Sowing Seed in a Crazy World

By Ryan Kelly

We have all heard the parable of the sower from Matthew 13, which describes the scattering of ‘seed’ in a field and the result of the seed on the different types of soil. This parable can be taken in several directions, but the two best ask the questions, “what type of soil are you sowing, and what type of soil are you?”

When we sow, we cannot affect the soil by which we are planting. If it is rocky or thorny soil, the seed will struggle to thrive and will often die out. This is the result of so many people that have an emotional response to the Gospel, but due to lack of depth or problems in someone’s life, the Gospel message cannot take hold. Obviously the best soil is the one that is fertile and ready for the Gospel message.

One of the most frustrating things to me as a Christian is to have no power over the soil. I can share the good news of Jesus all day, but I have no control over whether it is accepted by someone who hears. But this shouldn’t be frustrating, it should be encouraging. Acceptance is not our job as Christians, but rather our job is to share. If someone accepts Jesus, it is their decision through the will of God and there is nothing that you or I can do about that. If they do not, perhaps it’s just not their time.

To the second question, are you fertile soil? I certainly hope that the answer is yes and that the Holy Spirit is growing you in righteousness as He is me. If he is not, I urge you to evaluate yourself and determine if there is something in your life that is preventing the Lord from growing you in the manner that He intends to. If there is, you must get rid of it and ensure that you have a life that allows you to grow in your faith.

I say this to be encouraging to you when witnessing to those around you. If you don’t see immediate results from your efforts, be encouraged that you are doing what the Lord has asked of you. Most importantly, we most love others enough to take the risk and the chance at telling them about the love of Jesus. This is the love that will show others our faith.

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:3-8

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

This majestic (and very large) bird was just one of the beautiful creatures we saw on a brief but nice visit to Navarre Beach, Florida this week.  After moving our youngest to the coast to begin her new post-college-graduation job, we enjoyed a nice visit with some great people, had a great seafood supper, and then enjoyed the great views!

Kiddo has worked hard, and while we certainly have shed some parental tears over her relocation, we couldn’t be more thrilled for her or for any of our kids.  Her excitement is mixed with apprehension and wonder, as is ours.
These birds, the dolphins we watched playing in the surf, the large sea turtle that popped up to say “hi,” and the many other creatures we had the privilege of observing had not one worry or care in the world.  Even as this big bird stood scanning the waters for his next meal, he wasn’t worried that it might not come.  He was simply patient, waiting for the right moment to swoop down and snack away.

To truly cast all our cares upon the Lord means to give him all of our worries and concerns about the day.  Yes, as parents (and as God’s children), we will continue to stand watch.  But we do so not worrying about the future, only praying that each new opportunity is even better than the one before it.

As you face your new week or whatever may come your way soon, simply watch and wait.  He will provide.  You have my promise in that.  And more importantly, you have His promise to take care of you.  What a blessing it is to know He is watching over all of His kiddos!

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Now this certainly isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken, but maybe you can tell that this is a picture of a bird’s nest.  Built on top of one of the lights on our front porch, this nest is constructed of what seems to be mainly mud and moss.  

When I first noticed the mess on the porch floor and realized the nest already half built, I chose not to disturb it, but to allow the birds to continue building.  I figured I could watch and enjoy the process.  Indeed the birds – at least two of them, which I’ve called “Mom” and “Dad” – worked on their nest for several days before it seemed as if they had finished.  And then came the wait.

The layout of our home is such that my office window faces the porch.  Day after day, there was a bird sitting in that nest, occasionally peeking over the side to make sure I wasn’t getting too close.  And then one morning last week, there was an awful lot of chirping going on.  Apparently “Mom” and “Dad” had become parents of some little ones.  The babies were small enough that I haven’t seen them, but their parents are obviously taking very good care of them, feeding them constantly.  And before too long, each of those little ones will fly off on their own.

I had watched the building of the nest, observed the work of those very attentive parents, and have enjoyed the sounds of their chirping brood.  I had highly anticipated the arrival of those little ones.

As we head into a new week, I couldn’t help but wonder as I glanced at the nest again this morning, am I anticipating the Lord’s arrival as much as I did for those little chirpers?  Will I live my life in such a way in the week ahead that others see the excitement and anticipation in my voice and actions — the anticipation of a coming King?  I pray that it may be so.

One day before long, I’ll climb the ladder and clean off the porch light.  But until then, that masterfully created nest will be my reminder that He may arrive any day!  And oh what singing I will hear then!  Are you waiting and watching?
Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

In our side yard stands this concrete bird bath.  It has been there for several years.  Sometimes, especially after a good rain, it is full of water.  The birds especially love this.  When the old knobby pears from the nearby tree begin to fall, some landing in the bird bath, it becomes a place that one beautiful little gray fox loves to visit, of course shared with the squirrels and an occasional deer.

The deer, not quite so gentle in their eating habits, have knocked the top off of that bird bath several times, and there are chips in the concrete to show it.  I would also assume, considering the extreme nosiness of our cat and the occasional ‘possum, that they are frequent visitors upon that lofty perch, too.

And then there’s me.  I have used it many times, as you can see here, as a flower stand.  Place a pot of petunias or some such plant on it, water it well, and it will grow and extend down into the birdbath and beyond as it drapes over the sides.

That old simple concrete bird bath has become so much more.  One might say it has been repurposed.  Perhaps even multi-purposed.  Even with the dents and dings, weather-stained colorization, and plain looks, it is as strong as ever, and it enters each and every spring-time never knowing what is in store for it.  All it has to do is stand — and adapt.

God the Father sometimes repurposes (or perhaps many more times multi-purposes) us.  This doesn’t necessarily mean we weren’t good at what we have previously done.  It just means we can branch out into something new.  A new opportunity to bring joy to others.  A new chance to make a difference in our community.  Another chance to stand tall, allow the beauty and creativity of the Father to shine, and be a blessing to those who take notice, even if they are few and far between.

Stand and adapt.  What does your future hold this week?

Just a thought.

The Importance of Christian Fellowship

Ryan Kelly –

Have you ever felt alone in your Christian walk, only to feel uplifted and encouraged by brothers and sisters in Christ? Almost all of us would say yes.

This fellowship is the essence of why Jesus created the church. The church is the gathering of believers intended to teach, encourage, and hold each of us accountable. It is the core of the community that the Lord desires for us. And it is our privilege to be able to be a part of this local body of believers that we can the church.

For this reason, it is incredibly concerning how many believers have fallen away from church and their respective Bible Fellowship / Life Group / Sunday School classes due to COVID. The fact is that we need this body and we miss it, even if we are out of the habit.

We are weak on our own, but together we are strong. As a body, we can help one another through struggles and be there for one another. And we can be held accountable for our own spiritual growth and shortfalls. Together we can be iron that sharpen iron.

It is paramount that we re-establish connection through in person church and in person fellowship gatherings. You must make it the top priority in your life and let nothing prevent you from gathering. It is our right, it is our duty, and every single one of us need it.

Don’t wait, reconnect today!

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

When there is nothing else to get the conversation started, we seem to always bring up the weather.  I heard someone says once, “It looks like we might have some weather tomorrow.”  The truth of the matter is, we have weather every day.  It’s just different kinds of weather.

From where I sit today, the sun is shining, the temperature is cooler than normal, the birds are singing, and it’s a beautiful day.  I was out and about and on the highways when the tornadic storms of recent days literally blew through our area.  That weather was not at all pleasant.  But I must say that when night fall came, it had been a beautiful day.  My family was home, safe and sound, and we were still here to tell it.

This very large mushroom popped up in our back yard, a testament to the abundantly damp ground of late.  They tend to grow when it’s wet.  So what may not be a lovely day for me would indeed be the ideal day for this up-and-coming mushroom.  Again, it’s all in our perspective of things.

How to we tap into our surroundings, and do we use and allow our situations and circumstances to help us grow?  Sometimes, the more storm clouds we face, the more our faith and our testimony of God’s goodness grows.  Sometimes, those difficult days actually become some of our best in the long run.

A very wet yard proved to be just exactly what this mushroom, as large as my size ten foot, needed to grow.  Without the storm, there would have been no growth.  I can identify.  Can you?

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

In today’s virus-filled world (both physically & spiritually), we have come to accept the unusual as normal, the weird as okay, and the difficulties as not-so-bad.  We have made changes and adaptations and have written them off, reassuring ourselves that it won’t always be this way.  

One major change, at least the way I see it, has been in our worship styles, settings, and especially schedules.  Many churches made major changes to their gathering practices.  Many cut back on ministry programs and events.  Some churches ceased to meet at all.  And strangely enough some never slowed down.  Why the differences?  Why have God’s people, of all people, seemed so very scattered over the last year?  I’m not sure there is a very clear answer.

This church building, Christ Church Cathedral, with its grand architecture, sits in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.  This church has seen many changes in its two hundred years of existence and ministry in downtown St. Louis.  God’s church as a whole has experience many changes as well.

But one thing of which we can always rest assured is that God has not changed!  Our church buildings differ from each other.  The locations – city or country, one room or cathedral-like, are all different.  Our strong rural church was blessed to have had forty folks present for worship this past Sunday.  Some others around us were grateful to have their regular six in attendance.  And still others, filled with two hundred plus, were missing many who weren’t there.
The differences?  People.  People change.  God does not.  Repeat that to yourself.  People change.  God does not.  The world is changing, and our places, means, and opportunities of ministry all change.  But God does NOT.
In a world of constant change right now, praise God that He remains steady as the Rock He is – the Rock on which any God-fearing, Bible-believing & teaching church, regardless of size or architecture, is built.
Just a thought.

The World Hates Christians, and It’s Okay

By Ryan Kelly

It certainly doesn’t take much reading or viewing to see how much the world hates us as Christians. They hate our belief in Scripture, they hate our love for Jesus, and they hate our love for one another. And I know it’s hate, because most people will actively seek out opportunities to cast stones at us and our faith. They mock, they criticize, and they actively opposite our very right to believe.

And you know what? It’s okay.

Although we should certainly never back down from our Gospel witness and our efforts to love others, the fact is that the hate that the world had for us should only empower us to continue our work. The reason is because they need Jesus just as we need Jesus. The ONLY way for salvation and righteousness is being saved by Jesus and renewed by the Holy Spirit, and they are only showing their great need for this salvation

And never forget, you are not alone. There are millions of Christians in this world that will stand beside you and help you. And more importantly, the Lord is with you and guiding you. You are doing His work, and He will bless and help you. If you tell others about the good news of Jesus for Him, you do the good work of God that will never come back void.

So let them hate us, it just better shows us who needs Jesus the most. And remember this, they hate us because we shed light on their sin, and they know it exists. Their hate for us is really a hate for their own sin. Let’s persevere and show them how the love of Jesus conquers their sin and renews their soul, just as it has our own!

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:11-12‬ ‭

This Weeks Though

Just a thought to help start your week.
One of my favorite childhood stories was the “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” In that little tale, of Norwegian roots, an old troll lives under a bridge, and three little goats want to cross “his” bridge so they can get to the hillside grass to eat.

The goats in my picture were pets of our former neighbor a few years ago. One thing most people know about goats is that they like to eat pretty much anything that gets in their way! (Or at least, they’ll chew on it and try.) Goats can be gentle fun little pets, but they can be stubborn and strong, and will certainly go after whatever they want.

In the fairy tale I mentioned, the goats are persistent, they are eventually able to do away with the old troll, and they go on to eat so much that they stuff themselves.

Now, I’m not going to call any of us and “old goat,” and I’m not even going to say that any of us tend to eat like goats! What I want us to see is that we can be just as stubborn and bull-headed as those goats. But, if we channel that energy, zeal, and determination, we can conquer the old trolls of this world, we can cross any rattling bridge that comes before us, and we can feed to our heart’s content on what the Lord has in store for us on yon hillside!
Sometimes we can relate to the old troll. Sometimes we can relate to the goats. Perhaps there’s a little of both in us. Moral? Well, if you’re a goat, keep strong, go after what lies ahead, and conquer the obstacles in your week. If you’re a troll, it’s simple. Quit fussing at old goats. It will get you nowhere!
Just a little humorous thought.

Video Games That Can Help Your Kids Learn Tough School Subjects

By Jenna Sherman –

Oftentimes, video games are considered a nuisance to parents. Many games are violent and some kids tend to get completely addicted to playing for hours on end. However, video games nowadays can be a great way for your child to develop cognitive skills and coordination, and even help with schoolwork. It’s important to pick out the right games for your kid, but it doesn’t end there. Read on for some tips from the American Christian Association.

Games for homeschooling

With many kids learning remotely due to COVID-19, most school work and lesson plans now happen online. As virtual classrooms become the norm, video games have also had a resurgence as learning tools for many different subjects. From math to history and science, there are games for a number of topics and for students of different ages.

Many students struggle with learning math, but video games can help make the subject easier and more fun for your child. One game that’s good for younger kids is called Tami’s Tower, created by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. It teaches children to use engineering skills and basic math to help Tami, a golden lion tamarin, reach food by building towers. Another great game is Prodigy, which challenges students to battle characters by solving math questions.

It’s quite common for video games to be set in historic time periods, which can help kids learn facts while solving puzzles. Games such as The Time Tribe follows a group of young children who go on an adventure through history to find missing members of a secret group. By solving puzzles and exploring various historical locations around the world, players learn factual historical content.

Games can also be great for helping kids learn science. A ninth-grade teacher in Idaho is using one such game—named Project Hastur and developed by researchers at the University of Idaho—to help introduce his students to the scientific method. In the game, players “defend a turret against onslaughts of alien Proteans, which evolve using biologically accurate models of evolution.” There are also games that allow kids to get in touch with nature like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley.

There are even Christ-centered video games that help teach your kids about Christianity. Christian-based games include Eternal War: Shadow of Light and Dance Praise.

Common video game concerns

While there are great games designed for helping students learn tough subjects, there are also plenty of non-educational games—some of which should be avoided. Games that are overly violent or that contain adult themes aren’t great for kids, so be sure to keep an eye on what your child is downloading and playing when they’re done with homework.

Another important issue is how much time your child spends playing games. Playing games after school isn’t a problem, but it’s a good idea to set some rules around how long they can play in one sitting. It’s recommended that kids play an hour or less of video games on weekdays, and two hours or less on the weekends. While some game time is great for learning coordination and cognitive skills, too much time playing games can take away from other skills, such as socializing.

If your child is playing games online, it’s wise to talk about privacy and safety guidelines. Remind your child that they must always keep their identity anonymous, and should never give out personal information while playing games online. Tell them to be on their guard against harassment or requests for personal information, and check their gaming consoles for parental controls to help keep their gaming safe.

Video games can go from fun to frustrating if your internet connection can’t handle the workload. Be sure to boost your internet speeds to make downloads faster and reduce buffering time. 5G connections are ideal for gaming households because they make games run more smoothly and with better performance.

When approached thoughtfully, video games can be a powerful learning tool alongside being great fun for kids. Pick out games that can help boost your child’s understanding of challenging school subjects, and remember to keep them safe by educating them about online safety guidelines. Consider getting a stronger internet connection as your child gets into gaming—it will make games more fun and responsive.