All posts by Brian Elliott

An avid musician and music producer, Brian is the Ministry Director of Assimilation at Christ Fellowship of Tampa. He is a devoted husband to his wife, Marianne, and his greatest passion is to see people's lives transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Watch your mouth

James 3:8-10 “But no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”

The tongue and the power it holds. The power to praise the Most High, and in the same breath, the power to breakdown those He has made. A power we have no control over. Restless, evil, poisoning the world around us. Letting loose haunting words, words that roll off others tongues, deep into us. Words that lash from our tongues, colliding into others. Explosive words, words that set the world on fire.

This untamable tongue of ours. Whatever can we do? The answer is, absolutely nothing. Nothing man could ever do would ever change the nature of our tongues. Nothing we could ever do could control it for it is truly uncontrollable. But that’s ok. At the end of the day it all comes down to the heart.

Jesus said in Mark 7:15-16 “It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” Our tongue is fueled by our heart. Our heart by it’s very nature doesn’t seek after God, but rather seeks out it’s own sinful desires. So that’s it! It’s as simple as a change of heart! Once again, we would be setting ourselves up for failure if we thought there was anything we could ever do to change our hearts. But that also is ok. What it really all comes down to is the Gospel.

A life submitted to Christ is a life setup for the miraculous. For all these things that are impossible for man, are more than possible for God. When we accept God’s precious gift of salvation, we invite Christ into our hearts, and He begins to change us from the inside out.

This is why it’s so important that everyday we submit our hearts to Jesus Christ. In Philippians 4:7 it says “His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the antidote for the poison that has infected all of mankind, but only when you let him. So the question is, what will your tongue be used for today? Submitted to Christ and used as God’s blessing or submitted to yourself, untamed, out of control, and spewing curses. The choice is yours. Submit yourself, guard your heart, watch your mouth.

Contending the faith

Jude 1:3 “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.”

The devil loves nothing more, he has no better trick up his sleeve, than to take the truth and twist it into a lie. The devil tried this with Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus didn’t try to argue with the devil. He didn’t plead his case with reasons why the devil was wrong. He didn’t even insult the devil. He simply answered his twisting of the truth, with the absolute Word of God.

The devil roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour, and many times he hides himself in sheep’s clothing. This is why it’s so important for us to shepherd the sheep that God has entrusted us with. Especially with those who waiver in their faith, who still have one foot in the world, who’s lives are still contaminated with sin.

This is why it’s absolutely ok to defend the faith when we hear something that doesn’t line up with scripture. No matter if it’s someone in your church, or a a prominent figure leading a mega- church. If what they are saying doesn’t line up with scripture, it’s our duty to rebuke that teaching and protect those who are susceptible to believing the lie.

Notice I said rebuke. I didn’t say condemn, judge, or insult. Just like we hate the sin not the sinner, we don’t attack the person but the lie. It says in Jude 1:9 “But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” We have no place to accuse (which is what the devil does best) but to simply correct a lie with the truth.

I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of us would say that no matter what the repercussions might be. So why is it when we hear a popular figure say something that is unbiblical we become so fearful of what people might say if we rebuke it? Listen, this is a plank in the eye moment for me. I’m as guilty and convicted as you might be right now.

Will you do something with me this week? Jesus has commissioned us with spreading the Good News, but he has also given us the duty of guarding the flock (Acts 20:28). Would you contend the faith this week?

Godless: Part 4

Romans 1:28-32 “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.”

I can’t imagine the pain Christ endured on the cross for my sin, let alone the entire world. When I read the scripture above, it’s like I’m looking out my front window at the world we live in, and Paul is describing it. There’s nothing new under the sun. Man has had the same sinful heart since Adam, and there is nothing we can do to change it, no matter how hard we try. No amount of self-help, therapy, or inward meditation will ever heal the brokenness. Nothing we can do.
But there is something He has done. As awful as the above scripture makes me feel, I rejoice in what Christ has done. Christ has made all of the above statements not apply to me or anyone who believes in His name. And through His grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, every day as we submit ourselves to Him, He molds us more and more to His likeness. Christ is patient with us and wishes none of us to perish, but all of us to be saved. Why? Because He loves us.
Some of us who call ourselves Christian would read the above scripture and think of the world with judgement. With a smugness we would say the people of this world deserve what’s coming to them. I’m a big fan of Clint Eastwood and all the westerns he starred in. One of my favorite quotes of his was from the movie The Unforgiven. He’s waiting under a tree to collect a bounty on some men he and his partner just killed. The young man who is with him is struggling with what they have done. Trying to comfort himself he says “Well, I guess that he had it coming” to which Clint replies “We all have it coming kid”.
We all have it coming. There’s not one of us that hasn’t fit the above scripture at one point in our life or who wouldn’t slip back into our sinfulness without the power of Christ living in us. What we should feel when we read the above scripture is pity. We should feel pity and our hearts should be broken. As broken as the world that surrounds us.
The focus of this devotion series is to bring attention to one thing. This world is broken and there is no fixing it. There is no saving this country, or the world for that matter. The world will keep going through this cycle of sin until the day the Lord returns to put an end to it all. The only hope the people of this world have is in the Gospel and it’s power to redeem those who don’t deserve redeeming. This world may be godless, but thankfully we serve a God who love’s it anyway. So much so that He sent his only Son, that whosoever shall believe in His name, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
I’m just a weak man and I’m not sure how He’s going to do it, but would you join me today and pray this prayer. “Lord Jesus, use me as you may. Use me to show the world your mercy, your love and your glory. Use me to show a godless world, that a godless man such as myself could call on your Holy name and become a child of God. Amen.”

Godless: Part 3

Romans 1:26-27 “That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

We, as Christians, sometimes live in glass houses, throwing stones. We want everyone to honor God and we want every person to respect the sanctity of marriage according to the Bible. We want laws passed and we want our nation to reflect our Christian faith. Don’t agree with us? We’re going to threaten you with the wrath of God and tell you that you’re going to burn in hell. There’s just one problem though. We live in a pretty godless nation that simply doesn’t believe in hell, let alone fear God’s wrath. Most importantly, they don’t know Christ.

It says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” Our body is a holy temple, but without Christ it’s more like an empty tomb. We hold people to a standard that is impossible to achieve without a life that is submitted to Christ. Bottom line is, without Christ, how can we expect anyone to honor God, let alone their bodies?

So, why do we get so hung up on this one issue? This could be the subject of a debate that could go on forever, but let me just give you one thing. I think what we see here is a reflection of our sinful nature and it’s painful. We don’t want to look at it. We would rather have a happy little life, in a happy little church, where our families and loved ones aren’t exposed to the sins of the world. That, my friends, is not the Gospel.

Christ came so that we, who are abandoned to our sinful nature, might be redeemed. Every single one of us, separated from God, will give in to our shameful desires. Every single one of us without Christ’s renewing would burn with lust that would consume us.

This is every persons nature, whether Christian or pagan. Without Christ, we are abandoned to our own depravity. But Christ is patient and tolerant with us, being so kind that we might turn from our sin. When we submitted our lives to Christ, we had our sins covered by His wonderful grace and our hearts transformed by His mercy touch of love. We should want nothing more than to see every person on earth surrender their lives to Christ.

And this is the heart of the matter. I don’t want you to come away from this thinking that I’m trying to get you to accept alternative lifestyles or to compromise the scriptures. What I’m trying to say is that a world full of lost people are going to act like a world full of lost people. We have no power to overcome our weaknesses without the power of Christ living in us, how can we expect that from anyone else? Before our lives in Christ, we were all in the same boat as those we throw stones at. It’s like a convicted murder facing the death penalty, who received a reprieve undeservingly, turning to the next guy in line and telling him he deserves to burn for what he did.

We need to stop trying to make everyone act like Christians and start bringing them to the cross. We’ll never be able to change people on our own, no matter what laws we pass or how much we protest. The only way anyone is going to change is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Period. End of Story.

Godless: Part 2

Romans 1:24-25 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” 

At some point in our life we have heard someone say “If there is a God, why does He allow such evil to take place in the world.” The truth is because that’s what’s in our hearts and that is what we seek. God longs for us to seek after Him the way He seeks after us. He longs for us to be like Him and to value the things He values. Things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. But none of us do, not one of us. We seek out the lusts of our hearts. We are carnal, materialistic, power hungry, envious, creatures who worship and serve creation rather than the Creator. So why does God allow us to live this way? Because He gave us free will.

God created us in His image with our own will and He will not force His upon us. So when we choose things that God detests, when we put things He created over Him, He allows us too. God didn’t design us to be robots, and as much as He loves us, He gives us up to what our hearts desire.

The world has been tricked into thinking that we are gods and the masters of our own destiny. And it will hold on to this lie and continue to follow this path no matter how destructive it gets, denying Christ and the salvation that is available to all that believe. Why? Jesus said in John 3:19 “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

This was all our story at one point. We are a fallen race that doesn’t seek after God, but our own selfish desires. But God so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. The world thinks that Christ came to condemn us for what we are, but those of us who walk with The Lord know that He came to save us from what we are. Sinners who are far from God and who deserve the prize of our endeavors, which is death. This is why it’s so important to let our light shine. Their might be somebody who spent their entire life believing a lie, huddled in darkness, who might see the light of Christ shining through our lives.

Godless: Part I

Romans 1:18-23 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

The world has no excuse. The evidence of God’s divinity and His eternal glory surround us in all of creation. It cries out from every corner of the earth and as this verse says, “it has been made plain to us.” So why doesn’t the world recognize God for who He is and come to repentance to be made right with Him? This is the first of a four part devotion I’m writing entitled “Godless” in which we will dive in to Romans 1:18-32.

The world just doesn’t seem right does it? The more I mature in my faith, the more this becomes apparent. I don’t know about you, but many times I feel like a foreigner in a strange land. Why is this? The Bible says in Romans 8:23 that “we believers also groan” and that “we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.”

As a believer in the Gospel of Christ, we have had our sins forgiven and our names written in the Lambs Book of Life, but we have to live out our salvation here on earth. We long to leave this earthly shell, to be released from our flesh, and join our Father in Heaven. We long to leave this world that is so selfish and eaten up with greed, envy, and ambition. A world that covets every kind of evil and harbors such atrocities that it makes our hearts sink. It’s easy to see why we would want to leave this world, but while we are here, we do have a mission.

We have to carry the good news of the Gospel into this dark, godless place we call the earth. A place where men and women, through the darkness of their hearts, have replaced divinity with obscenity. They have traded immortality for mortality and worship things that will pass away. And why do they seek such things? Because, like everyone of us at one point in our life, we let our pride rule us.

I love how verse 22 says “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Everyone wants to be right. Everyone wants to be in control. We don’t want to be made to feel like we’re wrong or that we need to do anything to be made right. It’s the fruit of pride, the original sin. This is why the Gospel at first offends us and stings us at our core. No one in this world is without sin and we all at one time were ungodly, unrighteous, suppressors of the truth.

Once we accepted Christ as our savior and our relationship with our Father in Heaven was restored, we started to filter things through God’s perspective. For example, do you ever notice that the more you get to know God and His truth, the more foolish the wise and influential people of the world become? But to those who hearts are dark, we are the fools, following ancients myths and senseless traditions. So why do we even try? How can these people be even be reached?

They all worship something. Whether it’s fame, power, money, religion tailored to their lifestyle, or their own wisdom, they all bow down to something. They are trying to fill a hole that can only be filled by the love of Christ. They busily look inward for an answer that they will never find. The hope lies in the fact that God has made Himself plain to them and His divine attributes can be clearly perceived. What you need to do now is offend them. Offend them with the Gospel that ultimately has the power to save them. Rattle their world and challenge everything they know about life. Let the light of Christ that fills you shine into their darkness.

Unashamed

Romans1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

In todays world, faith is foolish to most. If you can’t see it, smell it, or put your hands on it, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. For those of us who live by faith, living in this kind of world can be really tough. We get discouraged, especially around people that we think are faithless or far from God. We have this fear of what they might say or think of us.

Let me encourage you in this way today. Those people that you think might mock you, might also be people that God is drawing close to you so He can draw close to them. In essence, He is using your faith to touch their hearts and bring glory to Himself. No matter how far we think someone is from God, they are never out of His reach and we never know who He’s going to reveal Himself to.

We need to live by faith in a way that can only bring glory to God, leaving no explanation that can be found on this earth, but only in Heaven above. No matter what this world says about you, there is no shame in believing in the power of the Gospel for God is revealing His righteousness through you.

Ripe for the Harvest

Romans 1:13 “I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles.”

It’s that time of the year for the farmer. He has plowed the land. He has prepped the soil by fertilizing it with nutrients. He has laid seeds and carefully watered his fields. He has watched his seeds sprout and grow into big, healthy plants. And now, after much hard work and great patience, it’s time for the harvest. He gazes over his field to find…none of his plants have produced any fruit?

That scenario seems silly doesn’t it? Minus a catastrophe, a farmer who has put a lot of hard work into planting a field expects to see fruit when the harvest comes. In the same way, when we invest our time and resources into others, we should expect to see the Lord do a work in peoples lives. Paul didn’t say I want to work among you and maybe I’ll see some of you grow. He said I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit. Why? Because he had seen the Lord work in these people before and expected Him to do it again.

Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself. I do invest in people at the church and I have seen people grow in their walk with Jesus. It’s worth pointing out here who Paul is speaking to. Paul is speaking to the Gentiles. A people group that was far from God and considered wretched and unclean. See where I’m going with this? Did you just get a little uncomfortable in your seat? Good, because I know I just did and I’m the one writing this devotional. While it is not only good, but it is actually God’s will for us to disciple the next generation, He has also called us to reach out to those who are far from Him. Those who are wretched and unclean, as we all once were. Those who are outside our church walls, and outside of our comfort zone for that matter.

We can’t choose one or the other. God is inviting us into His work, and His work involves both discipling and reaching the lost. Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Will you work the fields today? Better yet, will you work the fields today expecting Jesus to do a miracle is someone’s life? I pray today that if anything has prevented you in the past from reaching out to someone, just as Paul was prevented from reaching out to the Romans, that God would give you the opportunity and the courage to be bold in His name.

All He has his yours

Philippians 4:19 “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

A father loves his children and wants what is best for them. He doesn’t want to see them burdened and stressed out, but strives to see them overflowing with joy and peace. A father will lay awake in bed at night thinking about his children. He would go to the ends of the earth and give all he had to make sure his kids are provided for. If our earthly fathers love us this much, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us?

Your Heavenly Father wants to supply all your needs and it is not His plan for you to be full of anxiety or weighed down with worry. God bankrupted heaven for us when He sent His only son, that through faith in Christ, we would not only have eternal life with Him but also have the right to become His children. If God loves us that much, do we seriously think He is not going to take care of us?

When a thought like that enters your mind, just know that it is the world trying to separate you from your relationship with your Father. Don’t let the obstacles and troubles of this world separate you from the rich inheritance that He has in store for you. God’s love for us is perfect and so is His provision. It was His grace that saved us from our sinful nature and it’s by His grace that we will live. He’s your eternal dad and He loves you very much. All He has is yours.

Through Thick and Thin

Philippians 4:14 “Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.”

Which one of your brothers or sisters in Christ are you sharing a difficulty with today? This is a tough world we live in. The apostle Paul states in Romans 8:23 “We believers also groan…for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” As we learned last week, we can endure all things through Christ who gives us strength. That doesn’t mean we won’t suffer pain or difficulty, because surely we will. But just as God has brought together His church to accomplish great things, he also brought us together to love one another, deeper than we love ourselves. It’s great to share life with someone when they are celebrating victory, but it’s a far greater thing to endure with them when they experience loss.

As you’re drinking your morning coffee this morning, or better yet, when you’re spending some quiet time with The Lord, take a moment and think of who you could share a burden with today. Whether it’s lifting them up in prayer, offering encouragement, or just simply mourning with them. Nothing brings greater joy or glory to our Lord than when we love each other.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”