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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Keep Your Island in Your Mind

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Over Thanksgiving, the whole family went to see the newest Disney movie, Moana. The movie is about a Polynesian girl who is charged with the task of crossing the ocean to deliver a stone in order to save her people and her island. Just imagine Lord of the Rings with a lot more water, coconuts and the expected Disney music and magic. Anyway, my kids are obsessed with it. In fact, we had to buy the soundtrack of which they now know just about every word both English and Samoan. Car rides are super fun now.

More to the point, there is a song entitled “We Know the Way” (click here to hear it) which talks about the navigation style of the Polynesians of that era who managed to explore and discover hundreds of islands over hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean within the Polynesian triangle which spans from New Zeland to the Hawaiian islands to Easter Island (source). They did all of this without a compass, sextant, gps or any other device that could even be considered relatively modern. Their method involved reading the stars, understand the currents and temperature of the ocean and keeping their island in their mind…literally.

What they managed to do was nothing short of amazing. In order to know where they were out on the ocean, these Polynesian navigators had to be aware of where their home island was in reference to their current position. Still, this concept serves as a beautiful double metaphor. While they had to literally keep the location of their home in their thoughts, they also chose to remember where they came from culturally as the Polynesian culture was spread throughout this vast area.

So this may be a stretch, but I can help but think about how this mindset applies to Christians as well. The idea of remembering where we come from, not in a literal sense necessarily, but spiritually. 

  • Children are referred to as heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5). We belong to God as we all came from God.
  • This world is not our home. We are travelers on this earth and there is no place here that we are intended to call our final destination (1 Peter 2:11-12).
  • We are to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus as He is the One who will guide us to our home in heaven (Hebrews 12:2; John 14:6).

While I don’t think it was the point of Moana to encourage people to follow Jesus, it is certainly something I have taken away from seeing the movie…and listening to the soundtrack for hundreds of hours. In remembering who we are and where we come from, we are better able to find our way home. Its a beautiful parallel to our journey as Christians who are navigating this world all the while trying to reach that Home in Heaven that has been prepared for us.

Do with this what you will, these are just some of my thoughts. I hope it helps you to remember who you are, where you come from, and most importantly, where you are trying end up.

Understanding and Practicing True Repentance

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Offense

Last week my son had a moment of weakness. In his second grade math class, there was a test going on. After he finished, instead of sitting and reading at his desk like he was told to do, he got out of his seat, walked over to another student’s seat and adjusted it while that student was up handing in his test paper. When the other kid came back to his chair, he didn’t realize that it had been moved and when he went to sit down, he missed the chair, fell backwards and hit his head. Notes were sent home. Calls were made, and my oldest (8) found himself in the very unusual position of being at fault.

The Consequence

My son said he did not mean for his classmate to fall or get hurt. He said he was just trying to fix his chair. Regardless, a mistake was made and he was the guilty party. He should not have been out of his chair. His good intentions did not excuse him from disregarding his instructions to be at his desk reading. As a result, he was scolded at school, lost privileges at home, and had to write apologies both to his teacher and the other student to be given at school when he went back. On top of everything else his tearful shame was a prolonged experience as this all happened on a Friday and school didn’t resume until the following Tuesday.

The Lesson

Last night, after the apologies were written, my son held his head low and seemed to be very sad. When I asked him what was wrong he said he was scared about school the following day and did not want to have to deliver these apologies. As we talked, I explained to him a few things that the Bible teaches us about mistakes, repentance, and forgiveness.

  • Everyone makes mistakes. Even though this is no excuse for wrongdoing, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person (Romans 3:23).
  • When we feel sad after doing wrong, it is a good thing and it’s God’s way of bringing us to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).
  • Repentance is more than saying you’re sorry. It is also a decision to cease from the wrongdoing.
  • When we repent, God forgives us. Other people may not, but God always does (1 John 1:9).

After explaining all of this to him the best I could in such a way that his young mind could understand it, he asked me to pray with him. Toward the end of the prayer, though, he took over. As I heard his tiny, timid voice ask his God to forgive him and ask for strength to make good choices in the future, I felt so grateful…grateful for many things. I was grateful for my son and his sweet heart. I was grateful for God’s Word which provided wisdom in this moment of trial, but I was most of all grateful for my Jesus, who made it possible for my baby boy to petition the Father in his time of weakness and ensure the mercy that our souls so desperately crave.

I know this seems simple, but I hope that we, in our weakness, never forget that forgiveness is always possible for us so long as we resolve to point our hearts to God and humbly sacrifice ourselves in His service.

Please Help Me! From a Christian Parent to the Congregation

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In 2011, when my wife and I went from 1 kid to 3 within a timespan of 10 days, there were times when I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it. As a preacher, I was obviously no help during worship because I wasn’t even sitting in our pew to help my wife wrangle the rugrats during worship. It didn’t take long before various members of the congregation swooped in and grabbed a kid so that they were all taken care of and also so that my wife could have a chance to worship.

I have never been with a congregation who didn’t love the kiddos. As a parent, that is amazing. As a preacher and a parent, it is a blessing. However, there are days that I leave worship so frustrated I can’t even think. My kids act up from time to time, but that’s not the cause of the frustration. After all, they’re kids. My frustration comes from a place of guilt and shame because I feel that your worship has been compromised because of my kids’ behavior. On those days I am sad because I feel like you have been cheated out of your opportunity to focus on our Heavenly Father and worship Him. I know you love my kids, and I am so grateful that you do. I know you think they’re adorable and funny. I do too. So please know that the following requests are not because you have done something wrong. I ask them of you because I love you, because I don’t want to rob you of your worship, and because I am trying to teach my little critters to love and serve the Lord. All I am asking is that you please help me.

Please help me by ignoring their questions. I know it sounds harsh, but it is the best way to teach them not to be disruptive. I feel that they need to see that during worship, God get’s all of our attention. If they whisper a question to me during a prayer, I do not answer. My communication with God is more important than the piece of gum they are requesting.  If they talk during the sermon, I try to ignore it because that is my opportunity to grow and I hope that by modeling proper respect during the assembly, they will see its importance and imitate it. There are always exceptions, I know, but this is the standard we are trying to establish.

Please help me by not laughing at them. I know, believe me, this is hard. When a 3-year-old is imitating the song leader or sticking a finger in the nose of his parents, it’s funny. When my 4-year-old waited for the quietest point of the service to shout, “I have to pee!” it’s funny. However, when they hear laughter, it reinforces that behavior. If they learn that acting out during worship elicits a positive response from people they love, they will never stop acting out. Remember, my first priority is to follow’s God’s guidance in raising my kids (Ephesians 6:4).

Please help me by being on my side. When one of my kids has to be taken out because of repeated bad behavior, I need you to be on my side. When I get the “you’re a mean parent” stare or “that poor baby” frown, it feels like my efforts are being undermined. I am not the bad guy. I am the one who is trying to cultivate a love for God in tiny hearts. Sometimes, that means there are consequences for bad behavior. My consistency and resolve is preparing them to serve a God who will never tolerate sin, regardless of how cute the sinner may be.

My kids are a blessing to our congregation. I know that, and you know that. However, they are terrible at being God. Therefore, they do not deserve your attention during a time that has been set aside for the Lord beyond what is necessary to ensure their needs are being met. That time is for you and our Heavenly Father. I hope you know that I don’t write this in an attempt to tell you what to do, or to make you afraid to engage with my kids at the church building. I just wanted you to know what it’s like from my perspective. I know there are days when I don’t follow my own rules and all of these sentiments go up in flames. However my goal, always, is to do what I can to point those around me to Jesus, even if it means looking past my own children.

The Struggle of Keeping God First in Our Lives

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I’ll be honest with you all. I am not feeling it today. My head is congested. I am tired. My last semester of Grad School seems to want nothing more than to destroy me. I am trying to sell a house. And, to top it off, today is my youngest son’s Birthday. So in the midst of all this chaos, I am trying to make today a special one for him. Then I remembered today is Tuesday. Blog day. So if I am being perfectly real with you, I have no idea where this post is going because I am just making it up as I go along. I don’t even have a title for it yet.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot that the Chicago Cubs, my all-time favorite baseball team is in the World Series for the first time since 1945! They play game one tonight. I guess I say all of this to convey the point that the last few days have been filled with all sorts of distractions, both good and bad. I find myself here frequently and have to really be aware of where my priorities are. As much as I hate to admit it, there are times when my Bible Study and prayer life can really suffer. So today I think I want to talk about how we prioritize our lives and the importance of keeping God first in our lives, even when we are distracted.

Take this head cold for example. I am always thinking about it, because it is driving me crazy. I remember to take my medicine when it’s time so what I am seeing is that it is occupying a lot of my attention. What I am remembering now, however,  is that I have suffered from a much more severe illness. Sin. So today, whenever I start feeling bad because my nose and head seem to be malfunctioning, I will make the effort to remember that I have already been cured in the best way possible (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Our house not selling is a huge burden on us right now. It is definitely trying our patience and causing some stress in my life. Every time I think about it, I feel that ache in the pit of my stomach. Doubt. Fear. Anxiety. Not today, though. Today I am going to make an effort to remember that every struggle has value and that it will make me stronger if I let it (James 1:2).

Grad School. Ugh. So much to do. So much pressure. So many demands. Well, not today. Today I am going to be grateful that I have the opportunity to study something I love and that this will better enable me to be a stronger husband, father, and Christian. Today I will just give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Then there’s the birthday boy. This little tasmanian devil disguised as a blond haired and blue eyed cherub. He’s not a baby any more and he is intent on making sure that his mama and I know it. While he demands a lot of my attention, which can also be stressful at times (especially on birthday’s), today I am just going to focus on the fact that my number one job is to point him to Jesus and help him get to heaven. Today, I will be a godly father (Ephesians 6:4).

And now on to the Cubbies. For the last month, I have been obsessed. Watching games, wearing my favorite cubs t-shirt until it became a health hazard, and cheering them on to their first World Series in 71 years has been a big part of my life. I love my Cubbies. I will watch them play tonight and I really REALLY want them to win. But, today, they will occupy their proper place in my life. Before the game I will read my Bible, spend some time in prayer and try to encourage some of my brethren. I will honor God first (Matthew 6:33). Period.

I am not sure if this is helpful or nothing more than a cold-medicine induced rambling. I don’t even know if I will feel the same way tomorrow. However, today, I am going to focus on today (Matthew 6:34). I am going to focus on what I can control in this moment. I am certainly not saying that you have to do what I do, but I hope that you can find some value in this post and maybe even some encouragement to focus on the present. Even if you haven’t been living right or putting God first, please know that you can start right now. Do one thing at a time, point yourself toward Jesus, and you’ll finish the race (Hebrews 12:2).

The Perfect Sunday Morning

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I think we have all had that Sunday morning. You sleep through your alarm; your clothes aren’t ironed, the kids are hungry, but all you have for breakfast is some protein powder and a head of lettuce. Then, right as you’re walking out the door, you realize that you haven’t turned off the coffee pot. You get in the car and remember that your Bible is on the kitchen table, but you’re already so late that you have to just leave it. Forget about Bible class. Now you’re driving like a maniac just to make it in time for worship. You get to the building halfway through the first song and while you are scrambling to get seated, the kids start asking for gum. Finally you get sat down, but by this time the Lord’s Supper has begun. You desperately inhale the bread and juice because you forgot to eat breakfast. The offering basket arrives just as you finish signing your check. Then, the song leader gets up again, but you have no idea what song is being lead because you have to distribute pens and paper to the kids if you want them to remain calm. Finally, the preacher stands up to speak, but you are so exhausted from the full days worth of activities you’ve managed to cram in the last 90 minutes, you can’t even begin to focus. Finally, he’s done. All you have to do is survive the closing prayer (please don’t be a long one) and you’re free to recuperate and try again this evening.

This has happened more times to my family than I care to admit. It is not something that I boast by any means, but it has happened. When we adopted our middle son right after our youngest was born, my wife and I were a wreck. We went from 1 kid to 3 over the course of 10 days and worship is what suffered the most. Finally, we sat down and made a plan to make sure that this didn’t happen anymore. Granted, we have had the occasional off week here and there, but the following tips have helped tremendously.

1. Saturday Night = School Night. The first thing we do, to set our kids and ourselves up to succeed, is treat Saturday night like a school night. We don’t make big plans or stay up too late on Saturday. Why? Because, Sunday is a workday. It is the Lord’s Day. We wouldn’t let our kids go to school on 6 hours of sleep and expect them to function and we certainly wouldn’t do that with our jobs. We try and get to bed at a decent hour so when Sunday morning rolls around, we are ready to go. Side note: This is also the perfect time to write your contribution check.

2. Wardrobe is a Saturday Night Venture. This is simple, and you know it makes sense. Saturday night, everyone’s clothes are picked out and ironed if needed. This means everything. How many times have you wasted time on Sunday morning looking for that one shoe, tie, earing, belt? Get it ALL together on Saturday. You’ll be glad you did.

3. On Time = Late. You know as well as I do that when you arrive at the building, there will be hands to shake and things to sort out. This is true regardless of when you arrive. Get there early enough to do all of that before class starts. This way, when it is time to begin, you can be in your seat ready to engage. Remember why you are there to begin with. This is God’s time. Be respectful of that. Again, do you show up in the parking lot of your workplace or kid’s school when the day is supposed to begin? No. You arrive a bit early so you can be prepared to begin on time.

4. Preparation is Key. Come to the building ready to go. Have your Bible lesson read. Make sure the kids have done theirs as well. Spend some time in prayer before you get there. If you want, you can listen to your Bible lesson and/or pray in the car. I don’t advise the driver to close his/her eyes during this prayer, but it can be done. This is a perfect time to get your mind right, even if you are running a bit late.

5. When You’re Here, You’re Here. Be present. Once you arrive at the building, there is nothing you can do about what happened this morning. In the immortal words of Elsa, “Let it go!” Resolve, to focus on God, and only on God. Everything else (lunch, bills, homework, ball games, personal issues, money, the coming week) can wait.

There is no such thing as a perfect Sunday morning, but these are some tips that should be able to help make the most of the time we set aside to collectively worship our God. If there is something that I did not mention that is a vital part of you’re Sunday morning routine. Share it in the comments below.

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