Tag Archives: fun

A New Book! Expressions: Church Poems

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This year, as resolutions swirled in my head and evaluations of the previous year set me into a constant state of pensive self-examination, I wanted to challenge myself to write and complete a book of poetry and art in one week. I knew the difficulty that it would entail and I knew the joy of completing the process.

2018 seemed like a marathon through the mud. As a pastor, I trudged a great deal and OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwas often fighting my own depression and difficulties as I helped to shoulder the burdens of others. It was a good year, but it was a long and exhausting year too. We came through it tired but victorious and ready to run some more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

As I sat, laboring to understand and process 2018, I found a need to express. I needed to express my love for the church. I needed to express the wrestling with depression in a real and spiritual manner. I needed to express the “striving together” that is the church community. I needed to lay down on paper the weight of what my community has carried together. All the imperfections and struggle to understand grace.

All the pains and joys of community and weight of self. I needed to express them all. I needed to express the song of the church. So, I set out to draw a few sketches and lay down a few verses.

“Expressions” is the result. (Credit to Logan Doak for the title.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Expressions: Poems of the Church is available for $7 on Amazon.com and Lulu.com

 

I hope you will enjoy this work. It is short, 48 pages, and is a square shape. It is intended to be a book of pictures and poetry that you will pick up and read once in a while. The art is simple and quick sketches that were drawn in a week (with the exception of “Halos of the Church” and “Death to Life,” which were drawn in 2018 when processing some difficulties). I have endeavored to exalt Christ in the church through this work. Please use it for the gospel ministry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Two quick encouragements:

Challenge yourself. Challenge yourself to do something. Something difficult. Last year I was enjoying my morning coffee while I watched the birds flit and flutter on my porch. Inspired I wrote a short poem and then started drawing some pictures. At the same time, I was working through the book of Ephesians for my second published work. I challenged myself to write a short book, complete with artwork and be ready to publish it in a 7 day period. The result was “The Bird’s Psalm.” This year I wrote a little more… next year I will challenge myself to do the same.

Use your talents for the Kingdom of God. I am not a great artist, but I have some talent. I am not a great poet, but I can write a poem or two. I am not a great writer, but I can write stuff down in an organized form. The Lord has blessed me with some ability, it is my responsibility to use that for the Kingdom. What are your talents? Are you using them for the Kingdom? I hope you see through my work that you CAN do something for the Kingdom. I hope you will be inspired to do something… something worthwhile. Something for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thinking Through Ephesians. My New Book!

The book of Ephesians has long been my favorite book of the Bible. I can remember the night that it became my favorite book. After a particularly long day of work and classes at college, I had to deliver some bad news to a friend that I cared deeply for. I tried to honor the Lord as I told this friend that they had been rejected by an organization I was involved in. Looking back, it was not so traumatic. But in that moment of rejection, it felt as though I was delivering a proclamation of terminal cancer. After crying with and sitting beside my friend for a while, I went home. My roommates were either asleep or absent. Seeking some sort of comfort I sat down to read, pulled out a notepad and began to write out my thoughts on Ephesians. I was lost in the beauty and comfort of God’s word. My world was eclipsed by His word, and my soul was lifted.IMG_7029

Over the years I have returned to Ephesians and recorded thoughts about the text. Whenever I was depressed or dealing with stress, I opened this book and wrote. I did not set out to write a book or even to prepare to teach this text. I’ve never preached through Ephesians and I doubt that I will anytime soon. Rather, this work was a result of a deep desire to quell the depression of my own heart. The Word of God has that effect. He is faithful to work in the hearts of believers and He is faithful to pull us out of the pit and place us on the rock (Psalm 40:2).

Cover smallSometime in the fall of our first year as a church (2016), someone at SGF encouraged me to blog. I don’t remember who. It was a passing comment. So I decided to try and blog through a book six days a week. I had years of material through Ephesians, so I started there. After I finished chapter 1, six entries, my amazing author brother Jeff Elkins (links to his work here) encouraged me to consider putting these into a book. As a result, my journey with Jesus through the book of Ephesians is available for you to read.

These are simple thoughts from a simple pastor. While I have an MDiv and have some scholarly experience, this is not intended to be an academic work. This is a simple walk through a book by a normal man who struggles with normal problems but serves an extraordinary God.

You can purchase Thinking Through Ephesians for $9.99 through following links

Amazon.com: https://goo.gl/kShg9M

ebook format ($6.99): https://goo.gl/yWi5C1

Lulu.com: https://goo.gl/ig7YSC

If you want a signed copy or would like to purchase from me directly, please leave a comment or email me at novis_elkins@hotmail.com

I hope you enjoy this work as much as I enjoyed writing it.

 

6 Lessons from Tootie the Poot!

IMG_5925

Sometimes Daddy needs a break, so I told him to “Go out of office!”

I’m Tootie the Poots! You know, like Winnie the Pooh… except I’m not a bear, and I’m not a cartoon, and I am not full of fluff… and I’m a poot, not a pooh. I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts on life today! So here goes… Let’s take a walk together!

IMG_5950

1. Stop and enjoy the soda Daddy bought for you. On the first day of the week, Daddy often takes us children on a long walk to get a soda (and sometimes a cookie). Often on the return journey, I simply stop walking and enjoy my drink. Everyone else is so busy trying to be in front or climbing some tree that they miss the joy of the soda right in front of them. Daddy got me this drink and it is DELIGHTFUL! So I stop and take in the gift of delight that is in my hands. Take some time and enjoy the soda that you were given. Don’t be so worried about getting back to the house to work or put me down for a nap. Just stop, sip, enjoy.

IMG_5942

2. Cookies are best when shared! I think we were made to share. Jo-Bits and I often share a drink and cookie when Daddy takes us on walks. He’s great! As we enjoy the gifts our Daddy has given us, Jo-Bits makes sure that I have enough. Daddy often asks us, “why do you look at your neighbor’s plate?” The answer is always the same – “to see if they have enough.” As I sit with others and share the cookie my Daddy got me, I get to see the delight on their face. Together we savor the sweetness and joy of the treat, laughing as the mess increases and chocolate covers our fingers and faces. It is as if these gifts we have were given to us so that we may enjoy and delight in each other.IMG_5953

3. Be alert and enjoy the world around you. See this cat!? I named him, but I can’t remember what I named him so I’m going to call him, Cat. On our way home from the beaver’s place, this charming fellow sought to join in our merriment. I’m closer to the ground, so I saw him first. Oh, what a delight it was to see such a funny creature looking back at me! We talked about stuff and I laughed at the jokes he told that no one else could understand. He stretched and rolled around on the ground and I think he told me he wanted me to scratch his ears. Big people, who aren’t as close to the ground, forget to enjoy these moments when we can interact with nature. Every day we are afforded the opportunity to delight in the creation. Daddy calls it the poetry of life, but I think it is just a pretty cool cat. You should take some time and talk to a cat.

IMG_5940

4. When you’re walking on a wet road and it seems slippery, just reach up and hold Daddy’s hand. Sometimes, the road we walk is wet and muddy. Cars disregard the cute procession of children walking along the side of the road. My shoes sometimes get muddy and I need a little reassurance that the ground is not going to swallow me whole. So I reach up and grab daddy’s hand! His hands are strong and I can trust them to keep me steady. I sometimes forget He is walking beside me, but then when I need Him most, I reach up and there is His hand… it’s like He knows my anxious thoughts and how to care for them. So, when the road gets troublesome, grab on to Daddy’s hand.

IMG_59355. Sometimes you have to get close to the dirt to see the wonders! Have you ever stooped down to see the bugs in action? They are amazing! I’m closer to the ground so I see them easier, but even I have to get close sometimes. Bend down low and look close! Daddy says, “God put those there so we would see how much He cares about little things.” I think God put them there so I could be amazed! Sometimes the things low in the dirt are the most worthwhile things to look at. The littlest and most insignificant among us often offer us the most beautiful and best expressions of praise to God. Take time to get close to the dirt, that is where you will see God working the most.

IMG_59226. Don’t worry about the big bad telephone pole, Jo-Bits – the warrior is walking with us! I have a brother. He is brave and destroys those things that scare me. I saw a spider on the telephone pole and I was a little worried that it might eat my face off. Fortunately for me, Daddy brought along my big brother Jo-Bits! He leaped into action with his plastic tube (he called it a light-saber) and decimated the enemy. My brother and I also fight and argue sometimes. Daddy says that is a good thing, because “if they won’t argue with you when you’re wrong, they won’t stand up for you when you’re right.” You see, when we walk together, we can trust in the ones we walk with to stand up for us in times of trouble. Jo-Bits is sometimes difficult and makes me scream, but when there’s a scary spider or caterpillar, or ant, Jo-Bits is there!

Romans a Study-Guide for you

product_thumbnailI wrote this study guide for you.  I may or may not know you, but it is for you. I can say that with confidence because this study guide is literally just a guide through Scripture passages, and Scripture is for you. It contains no brilliant commentary or insights that I can add. It does not have thoughts about passages or quaint stories to bring texts to life. It is simply Scripture. Each day there are two Scripture passages to read (one in the morning and one in the evening.) The evening reading is repeated the following morning. Each day has five simple questions to ponder and room to write in the book. There are fifty weeks of Scripture (424 pages) through the book of Romans. I endeavored to break Romans down into easy portions for the reader. The cross-references are intended to aid in the study of Romans.

I felt compelled to write this study guide for three reasons: Scripture interprets Scripture, people don’t read their Bibles, and just for fun.

  1. Scripture interprets Scripture.

One of the basic rules of Biblical interpretation is that the Bible is the best tool for interpreting the Bible. It sounds simple enough, but it is rarely practiced. Often, people will read a passage of Scripture, pray, and then interpret what that passage means. While this is well intentioned, that passage has a context within the book and that book has a context within the entire canon of Scripture. So, in order to glean a deeper understanding of a text, the context must be consulted.

  1. People don’t read their Bibles.

I worked through this study guide because people don’t read their Bibles. Sure, they may have a devotional or a quiet time, but seldom do I find someone who has a deep love for actually studying and reading the Bible. It is a desperate state that western Christianity finds itself in when its adherents spend so little time reading their holy book. The western church has more information about the Bible than any other group in history. There are countless teachers, books, websites, and apps to help understand the Bible. Yet, the average Christian seldom reads the Scripture. As a result, when faced with theological quandaries and challenging life circumstances, western Christians have little to grasp hold of. I intend this work to offer some solution to that difficulty. It is intended to walk the reader through texts that help them understand the book of Romans.

  1. Just for fun.

The final reason I wrote this work is because studying Scripture is fun. While it takes work and one must put in the effort, Romans is one of the most enlightening books in the Bible. It is filled with truths about God and humanity. It walks us through a systematic understanding of salvation. It challenges the very nature of our devotion to God and our love for Christ. It shows us who God is and who we are. It is challenging, engaging, troubling at times, and it is fun! Personally, I loved going through these cross references to study Romans. The complementary texts brought clarity to Romans and helped me to understand some of the deep truths presented in Romans. To engage God in the safety of what He has said about Himself is awesome! So, go get this study guide and enjoy.

(pdf sample: Romans Study Guide sample)

Here is the link to purchase online: Buy

If you would like to purchase in bulk (the printer offers me discounts) please contact me through e-mail with the subject heading “Romans Study-Guide Bulk” at novis_elkins@hotmail.com.

If you do not have the funds and would like a copy, please send an email with the subject line “Romans- funds”

If you’d like to donate to Sovereign Grace Fellowship so we can give these away, you can do so here:  Donate

Great Art: You Must Linger to See it

When the soul needs respite and the heart needs the vexing challenge of soul-stirring intellectual engagement, art offers a haven. On the nights when one cannot recognize the eyes of the individual in the mirror and the world seems as though it is failing to maintain its own rotation, art gives us a perspective that can rescue. When the everyday monotony of life begins to drain our souls of joy, art refreshes and revitalizes our hearts. Art: three simple letters used to label the concept of expression in total. The word seems wholly inadequate. It should be longer and have an “x” somewhere in it. Perhaps it is simple and short because art is easy to overlook and pass by?

Art is a powerful medium to express that which is inexpressible by any other means. Great art transcends cultures and time. It has no limitations and only grows in its appreciation as it is engaged. Great art refracts through layers of expression that expose a deeper truth, often revealing things that cannot be understood without equally deep investigation.

As of late, I have been inspired by the work of Makoto Fujimura. He uses a particular style of Japanese art to produce works that are masterful. Fujimura’s work is literally done in layers. Several translucent layers, one on top of another. The result is stunning, but only if the viewer allows them to linger. You see, the eye has to adjust to seeing the layers. In our modern world, this is extremely difficult to do. Yet, to appreciate the beauty of Fujimura’s work, the eye must hold fast to the piece. We must train our eyes to linger and rest on the expression. As the eye grows accustomed to the peculiar focus required to see the layers, the piece will spring to life. The greater attention given to grasping the work, the more beautiful it becomes.

So it is with all great art. The soul must be allowed breathe deeply the scent of expression. We must permit our souls the time to linger… to gaze upon the beauty and understand. Our souls, like our eyes, must adjust to the refraction of the light. As the light illuminates the layers of the canvas, our eyes slowly gain the necessary perception and begin to see the glory of the painting. We begin to see the work of the artist.

The Greatest Artist has displayed His work in layers that have become common to our eyes. We fly past His work constantly, seldom stopping to admire the layers of His glory. But if we would linger a bit, we would find our eyes adjust to an ever increasing beauty in the Father of Life. If will settle our souls to seek and savor Jesus Christ, we will find the much-needed respite from this present monotony. Work hard to engage your soul with the respite of great art… work harder to engage the work of The Great Artist.

Now a brief word of warning: Jesus is The Artist, who created everything. He is also the Light that exposes the work. When you stand in His presence to see His work, you will inevitably find some layers of yourself exposed. And that can be uncomfortable. But, to see the beauty of The King and to know His work is worth it.

Linger over the great truths of Scripture. Engage the incredible artworks produced by God’s people. Gaze at the beauty of what and who God has created. Listen to the music that He provides upon the winds. Seek beauty in Christ’s display of His glory. Work hard to engage your soul with the respite of great art… work harder to engage the work of The Great Artist.

6 Life-Lessons from Jo-Bits

jobitsanddaddyDaddy let Tooties compose one of these bloggy things. (here) So, I thought I should be allowed to compose such a work myself. So here are lessons from me, The Jo-Bitty! (aka, The Boy!)

RunRun. When there is nothing in your way and you have a straight path that is clear, run! Life rarely affords us the opportunity to run freely, unencumbered and unimpeded by circumstance or ability. Run when you see the opportunity. Finish the projects you’ve wanted to complete. Take the opportunity to race ahead with plans and efforts. Run! When there is a free and open path, run. Feeling the wind in your hair is amazing! Accomplishing tasks without deadlines is fun! Getting from point A to point B fast and free is exhilarating… When you’re able, run!

puddlesFind a good puddle to splash in. Find the place where you can jump in and make splashes! You old-people are far too concerned with getting water on your shoes or what others will think of your splash! Life is made for splashing! Puddles are made to splash. It is a still body of water that simply waits for your destructive force to splash in it. Make a splash! Get a little wet and laugh about it. When I jump in puddles next to my sister they squeal. They get some water on them and my splash bothers them a little bit. But, if I had never made the splash, they would have had an extremely boring walk. So make your splash! Jump in the puddles of this life and remember – your splash will make everyone else’s walk just a little more interesting. Splash splash splash!

PecanPickingDig in the dirt… you might find pecans! I live in south Texas. The trees here drop pecans every fall and we like to pick them. Mommy cooks with them, Daddy makes sugared pecans, and I like to eat them. The tricky thing about pecans is that they get pressed down into the dirt. You have to be willing to dig in the dirt to get the pecans. You have to get down on the ground and get a little messy. If you want to enjoy the pecans, you’ll get a little dirty picking them up.

Always be the knight! Be the hero of the story. Even if there is no story! Be the hero, save the day, be the good-guy. My sisters’ are always in danger! I am the knight! Sometimes I get confused and I hit my sisters… not a good idea. You see, God gave me hands to protect people. So I need to use those hands to take care of the people I love and to help those who cannot help themselves.

armor2When you go play, wear your armor! My big sisters and I go to a local playground a few times a week. We ride our bikes up there with mommy and daddy and we play. It’s fun. I keep my armor on while I play because I’m little and trip and fall sometimes. My armor makes me feel strong and protects me when I fall. It doesn’t block my sisters from wrestling with me or keep me from engaging the other kids on the playground, but it protects me when I fall. Daddy tells me I don’t have to keep my armor on, but I’m a knight! Knights wear armor because they are going to do things that are daring, and dangerous, and could hurt. I wear armor so I can do more, not to keep me from doing less. I build up my strength and protection so that I can be more daring and brave! Wear your armor and be daring!

JoBitsandTootiesTake care of the Tooties. I am the Jo-bitty and I have a little sister: Tooties [Toot-Tees]… perhaps you read her blog post! She’s a great writer. I love my Tooties, but she is small and doesn’t know everything yet. You have to be gentle with people who are little and don’t know better. Sometimes I forget to be gentle and Tooties cries. Sometimes I forget that she doesn’t know and my actions make her scream. (Then daddy talks in his big person voice and we all get sent to our beds). But sometimes I remember she is little and I’m big… that is when I sit with her and tell her I’m sorry. God made me to take care of smaller things. Tooties is smaller. I take care of her… when I remember. I show her the construction site and the bulldozers. I tell her stories and play games with her. I tell her she’s ok when she gets hurt. I take care of Tooties because Tooties is small.

I’m sure I could write more cool life-lessons, but it’s almost lunch time and I have to go make the macaroni and cheese. So… be good, buckle up, and wash behind your ears.

God is Good: some thoughts on God.

God is good.  God IS good.  What I mean is this: God is the definition of good.  He is: that which is good.  Further, apart from God, there is no good.  Because God is good, He is also the sustainer of all that is good. (Col. 1:17, Acts 17:28) Good cannot exist on apart from God because God is good.  However, to be clear, the converse is NOT true.  Good is NOT God.  God exists as the definer and the definition of good, but God is not confined to a definition of good that is set forward at one time or another.  Good is defined by God, but God is not thereby relegated to a definition of good.  He remains above the definition as the creator of good.  In other words, there is not an external good that God is confined to obey.

Evil, is defined as “unserviceable” or “useless.” (TDNT -“poneros”) Let that sink in for a minute… Romans 12:9 states, “Love genuinely and hate Evil!” Hate that which is useless or unserviceable. Do we do that? How much time do we waste on useless things?  Convicting eh?  Back on topic: Evil is defined as “Useless,” thus; evil is only defined by that which it is not. One can only define what is useless by ascribing a use.  In other words, without a definite purpose or “good,” you cannot define evil.  You cannot insist on an object as useless or unserviceable unless you have an established use or service.  Much like a shadow helps to define an object, so the same is with evil.  Evil helps to provide definition for the object on which God, who IS good, shines on.  The purpose or definition is not in the shadow, but is in the light’s unveiling on the object.  The shadow exists only to show you where the light is.

So where does use come from?  Where does service come from?  It comes from that which is good.  And if God is the definer of good, then service and use come from God.