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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Some Forgotten Biblical CommandmentsTuesday, 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 BibleTuesday, 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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Why Congregations are Dying OffTuesday, August 15, 2017
It is a sad reality that the Lord’s Church is facing these days. So many congregations who were, at one time, strong and thriving are essentially dying out. One day, the last song will be sung in these buildings and the doors will close forever. It has been common practice among Christians to blame the disintegration of these churches on the world. We complain about society’s increased wickedness and the demoralization of the human race and say, “that’s the reason we’re not growing!”
I’m not even going to get into everything that’s wrong with that statement, but I am going to suggest that our efforts would be better spent looking inward at the struggling congregation than outward on whatever circumstances may be present. So, here is some insight from the Bible as to why your congregation is dying.
1. Laziness. Yeah, you heard me. Laziness. Too often it falls upon the shoulders of a few people to make sure that everything gets done. The preaching, song leading, teaching, building upkeep, evangelism, EVERYTHING? Why is this? Because the rest of the membership identifies themselves with an “I’m not” statement. “I’m not a song leader.” “I’m not a public speaker.” “I’m not good at talking to people.” Maybe not, BUT YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN! And, Christians should be working (Romans 12:11). Everyone has jobs, families, and life stuff to deal with, but sometimes Christians need to step up, not because they possess a particular gift, but because the work needs to be done.
2. Ignorance. Unfortunately, there are many congregations suffering because they just don’t know their Bible well enough. When you are ignorant about God’s Word, your faith will always suffer (Romans 10:17). As a result, the congregation suffers as a whole (1 Corinthians 10:26). Numerical growth, even if it does happen, will not yield godly results in the absence of spiritual growth. Reading your Bible on Sunday and Wednesday is just not enough. You have to know the word of God in order to ensure the strength of the body of which you are a member.
3. Animosity. It’s sad but true. When congregations are so overcome by their own drama that they can’t even be kind to one another, failure is inevitable. But why? After all, sometimes people just don’t get along right? Sure. However, Christians’ love for one another is how our discipleship is identified (John 13:35). So, when Christians are unkind to one another, their discipleship is compromised. How can we expect to convert sinners in the world and ask them to come and be a part of our misery?! It’s ridiculous. Granted, conflicts are natural, but if they are not dealt with in a godly way, that congregation is doomed.
4. Fear. This baffles me, honestly. Here we are: Christians; the children of the Living God, heirs of Salvation, and we are too often hiding in dark corners because we are too scared to make a stand for what is right. Why? Because, we don’t want people to laugh at us. We don’t want to be made fun of. We would rather drown in the sin, which surrounds us than rise up and take a stand. Sure, we live in a big scary world, but we serve the God who spoke it into existence and He gave us not a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
5. Complaining. Boy, does this happen a lot! For some reason we just forget how blessed we are and just start complaining. Everyone has bad days, but when this becomes a default setting it is devastating to a congregation. “We’re too small.” “We don’t have elders.” This guy can’t sing.” “That guy can’t preach.” “That church isn’t sound.” “The world is sinful.” “Nobody cares.” When we think in problems and not solutions, nothing gets done. Paul told us that how we speak matters, especially pertaining to this (Ephesians 4:29). A congregation has little hope when griping takes the place of gratitude and action.
All this being said, there is still the adversary who is out there trying to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). The scary thing is that sometimes it’s the Christians who are making his job VERY easy. While these may have not contributed to every single dying church, it is safe to say that many congregations would not be facing the difficulties they are if they would simply work on these 5 areas. As the Lord’s church, we should be growing and thriving, not vanishing into obscurity and each of us has role to play.
How to Become a Self-Sufficient ChristianTuesday, July 25, 2017
Warning: This blog contains a fair amount of sarcasm. Reader discernment is advised.
It’s 2017 and people are still the same. You can’t really count on many people. Maybe there are one or two folks in your life whom you trust but that’s about it. I am sure that you, like so many, have been burned or taken advantage of in some way, let down by someone you thought was your friend; and there is no way that you are going to let that happen again.
In addition, you love the Lord and you want to serve Him as a faithful Christian. The solution to this conundrum? Become a self-sufficient Christian. After all, why shouldn’t you be able to get to heaven on your own? The following is a list of things you must do in order to become a fully self-sufficient Christian:
1. Shut out other Christians. You’ll still be willing to help them out when they need it, but the self-sufficient Christian cannot be so vulnerable as to rely on others when he is struggling. This really isn’t consistent with Paul’s admonition for Christians to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), but at least you can “half-way” fulfill the law of Christ.
2. Get comfortable with weakness. Since you don’t want to have to rely on anyone, you are going to want to start acclimating yourself to a lot of struggles. This is simply the opportunity cost of self-sufficiency. Just because the wisest man to ever live wrote, by the inspiration of God, that we are weaker alone (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), it doesn’t mean that it is not the right choice for you.
3. Weaken the Body of Christ. Self-sufficiency comes at a price, but so do a lot of valuable things. Since you are determined to be self-sufficient to the detriment of your own strength, you should be ok with the effect that has on the rest of the Body (Romans 12:5). After all, I’m sure someone else can pick up your slack.
4. Disregard God’s Wisdom. God created woman because he saw that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). He commands us to assemble on the first day of the week so that we can admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). He teaches us that the church becomes stronger when we work together (Ephesians 4:16). Being a self-sufficient Christian means acknowledging that God’s design just doesn’t work for you.
Obviously, this blog is a testament to the fact that one cannot be a self-sufficient Christian and succeed spiritually, and no amount of “one man on a desert island” hypothetical arguments can change that. We have been designed to work together. This means that at times we offer help, and at times we accept help. It might not be the easiest thing to do; relying on other people, that is. However, those other people are who God himself has surrounded you with. So, one could reason that to refuse the help of another person is to refuse the help of God.
Remember, the devil wants you alone because then you are easier to pick off (1 Peter 5:8). Don’t make it that easy.
Are you Truly Committed to the Will of God?Tuesday, July 11, 2017
It might be a knee-jerk reaction that would take place if you were to ask a Christian if he is devoted to seeing the will of God carried out in his life. In fact, I can’t think of a single person I know who professes to follow after Jesus who might answer, “no” to that question. However, I wonder if we are as committed to God’s will as we think we are. It’s not my intention to be critical here, or even to suggest that most Christians have it wrong. I do think, however, that maybe we sometimes misunderstand God’s will for our lives and as a result, make the honest, but dangerous, mistake of disregarding it.
The following are a few things we need to know about the will of God for our lives if we are to be true followers of it.
1. God’s will for our lives is not a secret. So often, I here people talking about life decisions as if God has yet to reveal to them what He wants them to do. In all reality though, God, through His Word, has given us complete and perfect revelation with which we are able to make any decision (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There will be no special revelation, no tingling sensation, no ethereal moment during which we will just “know” what God wants from us and for us. There is only His Word.
2. God’s will for our lives is not situational. What the Lord requires of us does not vary from situation to situation. He doesn’t want us to focus on Him in one instant and then focus on ourselves in another. God is the same, always (James 1:17). Solomon wrote the whole duty of man was the fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Jesus said to seek first God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33), to love God and your fellow man (Mark 12:30-31), and Paul compared our lives to a race that is to be run straight to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). There are other examples, but the sentiment is the same. Our chief responsibility is to serve and please God regardless of the situation.
3. God’s will for your life might not be what you are currently doing. I know how this sounds, believe me. You are a good person, right. You have a good life and nobody is getting hurt. That, however, is not the standard for living. Maybe you don’t have dead bodies buried in your back yard, but you might not be fulfilling your God-given responsibilities either. Don’t let your comfort level be the determining factor in how you live your life. You might have a good job, healthy family, and financial security. However, if your job and even your family keep you from serving God in any way you are not following His will for your life.
4. God’s will may make us uncomfortable. I can’t imagine Abram was super comfortable when he was commanded by God to leave his homeland (Genesis 12:1). I would imagine his discomfort level went through the proverbial roof when God commanded him to kill his son (Genesis 22:2). Wouldn’t it be foolish of us, then, to think that serving God can only be done within the confines of our comfort zones? Are you willing to move your family, forsake a loved one, deny yourself, take a pay cut, give up what is dear to you, or anything else in order to serve God. If not, you might not be as dedicated to the Lord’s will as you think you are.
5. God’s will always leads you to heaven. It may be hard to follow at times and applying God’s will to your specific circumstances can be confusing. However, if you succeed, and truly submit to the will of the Lord, your reward is secure (Hebrews 10:36).
I hope this helps you as you seek to identify and adhere to God’s will for your life and I pray that you are successful in your perseverance and submission.
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