congregation is singing or praying. As a preacher, I understand that the sermon might not be particularly stimulating for younger kids, but those babies can sing! They can bow their heads when we pray. The Hebrew writer said it well (Hebrews 12:28-29). What better way to set them up for service, than teaching them to participate when we worship. When it’s time for the sermon, then give them something to write or draw with. Just don’t rob them of a chance to learn how to praise our God.

 

3. Do NOT teach them to obey the Lord. Instead, teach them to love the Lord. No. I am not saying that they shouldn’t obey the Lord. However, if it is ONLY about obedience, what happens to them when they are weak? Adversity alters our perspectives, doesn’t it? The greatest command does not say “obey” the Lord. It says to “love” the Lord (Luke 10:27). Of course, when we love the Lord, we will naturally be inclined to obey Him (John 14:15). Teach your kids what to do, sure. But don’t forget, in the process, to teach them what the Lord has done for us!

 

Again, I would love to tell you that this list is perfect. I would love to tell you that I have mastered these items and that my kids perfectly represent them as well. I can’t do that. I can tell you that this is something we work on with our boys and that by focusing on better things to teach our children, we are confident that they will know who God is and as a byproduct of that, know what they must do in order to please Him. I hope this helps you as you work to get your babies to heaven.

 

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When Everything Else Fails

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

 

Hitting a Brick Wall

Several years back, I experienced burnout for the first time. I was sick of my job. Nothing I was doing seemed to be yielding any fruit. I didn’t feel that I was growing. I didn’t feel that any good was coming out of the effort that I was putting in and I became very frustrated. It seemed as if my lessons were going in one ear of the members where I preached and out the other. Why was I doing this? Why bother working on these lessons if they are not going to accomplish anything?

Unfortunately, as a byproduct of my mindset, I noticed myself becoming very frustrated with the membership of the church I was working with. My mind quickly moved from grace to criticism and decided to put down roots. Then, no effort on their part seemed good enough. My mind was made up and I hit a brick wall. After all, everything else to that point (at least in my mind) had failed. I am ashamed to admit it, but I had checked out.

 

Not Alone

I will venture a guess to say that I am not alone in this. As Christians, I wonder if we have all felt as if we have hit the proverbial brick wall in our service to God. Maybe we too have put forth effort in the Kingdom only to feel that it has translated to little or no real result. Unfortunately, that can really do a number on how we see other people. In my case, my mindset belonged to me exclusively. However, I projected my perspective, at least for a time, onto the people around me. Identifying this in ourselves is key, but what do we do afterward? How do we fix this?

 

The Answer

The answer to this is simple. I wish I would have applied this to my situation much sooner than I did. The answer is love. See, God commands us to love (Matthew 23:37; John 13:34). The fact that this is a command for us tells us one very important thing: it is a choice. God doesn’t expect things from us that are out of our control. We are not told to feel a certain way by this command, but to behave a certain way. So how do you behave love? Paul gives us some insight into this in chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthians:

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

The Action

So if you find yourself feeling that you have exhausted your options and nothing seems to be working:

  • I have invited my co-workers to worship and they refuse to come.
  • The person I am supposed to be studying with keeps canceling on me.
  • No one appreciates what I do for the church.
  • I am kind to my peers and they are still hateful toward me.

Remember that when all else fails, love. Love by action and not by emotion. Take Paul’s advice and engage in behaviors you can control regardless of what others are doing. Be patient, kind, humble, polite, considerate, empathetic, encouraging, truthful, enduring, hopeful, and steadfast.

 

You can control that!

 

Finally, remember that our call is not to results, it is to faithfulness. 

 

 

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Challenges Faced by Small Congregations

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

First off, let me begin by saying that I have a deep love for small congregations. I have worked with congregations made up of less than 100 members for the vast majority of my career. There are many things that I love about smaller works. I love that everyone really gets to know everyone. There is an intimacy that can sometimes get lost among larger groups. Everyone really becomes like family to one another.

While all of these characteristics are positive and very encouraging, it is a bit naïve to ignore the challenges that come with being a part of smaller congregations. It is even possible to be so in love with the concept of a smaller congregation that biblical growth is hindered. The following are some of the challenges that I see in smaller congregations.

 

1. There are fewer people to “pick up the slack.” In a congregation of 200+ members, there is going to be no shortage of people who are willing and able to step up and do the work that needs to be done. If you decide that you do not want to participate, it’s no big deal because there are dozens of people who do. However, in a smaller group, you don’t really have that luxury. While no Christian should ever not be working (Romans 12:11), members in a smaller congregation have the added responsibility of stepping out of their comfort zones and seeing that the work gets done.

 

2. The “small congregation mentality” can be very toxic. When members of a small congregation accept that they are, and will always be, small; growth can be hindered. Even though the Bible is filled with passages, which teach us to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; John 4:35; etc…), members of a smaller work can easily shirk this responsibility. This is wrong! Some people might even oppose growth because to grow might mean to lose the small congregation feel that so many are fond of. Don’t forget what our goal is! It is not to be smitten with our own congregations. It is to get ourselves and as many people as we can to heaven.

 

3.  There isn’t always enough money for exciting expedients. Maybe we visit other congregations and see the latest and greatest technology being used, or large, elaborate buildings. Then, next Sunday, we are back in our tiny building singing with 20 people all the while remembering how amazing it was to sing with 200 just 7 days prior. Don’t forget what God has done with modest resources. His own disciples were blue-collar workers (Matthew 4:18-22). Moses had a stutter (Exodus 4:10). The Messiah slept in a feeding trough (Luke 2:7). Remember, God can do anything with anything. Focus on serving Him and not on what you have to work with.

 

There may be more to discuss. However, I don’t want to give the impression that there is something wrong with smaller congregations any more than I am suggesting there is something wrong with larger congregations. Both have their fair share of challenges. I think the key here is to identify those challenges and then get busy working on them. At the end of the day, whether we shake 10 hands on Sunday or 500, our goal is the same.

 

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What the Church of "YOU" Looks Like

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Paul described the church as being a body. Specifically, he described one body with many members (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). In his description, he makes the point that like the human body; the church is made up of many members that have different functions. This is something that makes the church so special. The fact that we can all serve God in different ways means that everyone has a function to serve.

 

 

But let’s just imagine if such wasn’t the case. Imagine with me, if you will, that there is no diversity in the church; that every person is identical. To go even further, imagine that every person in your local congregation is just like…you. What would the congregation look like?

  • What would the congregation look like if everyone read their Bible as much as you read yours?
  • What would the congregation look like if everyone prayed as much as you do?
  • What would the congregation look like if everyone visited the sick and/or elderly as much as you?
  • What would the congregation look like if everyone were as loving and merciful as you are?
  • What would the congregation look like if everyone contributed as much to the local work as much you?
  • What would the congregation look like in 10 years if every member were just like you?

It’s a pretty sobering thought, isn’t it? Knowing my own weaknesses and shortcomings, I don’t feel that a church made up of people who were just like me would be successful for very long. I suspect that you might feel the same way. So, what do we do with this? Do we just admit that we’re all different, choose to be grateful for that, and simply move on with our lives? I hope not. I hope that we all take a moment today and really examine our contribution to the local work and the Lord’s body as a whole.

 

It can be a dangerous (and common) trend when the bulk of the responsibility of a congregation is carried on the shoulders of few. While we can be appreciative of those who seem to have a knack for going above and beyond, that is not the Lord’s will for His church! There is no member of the body that is expendable (1 Corinthians 12:21). Therefore, we need to make sure, as members of the Lord’s body” that we are fulfilling our function!

 

Of course we all know that this scenario is just an exercise; hopefully an exercise in self-reflection. We know that it would be disastrous if everyone in the Lord’s body were just like you…or me for that matter. In the end, every member of the church should strive to be like Jesus (1 John 2:6). He is our perfect example. So as you finish this blog (kudos for sticking with me this far), remember.

 

Remember that we all have responsibilities to the carry out in the church. Remember that whatever you are currently doing, you could likely do a bit more. Remember that it is only when we are looking unto Jesus as our example and fulfilling our individual functions that we begin to honor the design for the church that Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 12.

 

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A Christian's Guide to Moving Mountains

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

So here you are, at a point in your life where something big needs to happen. Maybe you are making a transition, hitting a milestone, or being challenged with some sort of trial. Regardless of what the particulars of your circumstances may be, there is a long and challenging road in front of you. So, what do you do?

 

 

God gives us no shortage on passages, from His Word, which can encourage the Christian to feel empowered and confident. But, no one has ever overcome a challenge simply by reading words on a page. So, how do we do it? How do we take what we read from passages like Matthew 17:20 and make a real application in our lives?

 

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20, ESV)

 

Here are a few things we can keep in mind as we look at this passage.

 

1. God is not asking you to move your own mountains. I know it could be easy to read this passage and discern that the mountain moving was our responsibility. It’s not. We are limited in what we can realistically accomplish. Even if we wanted to, we could not take credit for the big accomplishments in our lives any more than Moses could for the parting of the Red Sea. Sure, it was his hand that was stretched out over the water, but it was the Lord who drove the sea back (Exodus 14:21). So before you look at the mountains in your life and think, “This is impossible.” Remember that for you that might be true, but with God all things are possible!

 

2. God is asking you to have faith. Faith can be a tricky word. Of course, it does denote a strong conviction or belief, as most would assume. There is also an element of the original word, which implies a reliability or obedience. See, faith isn’t just about believing something. It is about believing something to the point that your behavior is altered. Remember, James teaches us about the demons having a certain amount of faith (James 2:19). The point here is that your responsibility in these big life moments is not to move those mountains. It is to have an obedient faith in God.

 

3. Faith is strengthened through God’s Word. Even Paul teaches us that our faith is born from our reception of God’s Word (Romans 10:17). It is only by keeping our noses in the book and being diligent in our growth in the Word of God that our faith will be made stronger as a natural byproduct. So how does this all work together?

  • When you study your Bible, your faith is increased.
  • When your faith is strong, all things are possible.
  • When you approach God in faith, He is able to remove any obstacle and move any mountain.

If it seems simple, that’s because it is. We just have to get out of our results-oriented mindset and focus on what God has given us to d0, which is to follow Him faithfully and increase our faith through the study of His Word.

 

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