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.
If you would like to be included on our mailing list and receive updates when a new blog is posted, please click here.
If you follow my personal Facebook account, then you know that my middle son (Age 5) came home from school last week very upset. Apparently, one of his classmates had called him a name earlier that day, and it hurt his feelings. When my wife questioned him about it, she found out that this other kid had called our son “Little old fry from Sonic.” (What?) At this point, most parents might be upset that their kid was being called names. Our response? We laughed (quietly and out of sight), made a video and put it on Facebook.
Now, some of you might be tempted, at this point, to comment on our parenting. You will be relieved to know that my wife and I have yet to put a suggestion box on the front porch, so you’re off the hook for the time being. Anyway, the point is that our later conversation with our son was aimed at empowering him to handle adversity with strength and honor, but we did not pity him. We did not allow him to become a victim. Why? Because there will always be people who criticize and try to belittle us. Unless we develop a plan for dealing with this, we are doomed to always be a victim. This got me thinking about Christians, and our responses to the taunts and criticism we will inevitably receive. So the following are some tips for Christians intended to help us deal with those pesky bullies in our own lives.
1. Consider the source. In my son’s case, the source of his trouble was a 5-year-old and his weirdly specific version of “small fry.” It was not a parent, teacher, doctor or anyone else of any significance. Simply put, not everyone’s opinion matters. We get decide who is valuable enough (in the context of our lives) to speak into our lives. This kid has not yet earned that spot, so his opinion is regarded accordingly. The same goes for you, Christians. Those who give you a hard time, whoever they are, most likely do not occupy a space in your life, which validates their opinion. So, treat it accordingly. Remember that you are expected to earn God’s approval, and not man’s (Matthew 10:28). Then, brush it off and MOVE ON!
2. Don’t be passive aggressive. This is not the way of God people. For Christians, if there is a problem in your life that is important enough to discuss, deal with it directly (Matthew 5:24; 18:15). If an issue with another person is not significant enough to deal with directly, then let it go let and love take over (1 Peter 4:8). Don’t give the silent treatment. Don’t talk ugly about the person. Don’t put a vague post on Facebook. Brush it off and move on.
3. Don’t act surprised. Sometimes people won’t like you. Jesus said this would happen simply because we follow Him (1 John 3:13). However, sometimes people won’t like you because of the way you look or the way you talk. Some people won’t like you because of your personality. Some people won’t like you for no reason at all and here is a little secret: it is unlikely that you are going to change their mind, and that is ok. You do not have to be liked by everyone. So stop trying to change people’s minds about you and instead, focus on preaching Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). Brush it off and move on.
4. Watch how you speak. Most of us have very loyal friends/family. If they find out we’ve been mistreated in some way, they will want to rally to our defense. This puts them at odds with the one who mistreated us. It also encourages hateful words and attitudes, which are to be avoided (Ephesians 4:29). It’s really bad if this occurs between brethren. Then, it is called discord, which, God hates (Proverbs 16:19). Don’t talk ugly about people, not even mean people. When you do this, you foster negativity in your life and in the lives of those who love you. Instead, brush it off and move on.
5. Remember who you are. You are not some pitiful, defenseless, scared weakling. You are a child of the living God! Act like it! I am not asking you to be haughty, arrogant or superior, but don’t be a victim. You are a warrior, and should act accordingly (2 Timothy 2:4). Think about it. Your Father has overcome death and given you the opportunity to do the same (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Some folks might think you are weird, ugly, or stupid. Who cares? God loves you and that is not about to change (Romans 8:37-39). Brush it off and move on.
Listen, I know this could come off as reductive and that is not my intention. There are always exceptions. However, for the most part, as Christians, the “bullying” we experience isn’t that big of a deal. My son is fine. He’s over his struggle. Let’s start choosing to see ourselves through God’s eyes, instead of the world’s, and do the same.
Let it be known, that every congregation I have ever worked with has been wonderful about doing all of the things mentioned in this post. In fact, their example inspired me to write this and it is my hope that others can learn from the example they have set in welcoming a new preacher.
So here we are, at the beginning of a new relationship with one another. I am the guy who just moved into town and you are the congregation who just hired a new preacher. Without a doubt, at this point, there are a lot of uncertainties floating around, and it will take some time for us to get to know each other and get used to each other. I can imagine that getting used to a new preacher is difficult. After all, you’re more accustomed to another voice in the pulpit and another man’s way of doing things. Keep in mind also, that it can be difficult on my end too. In order for us to work together successfully to the glory of God, here are a few things I would appreciate if you would consider.
1. Communicate your expectations. Maybe you want a guy to keep regular office hours at the building. Maybe you want him to do 5 sermon series/year. Maybe you want him to organize group evangelism efforts once a month. Trust me. These are things I need to know. If I do not know what your expectations are, then I am doomed to disappoint you and that serves no one. Until we get to know each other better, where I can anticipate the needs of the congregation, please do not be afraid to approach me with these things. To make it easier, I will make an effort to approach you as well and ask you about your expectations.
2. Keep criticism constructive. I want to learn. I want to get better. I want to provide teaching and preaching that moves you to serve God better. Therefore, I appreciate your feedback. However, a constant barrage of criticism can be discouraging in the beginning. If I stand in the pulpit each week with the intention of seeking your approval, it is doubtful you will get the best of what I have to offer. Now, I know that this is mostly my responsibility to make sure that I seek to please God and not man (Galatians 1:10). However, it would really help if, at least at first, you would show me some grace in this area.
3. Be patient with my name learning. Confession: I am not the greatest at remembering people’s names. This is especially inconvenient in my particular profession. Remember though, there are 100 of you and one of me. If I forget your name or call you by the wrong one, just know that it is in no way an indication of disrespect of indifference. The last thing I want to do is not remember your name when I am talking to you and offend or embarrass you in any way. I promise, I’ll get there. Just give me some time.
4. Please. Please. Please. Love my kids. Remember, we just moved here. We took our kids out of their school and away from their friends. We did this knowing that it was the right thing, but they don’t understand that yet. Many of you have family here or have grown up here, but my babies are new too. They may be standoffish. They may say that they want to go home. They may even misbehave at times (gasp!). But, they are good kids and they are trying to find their place in this new situation too. Please, be good to them because that means everything to me.
5. Give me room to be me. I don’t believe for a second that you wanted a preacher with no personality of his own. Sure, I might not be what you’re used to, but given the chance, you might even like me. After all, my mom does. I will never be the man who preceded me in the pulpit. I will never be the preacher you grew up hearing. However, I do have a set of skills and a style unique to me. I mean, you did hire me, remember. Give me the chance to be me. It might turn out better than you anticipated.
I understand that beginning a relationship together is a two-way responsibility. In no way do I expect you to make all the effort. Believe me, I will be working as hard as I can to make sure that we bring out the best in each other and most importantly, that we honor God in our work together. I just thought that these tips might help you gain some perspective.
OK, let’s just be real here. We all know that we should be reading our Bible every day. After all, what could be a better use of our time then being in God’s Word? Then, why is it so hard to do sometimes? I have always been envious of people who talk about waking up at 5am and reading their Bible before they start their day. I so wish that I was that person, but I can barely get my pants on first thing in the morning let alone comprehend the inspired Word of God. So if you are one of the 5am folks, I salute you. But what about the rest of us? What about those of us who struggle with finding time to study our Bible and make it a meaningful and profitable experience? Here are 5 tricks that I have used to improve my Bible reading.
1. Set an alarm on your phone. No one said that you have to read your Bible first thing in the morning. Early mornings at my house are dedicated to school lunches, pop-tarts, sleepy kids and catatonic parents. Oh, I should wake up earlier you say? Don’t make me hurt you. So instead of doing my Bible reading first thing in the A.M., maybe I will set an alarm on my phone for 3pm or noon or whenever I know that I will have some time, during the day, to do my reading. Then, make this your practice for the same time every day. It doesn’t matter when you read as long as you get it done.
2. Read a manageable amount. I believe the demise of Daily Bible Reading is partially due to these “read the Bible in a year” plans. Who made that a thing? Where is it written that you have to read the Bible in a year? So you don’t have to start your reading with 4 chapters from Genesis, 8 Psalms and 3 chapters from Matthew. You may not have time for all that, and there is nothing wrong with that. Read a chapter a day and resolve to read 5 days a week. After all, it’s inevitable that you’re going to miss a day here and there. This way, you have some breathing room and can get caught up more easily when life throws you a curveball.
3. Don’t read. Listen. There are a ton of Bible apps out there. I even blogged about this a while back. You can check out that post by clicking here. Many of these apps give you the option of listening to the Bible, which can come in really handy. Plug your phone into the auxiliary jack in your car, connect via Bluetooth, or just listen from your phone’s speaker on the way to work. You might even find that you retain more from listening as opposed to reading.
4. Read with a pen in your hand. I love this! It helps me get the most out of my reading since my mind tends to wander at times. Getting into the practice of taking notes while you are reading can be super helpful. I have used P.A.T.H., which I learned about from another preacher a few years back. For this, when you read, you also write down something that motivates you to Praise God, an Admonition from the text, something that motivates you to Trust in God and something that Helps you persevere. I have also used reading reactions, which I learned about in grad school. Come up with 4 or 5 questions that you can answer about each passage as you read. Some examples of questions are “What did I appreciate about his passage?” “What did I have trouble with?” What application can I make after reading this passage?” “What can I say about God after reading this passage?” or “What can I say about the church after reading this passage?” Whatever device you use, give reading with a pen in hand a shot and see what you think.
5. Read with a friend/spouse. My wife and I have done this and we really enjoyed it. We would take turns reading aloud and then at the end we would have about a 10-minute discussion about the text. This is great because another person might pick up on something from the text that you missed. It is also a great source of accountability for making sure that you get your reading done.
Daily Bible Reading might not be the easiest thing in the world for you, and that’s ok. However, I hope that 1 or all of these suggestions will help you develop good practices and stick with them.
School started back up this week and I have to say that the beginning of this school year was one that my whole family has been a bit anxious about. We are in a new town and my boys (ages 5 and 8) are attending a different, and much larger, school than last year. Also, my youngest (age 4), though he went to pre-k last year (and LOVED it), will not be able to go this year and has to wait one more year to start kindergarten. So as a dad, what was I supposed to do with all of this? I knew on some level that everything would work out, but I was also terrified for my babies (Yes, they are my babies). After all, they don’t know anyone yet. They don’t know the school. It is enormous compared to their last school, and what if some kid tells my 8 year-old that he has creepy ears? I mean…it’s happened before! (True story).
Then it hit me. The school, teachers, city, mascot, etc., are just circumstances. God has given us His word and by knowing it, we can be prepared for anything (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Here are the 5 lessons from the Bible that I taught my kids to prepare them, and me, for their first day of school
1. You work for God. Sure you have parents and teachers who expect certain things from you and while you should respect their authority, God is the one you have to please (Colossians 3:23). So whether you are taking a test, listening to instructions, waiting in line for the bathroom, or learning how to sit “crisscross-applesauce,” honor God with your behavior and performance.
2. Be kind, even to the mean kids. Kindness is not to be shown only to those who are kind to you. We treat others the way we want to be treated because that is what Jesus taught us (Matthew 7:12). Sure, it is great when people are nice to you; and I am so thankful for the kid who offered my oldest, who was looking a bit lost, a place to sit this morning in the cafeteria before school. However, the kindness of others is not your standard. The example of Jesus is.
3. God cares about your school experience. Mom and dad pray about family stuff, church stuff, money stuff and we’re also going to pray about your school stuff. Why? Because God has given us the avenue of prayer and He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So we are going to pray for you. We’re going to pray for your teachers and we are going to ask God to help you rest so you can do well on your spelling test on Friday. It is never too early to learn how to rely on God.
4. Remember who you are. When you leave this house, you represent your whole family, but more importantly, you represent God. Don’t embarrass your family and don’t dishonor God. I know this might not make sense to you yet, but every choice you make can either establish or destroy your influence and your influence could be what directs someone to Jesus one day (1 Peter 2:12).
5. You are awesome! You’re a great kid. You are smart. You are fun. You have no reason to hang your head low when you walk. You have the support of a wonderful mama, and a dad who would claw through concrete to get to you if he had to. Most of all, you have a Heavenly Father who loves you and who is powerful and understanding (Psalm 147:5). You got this, kid…and we’ve got you.
Have I been enough? Am I enough? Was I enough?
Heady question. Being enough. When I was 29, and anticipating my 30th birthday, I looked back and lamented. Lamented that I was not where I had envisioned I would be in the world, in my career and in my life by that age. Was it because I had not been enough?
When I was 39, and anticipating my 40th birthday, I looked back and regretted. Regretted that I had not given more fully of myself. Had been selfish and not more selfless. Had missed so many opportunities.
Now as I barrel towards 59, anticipating my 60th birthday, and I’ve been looking back with pain in my heart for the hurt caused, the love withheld, the indecision that unwittingly became decision. In my twilight years and at the hour of my death, will I still wonder if I was enough?
So I’ve decided to turn back around. It has solved nothing for me to continually look back, questioning whether I had worked hard enough, been treated fairly enough…been loved enough.
What I have discovered about looking back, lamenting and regretting, is that I was afraid. I was afraid no one would love me for who I am; that I would not hold any value to anyone; that I would not hold any value to myself. Afraid I would not be enough.
Growing up and growing wiser means a lot of different things. It comes more quickly to some than others. I have a particularly hard head and evidently need many tests to finally learn some lessons.
The lesson I learned here is that it is not possible to be enough. I am not perfect. I cannot hold myself to that standard. It will mean I make mistakes. It will mean I’m human, no more, no less.
There are so many scriptures I could use to illustrate. The love of God for his children. Jesus giving his life for an imperfect world and advocating on my behalf before the throne. Having a servant’s heart, loving one another…and on and on. But I believe the one I would choose is in Luke 9:62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Sisters, relieve yourselves from the same question of whether you are enough. Whether you are enough of a wife, enough of a parent, enough of a child or sibling. We, in and of ourselves, will never be enough. There will be mistakes and lessons learned. We are a work in progress, a lump of clay to be molded. Please pray that I am being molded as Our Lord would have me.