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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A Daily Checklist for ChristiansTuesday, June 20, 2017
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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Finding Calm in the Midst of a Chaotic LifeTuesday, June 06, 2017
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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Random Thoughts From a Distracted PreacherTuesday, May 16, 2017
I’m definitely having one of those days. I have spent quite a bit of time today staring at a blinking curser on my computer screen and I have absolutely no idea what to blog about today. Normally, I have an idea several days in advance so when I sit down to write on Tuesday morning, I’m good to go. Not today. Today, I have a million things on my mind after a very busy week, last week, and it feels as if the well has gone dry.
So, I am just going to share some of the random thoughts that are bouncing around in my head this morning and hope that they are of some use to you today.
1. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes, I wonder if Christians are paralyzed by perfection. We feel that if we talk to someone about Jesus, we won’t have all the answers to the question that other person might have, so we keep silent. Maybe that’s why we don’t teach Bible classes, preach, lead singing/prayers as well. How many things do you shy away from in your life because you are afraid that it won’t be perfect? What a shame that is, especially when God has not created us to be afraid (2 Timothy 1:7). God doesn’t need you to be perfect. He just needs you to work. So, get to work.
2. When God creates something, it is awesome! Last week was a trying week for the congregation I work with. There were several things that happened that made it a tough week. However, what I saw in response to that was nothing short of amazing. I saw the body that Paul described (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). It reminded me that Christians will never be perfect, but when imperfect Christians follow God’s perfect plan, lives will change. God worked, through His design, in each of us last week in an amazing way. I encourage you, this week, to step into God’s plan and see what He can do through you.
3. We are weaker when we step away from God’s Word. I had a wonderful conversation with one of my brothers in Christ last week. Somehow, during that conversation we got to talking about daily Bible reading and I confessed how much more I feel I struggle when I get out of that habit, even if it is only for a day or two. There is a reason Moses taught the congregation of Israel to keep the word of the Lord in their minds (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). There is a reason that blessings follow the man who meditates on the Law of the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2). God’s Word makes us stronger, smarter, and readies us for everything that this life could throw at us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
4. Failing to be present is a terrible waste. Part of my distraction is related to planning 2 of my sons’ birthday party. I have one turning 9 and one turning 6 this month. In addition to thinking about cupcakes and presents, I can’t help but think that watching your kids grow up is one of the cruelest and most amazing blessings one can experience. I am proud of who they are becoming and miss who they were all at the same time. Folks, our time truly is precious. It is a gift from God. It won’t last forever (James 4:14). Take some time today and truly appreciate the blessing of time that God has given you.
I know this blog is a bit disorganized, but so am I…at least today. I hope you find value in this though and I hope it helps you as you work to know God better and serve him more faithfully.
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How to "Be There" for a Fellow ChristianTuesday, May 09, 2017
It seems inevitable that at some point, there is going to be some hardship among your spiritual family. After all, we all suffer, don’t we? We lose people who are dear to us. We endure financial struggles. We suffer from illness. Sometimes, the hardship might not necessarily be negative, though. Think about the craziness that comes from bringing a new baby home from the hospital or moving into a new house. All of these things, whether they be good or bad, tend to bring stress into our lives and burdens we aren’t typically accustomed to bearing.
It is natural, I think, when we notice that someone close to us is carrying around one of these burdens, for us to want to help. We usually let the person or persons know that we are praying for them and then we say it. We speak the same phrase almost every time, don’t we? We look at our struggling brother or sister, we smile, and we say, “If there is anything I can do, just let me know.” But what happens after that? How many times do they call us up and say, “Hey, since you offered, I could really use…?” It doesn’t happen very often, does it? So even though we are very willing to help and bear the burdens of our fellow Christians (Galatians 6:2), our hands are tied because no request has come to us.
What if there were some things we could do on our own that did not depend on a specific request? The following are a few things I think we can do to really “be there” for a brother or sister who is struggling.
1. Pray for them. Yes, it is obvious, but stay with me on this. We often tell one another, “I’ll pray for you” when we notice they are struggling. While there is not a thing in the world that is wrong with this, try mixing it up a bit. Instead of talking about what you will do, mention to them what you have already done. Say a prayer for the person and then send them a text or give them a call and let them know that you have already petitioned God on their behalf (Hebrews 4:16).
2. Use one-way communication. I remember, when I lost a loved one last year, I was pretty destroyed. I knew my brothers and sisters were so concerned and wanted to be there for me. However, I had a really hard time talking on the phone about what had happened. More than anything, I appreciated the emails, texts and cards that I received. That way, I was able to receive the encouragement I needed without the added pressure of having to respond right away. So, instead of calling, think about sending a text, card or something else that can let that person know your thoughts and prayers are with them, but won’t obligate them to an immediate response.
3. Cook something. Ok, I am seriously laughing right now. I know this might be the most southern sentiment ever. We the goin’ gets tough, Texans fire up the trusty crockpot. Still, it’s a great idea. If someone is having a difficult time, the last thing they want to think about is cooking dinner. To have something brought over is a tremendous help and it is also very thoughtful and encouraging. My wife is great at this! She might not have the perfect thing to say in her back pocket at all times, but she is a fantastic cook and this is a great way to “be there” for someone who is going through a difficult time.
4. Don’t ask (or wait to be asked). OK, this one is based 100% on your relationship and influence with the other person. That being said, this suggestion might not work with someone you are not very close to. This only emphasizes the importance of building relationships with your spiritual family. If you do have a strong relationship, then don’t wait to be told what to do. Just do it. If a brother or sister is struggling, just show up and do something. Pick up the house. Wash the dishes. Do a load of towels. Pray with them. Do something! Take some of their menial burdens off their shoulders so they can focus on more pressing matters.
I know this isn’t always easy and that often, our level of love and concern is matched only by our lack of understanding as to what we could or should do in a difficult situation. There are no small gestures when it comes to offering support and encouragement to a fellow Christian who is suffering. Just don’t let uncertainty paralyze you.
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Do You Appreciate Your Influence?Tuesday, May 02, 2017
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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