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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Theology

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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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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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Some Forgotten Biblical Commandments

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

 It is easy to open your Bible and find all of the “thou shalt nots” therein. I know I am not supposed to lie. I know I’m not supposed to steal or kill. As a Christian, I know I am supposed to behave a certain way. I am going to step out on a limb and say that if you are reading this blog, then you know this too.

 

 

However, I also know there are some commands and prohibitions in the Bible, which are equally as essential for the Christian yet, they aren’t always discussed or observed with the same zeal as their more obvious cousins. The following are a few of the biblical commands, which are a bit more easily overlooked.

 

1. Kindness (Colossians 3:12) Granted, more than kindness is mentioned in this passage and I am certainly not implying that kindness is something all Christians struggle with. However, would you say that kindness and the other virtues mentioned here are as important as not murdering someone? I suspect many would not. Sure murder and kindness are different on a social scale. However, God’s commands are all essential for a life that is pleasing to Him.

 

2. Temperance (James 1:19) Again we are talking about a characteristic that seems less significant than some. And Christians are certainly affected by their emotions just like any other person. But, do we sometimes excuse our intemperate behavior because we don’t consider commands like this to be as substantial?

 

3. Evangelism (Matthew 28:19-20) Here is something we all know is important. Yet, are we really working to fulfill this command in our lives? I can be easy to assume that we are evangelizing just by being Christians. Sure, your influence is important, but it is not the same as talking to people about the Gospel. If you are not individually active in your pursuit of evangelism can you really stand in confidence that you are striving to serve God to the best of your ability?

 

4. Honor (1 Peter 2:12) Honor is something that often sounds more like a positive virtue more than a spiritual responsibility. The reason I say this is because there is often an absence of honor when Christians interact with non-Christians. Don’t believe me? Log on to Facebook or another social media platform.  Whether the topic is religion, politics, sports or something else, Christians are far too comfortable posting insensitive, unkind and downright sinful content. Remember why your conduct is to be honorable in this context. It is so that you may have influence and potentially lead someone else to Jesus.

 

5.  Love (1 John 4:7)Of course, I know you know that love is an essential part of being a Christians. I don’t suggest this as a forgotten command because I think that Christians disagree with this. I do wonder, however, if we sometimes forget to implement this as we should. Sometimes, it is easier to talk about and feel love than it is to actually show it. Don’t let this happen to you. Pursue love for one another and understand that in order to do this, an action is necessary.

 

I’m sure I could have listed many more biblical commands that could be considered “forgotten.” What are some commands that you would add to this list? Mention them in the comments section below.

 

 

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5 Things You Need to Know About the Bible

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

It should come as no surprise that Christians ought to read their Bibles. After all, this is how we are able to educate ourselves about God, and truly understand His will for our lives. However, there are some bad habits that can very easily arise if we are not careful.

 

 

The Bible has fallen under a lot of scrutiny over the years. Misinterpretations and misunderstandings have influenced a lot of folks to make some very poor decisions and all in the name of following (or at least trying to follow) what the Bible says. In order to avoid this, I have put together a little list of things we all ought to consider when reading our Bibles.

 

1. It was NOT written in English. This should be obvious, but it isn’t always. There are a lot of people who seem to think that Paul and the other apostles wrote their letters in King James English, and this is just not true. The New Testament was actually written in Greek. One might wonder why that matters. It matters because the English language is made up of approximately 1 million words whereas the Greek language is made up of over 5 million words. That is a BIG difference. Original text and word meanings can alter how we might understand a passage.

 

2. It wasn’t written to you.  Well, I suppose in a way, one could argue that this is not true. But, if you are considering original context, then it is obvious that while I may benefit from the scriptures (again, considering the New Testament in particular), I am not the original intended audience. This matters when you go to study God’s Word. Hebrews was written to a group of Christians who were formerly practicing Jews. The message of that book is in direct response to their background and the challenges that arose as a result. Elements like this are very important in reaching a deeper understanding of the Bible.

 

3. It wasn’t written by verse. We love to be able to cite book, chapter and verse for a passage. This makes it easy for us to navigate the scriptures and direct others through the text. However, those little verse numbers and even the big chapter numbers were not in the original texts. This means that isolating a verse like Jeremiah 29:11, framing it on a tile, and hanging it in your kitchen as if it were your personal mantra from God might not always be wise. The verse is true absolutely, but it was directed at a suffering prophet who was feeling down about his ministry. Remember the 3 main rules of Bible study: context, Context, and CONTEXT!

 

4. It is not to be supplemental in nature.  God’s word is perfect and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There is no other source by which we can learn anything about the nature of God, His will for our lives, and the means by which we can carry it out. God’s word is final! Be very careful when you study. You might not always find yourself in easy acceptance to what is written and it can be very easy to dismiss God’s Word on the basis of tradition, culture, and time. God’s words do not change and His will for us doesn’t either.

 

5. You can make it worthless. Sure God’s words never really waver in power or value. But, YOU can make the inspired Word of God worthless in your own life. How? Either by neglecting to read it or by reading it and not applying it. If your Bible is sitting on a shelf or a coffee table collecting dust, then it is worthless, at least to you. We are to receive Gods word (James 1:21), and then apply it to our lives. Otherwise, we are truly rendering God powerless in our lives when it comes to our salvation and spiritual growth.

 

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