Clint Ellis

Musings and Ramblings about Preaching, Pastoral Ministry, Sports and Life in General

The Preacher’s Preview: Titus

The next installment of the Preacher’s Preview involves the third pastoral epistle, Titus. It would be a mistake to think that just because a book is addressed to a young pastor, it holds no value to the rest of the church. While it was addressed to Titus, it was filled with information essential to the church that Paul’s young protege was leading. A series through Titus can be broken down into roughly nine sermons.

  1. Titus 1:1-4
  2. Titus 1:5-9
  3. Titus 1:10-16
  4. Titus 2:1-8
  5. Titus 2:9-10
  6. Titus 2:11-15
  7. Titus 3:1-7
  8. Titus 3:8-11
  9. Titus 3:12-15

How to Prepare for a New Sermon Series

Our church will begin a new sermon series through 1 Peter this Sunday. I am excited to share with you all that God has been teaching me through this fantastic book. As I was preparing, I spent time thinking through the mechanics of planning a series through a book of the Bible. I’ll probably post an article about that a little later, but it dawned on me that a sermon is not a spectator sport. Likewise, it is not simply an auditory exercise. Perhaps you are wondering what I mean. Consider what James wrote in the first chapter of his letter: “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” We are called to do what the Word of God says. I have found the best way to understand and carry out what I hear from the word is to prepare to listen to it. Therefore, I want to offer you a couple of suggestions for preparing as we begin our new series.

Read the book in your devotional time.

            The first way to prepare for a new sermon series is by familiarizing yourself with the material. In the days leading up to a new series, incorporate the book into your devotional time. You can do this in a couple of different ways. First, you can read a chapter a day. Since the Epistle of 1 Peter is only five chapters, you will have time to read it completely this way. If you want to devote more time to the book, you can read through the entire letter daily. This will help you see the book as a whole and trace the message of the author’s argument. As you are reading, I encourage you to make a note of any questions that arise as you read. This way, you can listen to see if these questions are answered. (If you don’t receive an answer to one of your questions once the sermon on that passage is complete, send me an email).

Consult other places in Bible that are connected to the book in the series.

            A second way to prepare for our new sermon series is to consult other places in the Bible connected to 1 Peter. The Gospels and Acts are filled with stories about and sermons from Peter. One of the things we will see as we walk through the book of 1 Peter is where the epistle emphasizes themes found in Peter’s apostolic preaching recorded in Acts. This gives a sense of authenticity to the Petrine authorship of the epistle. This week, I’d encourage you to peruse those accounts of Peter and see how his life was changed because of his relationship with Jesus Christ.

            I can’t wait to begin our time together in 1 Peter. See you on Sunday.

The Preacher’s Preview: Philippians

I love preaching. I especially love preaching systematically through a book of the Bible. One of the most challenging aspects of the planning process is to divide your selected book into preaching units. I am nearly 17 years into my role as a Senior Pastor, and I have had the opportunity to preach through several books of the Bible. It has always been my mindset that if, through my failures and successes, I could help others, I wanted to facilitate that. This philosophy made me desire to share some of the fruits of my preparatory labors, hoping they might benefit you. Periodically on this site, I will post a simple breakdown of a Bible book into preaching units. I hope it will be edifying and helpful for you. I’ll start with the first book I ever preached as a pastor and one that I revisited (and tweaked) in my current place of service: Philippians.

Book of the Bible: Philippians

Number of Sermons: 18

Structural Breakdown:

  1. Philippians 1:1-2
  2. Philippians 1:3-7
  3. Philippians 1:8-11
  4. Philippians 1:12-20
  5. Philippians 1:21-26
  6. Philippians 1:27-30
  7. Philippians 2:1-4
  8. Philippians 2:5-11
  9. Philippians 2:12-18
  10. Philippians 2:19-26
  11. Philippians 3:1-11
  12. Philippians 3:12-16
  13. Philippians 3:17-21
  14. Philippians 4:1-3
  15. Philippians 4:4-7
  16. Philippians 4:8-9
  17. Philippians 4:10-14
  18. Philippians 4:15-23

Overcoming the Pastoral Monday Blues

Let’s be honest. Mondays are tough for pastors. The previous day was spent ministering to the sheep, preaching the Word, and engaging in an unseen, sometimes tangibly experienced, spiritual warfare. Pastors greet the alarm with groans and intense feelings of not wanting to leave the bed. The reasons for this are legion. Perhaps you were stung by criticism: whether it was valid or invalid, it still hurt. Maybe you preached your heart out, and there were no tangible results. You are dreading walking into the office. You know that fresh fires need to be put out, old fires are smoldering, and the time is burning at an unimaginable rate because Sunday is coming. What is a pastor to do with these Monday blues? Some pastors take a day off. That is not a bad idea, but I also know pastors who do not want to spend their day off feeling that way. Therefore, in the absence of time off, here are three practical suggestions for overcoming the Monday Blues.

Pour yourself wholeheartedly into your devotional time.

            Now I know what you are thinking. Way to be super spiritual: play the “quiet time” card. That is not my intention, but that is the best place to start. Most of the haze pastors live in on Mondays is a hangover of unmet or unrealized expectations from the week/day before. In truth, we struggle with finding our identity and worth in all manner of misguided places. This compels us to start Monday by jumping back into whatever seems most pressing. The fact is that the best place to turn to is the one who should be the seat and origin of our identity: The Lord! With that in mind, I suggest that the first thing you should do on a Monday morning is to spend extra time in prayer and the Word on Mondays. Find a section of scripture unrelated to what you are currently preaching and plant yourself there. Extend your usual quiet time by 15 minutes. Soak in the Word and spend time praying. If you do not know what to pray, open up the Psalms and speak God’s Word back to him in prayer.

Make a list of your blessings.

            Next, I would encourage you to make a list of your blessings. No matter how bleak your current situation is, you can always see God’s blessings. David found spiritual fortification even in waking up. In Psalm 3:5, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.” Think about your family, your health, and the grace extended to you as a broken sinner. Once you have made that list, pour your heart out in gratitude to the Lord.

Communicate with an encouraging friend.

            This morning as I was sketching out a rough outline of thoughts for this article, I received a text from one of the most consistent encouragers in my life. While we do not talk daily, the Lord uses him in my life by strategically prompting him to text me to check in, give an encouraging thought, or say something that makes me laugh. Something as simple as a few keystrokes or a phone conversation can put things in their proper perspective. Encouragement can be contagious. Once you catch it, you should spread it to others who might also be in the Monday morning fog.

Yes, pastor, Mondays are tough. Sunday is coming. But that also means that Monday will be in your rearview soon. I am praying for you.

Guest Post: Living a Lifestyle of Worship

God is worthy of worship.

I don’t think that is a statement that many Christians would disagree with. The thing that divides us is how and when to worship.

What is Christian worship? Worship is anything that we say and do that ascribes worth to God. We worship because of who He is. He is the Creator of the universe, Sustainer, Redeemer, Holy, the King of Kings, our Healer, and our Savior who understands us and our needs better than we understand ourselves. There are many more attributes and words to describe Him, and we each can identify with different ones based on our life experiences. All that to say: God is worthy of worship!

What do most Christians tend to think of when we hear the word worship? We think of worship music, and what happens during the “worship time” in a Sunday service. While music and singing is certainly an act of Christian worship, it isn’t the only way to worship God. Worship is also not constricted to the “service times” on Sundays either.

The Bible calls us to live a “lifestyle of worship” of Jesus! Psalm 34:1-3 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will boast in the Lord; the humble will hear and be glad. Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me; let us exalt his name together.” This verse says that we are to offer praise to God “at all times”, for His praise to “always” be on our lips. The passage also says “let us exalt His name together”. Sunday worship services are vital for Christians to be a part of because of the importance of worshiping together, but our worship of Christ shouldn’t stop there. We should be worshiping Christ “at all times”!

Now we know what worship is, and why living a lifestyle of worship is important. How do you live it? I’m glad you asked.

Always be on mission for Christ. In Matthew 28, the Bible commands believers to “Go!” For some people this may be a very specific calling to go to a country outside of your own. However, for some that calling might be to their doctor’s office, school, grocery store, or anywhere else a Christian might frequent. God calls Christians to share Christ, to be a light for Jesus in the world, no matter where we are. Kennon Callahan, in Dynamic Worship says, “Persons and congregations who discover the mission and purpose to which God calls them understand that when they are in mission, they are indeed worshiping God. We live in one of the richest ages for mission that God has ever given the church. To share the mission is to worship God. In sharing the mission we do so with a deep sense of reverence and worship.”

Live out the fruit of the Spirit. Paul says in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” True worshippers strive to apply these traits to their lives in an effort to become more like Christ. Living these qualities out in our daily lives in a world where the divide between good and evil seems to be ever-growing, will cause people to take notice, and any time we can show who Jesus is, and be the hands and feet of Jesus is an act of worship.

Living a lifestyle of worship means giving God the honor and glory for all that He has done in life. Living a lifestyle of worship means to not be self-seeking, but in all things cast aside personal glory for the sake of giving God the glory. Living a lifestyle of worship means to daily make the sacrifice to take off qualities of a former life without Christ, and to put on new qualities and characteristics that honor Christ, like the qualities found in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit. Living life daily with these characteristics is obeying God’s command, honoring Him daily, and living a lifestyle of worship. With all that we say and do, on Sunday in a church service, or Monday morning in the office, do all with an attitude of worship, for the glory of God!

Ryan Gant

Minister of Music and Missions

Fellowship Baptist Church

Dragons, Lions and Literary Allusions

I love C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. They are fantastically written in a whimsical, conversational style that engages and creates within the reader the illusion that you are sitting around a fire listening to a master story-teller weave an enrapturing tale. Other reasons I love them are legion, but only one of them I intend to expand upon here: The presence of implicit and explicit allusions to the Christian faith of C.S. Lewis. There are many of these allusions that I could write about and perhaps will do so in the future, but for this post, I wanted to talk about my favorite scene from all of the books. (Disclaimer, I am currently re-reading these with my youngest child, so this designation may change several times before that journey is complete.)  The scene to which I refer takes place in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and describes Eustace Scrubb’s first encounter with Aslan. (Aslan represents Jesus Christ in the world of Narnia.)

It does not take long in one’s first encounter with Eustace Scrubb to ascertain the opinion that the boy is a beastly fellow. If you were to look up the definition of a brat in the dictionary before the book’s completion, you would not be shocked to find a school picture of young Eustace. Everything changed for Eustace when he first encountered Aslan.

The Dawn Treader (the boat belonging to the king of Narnia) was damaged and harbored on an uninhabited island for repairs. As one whose disposition is allergic to work, Eustace wanders off from the crew. He soon discovers that a dragon inhabits the island. The dragon, fortunately for Eustace, is dying. He watches from seclusion as the beast breathes his last steam. When curiosity sparks in the boy, he explores the area around the dragon and discovers the vast horde of treasure. He loads his pockets and places a golden bracelet on his arm. Once the adrenaline from his dragon sighting subsides, exhaustion sets in, and he falls asleep on a bed of treasure. He is awakened later by a terrible pain in his arm. In the comical scene which unfolds (I’m certain Eustace did not find it funny), the boy discovers he has changed into a dragon. The subsequent scenes are a transformative experience for the young man. In this new state, he encounters his old friends and the golden lion, Aslan. In much the same way that a sinner who has been introduced to Christ recognizes the depths of their sinfulness, Eustace realizes the type of person he has been to every one.

Aslan informs the boy that he could be human again, but first, he must bathe in the waters before him. To enter the waters, Eustace must remove his dragon scales. The boy/dragon immediately sets to work painfully ripping away the scales, but no matter how hard he tries to remove them, they always seem to be replaced by new ones. The lion eventually steps forward and informs the boy that only Aslan must remove them. Then he extends his claws and rips them away.

The first time I read this part of the book, I’ll confess that I got emotional. C.S. Lewis encapsulated the state of man. We all have lives calloused by the dragon scales of sin (Romans 3:23). There is nothing we can do; no self-sufficient remedy can remove the sin from our lives. Only Christ can take away our sins. When Aslan finished removing the scales, Eustace was himself again, the self he was intended to be. He was not a perfect child afterward, just like Christians are not perfect, but he was different, as are all who encounter Aslan in Narnia and Jesus Christ in this world.

Monday Morning Musing

I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. Leviticus 26:12

One of my favorite Old Testament verses is nestled in one of the least read books of the Bible. The book of Leviticus is filled with descriptions of worship practices, sacrifices, and purification rites. Near the end of the book, the twenty-sixth chapter explains the blessings and curses that will come from obeying or breaking the covenant God is making with the nation of Israel. While the first thirteen verses outline the blessings of obedience, verse twelve always stirs my heart. God promises to walk among them, to be their God, and they will be His people.

In the New Testament, Jesus was a tangible fulfillment of God’s declaration to be with his people. Of course, God echoes the ultimate fulfillment of this precious promise in Revelations 21:3. It reads as follows: “Then I heard a voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will leave with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them, and will be their God.”

Whatever you are enduring today, if Jesus is your savior, then God’s presence will always be near you, and you will ultimately be in His presence forever.

Thursday Thoughts

If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

God won’t forgive me for that. I’m too messed up, too dirty to be forgiven. I’m too far gone for God to care about me. These and other excuses like them are often repeated in gospel conversations. If we are honest, they often echo through our internal dialogue as well. I have good news for you: 1 John 1:9 is an amazing promise for you. Confessing our sins to God means dealing with God about the ways we have fallen short of His standard. If we seek his forgiveness, then it is available to us. Not only is it available, but it is also accessible to us because it is tied up in God’s nature and character. The second half of the verse says he is faithful and just to forgive us. He is fully trustworthy. You can bank on him. Take your sins to him today and find forgiveness and cleansing through his Son Jesus Christ.

Monday Meditation Moment

Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in your ways. 

            What is it in your life that distracts you from pursuing Christ? Often the excuse is made that one is too busy or does not have time to read their Bibles and pray. This begs the question, what activity or activities are you doing daily that are less important than pursuing Christ? Spend a few moments evaluating your time usage. Do you have an app or a game that you play once or multiple times a day? Do you spend countless minutes scrolling through social media feeds? What about time spent binge-watching shows or 24-hour news coverage? Are those pursuits truly valuable? What if you committed a small portion of the time you spent engaging in such activities to spending time in God’s word? Your life will be changed. You might even find yourself desiring more. Why not make the words of Psalm 119:37 your prayer today?

Five Question Friday: Dr. Barry Sproles

Today I am introducing a new series on my blog. I find people and their stories fascinating. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to conduct brief interviews and share some fruits of those conversations. These will appear periodically on my blog. I am going to begin with Dr. Barry Sproles. So without further ado, here we go.

  1. Who are you, and what do you do? My name is Barry Sproles, and I am the Florida State University Baptist Collegiate Ministry director. That means that I have the task of making disciples on the campuses of Tallahassee as an extension of Florida Baptist Churches. Within that, I exist to serve the churches of Tallahassee, and we do that through a variety of ways, on-campus and off-campus.
  2. In your work with college students, what would you say is the greatest spiritual need of college students today? If we are speaking generally, the vast majority of college students are unbelieving,  so their greatest need is to hear the Gospel and respond to that gospel message. For Christian college students, it is understanding the vital role the local church plays in their spiritual development. They need to see their campus ministries as an extension of the local church, knowing that there is no such thing as discipleship apart from the local church, and to that end, churches and campus ministries need to come together in more intentional ways to make sure that could be actualized in their life.
  3. How can the local church be involved in that process? First, for our ministry, it starts with getting together and getting to know one another. As relationships develop, the individual needs that every church has—each one is a little different—become apparent.  We can customize our efforts to the need of the local church and they can customize their ministries to the students. More than anything, just being present around the students helps. It is interesting that the more time a pastor spends around college students in the BCM or church, the more the Lord gives clarity of what those ministries should look like. 
  4. Over the last 3-4 months, what are some books you are reading? I recently started reading Cal Newport’s, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. A second book is the biography of Bubba Watson, Up and Down, the golfer from Pensacola who is a believer. I saw someone recommend that on Twitter. I am also reading the book of Jonah as I teach through it. Does that count?
  5. If you could encourage Christians to read one book, aside from the Bible, what would that be? I’m inclined to try and impress you and give you a puritan title (grins widely), but I won’t do that. Any book on biblical spirituality is a win, but I’m pretty biased, so I would say Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian lifeis a fantastic book. It’s a little more exhaustive than some would prefer, but that’s really the book’s win. Whitney gives you a lot more spiritual disciplines than just the typical ones, which are vital. What makes it worthwhile is his emphasis on the participation in the local church as a spiritual discipline.  He also writes pretty extensively on the spiritual discipline of fasting. While there are other resources on fasting that exist, there are not many. You might even say it is the lost discipline. Whitney writes extensively on that. In fact, lately, several of my students have even finished the book, and they considered that chapter exceptionally helpful. 

Bonus: How can we pray for your ministry and college students at Florida State? This connects with the 2nd question. Obviously, pray for students to be converted, discipled, and to grow in their walk with Jesus. Pray that they would grow as students of the Word and prayer. Next, ask God how your church can meaningfully disciple college students in the ordinary rhythms of their church life. What does that look like? The truth is that lostness is profound, not just in Tallahassee, but at all of our universities. And the few evangelical ministries and churches engaging them are just not enough. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort. You are serving well by praying about how you can meaningfully disciple college students.

« Older posts

© 2024 Clint Ellis

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑