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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Yesterday, I preached about the widow and the very small offering she gave at the temple (Mark 12:41-44). As I went through the lesson highlighting various parts of the text and making the relevant applications, I kept coming back to one thought. “This isn’t just about money.” I tried to communicate that during the sermon, but I wonder if that is a whole other lesson in and of itself. So here you go. A few ways we can give, that has nothing to do with money.
1. Time. I know this one is obvious, but do we think of donating our time in a context other than charity? Think about the time it takes to read your Bible, say a prayer, or try to encourage a fellow Christian. This can be viewed in the same sacrificial manner as the widow’s offering. Think about the time you are willing to sacrifice back to the Lord today and see if you can come up with some way to increase it.
2. Attention. Believe me when I say that I understand this is not always as easy as it sounds. I have kids and I have had to wrangle them all through a worship service. My wife certainly has more experience in this area than I do, but I still know what it is like. Still, God deserves our attention. Inside of the church building and out. Do you think of your attention as yet another way to sacrifice and give back to the Lord?
3. Data. Ok. I know how this sounds, but hear me out. We use our phones for everything. In fact, I just downloaded an app, on my phone, to tell me how much time I’m spending on my phone. Ironic, isn’t it? However, if we are using our phones for communication, social media, and everything else, why not think of a way to use our phones to glorify God. Listen to your daily Bible reading on your phone. Use social media to invite someone to worship. Send a text to a sick member of the church. Find a way to sacrifice with the tools God has given us.
4. Prayer. Again, I know it seems obvious, and the reason I bring this up is tied to a personal connection. There have been times when I told someone I would pray for them and then, for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Maybe I forgot. Maybe I got distracted. It’s no excuse, but it happens. Why not get a bit more intentional about the prayers to which you have committed yourself? Keep a list of those for whom you have offered to pray and start making good on those promises to carry their petition to the presence of the Father.
Some of this might seem overly simple, and maybe it is. The importance is less on which of these (if any) you choose and more about heeding the example that Jesus brought to our attention that last Tuesday of His ministry. To have the heart of the widow mentioned, to me, is the point above all others in this account. If we could make it a priority to have that heart, then what we choose to give isn’t important as long as we are giving and doing so with the proper attitude.
This past Sunday, during Bible class, we were discussing 1 Corinthians chapter 8. Of course, there are some meaty topics covered in that chapter (see what I did there?). However, there was one moment during the study of this chapter that stands out above the rest.
One of our members asked the question, regarding the conduct of the stronger brother toward the weaker (and I am paraphrasing):
Where do you draw the line? If you have one brother who is getting offended by ridiculous things or being overly demanding, or if you have another brother who is trying to be authoritarian, what do you do?
I loved this question as it forced me to consider some realities about the current church and do some hard thinking on some things. What I observe is that as Christians, we often want a formula, one formula that works in all situations. The problem with this is that any time you have 2 people trying to close the divisions among them, it is a truly unique situation for which there is no foolproof formula.
Thus, the topic of today’s blog. 3 things you need in order to make sure that every Bible study (in which there are opposing views) is a guaranteed success.
1. Love your brother. This should go without saying, but it doesn’t. Guys, if you plan to sit down with someone, open your Bibles in order to resolve and issue and your primary concern is being right or “winning” the argument, then you should just pack up your things and go home. So many times, in the Bible, we read about loving one another (John 13:34; 1 Peter 4:8; John 4:12-13; Ephesians 4:2-3; 1 Peter 3:8-9) and the list could go on. This is not about you and unless your attitude is right at the beginning of this encounter, then chances are you are about to do much more damage than good. Not to mention, the discussion is going to end in an argument and would thereby be unsuccessful.
2. Meekness. Again, it should go without saying but it doesn’t. This is another circumstance in which you must check your motives. Is this about you or about you being right? James tells us to receive God’s word with meekness (James 1:21). You can’t do that if you treat your Bible like a weapon that is to be used as nothing more than a proof text to show how clever or spiritual you are. That is not meekness? Both parties have to share this quality if the study is to be a guaranteed success.
3. Respect for God’s Word. Obviously, you are not going to get very far in your study if it devolves into a philosophical discussion as opposed to a biblical one. Again, we return to a similar fact. This is not about you, your ego, your intelligence, or your righteousness. This is about following God’s perfect Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), wherever it may lead. Without this, there is no chance of a successful study.
So, there you go. 3 ingredients to a guaranteed successful Bible study and the answer to the question I was asked in Bible class. While there is no “one size fits all” answer for every situation, there is a pattern. When 2 people who love one another, show an attitude of meekness and have a real respect for God’s Word, sit down together to study, they will always end up where they need to be. Why? Certainly not because we are perfect, but because God is. Because His Word is. Because, when we choose to follow and submit, we can never be found wanting. God won’t let us.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
I have yet to meet a Christian who, at the end of a full Sunday, looks back and says, “That was a total waste of time!” Even if it means we have spent an entire day focused on worship, Bible study, maybe even a potluck, and are completely exhausted by the end of it all, we still usually feel that it was a great way to spend our day.
Serving God on Sunday is easy. At least, it is easier. We are surrounded by people who encourage us. Our minds are focused on God. We are all gathered together in a common safe place. And, the whole day has been set aside for this sole purpose. We don’t have to worry about people challenging our beliefs or attacking us. We typically don’t even have to worry about worldly influences distracting us.
So what happens 12 hours later when we wake up ready to start our work week? Do we walk into Monday with the same zeal and servitude we possessed the day before? What about the rest of the week? Does our faithfulness endure throughout the week or does it fade as the days progress?
Without the safety net of the church building, we are forced to either serve or not, on our own, in an environment with much less accountability and support. I think we would do well to consider how we hold up under such circumstances.
In the Trenches
I recently spoke with my closest friend. Keep in mind these conversations are often a bit disorganized and chaotic, so I can’t even remember exactly what the topic was, or even which one of us even said this, but a comment was made that was incredibly enlightening to me.
“Real service to God happens in the trenches, not in the pews”
This is not to say that our worship is unimportant or “not real.” I believe the point is that what we do on Sunday is not the full scope of our service to God. One brother told me one time that he considered Sundays as the preparation for the rest of the week. I think there is a lot of truth to that.
Consider the Source
Think about this with me. I am sure the disciples felt most encouraged when they were at the feet of Jesus. But, why were they there? Was it not so that they could do the work that they were given when they would be away from Him (Matthew 28:19-20)? Consider Paul. I am sure it was nice for him to spend time with the others after his conversion (Galatians 1:18). However, Paul’s real service was the work he did on his journeys and with the churches of the day.
What about Us?
So what does your service look like on Monday? Are you using the encouragement and knowledge gained the day before so that you can be a better brother, sister, encouragement, evangelist, servant, husband, father, wife, mother, Christian? Or, do you expend your best efforts for the Kingdom on Sunday only to remain inactive until it is time to go back to the church building?
If so, let’s resolve to be better together. Let’s work together using what we take in on Sundays and impact the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s get into those trenches and do the work.
“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest”
(John 4:35b ESV).
I think that most people will agree that being a Christian means more than just attending a worship service a few times a week and saying a prayer before meals and before bed. The problem, sometimes, is though we know we ought to be out in the world, preaching the gospel to anyone who will hear it (Matthew 28:19), loving our neighbors (Mark 12:31), and even our enemies (Luke 6:35), we don’t always see opportunities to carry these commands out. What about a lazy Saturday at home with the family? There might not be that many evangelical opportunities on a day like this, so are we to take it as a day off from our God-given responsibilities? Absolutely not.
I have found that sometimes Christians spend more time waiting for an opportunity to serve God than actually serving God. So, a few years back I devised a checklist of 5 things that Christians can do each day to stay active in the service of the Lord. These 5 items are by no means all we can do. However, if you find yourself struggling to figure out how you can serve God today, they can certainly serve as a place to start.
All you need to do is remember to “SPEEK.”
1. Study. Your Bible, that is. Whether you are doing a chronological reading plan, a chapter a day or simply cracking your Bible open to a random place and reading there, you must be in the Word daily. How else can you expect to grow if you are not taking some time, every day, to learn more about God’s will for your life (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?
2. Pray. God speaks to us through His word and we speak to Him through prayer. This is the only way to keep the 2-way communication between God and us alive. I am not simply talking about the few seconds before we eat and the few minutes before we go to bed, though. Our prayer life needs to be a vital part of our day. Whether this is done in a more formal setting or a few words here and there as we’re driving in our cars or fixing a snack, the prayerful attitude and communication with God should be constant (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
3. Evangelize. You didn’t think it was going to be that easy did you? Of course, some real work needs to be done. It doesn’t have to be hard though. Evangelizing is more than asking a complete stranger if they want to talk about Jesus. It could be a simple as a quick invitation to worship. It could be as easy as leaving a business card with the church’s information on the counter at the grocery store. It could even be as painless posting something on social media. Of course, we should still make efforts to set up Bible studies and more in depth encounters, but a little something is better and a lot of nothing and what are we doing if not trying to introduce people to the gospel (Romans 1:16)?
4. Encourage. Again, this does not have to be a big ordeal. In fact, I think sometimes we paralyze ourselves by thinking that any act of service as a Christian is better left undone if it can’t be done big. Send someone a text and let him or her know you’re thinking of them or praying for them. Send a card. Stop in for a visit. Ask them if there is something you can be praying for. All you have to do is a little something to put a smile on their faces that lets them know that they are not alone. It is only as difficult as we make it.
5. Show kindness. This one is really simple. Just be nice to someone on purpose. You could hold a door, buy a cup of coffee, help a little old man load his Ensure into the back of his SUV at Costco (true story, by the way) or offer to help someone out in another way. Kindness is the most affordable blessing on the planet.
All of these things can be done each day. So, if you find yourself in a stagnant holding pattern where your service to the Lord is concerned, start here. “SPEEK” every day. If there are other ways you stay on track, leave them in the comments below. I would love to hear them.
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At this moment, I am sitting in my living room. Some of our close friends, and their son, are visiting and if you know anything about my friends and me, then you know there are at least three conversations happening simultaneously against the noisy backdrop of 4 kids wrestling in the floor. Needless to say, it’s a bit chaotic in my house right now. Still, I was able to take a moment, stop visiting, and make the choice to thank God for moments like this. In the chaos, I found calm and it was amazing.
I wonder if sometimes, as Christians, we struggle with finding peace in the middle of our busy lives. It is so easy to get caught up in everything we have to do that perhaps we find it difficult to just stop for a moment and be in the moment. So this blog is dedicated to some of the things that we can do in order to help us find peace, and more importantly, find God when our lives are accelerating full speed ahead.
1. Stop. I know it sounds simple and a bit obvious, but how many times do we just stop? The psalmist writes for us to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). Think of that as a command: be still. When we do that, we can be confident that it is a choice. We have the ability to stop. To be still. To acknowledge God in the craziest moments of our lives. Do you do this? Do you take the time, in the middle of the big moments in your life, to just stop, take it all in and then give praise to your God for the blessings He has poured into your life?
2. Step away. Luke recorded that it was a frequent occurrence that Jesus Himself would step away from the hustle and bustle of His ministry to go off somewhere and pray alone (Luke 5:16). Was Jesus checking out of His life? Was He fleeing His responsibilities? Was He being selfish? Of course not! Jesus was taking advantage of the opportunities He had to step away for His own well-being? Do you do this? Do you ever take a few moments and step away from the crazy to ensure that you are at your best and therefore more adequately prepared to bring the best of you to the situations with which you deal in your life? If not, maybe it is something you could try.
3. Breathe. Again, I know how simple this sounds and until I went to grad school, the thought of someone telling me to breathe was infuriating. Now that I understand better how intentional deep breathing works, I get it…and I do it frequently. Here is why: when you breather deeply and slowly, you are forcing more oxygen into your bloodstream. Oxygen make you feel relaxed. Think of how you breather right before you fall asleep. Deeply and slowly. You can actually duplicate that state of relaxation at almost any point during the day. Breathe deeply to calm yourself and then take advantage of that relaxed state of mind by thanking God for some of the many blessings He has given you. Do you do this? If not, would you try it.
This might be a bit basic, but it is just too easy to get so caught up in our lives that we forget the One who gives life. Don’t make this mistake. Try these suggestions out and see if helps you find calm in the midst of a chaotic life.
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