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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This past weekend, my family and I traveled back to my hometown to celebrate my grandpa’s (or PaDad as we call him) 83rd birthday. It was a great day filled with lots of laughs, food, tears and even a busted brisket, but we’ll save that story for another time. At some point during that special day in his home, I began to look at PaDad’s pictures. He has millions of them and they’re all on the wall. He has pictures of his 7 kids, 13 grandkids and 9 great-grandkids during various stages of life covering the walls and just about every flat surface in the house.
One picture I noticed was one I didn’t recognize. So, I asked my mom who the man in the photograph was. She told me that it was her PaPa (PaDad’s father). Then she started to tell me a bit about him and how he started some of the trends in our family, trends I am familiar with but had no idea where they came from. For example, when my mom was a little girl, PaPa gave her a nickname that my PaDad still uses for her to this day. I also found out that my late aunt Joni’s bedtime routine which consisted of putting Vick’s VapoRub under her nose (gross), and putting a glass of water on the nightstand before bed was actually something she got from him. Who knew, right?
So what is the point of sharing all of this weirdly specific personal information? I guess what I got from it was a reminder that even the most insignificant of our actions can permeate the lives of those around us. Our actions, whether good or bad, work toward establishing our influence with other people. So, as Christians, we ought to ask ourselves if we truly appreciate the influence we are establishing in the lives of those with whom we come into contact.
Peter talks about how important this is in 1 Peter 2:11-12. He makes the point here that our conduct must be honorable. The use of the word “gentiles” in this verse adds an interesting twist as he highlights the importance of honorable behavior among those who are not followers of God. This means that as Christians, we are not only to exhibit moral behavior around one another, but also around those who are not of God. But, why? Who cares if the “gentiles” see a less godly side of us? It’s not like they care or will hold us accountable like other Christians will. Peter gives us the reasoning in verse 12. He tells us that God being glorified on the day of visitation is the reasoning behind this call to a higher behavioral standard. While there is some disagreement on what the day of visitation is, I understand it to be the day on which any non-Christian considers obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is because of that day, the day on which someone might have a question or a desire to know about Jesus, that we must establish good influence so that we can have the credibility needed to teach them what God wants them to know.
Also, I couldn’t help but consider Lois and Eunice when my mom was telling me about my great-grandfather. In 2 Timothy 2:5, Paul, as he writes to Timothy, credits Timothy’s faith (at least in part) to his mother and grandmother. What an example they must have set! When you think about how new Christianity was during this time and the tremendous difficulties associated with being a Christian, one can only assume that these were some strong women. Their faithfulness to God was so strong that it spanned 3 generations. That’s not even something that is super common in today’s time, much less during the first century. It kind of makes you wonder what actions of yours are going to endure generations after your life, doesn’t it.
So whether we are talking about nicknames, incredibly weird bedtime routines, or the example of a faithful Christian, there are some absolutes that we would do well to consider.
- Someone is always watching you and you will be imitated.
- You will not only be imitated when you are doing good. Even the bad stuff will get picked up.
- We all have a responsibility to understand and appreciate the fact that we are always establishing influence with those around us.
Does your example point those around you (even the “gentiles”) to Jesus or does it pull them away from them?
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It has happened too many times to count. I am in a conversation with someone, and then it comes out that I attend a local congregation of the church of Christ. The once pleasant exchange soon devolves into a big, soupy mess of awkwardness, and people have actually responded to this news with an apology as if they anticipate being scolded or reprimanded by me. This makes me wonder if people have a bad taste in their mouths about members of the church of Christ. If so, that makes me sad.
My intention in this blog is to try and clarify some of the misconceptions people may have when they hear the words “church of Christ.” However, this is a tricky one. It’s tricky because I can’t speak for everyone who claims to be a member of the church of Christ. However, I can speak for myself, and I feel confident that I can speak, at least from a general perspective, for those members who are closest to me. So here goes. Here are a few of the things I wish the average person knew about the church of Christ.
1. We are more than just the folks who don’t use instruments in worship. Come on. Let’s face it. This is one thing that most people seem to know about the church of Christ. We’re the ones who don’t have a piano, organ, guitar or ANYTHING, for that matter, playing when we sing during worship. However, that is not all there is to us. We are Christians striving to be more like Jesus with each passing day. We are men and women who struggle daily with sin and temptation. We are families trying to raise our children in the training and the admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). We are people who want to honor God and encourage those around us to do the same.
2. We do not think we are better than anyone else. Few things have stung more than hearing this being insinuated in a conversation. I don’t know any member of the church of Christ who thinks he/she is better than anyone. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all need the same Jesus if we are to be together in heaven one day (John 14:6), and to think that I somehow have an edge over another person simply because of the name on the building in which I worship is the farthest thing from the truth.
3. We are not “ultra-conservative.” I’m not a fan of terms like “conservative” and “liberal.” The reason for this is because both of the terms are completely based on comparison. What is conservative to one, might be liberal to another. I would like to think that as a Christian, I am neither. I would like to think the same of any other member of the church of Christ. We are not liberal or conservative. We are biblical. At least, that is what we strive to be. Every Christian I know tries his or her best to serve and worship God based upon the pattern that is laid out for us in the New Testament. That is the reason for the lack of instrumental music. The New Testament (which contains the instruction for worship under the law of Christ) tells us to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). So, that is what we do.
4. We do not think we’re the only ones going to heaven. I’m about to get myself in trouble here, but it is important that everyone knows that it is NOT what is written on the building that determines salvation. Jesus made it clear that the one who does the will of God will inherit salvation (Matthew 7:21). That is the standard. Nothing else! While I, and others around me, are striving to seek out the will of God in everything we do, it is not done for us just because we are members of the church of Christ. The Bible tells us what a person needs to do in order to get to heaven; and nowhere in the Bible will we find evidence to support that simply being a member of a church of Christ is what God expects from us. “Whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
Again, let me point out that I am only speaking from my perspective here and to be frank, if these misconceptions are as common as I suspect they are, then they had to come from somewhere. I encourage you all to ask questions, start conversations, study your Bibles, and do everything we can to know God better. Lastly, let us strive less to be disciples of the name on the door and strive more to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you have any thoughts or questions about this blog, please feel free to comment below.
This past weekend, my mom and sister came for a visit, and during the course of that visit, my sister and I had a great conversation about the importance of being challenged and the painful element of growth in general. Granted, it was a short discussion as it happened in the car on the way to get something to drink, but it has stayed in my head these past few days.
We often speak of the preacher “stepping on our toes” if we found the lesson particularly convicting, and I must say that, as a preacher, this is one of the most encouraging things to hear after a sermon. This isn’t because I want my audience to feel bad or beat up on, but because it lets me know that they are being introspective and hopefully considering some change in their lives based on what the Bible teaches.
Sadly, it is the custom of some to surround themselves with only those who will compliment and congratulate them in everything they do. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with encouragement, but there should also be some conviction added into the mix. The same voice that is so generous with praise should also be forthcoming with correction and guidance that challenges us to do better. The problem, however, is that growth is never painless.
The following are a few reasons why it is so important to have our toes stepped on:
1. It sharpens you. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Proverbs 27:17. However, there is no sharpening that takes place if we are not challenged. The iron must change its shape in order to become sharp. It must lose part of itself to be transformed from a raw element into a tool with a higher purpose. Do you allow yourself to be sharpened even if it means you have to change?
2. It yields the fruit of righteousness. In Hebrews 12, the writer talks about the discipline of the Lord and how it yields in us the fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). One common mistake we make with this passage is that we assume that discipline is punishment for wrongdoing. In reality though, the concept of discipline is more akin to shaping or molding. Sure a father will discipline his child when the child does wrong, but the reason for that is usually to teach, guide and ultimately mold that child. The same thing is true for us. When we are disciplined…by God…through His Word…via someone in our lives, we are molded into that which gets us closer to being worthy of the presence of the Father.
3. It is better than flattery. Sure, it feels good when someone is willing to overlook our shortcomings and congratulate us on being superb human beings. However, as enjoyable as it is, is it truly helpful? The Bible teaches us that there is great danger in flattery (Proverbs 29:5). Think of it this way, would we appreciate the doctor who refused to point out our ailments because he didn’t want to offend us? Would we value a teacher who marked “A” on everything we turned in regardless of the quality of the work? Then why are we so keen to find people who will not challenge us to be better, even if it means the truth they tell is sometimes painful?
4. It is an act of love. Not tough love. Just love. I don’t make my kids get shots because I want to see them in pain. It’s because I love them. I don’t yell their names, as they are about to touch a hot surface, to hurt their feelings. I do it to protect them. We have got to stop assuming that speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) means a soft tone of voice and a smile. Correction. Is. Love. As long as it is done in the best interest of the people involved. Don’t be the fool and hate being corrected (Proverbs 12:1). See it for what it is, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be. After all, what kind of person would risk hurting your feelings to help save your soul? The kind you want in your life! “Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Proverbs 27:5).
Do you want to grow? Then you need to be ready to hurt. Consider your surroundings and ask yourself if you despise correction or appreciate it. Still mad at someone for pointing out the truth to you? Get over it and reconcile the relationship because those are the kinds of people you need in your life. He might not have “said” it right, but that doesn’t mean it was not an act of love.
When my oldest, who is now 8, was a bit younger, he had this awful pair of flip-flops that he loved to wear. The problem with them was that the strappy things on top were a bit too loose. So, when he would walk, the soles would get caught on the ground, he would trip, and then he would hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. We tried to get him to wear other shoes. We explained to him that he wouldn’t trip so often if he would only pick up his feet a bit more, but nothing helped. Finally one day he had enough. He tripped, yet again, but this time, my boy (who is usually very mild tempered) picked himself up, and in a moment of total exasperation screamed, “WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS?”
The spiritual parallel isn’t hard to see, is it? Don’t we, all too often, find ourselves stumbling in sin? Aren’t we, all too often, frustrated with ourselves for our mistakes? Haven’t we, all too often, been given the instruction and guidance necessary to keep us from our mistakes? Think about it. How many times have you caught yourself asking forgiveness from God for the same sin over and over, sometimes even in the same day? What is it that makes overcoming sin so hard? Why do we keep doing this? Why can’t we stop sinning? The following are a few reasons that might help:
1. I can’t stop sinning because I try to do it without God. Have you ever felt like your efforts to avoid sin are something you do for God instead of with God? I sure have. I have felt that avoiding sin is my job and mine alone. The problem with this is that God wants to help us get out of sin, not watch us get out of sin. Frankly, we're nuts if we think we can stop sinning on our own and then stand before God in our perfection. God is essential for our victory over sin (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). So what’s the take-away? Pray, study, and serve God through your struggles, not after you have overcome them.
2. I can’t stop sinning because I’m trying to stop sinning. I know how this sounds, but stay with me here. The idea that sin is to be avoided is absolutely biblical (1 Thessalonians 5:22). However, what if our attitude about this is counterproductive? What if we, instead of allowing our sin and struggles to consume us every day, decide to place our focus on Jesus Christ? The Hebrew writer talks about laying aside our sin and looking unto Jesus, right (Hebrews 12:1-2)? When we choose to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) and think on the things God tells us to (Philippians 4:8), then there will be no room in our hearts and minds for any sin. It is hard for sin to find its way into someone who is sufficiently filled with Jesus Christ.
3. I can’t stop sinning because is am too involved with the world. Again, I know how it sounds. After all, how can we not be involved in the world? We live here, right? But just because we live here, it doesn’t mean we make this our home. We are not designed to sin. We are designed to be reconciled to God! He has made every provision to ensure this (John 3:15, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Corinthians 10:13). However, in the same way that my son did not want to throw out those disastrous flip-flops, sometimes we don’t want to loosen our grip on this world. Following God is easy (Matthew 11:30). We make it hard because we want to live both for God and for ourselves, which is impossible (Matthew 6:24). Let go of the world and run, full speed, to your Heavenly Father. You might be amazed at what happens in your life.
You will be happy to know that my boy eventually got rid of the offending footwear and has been walking erect ever since. It was a simple solution to a harmful problem. I hope that as you read this, you are being reminded that God has given us the solution to our problem in the wisdom of His Word (2 Timothy 3:16) through the blood of His son (Hebrews 9:28).