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.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

What you see here is a group of sea gulls.  You might recognize the gulls simply because you know your birds.  Or you may be privileged enough to be near areas where the sea gulls are commonly seen.  For those who did not know, just trust me.  These are definitely sea gulls.

Sea gulls may be recognizable simply because of where they are found — near the water, sea, ocean, etc.  A woodpecker is normally seen near a tree.  A buzzard is probably near some other dead animal.  A fish is probably near the water.  A custodian is usually seen with cleaning materials.  A preacher is normally seen around the church.  A drunk is normally near the alcohol.  A professional dancer is normally found near the dance floor.  Acorns are found near the oak tree.

The point is, many animals, items, and even people are normally recognized simply because of where they are found.  

If you are titled, labeled, named, or recognized because of where you are this week, what will the label be?  As Christians, we are to guard our hearts and minds, and that includes guarding our whereabouts and our actions as well.

There are days I would love to simply be recognized as a beach bum.  But that likely won’t happen when I live about four hours from the nearest beach.  As a Christian, I hope and pray to be recognized as a useful, faithful, loving witness in the middle of a hurting world.  That’s how I would truly love to be seen this week.

How will your relationship with the Lord be recognized this week?

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

I snapped this photo a few years ago at a local festival.  Part of the festivities included a car show, and these are two of the vehicles that were shared with the crowds.  These are two beautiful old antique cars.

One might argue that they aren’t antiques.  They are classics.  And sometimes these classic old cars are babied, polished, and shown off, but are never cranked up and ridden through the neighborhood.  The cars were built to run and be used, and yet too many times they sit idle in some parking lot with folks oogling over them.

I can’t help but wonder how many times we do the very same thing with our older generation, a generation that is growing in greater numbers each and every day.  How often do you visit (or call, in today’s socially destitute world) your elderly neighbors or even family members?  How often have you prayed for or even thought of the countless older folks who have spent nearly a year now completely isolated inside their retirement homes and facilities?

Proverbs 16:31 tells us that “the silver head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.”  Those elder saints who have the wisdom of many years of experience long for someone who will simply sit and listen.  The righteous have gone before, and they have stories to tell.

Are you listening?  Do you care?  Remember that, by the grace of God, you will one day (much sooner than you realize) be that older antique (ok, classic!), and you will be the one longing for someone, anyone, to come strolling by and glance your way, if only for a moment.

Just a thought.

This Week’s Thought

By Brad Campbell –

Just a thought to help start your week.

Have you ever been so tired that you could have slept standing up?  This horse was doing just that, and was sleeping soundly enough that his bottom lip had actually dropped.  That’s good sleep.  On one most recent Sunday afternoon I sat in my recliner to watch tv and woke up an hour later with my chin on my chest.  We had experienced a good church worship service, had a good weekend visit by our grown children, and I was more tired than I realized.  I didn’t intend to take a nap, but a nap overtook me!

In today’s world, regardless of our daily activities, it is sometimes quite easy to get tired and also “tired of it.”

The good Lord reminds us that we can bring Him our burdens and find rest.  Even the most energetic Christian can sometimes find themselves wishing for a break.  This is not necessarily a break from the work of Christian life, but a break from the ruts in which we may find ourselves, the difficult days of mask-wearing and distancing ourselves from friends and loved ones, and the dreariness of the winter months.

What are your burdens today?  Some may be small and simple compared to others, but they are burdens anyway.  Some may be large enough for carrying on horseback.  And whatever burdens we carry can make us weary and tired.

Before you make the mistake of falling asleep standing up, gather this week’s burdens and difficulties, worries and anxieties, illnesses and hurts, and bring them to the Master.  But don’t just bring them to Him, just show them to Him, or just tell Him about them.  Instead, lay them all down at His feet.

And find rest.  It’s good for the soul.

Weekly Inspiration – Don’t Read the Comments!

By Ryan Kelly –

I know you’ve done it. At some point recently, you read a post on social media and viewed the comments, only to discover a multitude of angry posts and off-the-wall opinions. Don’t feel bad, we all do it and it affects almost all of us the same way. It makes us sad, mad, and creates a vengeance wanting to fight back. Am I right?

I am convinced that the comment section of social media is like a pool of honey for a swarm of bees…people who want to sting others just can’t resist. It is the one single place where we can see the true heart of many people and the worst of most. It’s a bad place.

So this begs the question – why? I think there are probably several reasons why this is such a bad place. First, it is often anonymous and it allows a semi-non direct way for people to release built up anger. Second, it’s easy. You don’t have to search for controversy or a way to share your opinion, rather you can take your time, see your text, and not have an immediate response to sway the blow that you are about to throw. Third, it’s a snowball. Most do not go into the comments section looking for a fight, but once people read the comments they begin thinking that the fight is upon them and feel compelled to fight back.

rust me, I have fallen into all three of these buckets, so I know!

So what do you do? I recommend that if you cannot resist the comments section, get off of social media. For the most part, this is what I have done. I have no social media on my phone, and I only check what few sources I have once per week for mostly work purposes. I cut it out because it was infecting me. I recommend that you do the same.

Above all, I urge you to speak words of encouragement only. If you can’t be positive, say nothing. If that means that you have nothing to say, then be grateful that you have more of your day given back to you!

There are so many verses that are appropriate for controlling our tongue (or in this case fingers) and controlling our anger. Here are a few good ones.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention”. Proverbs 15:18

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Romans 12:19

“If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.” Proverbs 29:9