First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Worship News Update - 12/1/2021

Greetings folks!

Wednesday Night Ignite Schedule: Pizza @ 5:30, Be at Holly Brook around 6 - 6:15 to sing for residents; Back to church for Candy Cane story and Christmas Word Searches until 7 p.m.  See you Wednesday! ! !

Choir - we will be singing in the morning services on December 12 and 19 - remember that our rehearsal is this Sunday right after Sunday School! 

We have concluded orders for poinsettias - thanks for all who placed an order!

Put down Friday, December 10, and Saturday, December 11, on your calendar.  We need help both days for the Christmas Food Baskets.  9 & 5 on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday! ! !

We will have a Church Christmas Dinner on Wednesday, December 15 - this is catered by Neimergs and is $5/person - under 5 are free.  Call the church office for reservations. 

On Sunday evening, December 19, we will have a Christmas Candlelight and Communion Service at 6 p.m.  

Blessings to you! 
Pastor Steve

Pastor Steve Willis

Wednesday December 08, 2021

The natural curiosity of children is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, their desire to discover is a learning tool that helps them to acquire necessary skills. On the other hand, their exploration of new things can sometimes lead to dangerous circumstances. I read about a 7-year-old in Michigan who found a half-barrel by a small lake. He found a piece of wood to use as a makeshift paddle and he made his way to the middle of the lake in the barrel. Then the barrel developed a leak and began taking on water. Thankfully, there were people who saw his plight and rescued him.

In Isaiah 43, God reminds the people of Israel that they are like immature children who have not called upon him. God tells them they were following a path of disobedience in their pursuits of what they wanted instead of seeking what he wanted for them. God tells them: "Yet you have not called on me, Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel." (vs. 22)

Following our own immature pursuits can have serious consequences. Having a natural curiosity is a good thing, but we need to temper this with God's wisdom. Call upon God for his wisdom and avoid paddling out in lakes.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday December 07, 2021

A lady was a little behind in getting out her Christmas cards. So, she purchased a large box of cards and hurriedly sent them out to all the folks on her list, about 49 in all. Only after they were addressed and mailed did she take the time to read one. Imagine her chagrin as she read, "This little card is just to say, a special gift is on the way." Somewhere, there are 49 people still awaiting a special gift.

God read the card before He sent it to us. Actually, He wrote the card that He sent to us. All throughout the Old Testament, there are statements of promise about a Coming Gift. Isaiah 7:14 tells us, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 9:6 says, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given." Micah 5:2 predicts his birthplace, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." Another that is a bit more poignant, yet also a bit more powerful, is Isaiah 53:7, "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."

All of these were written about 700 years before the coming of the Gift, but they were not empty statements. They were predictions full of promise, and the promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus. God didn't just say that a Gift was coming, God sent the Gift. Luke 2:1 - 20 records His birth. Galatians 4:4 says, "When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son." In II Corinthians 9:15, we read Paul's thank you for God's Gift, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" Are you writing your thank you to God for the Gift that was sent?

Pastor Steve
Monday December 06, 2021

I remember my first train ride vividly. The conductor learned that, along with my brothers, I had never been on a train. So, when we came to a tunnel through a mountain, he turned the lights out in our car. That was quite an experience.

I once heard a story about a little girl's first train ride. She looked out the window and saw cars, telephone poles, fences, and other objects whizzing by as the train rolled along. As they approached a river, she cried out, "Momma, we are going to go into that river!" But a bridge carried the train safely across the river. As they approached a mountain, she said, "Momma, we are going to run into that mountain!" But a tunnel allowed for safe passage. Then the little girl said, "I guess someone must have gone ahead and made a way for us."

Yes, someone did. And someone has gone before us in life to prepare the way. Hebrews 2:17-18 tell us how he has paved the way, "For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

Christ has gone before us so we know we do not have to face life hazards' alone or without help. He is there for us, and he will carry us safely over the rivers and through the mountains as long as we follow him. He has also paved the way for us when it comes to our eternal life. Because Christ lived, died, and rose again, he has brought hope for us, I Corinthians 15:19-20 tells us, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." Because of this, we can be confident in life, and not afraid of death.

Pastor Steve
Sunday December 05, 2021

To me, one of the more fascinating stories in the Bible is one that you rarely hear - the story of Abraham's search for a wife for his son, Isaac. You can read about this is Genesis 24. It certainly is not exactly how we discover our spouses in our society, but it is a story of God's direction, and peoples' faith, especially in the case of Rebekah, who would become the wife of Isaac.

Abraham, advanced in years, sends his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. He tells him where to look and what to observe. The servant did as Abraham instructed and he came upon Rebekah and subsequently her family. When he told the family who he was and what he was doing, they agreed, but the ultimate decision was left to Rebekah. Can you imagine what must have been going through her mind? Even in a society where such arrangements were customary, she had never seen Isaac, she had never been where he lived, she had no idea what to expect. The decision was left to her. Her response (found in verse 58): "I will go." Her family had felt this was of the Lord, and she agreed, in spite of all the unknowns. What faith!

We face many unknowns, and that is a call for faith on our part. We must always remember our faithful God is going before us, as he was going before Rebekah, to prepare the way. When he calls us to follow, what will be our response? Follow the example of Rebekah and say, "I will go."

Pastor Steve
Saturday December 04, 2021

There is a scene in "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie's dad receives his award from a contest he had entered. Many of you may recall the scene. A large wooden crate is hauled into the house and placed on the floor. The crate is marked "Fragile," and Dad looks at it and says excitedly, "Fra-JEE-lay! It must be Italian!" He is corrected by his wife, but that is just incidental to what happens next. I won't go any further as I want to focus on the word "FRAGILE."

Many of the gifts you give or receive this year may be fragile but none of these gifts can compare to the tiny, fragile, gift that God gave the world 2,000 years ago. This fragile gift came into the world in a most un-fragile way. Usually, our depiction of the circumstances in pictures and artwork is quite idyllic; in reality it was anything but. I am vastly unqualified to make this statement, but any mother can tell you that having a child is not easy. Mary had to be exhausted from the long trip they had just completed. Now, she was going to deliver her first child in conditions that, even by first-century standards, were out of the ordinary. The only comfort she would receive would be from her equally tired, and equally inexperienced, husband who was responsible for the delivery. Infant mortality was common, and mothers often died in childbirth during those days, yet this was the plan God chose to enter the world.

The scripture tells us, "she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger." (Luke 2:17) This fragile, tiny child, who came into the world in very un-fragile circumstances was The Gift from God. Christ came into the world like us so that he would be able to save us. He came into the world as a fragile baby, but through His provision, our fragile existence can be made eternally strong. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (II Corinthians 12:9) Let's celebrate our "fragile" gift.

Pastor Steve
Friday December 03, 2021

When I was in Israel several years ago, we stopped for the express purpose of taking in the view of the wilderness area through which the Jericho to Jerusalem road passed. I would imagine you are familiar with the story Christ told of the Good Samaritan. This is found in the scripture in Luke 10:29-37. A traveler was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and was set upon by a band of robbers.

When one sees the area, it doesn't take much imagination to see how this story could be a reality. The lay of the land would afford a great deal of hiding places for robbers and thieves who would prey on travelers. As you recall the story Christ told, the traveler who was beaten and robbed was ignored by a priest and a Levite before finding help through the efforts of a Samaritan.

In her book "Kindness: Reaching Out to Others", Phyllis J. Le Peau describes an event at a Midwestern seminary. Students were given the assignment to preach on kindness. Then, the day of the sermon, the students were intentionally delayed by a "person in need" who was planted on the way to the class. One by one, the students made their way to the class, but not one of them stopped to assist the needy person. Apparently, they were too absorbed in preaching a message on kindness to actually be involved in an act of kindness.

Which would be the more powerful sermon on kindness: delivering a sermon extolling the need to show kindness or actually stopping to show kindness to someone who needed help? I hope I don't need to state the obvious here. Luke 10:33 says, "When he saw him, he had compassion." His compassion led to action. I hope it does for us as well.

Pastor Steve
Thursday December 02, 2021

According to an article I read some time back, archeologists have uncovered a plate in Spain with an image of Jesus on it. Jesus is depicted as beardless and with short hair. Here is an excerpt from the article, "Archaeologists have uncovered one of the earliest-known images of Jesus in the town of Cástulo in Andalusia, Spain. The image, engraved on a glass plate known as a paten, shows a beardless, short-haired Jesus. The archaeologists estimate the 8.6-inch paten is from the fourth century C.E., and they suspect it was used to hold Eucharistic bread. The image shows Jesus in a philosopher's toga, along with two other - also beardless - male figures, whom researchers suspect are Peter and Paul, two of Jesus' apostles. All three of the men are depicted with halos. 'The scene takes place in the celestial orb, framed between two palm trees, which in Christian iconography represent immortality, the afterlife, and heaven, among other things,' the archaeologists said in a statement."

Now, I find this to be interesting, but my favorite portrayal of Jesus is not found in any artist's rendition in any known medium. My favorite portrayal of Jesus is found in Philippians 2. There we read, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross! (2:6-8)

This image reflects his humility, his obedience, and, perhaps most importantly, his willingness to do what was needed to secure redemption for sinful humanity. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us about the image he became in order to make us righteous, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

I find the archeological discovery of a plate depicting Christ's image interesting, but what I find important is the image of Christ given in Scripture. This is the image on which we should focus.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday December 01, 2021

You may be surprised to learn that email has been around since the '60's. Now, in its infancy, email could only be sent to people using the same computer. Do you remember what computers looked like in the 60's? This advanced to being able to send messages from computer to computer, if both users were "online."

Then, in 1971, Ray Tomlinson successfully developed the technology that allowed a user to send a message to other users on a network using ARAPNET. He is credited with developing the use of the @ symbol to link a user name with a destination server. Of course, along with the development of this new technology and increased usage came drawbacks. A big issue is, well, to put it in terms that are common in email usage, "Don't open a message unless you trust the sender."

At this time of year we are celebrating a Message that has been sent to us from a Source that is imminently trustworthy. We are celebrating the delivery of a message that, if accepted, can transform our lives. Hebrews 1:1-2 tell us, "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe."

Christ is the undeniable Message of hope, love, and redemption for a world in desperate need of a message that is safe to open. The Sender assures the validity, integrity, and effectiveness of the Message. I hope you have opened this message, and I hope that you have a blessed season of celebrating the Message that God has graciously sent.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 30, 2021

Often people who are searching for jobs become frustrated because they hear potential employers tell them, "We are looking for someone with experience." The job seekers have a valid point when they ask, "How can I get experience if no one will hire me because I am inexperienced?" This is indeed frustrating.

It is hard to fault the job seekers for their frustration, but one can understand the point of the employers as well. Experience does tend to be the best teacher. God acknowledges this in how he deals with us in our lives. God uses our experiences to teach us to serve others. As we seek him through the seasons of our lives, we gain wisdom, perspective, understanding, confidence, and courage. These qualities not only prepare us for the future but they provide a platform where we can influence those around us.

Sometimes the experiences are things we would not like to have, but God knows what they can do for us. He knows what benefits we will derive that will make us better prepared to serve him and to be of help to others. In Ephesians 3:20-21, Paul reminds us that God is at work in us, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen."

Experience is the best teacher. What is frustrating to us today is likely making us wise for tomorrow.

Pastor Steve
Monday November 29, 2021

Handwashing is still being emphasized as we continue to battle COVID. Of course, handwashing has always been important. There are a lot of germs out there that can do harm. It's just that a new premium has been placed on the importance of the practice.

When we wash your hands, do we actually clean our hands ourselves? Not really. We choose to do the action, but it is the soap and water that is the active agent in removing the grime and dirt in the cleaning process.

So it is with our lives of faith. We are unable to actually remove the sin that stains us and keeps us from having a relationship with God. The Bible tells us that God has provided a way that we may be made clean before Him. I John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Titus 3:5 makes it plain who is the operative agent in the cleansing process, "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,"

Now, we need to allow this to happen. We can choose to wash our hands or not wash our hands, or, to be more technically correct. let the soap and water take care of our hands. There is really no debate as to which way this decision should go. There really is no debate as to which way the decision needs to go with regard to allowing God to cleanse us. This is an action that needs to be allowed.

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 28, 2021

This is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the period of time the Church has set aside to focus upon the coming of Christ. The Christian Resource Institute writes, "The word Advent means 'coming' or 'arrival.' The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000-year-old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life."

As we enter into this time of year, let's use the time to remember what Christ's coming into the world means to us. Christ came to bring hope and to provide a way of life to those who were hopeless and lifeless. Let's renew our commitment to him and our service to him. Let's rejoice in his provision and his promise. Let us echo the words of Mary that she uttered when she learned that God had chosen her, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." (Luke 1:46-47) Let's rejoice in Him this season of Advent!

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 27, 2021

A family was very excited about an upcoming trip to go visit an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are manuscripts that were discovered in caves along the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. They contain much of the Hebrew Bible and other texts and provide the oldest know manuscripts of the Old Testament in existence. They provide evidence of the accuracy of Scripture.

The family was thrilled at their upcoming opportunity to see them. They spoke of it often. Their little pre-school aged son got in on the excitement as well. He told a visitor, "We are going to see the Dead Sea squirrels!" Well, he was accurate in the excitement he conveyed in his announcement, even if he was not quite right as to what they would be seeing.

Do you convey excitement about God's Word to your children? We want our children to know God's Word and to use God's Word in their lives. One of the things we need to do in order to ensure that this happens is to not only teach them what the Bible says, but show them how excited we are about God's Word. Values are transmitted to our children through not only what we say, but through the emotions we express. If we want them to have an excitement about learning the Word of God, our excitement about the Word of God needs to show.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 speaks of the responsibility of teaching our children: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Let's show our excitement about God's Word to our children so they will be excited as well!

Pastor Steve
Friday November 26, 2021

Many things help form a bond between individuals - shared experiences, shared employment, shared affiliations, and, of course, family ties. In most instances, for the bond to continue, it needs to be nurtured in some way. A bond that may have formed through a shared experience will only endure when those involved in the bond make conscious decisions to pursue actions that will allow the bond to grow stronger.

As followers of Christ, we have a bond with others that is formed through what we share. In Ephesians 4:1-7, we find Paul reminding his readers of seven things that are common among followers of Christ. These seven "ones" not only form the bond, but provide impetus for the bond to endure. He writes: "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; the God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

These seven "ones" should help create a bond that sticks tighter than super glue. Have you ever gotten any of that stuff on your fingers? The bond created can only be dissolved through intentional effort. That is the nature of the bond existing between followers of Christ - it takes intentional effort to dissolve the bond. Of course, this intentional effort is what we need to avoid. We need to focus upon the seven ones so that the bond remains tight. What a difference it makes when we focus on the seven ones.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 25, 2021

Today is a day we have set aside to give thanks. I would imagine most of you know the historical background for today. Of course, giving thanks certainly transcends the experience of the Pilgrims in their new home. For followers of Christ, giving thanks should be as natural as breathing. Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Giving thanks helps us to keep our grip. We face times of sadness, loss, pain, and other problems. When we purpose to give thanks, we find a source of strength and encouragement that helps us with our struggle. In his book "365 Thank Yous", John Kralik writes how intentional thankfulness helped him gain control of his life after many factors were causing a real tailspin. "The exercise (giving thanks) took the focus off of me and my problems and put it on the blessings in my life and the things that people were doing for me," Kralik writes."

Giving thanks helps us to keep on grappling. An attitude of thankfulness helps us to focus on our responsibilities and follow paths that are productive. Finally, giving thanks helps us to keep from griping. We can become negative in our outlook. We can be disenchanted with others and with situations. Thankfulness helps us avoid becoming a grouch. Be thankful - and reap the benefits.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 23, 2021

One morning, a lady walked out of her house and found an unfamiliar vehicle in her driveway with a note attached. The note read, "I am giving this to you because I love you," but there was no name. The car was just what she needed to replace her older vehicle that was not in good shape. She didn't have a clue as to who her benefactor might be, so she hung a sign on her garage that read, "Thank you, God."

Someone asked her, "Did the car just fall from heaven?" No, of course it didn't. But the woman believed that, whoever the human agent was, the gift was from the Lord. So, it was entirely appropriate that she thank God for her new car. Her sign conveyed her gratitude to her anonymous friend and also acknowledged the truth that all good gifts come from the Lord.

David recognized this and gave thanks to God after a tremendous outpouring of gifts from the people to help build the temple. You can read the entire story in I Chronicles 29. In response to the people's generosity, David says, "Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power (vs. 12)." While it was true the people brought all the things in to be used for the construction of the temple, David did well in acknowledging the actual source of these gifts. God deserved the praise David gave to him.

Keep this in mind as you receive blessings. Others may be the channels of these gifts, and certainly deserve to be thanked, but don't forget the source. Remember to thank God for your gift.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 23, 2021

Arnold Toynbee died in October of 1975. In his monumental work "Study of History", Toynbee presented the rise and fall of 26 different civilizations including the Greeks, Romans, and Peru. Toynbee said that "civilizations die from suicide, not murder." Toynbee wrote, ""When I started, religion was not a prominent feature. In writing my study, I have been constantly surprised to find religion coming back to fill an even greater place. So, what does the universe look like? It looks as if everything were on the move either toward its Creator or away from Him. The course of human history consists of a series of encounters... in which each man or woman or challenged by God to make the free choice between doing God's will and refusing to do it."

Let us hope our civilization is not in the midst of committing suicide, although we are certainly making choices that are leading us down that path. It doesn't take a historical expert like Toynbee to see that attitudes towards God and the scripture are deteriorating rapidly. Toynbee pointed out emphatically that a decision needs to be made. We need to make a decision personally, and as a nation we must decide "between doing God's will and refusing to do it." May we make the right decision.

Proverbs 29:18 tells us, "Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom's instruction." Failure to follow the revelation we have received from God will take us down the path of self-destruction. The King James Version translation of this verse says, "the people perish." Let's not go that route.

Pastor Steve
Monday November 22, 2021

Lead Like Jesus asks this question: Has God ever called you to an impossible task? Something that you knew you could not (or cannot) accomplish in your own strength; something that you know will require you to depend wholly on Him. Something that will serve to draw you closer to His side, to seek His wisdom, to cling to Him for strength, and to follow Him more closely.

God often calls us to do things that make us, to say the least, "step out of our comfort zone." We should be willing to do this, and realize that he would not call us to do something that we are unable to do. Rather, he will not call us to do something that he will not equip us with what we need to do what he asks of us.

Think about the many people in the Scripture that were called to do seemingly impossible things. Noah was asked to build a gigantic ark. Nehemiah was called to rebuild a wall. David faced Goliath. And we certainly should not forget Mary, the mother of Christ. Don't you think God's call for her seemed rather formidable as she was listening to Gabriel s presentation (Luke 1:25-38)? But she was given this promise, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you (vs. 35)." Mary responded, " I am the Lord s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled (vs. 38)."

What impossible task is God calling you to today? Remember Mary's response as you consider God's challenge!

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 21, 2021

The story of the Voyage of St. Brendan was first published in 900 AD. St. Brendan was a 6th century monk who embarked upon a rather remarkable sea voyage. Much of what was said about Brendan in the 10th century poem is a little fantastical. However, there is a kernel of truth at the center of the story as Brendan was a real character who made a number of discoveries during a lengthy sea voyage. When the story was first published, hundreds of pilgrims flocked to his home town of Ardfert in search of guidance. There is a stained-glass window commemorating his exploits in the chapel at the United States Naval Academy.

One of the results of taking bold steps is the inspiration of others. When we stand boldly for Christ, we influence others and inspire others to stand boldly as well. When we step out of our "comfort zone" to serve Christ and accomplish tasks for him, we help others do the same. Think of how you have been inspired by the actions of others to do something for the sake of Christ. Live in such a way so as to be an inspiration to others for the sake of Christ.

In I Corinthians 4:16, we read Paul's encouragement: "Therefore I urge you to imitate me." Are you doing anything worthy of being imitated? Why not? Step out in service and faithfulness in order that you may be an example for others and an inspiration for others in their service for Christ.

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 20, 2021

The story of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15 is actually the story of two wayward sons. Usually, we focus on the behavior of the "wanderer" and don't say too much about the son who stayed put, however, there are displays of rebellion in both sons. The struggles of the homebody come out when his footloose brother returns home and asks their father for forgiveness. The father displays joy, but the brother is not so quick to welcome his sibling back. Rather than this, he shows anger, jealousy, a lack of forgiveness, and absence of acceptance for his brother.

Now, one view we may have of this is to consider his actions justified because of what has transpired. Shouldn't he be incredulous as his behavior was never feted with any display of gratitude? Then, this vagabond comes home with his tail between his legs and is greeted with joy and acceptance! Well, this is one way to look at the situation, but for those of us who understand the heart of God, represented here by the heart of the father, and have experienced the grace of God, this is not the right response.

From a human perspective, his response is justifiable. But we are often called to respond to situations with something more than a "human perspective," aren't we? This is why I contend that you have two wayward sons in this story. You have two displays of behavior that we should work to avoid. The behavior that I see is the most problematic is a failure to forgive and accept the repentant brother. There are times when acceptance and forgiveness are difficult to display, but are still the right things to do. We need to remember the desire of our Father and the teachings of the Savior about forgiveness. Paul tells us that we should "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:12-13)

The father takes the older son to school in his response to his recalcitrant stance, "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'" (Luke 15:31 32) Yes, there at times when we may find it difficult to "kill the fattened calf," but this doesn't display the heart of the Father. Our desire should be to demonstrate the heart of God and not be a prodigal.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 19, 2021

One of my greatest struggles is popping off before I put thought into my words. "Cooler heads prevail" is a good piece of advice for me and for many of us. We become frustrated with situations, we become angry during arguments, or we don't like what we see as a perceived injustice and we confront the alleged perpetrator of the injustice in a less than diplomatic way. These are all situations that we should work to control.

Proverbs 17:27 says, "He who has knowledge spares his words." We need to work to know our "danger signals," and when we see them arise, develop a plan of action to thwart what would be our usual way of reacting.

Let God take over your brain for awhile and allow him to intervene. This is certainly a more productive means of handling times when the temperature rises. As ESPN commentator Stan Verrett would say, "Cool is the Rule."

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 18, 2021

There are a number of historical individuals whose lives have been embellished to the point that the accounts of their lives present a larger-than-life persona where fact and fiction blend. One of these super heroes is Davey Crockett. Crockett was one of my childhood heroes as I read and heard many stories of his exploits as a frontiersman, guide, political persona, and his heroic death at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. I loved watching the TV show featuring Fess Parker that began with the jingle, "Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier." Yes, Parker also played Daniel Boone on TV ("Daniel Boone was a man, yes a real man"). Boone was another individual who fits the above description, and was also one of my childhood heroes.

Of course, closer examination of these men's lives shows that, yes, they did indeed do a lot of good in their efforts, but they were not perfect. Their lives have been embellished, and they certainly made mistakes. They had their character flaws, and at times made bad decisions. This is not surprising. People aren't perfect.

Scripture maintains this reality, even in, and actually especially in, the presentation of the lives of those whom God chooses for leadership and ministry positions. This is what makes the scripture ring with authenticity. You don't find "larger-than-life" people flying around with capes and leaping tall buildings in a single bound when you read the accounts of the lives of the people God uses. You find people with character flaws and people who made mistakes.

For instance, consider Jacob, who had a penchant for deceit, or David, who looked when he shouldn't have, or Peter, who had an issue with trying to be a people-pleaser both before and after the death and resurrection of Christ (read Matthew 26:69 = 75 and Galatians 2:11 - 21 to see these pictures). Even though they made mistakes, God used them to do a lot of good things.

It is good that God uses flawed people. If he didn't, he couldn't use anyone. He does, and that means he can, and will, use us. This is reassuring, but also convicting as, at times, we try to hide behind our "weaknesses" to avoid being used by God. God uses people in spite of the fact they are prone to make mistakes and have weaknesses that create issues. In actuality, God gains glory by using people in spite of their weakness.

Paul declares, "Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are," (I Corinthians 1:26 28) God uses people in spite of their lives, not because they are larger than life. Let Him use you.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 17, 2021

I still am in awe of "high efficiency" HVAC units. I am still trying to wrap my head around the technology that allows PVC pipe to handle the exhaust from a furnace. The unit we have in our home does this. We have had the unit for about ten years now, and I still think that one day I will look in the utility closet and see melted plastic all over the place. High efficiency, as it comes to furnaces, means that there is minimal waste of the heat generated by the furnace. Almost all the heat goes towards the intended purpose of the unit - to heat the house.

We need to work to become "high efficiency" in our lives as followers of Christ. Sometimes there is a great deal of "exhaust" because we fail to live in such a way as to utilize fully all that God gives us to glorify him. We let the power the Holy Spirit provides for us go up through the pipe because we don't allow him to work for us and within us the way we should.

God has given us all we need to live for him. Romans 8:32 tells us, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Peter tells us, "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue." (II Peter 1:3) He designed us for "high efficiency." But we often squander his resources and ignore his design. This is a problem. Live the way God intended for you to live. Demonstrate high efficiency with your life!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 16, 2021

Some time ago, I heard about an individual who abandoned his house in the neighborhood in which he lived and moved to another more affluent neighborhood and purchased a house there. He didn't sell his former house; he simply left it, along with the mortgage and the association dues which went towards the upkeep of the property. Well, the mortgage company foreclosed on the property. This meant that other properties in the neighborhood were devalued and the costs of maintaining the property were levied on the other homeowners because of the dues not being paid. It was not that the individual could not pay the mortgage, as his purchase of another home attests; he simply wanted to move and didn't want the hassle of selling his former property.

This is an example of robbing your neighbor. Leviticus 19:13 tells us that we should not "defraud or rob our neighbor." This individual showed little regard for his neighbors as his actions hurt their positions as homeowners. He robbed and defrauded them. Now, he didn't do it directly or in a way that we might say was criminal. However, his actions had the result of taking away what was theirs. His actions were certainly not the way to "love your neighbor as yourself (Romans 13:9)."

We may not walk away from a mortgage, but we are often guilty of doing things that demonstrate a lack of love for others. When we leave tasks undone that others must finish, or fail to do something we should have done, or "make messes" that others have to clean up, we are in violation of Paul's words found in Romans 13:10 that say, "Love does no harm for a neighbor." There are things that need to be done in our churches, ministries that need to be accomplished, and work that begs to be finished. When we don't do our part to help with these, we leave the tasks for others. This is not a good way to show love for others and is also a case of robbing your neighbor.

The actions of the person who abandoned his house were indeed deplorable. But before you go too far in your condemnation, examine yourself to make sure you aren't doing things that fall into the same boat.

Pastor Steve
Monday November 15, 2021

As a young man of 26, Theodore Roosevelt lost both his mother and his wife on the same day - Valentine's Day of 1884. His wife had just given birth to a daughter two days earlier. According to American Minute, this event was so devastating that Roosevelt left his position in the state legislature of New York and went to the Dakotas to ranch. After some time, Roosevelt returned to politics, became Secretary of the Navy, fought in the Spanish-American War, became vice-president, and then the youngest president in history upon the assassination of President William McKinley.

Roosevelt wrote later that is was his faith that helped him to overcome the devastating circumstance of the simultaneous deaths of his mother and wife. His faith is evident in his writings. He wrote, ""The thought of modern industry in the hands of Christian charity is a dream worth dreaming. The thought of industry in the hands of paganism is a nightmare beyond imagining. The choice between the two is upon us."

We all face difficult times. Our faith is what can help us through these times. Roosevelt was able to continue with his service in spite of tremendous personal loss because of his faith. He knew that he could trust in the Lord to be there for him. Psalm 9:10 says, "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." God will not forsake us. He did not forsake Roosevelt but was there to help him in a dark hour. He is there for us as well.

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 14, 2021

It is possible to be one place physically and another place mentally. It happens every Sunday morning in church. Bodies warm the pews while minds roam the kitchens and golf courses of the nation. In a graver example, prisoners of war survive by taking themselves mentally into another world away from the prison and there find meaning and solace.

As followers of Christ, we are to do the same. We are to take ourselves out of the physical world into the spiritual world, and operate according to its values, truths, and realities. Colossians 3:1-3 tells us: "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

Doing this doesn't mean to remove ourselves totally from the world - that is not what Paul meant when he wrote those words. What he was encouraging us to do was to make sure we do not allow worldly values, thoughts, mores, and ideals to become ours. We need to have values, thoughts, mores, and ideals that are heavenly while we live in this world. In so doing, we give the Holy Spirit room to operate in our lives, and we can be an influence on others for the sake of Christ.

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 13, 2021

One of the things that I have discovered about taking medication is that it really should be taken as prescribed. I have discovered this with one medication in particular that helps to control my afib. If I neglect to take it, I will find myself battling an incident of atrial fibrillation. What is the answer to this? Take the medicine in the way in which the medicine has been prescribed. Why is it that we often struggle with something that seems so simple? It may be a control issue, but, whatever the reason, it is not a good practice.

This is true in our spiritual lives as well. We know that developing a close relationship with our Father involves living our lives according to His prescription and not free-lancing on our own. Those who have created the medicines we take are the ones who know best how they should be taken, so why not follow their prescription? God is the one who has made us and knows what is best for our lives, so why not follow His prescription?

Caleb is an example of what takes place when we follow the Lord in the way we should. The land was being divided, and this promise was given to Caleb because of his faithfulness, "Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite until this day, because he followed the Lord God of Israel fully." (Joshua 14:14) Follow the Lord fully - this is the prescription for experiencing a blessed life.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 12, 2021

I know I have shared this story before, but a recent assignment I had brought this memory back to me and I would like to share it again. Pauline Williams was my fourth-grade teacher. She and her sister, Phyliss, taught with my Mom and were Mom s good friends. They were the ones who convinced Mom that she should marry my Dad, and are, in a sense, the reason that I even exist.

Once, we were having a test in Social Studies. Mrs. Williams said, "Class, take a piece of paper, write your name in the upper right-hand corner of the sheet, write the date under your name, and then number to twenty." After a time, she said, "All right. Here is your first question. What is the first permanent English settlement in the New World?" "Oh!" I thought, "I know that!" And before long, everyone else in the room knew it as well as, in a moment of exhilaration, I blurted out loudly, "Jamestown!" Mrs. Williams put her hands on her hips, looked straight at me, and said, "Well, thank you!" She didn't look too pleased - I thought she should be - but then realized what I had just done. Mrs. Williams continued, "Well, everyone in the room should get at least one correct answer." She then continued with the test. I managed to control by exuberance for the remainder of the responses.

You know, as followers of Christ, we know the answer to a very important question, How do I know that I can live forever with God? I need to be just as exuberant as I was in the fourth grade as I blurt out the answer to this question, Believe in the Lord Jesus. (Acts 16:31) We should not be able to control our enthusiasm as we proclaim the news about the Savior.

I was so excited about knowing the answer to that first question I couldn t contain myself and just had to let everyone else know! I need that same type of excitement when it comes to letting folks know the answer to the biggest question that anyone could ask. We need to have the exuberance of the Samaritan woman who proclaimed, Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did! Is he not the Messiah? (John 4:29) As a follower of Christ, you know the answer. Don t keep it to yourself!

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 11, 2021

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, fighting finally stopped in the "War to end all Wars," the war that came to be known as World War I. The armistice had been signed at 5 a.m. that morning, but battles raged until 11 a.m. Today was originally a commemoration of that day and in 1954 it became Veteran's Day, a day set aside to honor those who served in the United States Armed Forces.

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the creation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" in Arlington. Remains of an unknown soldier from World War I were interred in a tomb at Arlington National Cemetery by President Warren Harding on this day in 1921. The inscription on the tomb read "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." Remains were added to the tomb from each war since. The remains of the soldier from the Vietnam War interred by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 were later identified as American pilot Michael Blassie.

Blassie was a graduate of St. Louis University High school, in 1966, and the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970, Blassie died when his A-37B Dragonfly was shot down near An Loc, South Vietnam. Following the identification of his remains, he was reburied in 1998 at Jefferson Memorial Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri.

Truer words have never been spoken than "Known but by God." God has knowledge of anyone who has ever lived and died. At some point, all the righteous dead will be raised to live forever with God. "Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them (Revelation 20:6)." However, all those who die without God will be raised to face judgment. "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. . .Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." God knows who belongs in each resurrection. You determine in which resurrection you fit. So, which one is it?

A final note - many thanks to all who have served. Veteran's Day is for you.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 10, 2021

At 6.825 miles, the Mariana Trench is the deepest place on earth. The trench is located in the South Pacific about 120 miles from the Marianas Islands. If you were to stand Mount Everest in the trench, the top of the mountain would be a mile beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. The pressure of the water at that depth is almost 16,000 pounds per square inch.

There have been two manned and four unmanned explorations of the bottom of the trench that have obtained a great deal of information, yet the depths have not been fully explored nor all the mysteries about the trench explained.

Something else that defies full explanation because of great depth is the love of God. The depth of God's love is just hard to fathom. Paul gives the best effort that we know in describing the love of God. He wrote, "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17-19) Although the depths of the love of Christ may be hard to comprehend, thinking about his great love can be a comforting expedition for us, particularly at times when we find ourselves in the depths of despair facing the pressures of life. God loves us deeply. We don't have to explain why He does, we only need to experience His love and let Him guide us through the depths of life.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 09, 2021

An article I read some time ago stated there are three things we need for happiness: We need something to do - meaningful work or helping others. We need someone to love - someone to whom we can give of ourselves. We need something to look forward to - improved health, realization of a dream, even a vacation.

Followers of Christ find ultimate fulfillment of these three needs in our relationship with our Lord. We have been given something to do in our service for Christ and others. Hebrews 6:10 tells us, "God will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." We are told to love God and love others. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37) We certainly have something to anticipate. One day, we will be welcomed into God's presence forever. Even now, Christ is preparing that place for us. John 14:2 - 3 tells us, "My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." Revelation 21:1 reminds that there will be a new heaven and a new earth where "there will no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain." (Revelation 21:6)

Someday, we will see Jesus and be like Him, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (I John 3:2) If you find yourself unhappy in life, maybe you are looking for happiness in the wrong place. Christ provides all that we need to be truly happy.

Pastor Steve
Monday November 08, 2021

What could have been a very messy confrontation was diffused by a simple gesture. A careless taxi driver almost clipped a bus in rush hour traffic. Both drivers exited their vehicles, but instead of a torrent or reprimands and angry comments, the bus driver smiled at the taxi driver and waved. The stunned taxi driver smiled and waved back. They went on their way with a conflict averted.

It really is amazing to see what a smile can do. Behavioral psychologist Sarah Stevenson wrote, "Each time you smile you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The notorious party animals dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin start whooping it up when you smile. And a bonus: those endorphins serve as natural pain relievers and act as the body's own opiates."

Smiling affects those around you as our brains react to other people's smile as well as our own. Smiling in contagious "When you re smiling, the whole world smiles with you." Even a forced smile has benefits, according to researchers

The scripture tells us that smiling has positive benefits. Proverbs 15:13 tells us, "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face." Later in that same chapter we read, "Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones." (15:30) Proverbs 17:22 reminds us, "A joyful heart is good medicine." Yes, there are times when it is difficult to "put on a happy face," but, as much as you can, pursue the positive effects of a smile. This will make a difference for you and for those around you as well.

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 07, 2021

The Israelites were finally leaving Egypt. Four hundred years earlier, their patriarch, Jacob, had entered the land along with his family. They were now leaving as a nation over a million strong. God saw to it that they were not going to leave empty-handed for all the work they had supplied over the 400 years they had been there. He directed the people to seek compensation from the Egyptians: "The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians." (Exodus 12:35-36)

God provided for their future by giving them good things. However, it was not long before they abused the gift they were given. In Exodus 32, we read how they took the gold and jewelry that God had provided and they made a golden calf which they worshipped. How sad.

We need to be careful that we are not guilty of the same thing. "Wait a minute," you say, "I don't have a golden calf sitting around my house." This is no doubt true, but we need to be careful that we don't abuse the good things God has given us and use them for us rather than for the sake of God.

God does give us good things, and we are often guilty of misuse of the blessings he gives us. He gives us good things so that we might bless others and glorify him, but often we use our abundance for our own pleasure. Make sure that you use what God has given you wisely and in accordance with his desire. You do not need a golden calf!

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 06, 2021

The other night, I was watching a Hallmark movie with Scherry. One of the characters made this statement. "Hatred is a strong emotion that will consume you." Truer words have never been spoken. This little bit of wisdom needs to be ingrained in our thinking. Hatred, which is the flip side of love, needs to be handled with care. Olive Moore, the 19th-century English writer, put words to this warning: "Be careful with hatred. . . . Hatred is a passion requiring one hundred times the energy of love. Keep it for a cause, not an individual. Keep it for intolerance, injustice, stupidity. For hatred is the strength of the sensitive. Its power and its greatness depend on the selflessness of its use."

Hatred has its place, but not when directed towards others. When that happens, relationships fracture, lives are damaged, and people suffer. Our lives suffer in general, society is affected, and our churches are affected adversely when hatred is directed at people and not the forces around us that destroy life and hope. Harry Emerson Fosdick said, "Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat."

The scripture tells us where our hatred should be focused. Psalm 97:10 tells us, "You who love the Lord, hate evil!" "The righteous hates falsehood" is the declaration of Proverbs 13:5. Paul tells us to "Hate that which is evil; cleave to that which is good." (Romans 12:9)

Be careful with hatred. Make sure this powerful force is controlled in your life. Let the love of God be evident when it comes to your interaction with others and don't be destroyed by the poison of hate.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 05, 2021

I once watched a show where one of the plot lines involved trying to restore the memories of an adult woman who had experienced a traumatic incident at the age of four and had repressed the recollection. This involved both the use of therapeutic techniques and drugs. The results were only mildly successful - it was better for the show if not everything was revealed all at one time.

As I saw this somewhat interesting fictional portrayal, I thought of something real - there is no amount of therapy or artificial means that will make God remember the sins for which we have been forgiven. I know comparing God's gracious forgetfulness to an unrealistic TV show is a bit unrealistic in and of itself, but it still amazes me when Scripture tells me that God really does put my sins in a place where they are not brought up again.

Isaiah 1:18 tells us, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." David writes in Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Micah 7:19 gives us the promise, "You will again. . .hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea."

God does hold us accountable for our lives and our sins, but when we come to Him and seek forgiveness, God deals with us and does away with the sin. I John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The sins are gone, and not to be brought back up through any means. This is a "voluntary repression" on God's part, and a reality for which we need to be thankful.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 04, 2021

I have seen The Bucket List many times. The Bucket List is a 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men who go on a road trip to accomplish as many things on their wish lists as they can before they "kick the bucket." The two men meet in the hospital. One is a billionaire (Nicholson) and one is a mechanic (Freeman). Their relationship is rather tenuous at first, but a friendship develops as they pursue their goals.

I came across a list of things that we need to strongly consider putting on our spiritual bucket list. As a matter of fact, the list is entitled "Seven Things that Can Only Be Done In This Life." Here they are: 1. Love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44). 2. Walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). 3. Love God by enduring temptation (James 1:12). 4. Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13). 5. Lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). 6. Share the good news of Christ with others (Matthew 28:19-20). 7. Exercise your spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8).

We know our time in this life is limited and we need to live realistically and wisely. We need to do what we should while we have the opportunity. This involves practical matters of life, and it also involves important matters of faith and spirituality. Jesus reminds us, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) Take care of that bucket list!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 03, 2021

A lady grew impatient following a slower driver. The lid came off the kettle for her when the driver, rather than speeding through a yellow caution light, stopped for the light. She began to shout at him and gesture crudely. This was interrupted by a policeman who walked up to her car and asked her to step out of the vehicle. He arrested her and placed her in a holding cell at the police station.

After two hours, the policeman opened the door and told her she was free to go. He said, "I do apologize for the arrest, but I was sitting behind you at the red light. I saw bumper stickers on your car that read, 'Follow me to Church,' ]Honk if You Love Jesus,' and the chrome fish symbol. When I witnessed your behavior, I assumed the car must be stolen."

Well, what do I need to say after this little story? Although fictitious, it illustrates the reason why we should live out our faith. Now, we cannot be perfect, but we should make an effort to live as a follower of Christ at all times. This may require effort on our part when we encounter those situations that encourage us to "act out," but our lives should be controlled by the Spirit of God. We need to allow the influence of Christ to seep through, especially at those times when doing otherwise is a temptation.

The words of Christ remind us why our behavior is important, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden." (Matthew 5:14) Paul wrote, "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent." (Philippians 1:27) Don t just have "bumper sticker Christianity." Let the love of Christ and the power of the Spirit control you at all times.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 02, 2021

I just changed the filter in the HVAC unit at our house. That s a startling announcement, isn't it? One needs to do that upon occasion. Filters are good things. Water filters make the water we drink safer. Oil filters keep the oil in an engine in better condition to do what oil should do. Gas filters take out things that would make an engine underperform. The filter I just changed keeps airborne dust and lint from going through the blower system on the heating/cooling unit.

Sometimes we need filters on our mouths as well. Have you ever met someone who doesn't seem to have a filter? Of course, before we go looking at others in this regard, we might want to see if our filter is in good working order.

We need to watch what we say. We need to avoid inappropriate remarks, hurtful comments, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and saying more than should be said. Paul encourages us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) but we should do it correctly. Examine your heart and your motives before you apply this principle.

Job had some friends who lacked filters. They said more than they needed to say and most of what they said was poor advice. They started out pretty well by just sitting with Job in silence, but when they opened up, they missed the mark in what is said. God rebukes them for what they say - "After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.'" (42:7)

Before you give advice, examine your motives and your heart and think about what you have to say. Before you make comments on others' actions or circumstances, use your brain. When I did my student teaching, my supervising instructor had a sign on the wall in front of the room that read "Be sure brain is engaged before mouth is set in motion." This is great advice. Make sure your filter is working properly!

Pastor Steve
Monday November 01, 2021

"The eyes are the window to your soul" is a quote found in a number of writings, including those of Shakespeare and DaVinci. This past Saturday night, I watched the Ohio State Penn State game on TV. On more than one occasion, Kirk Herbstreit commented on a defender reading the quarterback's eyes on pass plays to get a clue as to which direction the quarterback would throw the ball. This is a good practice, and often leads to an interception, which it did during the game. What I still can't get over is Chris Fowler calling the "T" formation a "new wrinkle." But I digress.

Your eyes do tell a lot about your thoughts and your demeanor. You can infer a great deal about someone's attitude and emotions by watching their eyes. What do your eyes reveal about your spiritual position? Do they reflect joy and confidence about your relationship with God? Do they reveal trust in the Savior? Do they reveal a pure heart and committed mindset in your life; or if someone would study your spiritual eyes would they find deceit, apathy, and a lack of compassion?

Jesus said about the eyes, "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, O how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23) Do your eyes reveal your inner light, or darkness? I hope your eyes are shining brightly!

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 31, 2021

Nick Venetucci was known as "The Pumpkin Man." Perhaps you have heard of him - he was even featured in an article in Reader's Digest. He owned a ranch near Colorado Springs. In the late 1950's, Venetucci began giving away pumpkins to local children. This practice grew in its scope until, by the time of his death in 2004, he was giving away 30,000 to 50,000 pumpkins annually. He even set up a trust, of sorts, so that this exercise could continue after his death.

Generosity comes in many shapes and forms, and with Venetucci, it came in the form of a pumpkin. What form does generosity take in your life? Now, we may not have the means to make such a donation. We may not raise pumpkins nor do we have the assets to be able to make such a large contribution, but our lives should be characterized by generosity.

As you can imagine, the Bible has a good deal to say about generosity. Being generous is a marvelous way of reflecting the heart of God. II Corinthians 8:9 reveals this characteristic of our Lord, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich." We, in turn, need to display generosity in our lives. Psalm 112:5 says, "It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice." Proverbs 28:27 tells us, "Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse." Jesus instructed his followers "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." (Luke 12:38) Paul wrote, "You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God." (II Corinthians 9:11)

You may not have a lot of pumpkins to share, but you should share what you have. Generosity should not only be a trait found in the heart of God, we need to demonstrate a heart of generosity.

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 30, 2021

A little girl enjoyed visiting her local library. As she viewed all the books, she said to herself, 'I can read all of these!" After a while, she made the discovery that this task would probably be too large to accomplish. This realization became even more evident when she found out that new books were added to the shelves on a regular basis. There were simply too many books for her to read.

In the scripture, the apostle John made a statement that a similar scenario exists with regard to what has been written and what could be written about Christ. John made his statement from the perspective of both a reader and a writer. John wrote a Gospel and three letters found in the New Testament. He was an eyewitness source to what he and others wrote about Christ. He wrote, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." (John 21:25) I think that even if he could see the proliferation of books we have today, he would still make this claim.

The stories about the love and the acts of the Savior cannot be contained in the limited space of our world. If all the world's libraries were emptied of their current holdings, the stories of his grace still would not fit. Included among these stories would be your personal account of how he has displayed his goodness in your life. All of us who have a relationship with the Savior have stories to think about and to share with others of the wonderful grace of Jesus.

Yes, the good news of the Savior can't be contained by the world. So, it's a good thing that we will have forever to share and rejoice about his uncontainable love and grace! "I will sing of the Lord s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations." (Psalm 89:1)

Pastor Steve
Friday October 29, 2021

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg is quoted as saying: The evidence for Jesus resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: It is a very unusual event, and second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live. If you truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus, you will live differently. A case in point is a transformation that occurred just after the resurrection of Christ. Peter refused to acknowledge his relationship with Christ just after Christ was arrested. When questioned about his identity, Peter replied, "I don't know the man!" (Matthew 26:72) When we read about this incident, we wonder how it could happen. Regardless of the how, the fact is that it did occur. Peter denied Christ. However, a little over a month later, we see this same man who vehemently denied even knowing Christ stand up before a group of hostile people, perhaps even some of those who heard his denial, and declare, "This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." and "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact." (Acts 2:23 & 32)

The reason for Peter's transformation is found in the last verse quoted above - the reality of the resurrection. The reality of the resurrection transformed his life. The reality of the resurrection should make a change in your life. If that change is not there, you really don't believe in the resurrection. As Pannenberg said, you cannot truly believe in the resurrection and it not make a difference in how you live. Have you allowed the power of the resurrection to make a change in your life? Does your life reflect your belief in the resurrection? As in the case of Peter, you are the one who has the say in this decision. But remember, God will have a say if you make the wrong choice.

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 28, 2021

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was born on March 8, 1841. A graduate of Harvard, he fought in the Civil War, edited the American Law Review, taught law at Harvard, and became the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the United States Supreme court. His served over 30 years to a more advanced age than any other justice in history, eventually becoming Chief Justice. He was nicknamed "The Great Dissenter" because of his unusual opinions. In 1931 when Holmes was 90 years old, a young reporter asked him what he considered to be the basis of his success. He replied, "Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered that I was not God."

Oh, the wisdom in that statement. Now, most of us would not be so ludicrous as to openly assert our position is on the same level as God, let along claim to be God himself. However, we often live in such a way as to indirectly proclaim we believe we are God. That is not smart. An intelligent plan is to make sure we turn our lives over to God and His control and not think that we are in charge. God wants and honors our obedience. Our obedience allows him to do his best for us.

Samuel said "To obey is better than sacrifice." (I Samuel 15:22) We need to learn this truth and put it into practice. We need to make sure we aren't trying to be God because there already is a God who is more than capable of taking care of us and taking care of everything else as well. Make sure you know your identity!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 27, 2021

I remember reading an interesting proverb that said, "If your Bible is not falling apart, you will." There is a great deal of truth in this little statement. God gave us the Scriptures in order that we might know Him. The more we know the Scripture, the more we know about God and his faithfulness, protection, care, and love. Developing a deeper relationship with God provides a strong foundation for our lives that will help us through whatever we encounter along our journey. Psalm 119:15-16 gives us a model of our Biblical activity, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."

Do not neglect God's Word. It is a source of strength and help, but we shouldn't use it like some sort of spiritual life preserver. The way our proverb above becomes true in our lives is when we spend time on a consistent basis in God's Word. Cracking it open only when we are looking for something leads to the attitude, "I can't find anything in there of any help." Do not neglect God's Word!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 26, 2021

I am going to write something that is going to make some of us feel really old.  Led Zeppelin released “Stairway to Heaven” in 1971 – fifty years ago. Yeesh. The song went on to become their best-selling single and also the source of their greatest legal troubles as a lawsuit was leveled against them claiming they had stolen the tune.  This was eventually settled in their favor.

The first lines are "There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold and she’s buying a stairway to heaven."  Well, it doesn't actually work that way. 

Christ corrected Led Zeppelin, and anyone else who may think otherwise, when he said, "I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth." (John 1;51) Jesus is the ONLY stairway, the only way that anyone has a hope of heaven.  And I am glad Christ is the stairway because that means that even with my surgically repaired knees, I will not have any problems ascending the stairs.  The reason I won't have any problem is because my entrance into heaven is not dependent upon my being able to walk in through my own power and, of course, they will not be surgically repaired anymore.  They will be brand new.

Christ not only provides the way, but he provides the power for us to make the journey to heaven through his death, burial and resurrection.  Only through faith in him can we have hope of eternal life.  There is no "buying a stairway to heaven," the stairway is created through Christ's finished work.  This is a good thing because we would never have enough gold to buy a stairway. 

Pastor Steve
Monday October 25, 2021
Pastor Steve
Sunday October 24, 2021

I get a kick out of the proliferation of warnings on products because of the fear of law suits. On a coffee cup, "Warning: Content is extremely hot." On a plastic bag, "Warning: Possibility of asphyxiation." On a Batman costume, "Warning: Cape does not enable wearer to fly." Really - this was a warning. Sometimes the prevalence of warnings has a negative effect on us. We begin to ignore them because they are everywhere. That is not a good idea. The warnings are there for a reason.

So it is with the Bible. The Bible has many warnings for our lives. We are warned to not "grieve the Holy Spirit." (Ephesians 4:30) We are told to "abstain from every form of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22) We are told to not judge others self-righteously (Matthew 7:1-5) Don't take these warnings for granted and don't allow yourself not to take them seriously. God has given them to us for a reason - don't lose sight of their importance because of their prevalence.

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 23, 2021

The Bible is very explicit that we are to pursue rewards in our Christian service. While we do know that our focus is to be on Christ in our ministry, we are told to pursue crowns. Some struggle with this concept as it may sound a bit ostentatious, but Paul wrote, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (II Timothy 4:8) I Peter 5:4 says, "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."

Upon hearing a minister speak about crowns and the Second Coming of Christ, Queen Victoria said, "Because of what you said about the coming again of the world's rightful King, I wish still to be here when He returns that I might lay my crown at His blessed feet!" What the dear Queen said about her crown is exactly what we will do with the crowns we receive through our service for Christ. We covet crowns not for our own gain or our own benefit, but so that we may have a means of bringing glory to Christ when we are in His presence.

There will be no boasting about our own accomplishments in heaven, only an opportunity to applaud our Savior for what He has done for us. We seek crowns so that we may honor Christ. Revelation 4:10-11 describes this scene: "They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.'" Oh, I want to do that, don't you?

Pastor Steve
Friday October 22, 2021

In my article today, I want to split hairs. I would like to talk about the difference in guidance and guide. "Why?", you may ask. I want to do this because I want to address our thinking when it comes to our interaction with God.

When I was in college, I had an advisor. Dr. Stanley Ash, a professor in the biology department at Marshall University, was my advisor. I went to Dr. Ash for advice on my program that I was pursuing to obtain a degree in biology. Dr. Ash did not make up my class schedule for me, or choose which projects to pursue, he offered thoughts and opinions on options. The final choice was up to me. This is guidance.

In 2006, I led a mission team to Costa Rica. When we landed at the airport in San Jose. The airport was crowded and busy, as is usually the case with airports. We were in a foreign country where I did not speak the language all that well. I had no idea where we were supposed to go, or what we were supposed to do. At that point, I did not want guidance. I did not want someone offering me options and saying, "Well, you could go this way, or you could go that way. But the choice is up to you." I wanted someone to say, "This is the way you need to go. Follow me and I will show you what to do." That is a guide.

This latter example is what we should seek when it comes to our relationship with the Lord. We need him as our guide. God should be more to us than just a glorified advice bureau. There are times when He may give us options, but let God create that scenario.

In our lives, we really need more than just good guidance; we need the Good Shepherd guiding us. John 10:3 says, "He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." If you let the Lord be your guide, you can rest assured you will receive good guidance.

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 21, 2021

I know that I was "preaching to the choir" in yesterday's post. I know that you are not characterized by a lack of concern for the needs you see. The opposite of this is most likely true - you are discouraged because you struggle with how to address such great need. There are so many who need to be helped with basic necessities of life, so many that are in need of better treatment from others, and so many that need to hear the message of Christ. How do you go about addressing these great needs?

At times, we get discouraged when it seems that what we are doing for the Lord doesn't appear to be making a difference. Listen to the words of a pastor from El Salvador, "We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. . . . We cannot do everything, and there's a sense of liberation in realizing that. Do the small things and leave an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest."

We may be intimidated by the size of the task before us. Following the advice from the pastor can help counteract the discouragement we feel because of the apparent lack of fruit for our efforts. You may not see any results, but keep doing what you know you can and leave the outcome in the hands of God. Paul tells us, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9).

Paul also commented about the "joint effort" that goes on in our service. We read in I Corinthians 3:6-7, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." Continue in faithful service to do what you can to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others. Put the outcome of your efforts in the hands of God. He seems to be good at making a lot out of a little.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 20, 2021

Some time ago, Scherry accidently dropped and broke one of my favorite coffee mugs. She felt badly about it, and I felt badly for her because she felt badly about the mug. What really surprised me was some inner feelings I had about the broken mug. It was one that my kids had got me during a vacation we had gone on together. The mug evoked some good memories for me, and I was surprised at my emotional response over the accident.

It's easy and safe to get emotional over things that are of little real value, and there is really no problem with this. But, as followers of Christ, we really need to feel sadness and concern for something that is of greater value - real people around us that that are struggling with real needs. Heartache and grief for the needs of others - the broken, the lost, the suffering - mirror the heart of Christ. Luke 19:41 tells us, "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it."

Jonah is an example of someone who had a skewed response to what he saw around him. Jonah 4 records how the prophet Jonah had more sorrow and sadness over a withered plant than he did for a city full of people who needed the message of God. God's statement to him was, "You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:10-11)

Our heart should mirror the heart of Christ. Our concern should be like that of another prophet, Jeremiah, who looked at the plight of his people and wept. Jeremiah 9:1 tells us, "Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people." As we see the great need of those around us, let s mirror the heart of Christ and reach out in love to do what we can.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 19, 2021

I get a kick out of the proliferation of talent shows on TV - American Idol, The Voice, America's Got Talent, and others. Many may not know that shows of this type are not new. In the early days of TV there were Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Hour. Other shows that came along include The Gong Show in the 70's and Star Search in the 80's.

All of these shows are designed to find talented people and then, through a period of competition, narrow the group down to a single winner. Those who participate are seeking fame, fortune, and a secure future. Victory relies upon being singled out and through the use of their talents distinguishing themselves above all others.

God wants us to use our talents as well, but not for the purpose of distinguishing ourselves above others. We are to use our gifts and talents to build up others. God is not seeking the most talented or the most gifted, but wants us to use our talents and gifts to help others and to help build his Church. We don't need to audition for God; we need to applaud him through the use of the gifts he has given us. When we exercise our talents and our gifts, we bring glory to God and build up his people. This is why gifts have been given to us.

I Corinthians 12:4 & 7 tells us, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." Talent shows have their place, but not in the church. Our talents and gifts are not just for us, but for others as well.

Pastor Steve
Monday October 18, 2021

I think there are many sad stories in scripture, but I am not sure that any are sadder than the story of the disciples at Gethsemane. Jesus took the "inner three", Peter, James, and John, with him when he withdrew farther into the olive trees to pray. This account is from Luke 22:39 - 46. "Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Couldn t you men keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'" This scenario was repeated two more times.

I have often wondered how Christ felt after this incident, and it brings to mind a couple of things: First, we need to make sure we do not fall asleep in our relationship with Christ. Secondly, it reminds me that we need to take care to not wound others with our actions. We need to take care that others are not hurt by our indifferent activities, even if they are unintentional.

I remember a story about a father who really didn't like fish and didn't like to fish taking his son fishing. The son had pleaded and asked until the father relented. After about ten minutes of unsuccessful fishing, the father arranged some life vests in the boat and went to sleep. His young son was really hurt. The father had to do some damage control after the incident.

Our selfishness and lack of consideration can lead us to hurt friends and loved ones when we respond indifferently to them. Let your love for Christ and your love for others guide you and prevent you from acting thoughtlessly and inconsiderately. I Corinthians 13:9 tells us, "(Love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." Let love reign to avoid sad stories in your life.

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 17, 2021

I have always marveled at those who are able to run the long distances of marathons and live to tell about it. Even when I was able to do so, I was never a runner. So, my hat is off to those of you who enjoy running.

As I am sure most of you know, modern-day marathons reflect a practical reality from the past. In ancient times, runners were deployed to send messages, particularly during battles. One runner that was highly anticipated was the runner that brought news of victory back to an anxious throng of people awaiting news of the fate of their forces.

Isaiah uses this imagery as an analogy for those who are proclaiming the good news from God. He writes, "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation." (Isaiah 52:7)

You may not be a runner, and I certainly am not a runner in the physical realm, but we can be a runner when it comes to declaring the news of the victory of Christ. I Corinthians 15:57 tells us, "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." John spoke about the victory of Christ when he wrote, "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (I John 5:4) We have a victory to proclaim. So, shouldn't we take up running?

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 16, 2021

A young man applied for a job at a small business in his hometown. The interview went well, and he presented himself well. His resume looked good, but had a feature that caused the business manager to have a question. He addressed his concern, "Your resume does look really good, but I noticed your recommendations are from your pastor, your former Sunday School teacher, and a deacon from your church. I would really like to hear from someone who knows you on weekdays."

Would this be a problem for you? Would a reference who knew you on weekdays have a different take on your character and your lifestyle from someone who knows you only from church? Our lives need to reflect our devotion to the Savior at all times, not just when we are involved in "spiritual exercises."

Daniel is a good example of someone who lived a life that consistently projected godly character. We read about this in Daniel 6:3 4, "Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent."

Are we consistent in our character at all times, or would our "church friends" be surprised by what they hear us say or what they see us do when we are outside the doors of the church? As an old hymn says, we need to "Dare to be a Daniel" and let the love of God be evident in us no matter where we are.

Pastor Steve
Friday October 15, 2021

One of the hardest things I believe I ever had to do was to help restrain my 18-month-old daughter while an emergency room physician worked carefully to extract a pearl from her ear. Scherry had a pearl necklace that broke. We thought we had picked all of the pearls up, but obviously we hadn't. Stephanie found a pearl we had missed and placed it in her ear. She wanted to put on an earring like her Mommy did. When we discovered what she had done, we had no choice but to take her to the emergency room as we realized we could not get it out of her ear safely.

The hospital staff was great, but wanted one of us to assist in an attempt to keep our daughter calm. This didn't go so well, but I stayed until the doctor completed the task. As difficult as this was, I knew I needed to trust the doctor's skill. He knew much better than I the anatomy of the ear and was better trained to accomplish this procedure without doing permanent damage to my little girl's ear. My patience and restraint were rewarded when the pearl came out and our daughter was fine.

We need to trust our lives to the Savior who knows better than we what is needed to deal with our brokenness and our deficiencies. Too many times we take matters into our own hands rather than allow the Lord free rein to accomplish the procedures that would enhance our lives. Sometimes the procedures are uncomfortable and hard to bear, but as with my little girl, our Lord knows what is needed to make us whole and restore us to health. Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." He as the Great Physician knows exactly what we need to make us well. Put your life in His hands, He knows what needs to be done.

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 14, 2021

Charles Russell played basketball for the University of Alabama. He was a starter on the teams that won back-to-back Southeastern Conference championships in 1974 and 1975. A couple of years after he graduated, he gave his 1974 championship ring to a friend who needed money. The plan was for the friend to pawn the ring, and then get it back when he had the money. However, before this could happen, Russell moved to Mexico City to play basketball professionally.

Russell played in Central and South America for twenty years. By the time he returned, the ring was forgotten and he had no idea of the whereabouts of the buddy that pawned the ring. He really hadn't given it much thought, but then again, what can you do?

In March of this year, there was a reunion of the 1974 championship team at the University of Alabama, celebrating the 40th anniversary of their SEC championship. After the festivities, Martha Wyatt approached Russell and said, "I have your ring, and I want to give it back to you." The 71-year-old Wyatt had come into possession of the ring several years ago when a friend who knew of her love for University of Alabama basketball saw it at an antique store (not the same pawn shop mentioned above) and bought it for her. Wyatt built a little case for the ring, and treasured it.

As long as she was in possession of the ring, Wyatt knew she probably should try to return it to the owner. However, she had no idea how to find Russell. Then came the reunion. She approached Russell about the ring, and they arranged to meet so she could give him back what was his.

This is a remarkable story of "lost and found." We read of stories such as this on occasion and marvel at the circumstances that unfold where lost objects are returned to rightful owners. One thing we can be sure of in our lives as Christians is that this scenario will not happen with us.

When our lives are placed in God's hands, we know he will not "lose" us. He will never lose track of us and wonder where we are. John 10:27-29 tells us, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father s hand."

There may be times when we don't live the way we should be living as his followers, but he will not lose sight of us and will do what is necessary to guide us to where we should be. Hebrews 12:5-6 addresses the issue of wayward children, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." We may have the tendency to lose things, but God doesn't lose his children.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 13, 2021

This past Monday morning, I was listening to an "oldies" station on the way to an eye appointment. In a break between songs, the DJ gave some "old" advice "If you are happy with what you have, you will always have more. If you are always looking for more, you will never have enough." This may be old advice, but it is a timeless principle.

Why is it that we struggle with being content with what we have? There are a lot of reasons for this, but they do not overrule the truth of the statement above. One of the most satisfying things we can do in life is to learn to be content with what we have.

The scripture has a good deal to say about this. Hebrews 13:5 tells us, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" On more than one occasion, Paul chimed in on this topic: "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." (Philippians 4:11) "But godliness with contentment is great gain." (I Timothy 6:6) Christ told his followers, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luke 12:15)

The DJ was probably unaware that she was in such heady company when she shared her proverb. It may be old advice, but we would be very smart if we make it new every day.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 12, 2021

Frank Sinatra made a lot of money with his recording of "My Way" in 1969. After almost four decades of recording music, he found his signature song. The song was written specifically for him by Paul Anka upon Sinatra's revelation to Anka that "he was quitting the business." The song tells the story of a man who is nearing death and proudly proclaims he had lived his life "his way." It truly is a testimony to self-will and in one sense is inspiring, but in another sense is a little dangerous. We need to be determined, decisive and directional in our lives, but we should never totally depend upon our own resources. If we leave God out of the planning, we are in for big trouble. We need to follow the advice of Proverbs 16:9. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Christ was very artful in how he informed his disciples of this fact. We read in Luke 5 what he did when he called Peter to become one of his followers: "When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.' Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!' For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men (Luke 5:4-10)." Christ was telling Peter, "I want you to do it my way." Christ reminded Peter of this after the resurrection when Peter had returned to fishing - read John 21.

When I am tempted to do things "my way," I remind myself of these biblical incidents. Self-reliance and self-motivation are admirable and desirable traits, but they must be tempered with an understanding of our dependence upon Christ's leadership. What made for a great song is not always the best advice for our lives. We need to remember to live our lives "His Way."

Pastor Steve
Monday October 11, 2021

I would imagine you know the intent of the phrase, "Get back in the saddle again." It means that, when things go a direction that we really don t want, we try again. I know I am stating the obvious, but the imagery comes from falling off a horse and getting back on to ride again.

I came across a blog post the other day about this. The writer said, "Falling off a horse is a feeling I know all too well just like any avid horseback rider. As they say, 'If you haven't fallen off yet, you haven't been riding long enough ' Us horseback riders are basically asking for it. I am scared of most things in life, but no matter how many times I fall off a horse I am not afraid of getting back on."

This can be applied to a lot of our experiences in life, particularly when it comes to making mistakes. It could easily be said, "If you haven t made a mistake, you haven't been living long enough." Mistakes are part of our life.

Now, mistakes can be intentional or unintentional. If we make a mistake that is intentional, well, we need to come to a point where we deal with the consequences and try to correct what has been done. Of course, this same path could also be followed for unintentional mistakes. The dynamic that is different here is intent. In either case, the idea of doing what we should to "get back in the saddle again" can be applied.

In the scripture, we read a lot about people making mistakes. That is because the Bible contains stories about people, and people make mistakes. Noah got drunk. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lied. Moses had anger issues. You can go on and on. What is so very helpful is to read accounts of a mistake being made, and then seeing what is done in the aftermath so the "mistaker" can continue in a positive direction.

Peter, for example, made the mistake of denying the Lord three times. Christ confronted him about this and, in a sense, asked, "Well, you made a mistake. So, what are you going to do about it?" Jesus affirmed his intent to use Peter in spite of Peter's mistake. The verbal interchange found in John 21:15 shows us Christ's desire, "'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.'" You can read about how Peter "rode again" in Acts 1 and 2.

When you ride a horse long enough, you are bound to fall at some point. We are going to fall in our lives. These experiences may be intentional or unintentional. When that happens, do what you need to do to ride again. Correct the mistake if possible, seek forgiveness from God and others if need be, put things back in order as best you can, and make an effort to ride again.

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 10, 2021
Although the best-known version of "The Anchor Holds" is by Ray Boltz, it was actually written and first recorded by a Pastor Lawrence Chewning. Pastor Chewning writes "The story behind the writing of this song begins in 1992 when my wife and I experienced what we now call our year of sorrows." He describes the difficulties he and his wife encountered during that year including the death of his father and his wife's third miscarriage. This song was born out of those experiences as they took time to come before God and seek his guidance and strength.

I will never forget the first time I heard the song "The Anchor Holds." It was neither of the recordings mentioned above, but rather a live performance by a good friend of mine in my mother's living room. I hadn't seen Bill Leibee for many years when he and his family appeared at the front door of my mom's home while we were visiting during the summer of 2003. Bill and I went to school together and sang together in Get All Excited. I ve written about this group before.

Bill had a voice that could be instructive to angels. He sang "The Anchor Holds" that evening and I remember by the time he finished, my face was wet with tears. I had never heard the song before, and frankly, Boltz never did justice to the song in the way in which Bill Leibee did. After he sang, we continued to catch up with each other and spoke of needing to get back together when I returned. We were unable to make that a reality as Bill died due to a heart attack in September of 2003 at the age of 49.

When I heard the news, I could not help but think of the song I heard him sing just a couple of months before his death. The hope this song expressed was what helped his grieving family through a difficult time. "But it was in the night through the storms of my life. That was where God proved His love for me - the anchor holds in spite of the storm."

Are you facing storms in your life? God will be there to help you and allow you to persevere in spite of the storm. Storms will come into our lives. We don't have to fear, though. God will not let us face storms alone. Hebrews 10:36-37 tells us, "Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God's will. Then you will receive all that He has promised. For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay."

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 09, 2021

Have you ever polished tarnished silver? When I graduated from college, may aunt gave me an engraved silver plaque. It was really attractive, and I put in on the wall of one of our bedrooms in the home where Scherry and I lived at the time. We moved, and I packed the plaque away.

I found the plaque sometime later, and it was not the attractive, shiny piece it once was. If I didn t do something, the tarnish would worsen and, at some point, become irreversible. I purchased some silver polish and went to work. After some effort and the operation of the polish, the plate that was brown and dirty-was restored to its silvery brilliance.

Our lives are tarnished by the effects of sin. We can do nothing about this on our own and, without intervention, the condition will continue to worsen. However, if you allow Christ to begin his work in your life, the process of restoration is begun.

When you invite Christ in, there is an immediate and complete change in our inner being. Paul tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has past, all has become new." (II Corinthians 5:16) There is still a struggle with the "old self", but Christ continues to work within us to bring us to a position where He wants us to be. Paul writes, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

We are involved in this process by putting off undesirable behaviors and putting on new behaviors that reflect our position in Christ. We are told to "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5) We are also told "Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." (3:14)

We know that, one day, we will be totally changed through the completed work of Christ in our lives. Be grateful for the work that has begun in you and cooperate fully with the ministry of the Spirit. One day, this will result not just in a restoration, but in a complete transformation.

Pastor Steve
Friday October 08, 2021

Recently, I read a story about a communion service that was held in Calcutta, India, during World War II. The service was being led by a local Indian pastor. In attendance were a Chinese pastor, a Japanese teacher, a German doctor, several English citizens, and some Indian believers. Think about these attendees in the context of the participants in World War II. How was it that these disparate parties, in the midst of a time of being at war with each other, could come together? They were able to do so because of the common bond they shared in Christ, the One who brings peace.

As followers of Christ, we need to pray that the peace of Christ will prevail and bring change in our scattered world. Paul writes, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7) Pray that this peace will influence the world and bring peace.

We know that Christ will do this the Scripture states that He will return and restore order in our chaotic world. Isaiah 11:1 6 tells us, "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them." We need to pray for this reality to come.

We also need to pray for peace in our personal relationships. We should want peace in our interaction with others. As we focus on Christ, this can happen. What brought all those folks together during a time when their countries were at war with each other was the Person who is the focus of our communion. Christ should be the center of our lives not just when we share communion, but at all times. As we make Him our focus, He brings peace to our lives.

Hebrews 12:14 encourages us to "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." Romans 14:19 says, "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." Colossians 3:15 tells us to "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace." This last verse gives us insight into how to bring peace to our relationships make sure the peace of Christ has control of our hearts. Christ will bring peace to the world when He is put in the place where He needs to be; He will bring peace to our lives when we put Him in the place He needs to be.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 06, 2021

Have you ever played the game where the players write down something about themselves they think no one else in the group would know, and then you take turns guessing who it is as the statements are read? There are a number of variations of this game, and it can prove to be a rather revelatory experience.

Can you imagine playing this game with God? Now, of course, there isn't anything he wouldn't know about us. This is frightening and comforting at the same time. What could be sad is to realize how many things God may write about Himself that we do not know. I say sad because, even though we may think that the all-powerful God would have a number of hidden characteristics, God actually takes great pains to reveal himself to us. God does not keep secrets about himself from his followers. He wants us to know him, and the better we know him, the more we can be like him and be pleasing to him with our lives.

Paul tells us that his greatest desire is "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection." (Philippians 3:10) He writes in another place, "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better." (Ephesians 1:17) Our desire should be to know God better so that we may give Him our best. So, don't play games with God, unless it is for the purpose of getting to know Him!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 05, 2021

Often, we need some triggers to help us with our recall. This is the thought behind the "tie a string around your finger" thing. Colors are often a good way to help with our recall. When we associate something with a color, it helps us remember whatever that something is. God knows this about us. Of course, he probably should remember this about us since he created us. That is why God uses this principle to help with recall. We read in Numbers 15:38-39, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: `Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them. . .'" The blue cord was there to remind them who it is they served.

A contemporary example of a memory trigger would be something like Petra's song from 1980, "The Coloring Song." Some of the lyrics of this song are "Red is the color of the blood that flowed. . ." I cannot help but think of Christ's sacrifice every time I see the color red. The color blue was special for the Israelites - whenever they saw the color blue they were reminded of God and his love for them as well as their responsibility to him.

We can and should do the same. We sometimes think we will never forget - but don't take the chance! Use colors or songs or other kinds of "memory triggers" to help you remember the wonderful promises of God. Happy memories!

Pastor Steve
Monday October 04, 2021

How would you like to take a 102,800-foot plunge? On August 27, 1960, US Air Force Captain Joseph Kittinger stepped out of a specially-designed balloon that had reached that altitude. He plunged towards the earth for four minutes and 36 seconds, attaining a velocity of 614 mph, before deploying his parachute. He still had 18,000 feet to go before he touched down safely on the earth's surface. Grief, what a freefall! I cannot imagine what must have gone through Capt. Kittinger s mind for those four-plus minutes. Maybe one thing he did was to remind himself constantly that he did have a parachute.

Often in our lives, we may feel as if we are in a state of freefall. Loss of a loved one, financial troubles, health issues, loss of a job, are all circumstances that can cause us to feel as if we are falling into the unknown. Where in the world can we find a parachute? Well, you won't find one in the world, but you will find one as you put yourself in the strong arms of a loving God.

Psalm 37:23 24 tells us, "The steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand." Just before he died, Moses told his people, "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Do you feel like you are in a freefall? Lean on the everlasting arms of God. Trust in the promise God gives us - though we fall, we will not be utterly cast down. He has a parachute for us, remind yourself constantly of this when you feel you are plunging into the unknown.

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 03, 2021

When my high school football coach, Bill Morgan, wanted to get your attention, he whistled. Now, he didn t use a whistle, he had a very unique whistle all on his own that worked really well at turning your head in his direction. His whistle was distinctive enough that in a stadium full of raucous people, with whistles being used by the referees, and all other kinds of distraction, you could hear him clearly. Usually, it was followed by a verbal statement of what Coach wanted to be done. If I close my eyes, I can still hear that piercing sound. Coach s whistle was effective because it was distinctive, and we trained ourselves to listen for it.

In the scripture, you don t find whistling mentioned explicitly, but I see a number of references where the image of God whistling for His followers could be invoked. Zechariah 10:8 says, "I will signal for them and gather them in. Surely I will redeem them; they will be as numerous as before." The term "signal" here refers to a distinctive form of communication designed to get one s attention.

God does that with us He has distinct forms of communication designed to get our attention so that we can keep on the right track, change something in our lives, be led to do something, or help someone. In a world where there are so many voices and so many calls for us to go our own way, we need to train our ears for the distinctive call, the "whistle", of God.

I knew Coach's whistle because I heard it a lot. We know God s signal because we spend time getting to know Him and make a conscious decision to listen for His guidance. There are many misleading voices and distracting voices that compete for our attention. Zechariah 10:2 tells us, "The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd." Concentrate on the sound of God's signal. We have a Shepherd, and we need to listen for His whistle!

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 02, 2021

I always loved to read to my girls when they were young and I enjoy reading to my grandkids. My little Edie, who is not quite two, will get a book, come to where I am sitting, hand me the book and then reach up her little arms for me to pick her up and start a wonderful time together. Now, I don't think this actually is part of her thought process, but it is as if she is saying, "I have no idea what this book means. So, I am going to spend time with you so that you can help me understand. And I like spending time with you."

This might be something we should consider when we face something in our lives that we have no idea what is being said to us. Why not take this to God, hand it to Him, let him know that you want to spend time with Him so He can help you do what you can't do for yourself? Let God read the situation and help you through it. And it is always a good thing to spend time with God.

Even as Edie may not understand all that I am reading, or be able to read it on her own right then, just spending time with grandpa is a good experience. We may not totally understand all that is taking place, but spending time with God is always a good idea.

The story of Martha and Mary shows us the importance of spending time with the Lord, "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'" (Luke 10:38 42) Let's choose what is better.

Pastor Steve
Friday October 01, 2021

On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright changed the world. This was the date of their first motorized flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Six years later in 1909, Wilbur flew a motorized vehicle above New York Harbor to the sounds of people cheering and boats sounding their steam whistles. What a momentous achievement!

War broke out in Europe in August of 1914, a conflict that would become World War I. This was just 11 years after the first flight, and a scant 5 years after Wilbur's New York Harbor flight. Yet, aeronautics had advanced to the stage that World War I became the first war where airplanes were used as weapons.

I have always been amazed at how quickly flight machines were adapted for warfare after their invention. Yet, I should not be too surprised. Our desire to utilize technological advancements as a means of inflicting damage on others has been around since the fall. Although a significant achievement that cannot be overestimated in its value to humankind, I think the invention of the airplane and its rapid development into weaponry reveals something else that cannot be overestimated - the sinfulness of humans.

Because of the fall, we are all born in sin. The Bible tells us that "There are none righteous" and that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:10 & 23) I find it ironic that one of man's greatest achievements demonstrating our creativity and inventive prowess also reveals our base nature. And as inventive and creative as humans might be, there is nothing we can do to eliminate sin. That took someone else of much greater character and ability - our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever you might consider to be the greatest human achievement, remember that we are helpless to do anything about our greatest problem. Only our great Savior can do anything about that.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 30, 2021

Joy was livid because of the email she had just received. A fellow member of the worship committee sent her a message that was laced with a number of scriptures. It appeared that the person was trying to address a point of discussion that had led to a disagreement at the last committee meeting. The scriptures seemed to be aimed at Joy's position in the argument, and she wasn't happy with the tone of the email.

Her husband suggested that, before she delivered a retaliatory response, she should contact the other person. "Maybe there is an innocent explanation," he said. Well, Joy took his advice and called the offending party. The lady's response was, "Oh, Joy, I am so glad you called. My computer has a virus and has been spewing random emails to people in my address book that are laced with scriptures from our Sunday School lesson last week. Sorry for the mess, but I did not send it." It was a good thing that Joy "looked before she leapt."

Jumping to conclusions can be a dangerous leap. We need to be aware of the problems this can create. When we encounter a situation where we don't have all the facts, work to have patience and take constructive steps to find out the actual explanation.

In Joshua 22, we find a story about jumping to a conclusion that could have led to tragic consequences. In this passage, the some of the people of Israel were ready to start a civil war because they took the action of the building of an altar to be a sign of rebellion. An investigation showed it was not what they thought. The people who built the altar said, "If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account." (Joshua 22:23)

In situations where we may be tempted to jump to a conclusion, exercise the spiritual fruit of patience and take the time to get some answers. Now, if our conclusion is accurate, then that situation can be dealt with the issue. If the conclusion is not what we expected, then we have avoided a situation that could lead to more problems. Make sure you "look before you leap" and avoid those dangerous jumps!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 29, 2021

I have always found it hard not to stop for folks I see stranded on the road, so, if it is safe, I do. Well, I used to stop. Now, in our age of cell phones, I don t feel as compelled to pull over as I once did. In addition, my physical limitations have curtailed my ability in this area, but I would if I thought I could be of some good. I have been stranded myself on a couple of occasions, and I know it is great when others stop to help as they can.

Years ago, I stopped for an accident on a country road in Ohio. It was late at night, and there were three people in the car - two were outside the car with some minor injuries. The car had slid over a bank and was basically lying on its side, and one person was still in the car. He was unconscious, and we couldn't tell how badly he was hurt. Cell phones were only in works of science fiction at that time, so I drove to the nearest house to call for help. Soon, an ambulance was there along with law enforcement personnel. The young man who had been knocked out regained consciousness and would be o.k. - he did spend a couple of days in the hospital. They were appreciative that I stopped, and thankful they were not injured seriously. One said, "I don't know what we would have done if you hadn't stopped."

I know in our world, you need to be cautious doing things like this, but there are other ways where we can be helpful to those who are in need that do not involve stopping along a highway. What about a neighbor who is hurting because they just lost a loved one? What about a friend who just lost a job? How about someone at church who needs help with their kids because they need to take care of some things? And what about someone you know who needs to hear the Gospel?

There are a lot of ways to be a "Good Samaritan". I have always loved that story. Even as a kid I could never understand the actions of the priest and the Levite. I love the words of Christ at the conclusion, "'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:36-37) Let s go and do likewise.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 28, 2021

Does telling little white lies or half-truths bother you? We need to be careful about how we view this practice. Often, we think that just bending the truth a bit, or not telling all we know is not a problem, but we need to be better than that. Usually, we resort to this practice because we don't want to look bad in someone else's eyes, but even little seemingly insignificant lies can lead to significant consequences.

Let's say your manager asks you to pick up some supplies. He asks you to pick up the cheapest paper. When you go, you are in a hurry, and you pick up the first paper you see. The paper is a name brand and obviously not the cheapest. When he asks you "Was this the cheapest?" you reply, "Yep." Sometime down the road, you are up for a promotion but it is between you and another person with similar credentials and track record. When the manager is mulling over the decision, he remembers the paper incident. Need I say more?

Scripture has many examples of where half-truths brought significant consequences. Eve responded to Satan's taunts by adding to what God had said, "and you must not touch it, or you will die." (Genesis 3:3) Oh, did that give Satan an opening. Paul confronted the Judaizers because they were saying salvation was dependent not only on faith but following the law (Galatians 1:6). That created confusion and had great consequences. When Ananias and Sapphira sold some land, then only brought part of the price to the apostles. That would not have been a problem, but they told the apostles that there offering represented the entire amount they received from the sale (Acts 5:1-11)

This misrepresentation cost them their lives. Don't fall into the habit of misrepresenting the truth, no matter how inconsequential it may seem. There are always consequences and they will not be pleasant.

Pastor Steve
Monday September 27, 2021

Many years ago, The Rambos recorded a song entitled "Tears Are a Language God Understands." I am glad God does understand tears, because this is a language we all speak a number of times in our lives. Cruelty, failure, unfaithfulness, and loss are some of the reasons we find ourselves speaking this language. It is a helpful language to speak because, as Scottish preacher George MacDonald said, "Tears are the only cure for weeping."

In the English Bible, the shortest verse is John 11:35, "Jesus wept." I have always been at once fascinated and comforted by this verse. The fascination comes from my amazement at the very Creator of life standing beside the grave of a friend and doing what all of us do when we experience loss cry. This brings comfort to me as I realize that Christ does understand my emotions at times of great loss, or whatever has brought about my tears. John 11:33 tells us, "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled."

God sees and understands our heartaches, and brings us comfort during our times of great duress. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles." (II Corinthians 1:3-4a) He also uses us to bring comfort to others, "so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (II Corinthians 1:4b)

At times, we struggle with the need for the language of tears, but we know that is the nature of our current existence. So, as we find ourselves having to speak the language, focus on the provision of God through His presence and the presence of others so that you can experience his comfort. Allow the realization that God is bringing us to a time when He will wipe away our tears to help you with times of tears now.

God tells us that He will be the one to wipe away our tears. Revelation 21:4 tells us, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Until that time, remember that God does understand the language of tears.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 26, 2021
Throughout history, when people wanted to show off, they tended to build something really, really impressive. Sometimes they built skyscrapers and sometimes they built boats, but if they were really looking to brag, they built an elaborate gate. The Romans made the practice popular, with their most important gates (also called arches) dedicated to military victories and celebrated figures. Some well-known gates that come to mind are the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Golden Gate and the Lion Gate located in Jerusalem, and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Whereas these gates are more or less monuments, gates are usually created with a function in mind - to admit or to deny either entrance or exit into or out of an area.

The scripture refers to gates that exist not just for monumental purposes, and are open for all at all times. Psalm 100:4 describes these gates, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." The gates to the presence of God, the gates that lead to worship of God, are open for all and open at all times. We should take advantage of this and come into the presence of the Lord through times of worship on a regular basis. There is no special key needed or special password that needs to be transmitted to a gatekeeper. We just need to have the desire to enter into his presence.

I hope you take advantage of God's "open gate" policy and enjoy time spent with him in worship, praise, and thanksgiving. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that God delights having you in his presence: "The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you;" Enter His gates on a regular basis.

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 25, 2021

Making his way to his bedroom, the little boy walked by his mother Z a rather unusual bump under his clothing. Mom asked, "Billy, what do you have under your shirt?" "Nothing, Mom," was the reply. Well, upon further inspection, Mom found a pair of scissors that had been banned because of an earlier act of "redecorating." Mom had to stifle her laughter, but she also needed to exercise some appropriate discipline.

Why do we learn the art of deception at such a young age? Unfortunately, this is part of who we are because of our sin. We do things that are wrong, and then we attempt to cover them up as an act of self-preservation or simply because we don't want to look bad in the eyes of others. We do our best to conceal our faults and our sin, and we may be successful with some folks. However, we cannot fool everyone all of the time, and we certainly never fool God. God always sees the lumps.

This was a characteristic the Abraham, the "Father of Faith," carried with him when he left Ur of the Chaldees to follow God's plan for him to resettle in a land of promise. Along the way, faithful Abraham showed his dark side when he told Pharaoh that his wife Sarai was actually his sister because he feared Pharaoh’s actions against him. Abraham's deception was discovered, and he was expelled from Egypt. What is ironic is that he repeated this deception with Abimelech, King of Gerar. We read in Genesis 20:1-2, "Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, 'She is my sister.' Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her." Once again, the deception was discovered and Abraham had to go before the Lord and repent to avert the consequences that God had prepared to bring upon Abimelech. After the repentance and after the deception was cleared away, a positive relationship developed between Abraham and Abimelech. Later, God blessed Abraham and Sarah by allowing Sarah to conceive (21:1).

Beware of our tendency to sin and cover up, and realize the consequences you face when you practice deception. God has so many good things for us and will bless us abundantly when we deal with him in truth. Deception will only lead to dire results.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 24, 2021

Making his way to his bedroom, the little boy walked by his mother Z a rather unusual bump under his clothing. Mom asked, "Billy, what do you have under your shirt?" "Nothing, Mom," was the reply. Well, upon further inspection, Mom found a pair of scissors that had been banned because of an earlier act of "redecorating." Mom had to stifle her laughter, but she also needed to exercise some appropriate discipline.

Why do we learn the art of deception at such a young age? Unfortunately, this is part of who we are because of our sin. We do things that are wrong, and then we attempt to cover them up as an act of self-preservation or simply because we don't want to look bad in the eyes of others. We do our best to conceal our faults and our sin, and we may be successful with some folks. However, we cannot fool everyone all of the time, and we certainly never fool God. God always sees the lumps.

This was a characteristic the Abraham, the "Father of Faith," carried with him when he left Ur of the Chaldees to follow God's plan for him to resettle in a land of promise. Along the way, faithful Abraham showed his dark side when he told Pharaoh that his wife Sarai was actually his sister because he feared Pharaoh’s actions against him. Abraham's deception was discovered, and he was expelled from Egypt. What is ironic is that he repeated this deception with Abimelech, King of Gerar. We read in Genesis 20:1-2, "Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, 'She is my sister.' Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her." Once again, the deception was discovered and Abraham had to go before the Lord and repent to avert the consequences that God had prepared to bring upon Abimelech. After the repentance and after the deception was cleared away, a positive relationship developed between Abraham and Abimelech. Later, God blessed Abraham and Sarah by allowing Sarah to conceive (21:1).

Beware of our tendency to sin and cover up, and realize the consequences you face when you practice deception. God has so many good things for us and will bless us abundantly when we deal with him in truth. Deception will only lead to dire results.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 23, 2021

We have heard this advice since we were kids – a sound thing to do to promote good health and general well-being is to make sure we are following a balanced diet. Stocking up on candy bars is not considered a good way to enable our health, but stocking up on a healthy food, such as eating green beans exclusively, does not bring about the best results either. Balance in the key, it would seem, when it comes to our dietary requirements. What also helps to promote physical well-being is to engage in activities that enhance our health.

This needs to be our focus in our spiritual development as well. Now, you can’t get too much Bible study, or you can’t overload on prayer, but what is most helpful is to make sure you are exercising a variety of spiritual disciplines to help you grow the way you should as a follower of Christ. This should include developing your prayer life, developing good study habits, both on your own and group study, regular time spent in worship with others, and also looking for ways to let our service work out for the benefit of others. As I said earlier, you certainly can’t “overload” on any one aspect of spiritual development, but you should focus on all components to really enhance your spiritual growth.

This may raise another question: Why should I be concerned about my spiritual growth? I have one simple answer: Because God is concerned about your spiritual growth. II Peter 3:18 encourages us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” We are told to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) Paul encourages us, “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:18) Develop a balance of good diet and activity. This promotes good health all the way around!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 22, 2021

On Christmas Eve of 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 read Genesis 1:1 10 as they orbited the moon. Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders were the first humans to visit the moon and they chose to read scripture when they arrived. At the time, I remember thinking this was a great thing to do to celebrate what they had achieved and also celebrate Christmas as well.

As you can imagine, some folks did not think this was a good idea. Madalyn Murray O Hair sued the United States Government, claiming this was a violation of the First Amendment. The case was eventually dismissed.

Well, I believed it was a great idea back then, and I still think it was a great idea. I thought it was so powerful that God's Word was being read in space. This was so marvelous.

Do you want to know something that is even more marvelous? Do you know that, when you pray, your words actually get carried to the very throne room of God? Hebrews 10:19 - 20 tells us, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body." We enter this Most Holy Place through our prayers that we utter to our Heavenly Father. When we pray, all that we say goes up to Him and is heard by Him. Our very words come into His presence.

He hears what we say and never drops a communication. He never has to ask, "Now, what did you just say?" or says, "Would you repeat that, please? I didn t quite get it." Nothing we say to Him is missed. We should remember that as we pray. Thinking on this helps us to understand just what a privilege prayer is. Thinking this way can help at those times when we wonder if our prayers are "getting above the ceiling." Yes, they certainly are, they are heard in God's very dwelling place.

I hope meditating on this gives you confidence in your prayer life. I hope it helps you to understand the power and the privilege of prayer. Jesus tells us, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:6) Paul encourages us to "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." (Colossians 4:2) You don't even have to go on a moonshot to take your words to God all you have to do is pray.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 21, 2021

Years ago, I helped Stephanie construct a model of the solar system for a project in her science class. The model was not all that elaborate, but it was good, and it was to scale with our solar system. The project took a little bit of time and care on our part to complete. We didn't just go out to the garage and whip it out in an hour or two. We worked on it over several days.

I thought about this model this past Sunday as I was reading an article about how some astronomers believe they may have found a ninth planet. Of course, I still root for Pluto being considered a planet, but that is beside the point.

The time Stephanie and I spent putting things together on just a model cannot be compared to the brief amount of time it took God to bring our solar system into existence and put it where it is in the universe. I have no idea where that model is now, although I have a likely idea. I remember seeing part of it in the garage years ago, but now it has all disappeared. God s creation continues, sustained by the presence of Christ. Of course, we should be happy that God's creation has not gone the way of mine and Stephanie's.

Colossians 1:16 & 17 tells us, "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." The sustaining power of Christ holds our universe together and will continue to do so. All we can do is make flimsy imitations of our wonderful world and all that surrounds it. And remember, the one who sustains the universe is the one that sustains you. Isn't that something?

Pastor Steve
Monday September 20, 2021

For the most part, I am an "interstate" traveler. I usually prefer the shortest distance between two points, the fastest route, the most efficient path between the starting point and the desired location. However, there are times I take "the road less traveled" (with apologies to Robert Frost). This is a good thing to do. Going this route usually forces you to slow down, you have to pay more attention to the route, and you most likely will take in some pretty scenery you would have missed otherwise.

We need to do this on occasion. Doing this starts with a conscious decision to change our path. I enjoy taking the road less traveled. I rarely regret going the slower route as it brings me closer to experiences I wouldn t have enjoyed otherwise, such as the time we found an incredible ice cream shop when we took U.S. 40 from Indianapolis to Terre Haute rather than I-70.

This is a good idea for our spiritual lives as well. We need to take a slower route so that we can take more time to listen to Christ, to pay more attention to the things he has for us, and to take in what God has for us. It is so easy to fall into a self-absorbed pattern when we are flying through life and not giving the time we should to our life with Christ.

When Christ's disciples had gone through a rather intense time of ministry, he told them to Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while (Mark 6:31)." We can benefit from taking a slower route in order to take more in. We can benefit from taking a slower route, as it requires more attention to what we experience around us. Don't be afraid to take the road less traveled. There is a lot to see on that path!

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 19, 2021

I loved playing with bubbles when I was a kid. I always enjoyed watching my kids play with bubbles, and now watching my grandkids chasing around those elusive, transparent, shiny spheres of next to nothing is really a marvelous experience. I love listening to their cackles of joy and shrieks of laughter as they follow the floating orbs. Phooey, who am I kidding? I still enjoy bubbles myself. Following around these little objects gives a welcome diversion and an enjoyable activity that brings your focus on little things that bring joy.

That is really a good exercise in life - not just playing with bubbles, but taking time on occasion to focus on little activities that bring joy and a welcome diversion. This isn't a form of escapism, it is an exercise in helping us cope especially at times of great stress. Taking time to enjoy little blessings and brief periods of activities can help us to clear our heads and perhaps add some welcome perspective. These little blessings can be such things as watching a sunset or sunrise, taking a walk, sitting on your porch or deck on a cool morning or evening, or any other activity that isn't going to last forever but can bring some much-needed relaxation and joy. These times can help us remember to be thankful for what we do have, rather than what we don't, and focus on what we see that is good.

As I said earlier, it isn t a form of escapism and perhaps will not solve the problem we face, but can be a time of reminder of the things with which we have been blessed. They can be times to remind us that God is there and will provide a continual source of strength and provision for our lives. Even as they are temporary, they can help to remind us that we can focus of what is eternal in the midst of the temporary struggles we have.

Paul may not have played with bubbles but he had this mindset. He said, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:16 18) Playing with bubbles can help us remember that we have something for us that will never float away

Pastor Steve

Saturday September 18, 2021

I would imagine many of you have read the book "In His Steps," written by Charles Sheldon. Maybe you have seen the 2015 movie. This book is a collection of twelve short stories based upon a sermon series Sheldon preached at the First Congregational Church of Topeka, Kansas, in 1896. The series was turned over to Chicago Advance, a Christian publishing house, for their weekly periodical. Unfortunately, the magazine failed to properly register the publication for copyright and Sheldon never received any royalties even though the book was printed by a number of companies. It became an international best-seller, selling millions of copies.

Commenting on this years after the first publication, Sheldon said, "I am very thankful that owing to the defective copyright, the book has had a larger reading on account of the great number of publishers."

We often struggle with loss of some sort in our lives. Joseph is an example of a person who gives us a biblical perspective of dealing with loss. Because of the mistreatment he experienced at the conniving hands of his brothers, Joseph lost his home, his parents, time with his family, and a great deal more. He experienced further deception and spent a great deal of his adult life unjustly imprisoned. He continued to remain faithful to God, and declared his feelings about his loss when he was reunited with his brethren, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance." (Genesis 45:4 7)

As we experience loss in our lives, we continue to trust God, knowing that he can work with us through loss to bring about His divine plan. At times, our losses may be caused by choices that we make, and we need to rely upon our Father to help us be strengthened through what circumstances may come our way because of this. Joseph knew what he experienced was in the hands of God. We put our lives in God s hands, and know He will guide us through. God can turn our loss into great gain - rely upon Him at all times, especially when things don't get registered correctly.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 17, 2021

Since our grandkids live in different cities, we use Messenger or Facetime quite a bit. This means we get to see them when we talk with them. I would imagine there are a number of you grandparents out there that appreciate this technology. Whenever we are speaking with Edie, our youngest who is not quite two, she likes to hold the phone on her own. Well, all our grandkids do, but she is the most adamant about this. This sometimes makes for some creative viewing, but she does like to demonstrate her independence.

Wanting to do things on your own is not a real problem for children, and you want to foster independence. As we grow older, though, we find that the "I can do it myself" mentality is something that needs to be tempered. Independence is commendable to a certain extent as it is good we are motivated and want to get things done, but we need discernment so we don't get ourselves in trouble. Whether you are a young mother with children, or an executive in an office, or a contractor on a project, or a board member in a church, there are times when the exercise of delegation is a good thing.

Moses learned this concept. We read in Exodus 18 that his father-in-law, Jethro, visited him and pointed out that he was trying to do too much on his own. He asked Moses, "What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening? (vs. 14) He suggested that Moses appoint others to handle some of the judging duties so that Moses was free to do other things and people would not have to wait so long for their disputes to be settled. Moses "listened to his father-in-law's advice and followed his suggestions" (vs. 18), and things began to run more smoothly.

We would do well to do the same. If you feel like your many tasks are pulling you in too many directions, consider how you could do some delegation. This will be better for everyone.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 16, 2021

Yesterday I wrote about gas prices in my hometown being lower than at other places I had recently visited. I made the comment that this probably wouldn t last long, and it didn t. As I drove to my office Tuesday morning, I realized that my article was already negated. Well, the statements about cheaper gas were incorrect, but what I said about contentment with what you have still applies. That is a timeless truth which will never go out of commission.

There are some things like that, you know? Many times, change comes into our lives so rapidly. Sometimes change can make us feel as if we are going up and down, much like rising and falling gas prices. I remember the words I heard from a sermon preached by Jerry Bruce (some of you may remember him) almost 60 years ago, "We move so fast in life zip, zip, zip!," and yes, we do. So, it is good to know that some things do not change, and there are some things that remain the same no matter what.

Our Savior never changes. He is always there, and his provision for us will never diminish. Hebrews 13:8 tells us, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Jesus declares, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13)

For many years, Chevrolet used the Bob Seger song, Like a Rock, in their commercials for their pickup trucks. They wanted to convey that the trucks were solid, strong, dependable, and had unchanging quality. The scripture declares that our Savior goes well beyond that He is a Rock upon whom we can always depend and will never fail to provide for us what we need. Acts 4:31 says, "This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone." Psalm 62:6 tells us, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken." II Corinthians 3:11 talks about the sure foundation we have in Christ, "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." So, although our lives may go, "zip, zip, zip," Christ provides a strong anchor that will never be moved.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 15, 2021

Upon returning from a short trip the other day, I made an unusual observation. Gas prices were cheaper in my hometown than anywhere else I had been. This does not happen very often, and I am sure will not be the case for long. To paraphrase and distort an old adage, I can say that "the gas is not cheaper on the other side."

And the grass is not greener on the other side either. Although, we often think that, don't we? Why is that? It comes from not being content or satisfied with what we have. Now, it is not an issue to have realistic desires or goals to improve ourselves and make reasonable acquisitions, but when we have elevated expectations and begin to obsess over getting more and thinking what we don't have can create issues. That is why we are warned in the scripture about coveting, and that is why we need to take into considerations advice we see about this concern.

James tells us that the source of many of our conflicts is because of inordinate desires for what we do not have, "You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight." (James 4:2) Paul gives some positive admonition: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

An inordinate obsession with wanting more and attaining what we do not have can bring frustration, distress, and conflict. We need to get our desires under control, and find the key to being content so that we experience true joy and happiness, rather than frustration and confusion. No, the grass is not greener on the other side. Take the advice of scripture - contentment is a good thing.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 14, 2021

I remember reading about a hiker who got in trouble with park rangers for a celebration that took place on Mount Katahdin in Maine after he had completed the Appalachian Trail. He had just set the speed record for the trek. Most of you perhaps are familiar with the Appalachian Trail. The trail winds through 14 states from Georgia to Maine and is 2,189 miles. This particular hiker had completed the journey in 46 days. The rangers didn't take too kindly to the celebration, although admitting it was a subdued event. It is just that any sort of activity of this nature is pretty much forbidden along the trail. The hiker was fined a small amount and no criminal record would be recorded.

I wonder if angels in heaven would warrant a fine when they celebrate after the conversion of a soul? Jesus tells us, "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10) He made this statement just after his story about a lady who had found a lost coin and just before the story about the prodigal son. These stories were told as a response to the criticism that Christ was welcoming sinners and spending too much time with them. These folks totally missed the point of Christ's ministry - this is exactly what he came to do. He came to provide a way for sinners to come to the Father. Later he said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)

When one whom Christ is seeking receives the gift Christ provides, this brings about a celebration over the person who repents and is now given a place in heaven. And, of course, this celebration is free from harassment. Have you caused angels to celebrate? If not, why not give them cause for a celebration?

Pastor Steve
Monday September 13, 2021

As with many of you, I have been on the receiving end of criticism on more than one occasion. I have always realized that, with the position I have, this is not unexpected. So, I am never surprised by this. As I experience times of criticism, I try to look at what is being said and what is taking place as objectively as I can. I do this because, frankly, criticism is a positive tool in many instances. If I am not doing what I should, or if I have committed a faux pas, either intentionally or unintentionally, then criticism is warranted. I need to take what is said and make changes.

Not all criticism falls along this vein, though. There are times when criticism is leveled because people can be critics in a negative way – they just want to criticize with no particular interest in mind except just to make themselves look good and make others look bad. We need to be honest in our evaluation of criticism that comes our way; but sometimes it is obvious that the criticism coming our way is not intended to be correctional, just destructive. What do we do?

Nehemiah faced a time of criticism that was unjust and unfair. He needed to rebuild a wall, and his efforts were met with opposition by some who didn’t want to see it happen. Nehemiah 4:1 – 2 records the confrontation, “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”

What was Nehemiah’s response? He prayed, and then he did what he knew needed to be done – built the wall. “Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (verses 4 – 6)

When we face unfair criticism, ask hard questions to objectively determine the character of the criticism, pray for God’s wisdom, and then go about doing what you know needs to be done in spite of what is said. Now, of course, this is not an easy path in many instances, and often the “path of least resistance” would be to just give in to the criticism – you will need to be the one to decide which way to proceed. In a speech from years ago,

Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; . . . and who, . . . if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” In the face of unfair critics, do what you can to do what you know is right. Let it roll off your back as best you can, and make sure you don’t “return the favor” by being overly critical yourself. Work to be a builder and not a destroyer.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 12, 2021
Hugh Richard Sheppard, better known as Dick Sheppard, was an Anglican clergyman who served as a chaplain during World War I. In 1936, he founded the English Pacifist movement known as the Peace Pledge Union. He was appointed rector of Glasgow University just prior to his death in 1937. In one of his publications, Sheppard recounts an experience he had during WWI. One night he was hiding in no man's land, close to enemy lines, when he heard someone approaching. He wanted badly to call out "friend or foe?" but he knew this could mean his death. Years later, as he was experiencing a dark emotional experience, he looked to God and was tempted to call out "friend or foe?"

There may be times in our lives when we find ourselves involved in just such an emotional struggle. In the blackness of our experience, we may be tempted to cry out to God, "friend or foe?" We struggle with the “why” of his intentions for our life and at times even his goodness. What we can do at times like these is to realize we can trust our loving God. We already know the answer to the question "friend or foe?"

One person in the scripture who had many occasions to make this cry to God was Joseph. He was mistreated by his family, falsely accused, forgotten in prison. But he never forgot God. He knew God would not forget him. His faith remained strong, and God honored his faith. His faith is seen in one of the statements he made to his brothers when they came to Egypt, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God (Genesis 42:10)." In spite of what happened to him, he knew God would turn his darkness to light.

God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has proven himself faithful. Continue to remain faithful to him in spite of what comes along that tempts you to do otherwise – God is a “friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).”

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 11, 2021

All who are old enough to remember events from two decades ago know exactly where we were on September 11, 2001. Twenty years have passed since that fateful day when jets plunged into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, another crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, and a fourth jet wrecked in a field in Pennsylvania. The events of that day rattled the collective consciousness of our nation and made an already frightening world even more terrifying.

In the time that has passed, so much more has taken place to remind us of just how volatile our world is. Conflicts have claimed lives, natural disasters have taken place that destroyed property and brought about more deaths, and atrocities have occurred all over the globe reminding us of the evil that exists on our planet,.Now we find ourselves engaged in a struggle with a virus that continues to claim lives and create controversy. It seems that, over the past twenty years, just as one might be settling in to a “steady state” existence, another event took place that reminds us of our vulnerability and the precarious nature of life.

Now, many of these other events may not have had the same effects as did the events of 9.11.2001, but they are still reminders of the unsettledness of our world. They are all glaring statements of the broken nature of our world and the great need we have to look elsewhere for a source of answers, hope, stability, and confidence. I know we often wonder, “when will all this stop?”

It stops when the Lord chooses to intervene and step into the events of our world. We know that will take place; we just don’t know when it will take place. Until that time, we continue to look to Him for strength and guidance; live for Him knowing He is our answer; and let our love for Him and others continue to motivate our steps day after day. Isaiah 12:2 tells us, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense, he has become my salvation.”

There is a 19th century hymn entitles “Day by Day” that reminds us of the need to place trust in God daily as we live in a world of unrest and uncertainty. It was written by Lina Sandell after she had witnessed the tragic drowning death of her father. “Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear. He whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best. Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.

“Help me then in every tribulation. So to trust Thy promises, O Lord, That I lose not faith's sweet consolation Offered me within Thy holy Word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E'er to take, as from a father's hand, One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land.” Trust God to supply you with strength for each day as we look forward to That Day.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 10, 2021

When I am working on my laptop and my battery is running low, I will get a message that reminds me that I need to plug into a power source. I have another laptop that, for some inexplicable reason, when I plug the laptop in, sometimes I get this message: "Power source unrecognized. Check adaptor to make sure it is correct." What the computer seems to be telling me is a power source is detected, but it is not the right kind to use with my computer and the computer will not charge properly.

We often refer to plugging into a power source in our Christian lives. Is so doing, we need to make sure that we are plugged into the correct power source. Satan likes to play counterfeit, and if he can do anything to make us think we are doing the right thing when we aren't or not doing something when we should be taking action, he will. He will employ all means possible to make us think we are plugged into the correct power source when in actuality he is masquerading as God. It would be good if we would have some sort of message pop up at these times to warn us of his fakery.

The best prevention is to have a solid relationship with the Father and be able to recognize falsehood when it comes along. Knowing God's character and his heart keeps us from plugging into the wrong power source and thereby disabling our effectiveness as followers of Christ. We need to be able to recognize and distinguish God's power "so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." (I Corinthians 2:15) Make sure the power source you are plugged into is the One that will actually give you power!

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 09, 2021

Recently, I wrote about having a properly stocked first-aid kit, and I came across this story the other day. A lady enthusiastically shared with some friends her account about the benefits she derived from first-aid training. “I witnessed a wreck as I was driving down 52nd street last Friday. A car was going really fast and ran right into a utility pole. I stopped and went over to see what I could do. When I saw the injured driver, it was terrible! He was hurt really badly. My knees buckled, and I thought I was going to faint. Then I remembered what I had learned in my first-aid class! Immediately, I bent down and put my head between my knees, and it worked! I didn’t pass out!”

You probably weren’t expecting that, were you? Unfortunately, our response to others and the outworking of our spiritual training can, at times, resemble the response of the lady. We study the Bible, we know what we should do when it comes to helping others with physical and spiritual needs, but we never act on what we know.

According to James, true religion is more than just a love for sound doctrine and correct worship. He writes, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) James gets a little more pointed in his comments later in his epistle: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14 – 17)

So, make sure all that training you are getting is working out in your life. Don’t just apply what you learn to you – make it work as you minister to others. Show God that you love Him and love others – don’t go about in such a way as to make God have to put his head between his knees if he saw some action on your part.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 08, 2021

Thirty-eight years ago I finished seminary and was looking for a church. I sent my resume to a number of churches, and one contacted me that really seemed to be a good fit. I was excited as this church, in my initial assessment, appeared to be the one that had the greatest potential for a successful ministry. I had an interview and came away feeling that we would be getting a call from the church. Well, we did, but it wasn't the call I was expecting. "We are sorry to inform you, but we feel another candidate was the one that would best fit in our church." I was greatly disappointed, but knew I had to trust God's wisdom.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a church that I didn't even remember sending a resume. Well, thirty-eight years later we are still at that church, and I thank God daily for the turn of events that led us here, rather than to the church I felt was "perfect." My disappointment led to a joy that I have celebrated for thirty-eight years.

When you face what seems to be a setback that results in disappointment, remember to allow God to be involved and to consider the fact that he knows what he is doing. There are times when it is hard to see the good in a situation. We will face experiences where the answers will not come until later, maybe not until we get to heaven. Continue to exercise faith in God and trust him to bring joy to you in the midst of disappointment. Isaiah 26:3 - 4 tells us "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal." Developing trust in God throughout all of life's circumstances brings a peace at heart even at times of disappointment.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 07, 2021

In a number of his writings, Paul tells us to offer encouragement to each other. This is usually not a difficult thing, as we know others who need encouragement, and we know we appreciate supportive words and deeds when we are in a position of need. However, Paul also tells us to offer words of correction when necessary. This is a little bit stickier. For a great many reasons, corrective encounters can be difficult. Still, they can be helpful and can be a form of encouragement.

In I Thessalonians 5:14-15, Paul tells us, "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." Here we see Paul giving instructions to offer words of correction where correction is needed and words of support where support is needed. He also tells us a little about the spirit in which this should be accomplished, "Be patient with everyone." In other words, don't withhold correction, but don't rush to judgment either, and make sure you do this in the right way.

When correction is needed, three things need to be kept in mind: 1) The nature of the problem must be considered; 2) Our motive and approach for correction must be thought through, and 3) God needs to be involved from start to finish.

Galatians 6:1-2 offers further comment on this, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." In both of these passages, we see Paul's comments on not only what should be done, but how it is to be accomplished.

Correcting others is usually more difficult than encouraging others, but in Paul's mind they are linked. Both should be done with a view to helping someone else grow in their faith. We all have times when correction is necessary because we all are prone to mistakes. When we find ourselves on one end or the other of this scenario, remember to make room for God's involvement. In this way, correction can be corrective without causing controversy.

Pastor Steve
Monday September 06, 2021

The argument of whether or not to wear white after Labor Day has always amused me. Wearing white after today is considered by some to be a fashion faux pas. I got on the internet and found there is a good bit written about this issue.

A couple of articles discussed the history of the phrase "You can't wear white after Labor Day." Where did it originate? There really is a good deal of uncertainty about this. One writer said it can be traced back to fashion people in California during the 1890's that wanted to demonstrate their elevated status in society. I found one article that listed eight ways to wear white after Labor Day. There you go. I am sorry, but I am less than enthusiastic about promoting this fashion guideline. I just don't think it is that important.

There is an area where followers of Christ need to consider the importance of wearing white. In actuality, scripture states that we should wear white all the time. Ecclesiastes 9:8 tells us to "Always be clothed in white," Now, I probably don't need to state the obvious here, but I will. This is not referring to the literal clothing you wear. It is telling us that our lives need to demonstrate obedience to God and righteousness of character. Those of us who follow God should live godly lives. We need to demonstrate the character of Christ. We have been cleansed according to the scripture. Isaiah 1:18 tells us, "'Come now, let us settle the matter,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'"

As you can see, in our spiritual lives, this matter of wearing white is settled. We should live our lives to reflect that we have been cleansed. Now, when it comes to wearing white after Labor Day, I am really not the person to ask. I don't have any problem with wearing a brown belt with black pants, so you are on your own.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 05, 2021

"All You Need Is Love," as I would imagine most of you know, is a song by the Beatles. They released the single in June of 1967. It is not one of my favorite Beatles' songs, but that is irrelevant to the intent of my article. The song has a rather interesting distinction of being featured on "Our World," the first live global television link. This took place in 1967 and was seen by more than 400 million viewers in 25 countries.

If the Apostle John had been still around and heard the song on this broadcast, he would have probably said, "That's what I said 1900 years ago! Are you still trying to get this message?" John did write a lot about love. The gospel he wrote, and especially his three epistles, feature prominently the theme of God's love. There is an old legend which says that one of John's young disciples once came to him complaining, Why don t you talk about anything else? John replied, "Because there isn't anything else."

John wrote about love because the love of God was at the center of the ministry and message of Christ. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Paul reminds us that, "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38 39).

As we focus on God's love, we find a source of help when we feel helpless, strength when we feel weakness, courage when we feel afraid, and assurance when we feel uncertain. God's love for us is what motivates His actions towards us. We need to appreciate that, and reflect His love as we interact with others. Yes, all we need is love - the love of our Father who "loved us with an everlasting love." (Jeremiah 31:3)

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 04, 2021

During a recent trip to Ohio, my son-in-law, Jimmy, asked me to follow him so that he could take his car to a repair shop and leave it there. As I was following him, it hit me that I hadn't asked him exactly where we were going. I had a general idea, but I didn t know for sure. Now, this didn't bother me, I knew I could trust my son-in-law and that as long as I followed his lead, all would be well. There were no "Well, what if he does this?" Or "What if this happens?" I didn't even think twice about staying on course right behind him. I knew we wouldn't go anywhere we didn't need to be. I didn't call him on my cell phone and ask, "Well, why did we go this way?" or say, "Shouldn't we have done this differently?" I just followed without hesitation.

You know, it would be good if we adopt this line of thinking about following God. None of us know exactly where our lives are headed, but one thing we do know is that as long as we follow God, we will get where we need to be. Often, we question and wonder why the path goes a certain direction. I know that it is hard not to do this; but our trust needs to be in the Driver of the lead car. We need to realize He is not going to lead us anywhere we don't need to go. As I have said a number of times, God has our best interests at heart and following Him faithfully IS the best path we can take.

Deuteronomy 13:4 tells us, "It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him." Psalm 37:28 gives this promise, "The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him." Paul tells us to "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children." (Ephesians 5:1) There is a chorus that has been around for a while that says, "Where He leads me I will follow. I'll go with Him all the way." Is this true for you?

Pastor Steve
Friday September 03, 2021

I first read about acoustic cloaking many years ago. Researchers were working on a device or devices that would essentially block sound waves and bring silence where needed. This technology has a number of applications in homes, concert halls, and auditoriums. I don't know how far we have come in this field of development - maybe some of you have some knowledge about where we are. I think this could be a useful tool in a world where there is a lot of noise.

What would also be useful is to develop some sort of acoustic cloaking for all the noise that comes from within us. You know - the worries that blast away at us, the fears that scream at us in our thinking, the doubts that sometimes nag and us and create a lot of noise. Wouldn't it be good if there would be some sort of cloaking device to help us with all of this noise? Actually, there is.

God has provided a means of silencing the noise and thwarting these issues - developing a heart that listens to Him. Psalm 46:10 tells us, "Be still, and know that I am God." Philippians 4:6 - 7 gives us some thoughts as to how we can go about developing an acoustic cloak for all of this inner noise, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Let God help you with some acoustic cloaking - the sound of silence can be a very good thing.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 02, 2021

I have told this story before in a number of settings, so forgive me if you have head it. It is quite fictional, as you will see. A certain fellow died and went to heaven. When he arrived, St. Peter gave him a tour. They came to a room that was full of what appeared to be wall clocks. The hands on the clocks were all moving, but at different intervals and different speeds, and most were moving inconsistently. Peter explained that they were life clocks. Everyone on earth had one.

The rate and consistency of the movement of the clock hands moved mirrored the person's life. A clock that moved slowly and steadily meant the person was living as he should. Inconsistent and rapid movement meant an aberrant life - the ornerier the life, the faster the hands moved.

The person asked to see my clock. Peter said, "Steve Willis'? Oh, we have a special place for his. Follow me." Peter then ushered the fellow into the very throne room of God. "There is Steve's clock - the hands move so fast that God uses it for a fan."

What if we really did have "life clocks?" How would yours perform? Our spiritual lives can be quite erratic, but we should work to be "slow and steady." We are encouraged to live godly lives. Paul writes, "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Romans 8:12-14)." Don't let your life produce a fan - God does not need any more "hot air."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 01, 2021

I would imagine that many of you who have traveled on interstates through mountainous areas have seen truck escape ramps at places where there is a steep descent. Well, any vehicle could use these if needed, but the primary intent is for the big trucks that may have the misfortune of losing brakes. On the way to the beech in North Carolina this summer, we saw a number of these as we traveled through the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia. I've made this trip a number of times and, thankfully, never witnessed one actually being used. I hope any of you truck drivers reading this have never had an experience with one. It is just good they are there if needed.

There are times in our lives when we need to have a "way of escape." When out-of-control temptations come at us with the threat of causing spiritual wreckage, we need to have, as Bob Dylan put it, "someway out of here."

In order to keep a wreck from happening, God has made a provision. Paul writes about this in I Corinthians 10:12, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

Please do not brush aside the reality of temptation. We put ourselves in bad situations through making bad choices. And remember that Satan will do what he can to get you rolling downhill out of control. If he had the audacity to tempt the very Son of God (read Matthew 4), he has no problem with helping you lose your brakes. That is why God planned escape ramps. A trucker would not think twice about using an escape ramp when needed. Don't think twice about using the resource God provides when we need a way of escape from a troublesome circumstance.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 31, 2021

The driver of one of the vehicles involved in an accident grabbed his first aid kit and ran to the other vehicle to see if he could be of any assistance.  When he got to the other car, he saw that the driver had a cut on his forehead.  However, he wasn't going to be of much help.  When he opened the first aid kit, most of what he needed was not there - he had failed to maintain the contents of the kit.  He was grateful that the emergency personnel arrived quickly to render aid.

Too many of us treat our faith like a first aid kit - we only pull it out when we think we need it and when we do we find it inadequate because we have failed to maintain it properly.  Faith is built through daily exercise.  We spend time with God each day, and our faith is built through our time with him.  Our faith should not be treated like a first aid kit to be used only when needed.  Our faith is more important than that.  If we wish to "move mountains" as Christ said we could, we need to allow our faith to grow. 

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." This type of faith is developed through a daily walk with the Faith - Builder, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  If your first aid kit needs some attention, take care of it!  And it is certain our faith needs attention - so take care of this as well!

Pastor Steve
Monday August 30, 2021

I really don't know what to make of this, but I just read that researchers have been able to make chickens sound like quail. Tissue from the "vocalization" area of quail brains was implanted in chicken embryos. When the chickens hatched, they looked like chickens, but sounded like quail. A scientist's comments gave a reason for these experiments, "We made a chicken sound like a quail, proving that the way the birds vocalize is not affected by learning. They are born with a song in their head." Well, there you go.

This sounds like something you would see in a sci-fi movie, but rather than going off in a sarcastic direction with my comments, I did some thinking. You know, this is sort of what takes place in the life of an individual who comes to faith in Christ. Psalm 40:3 tells us, "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord." This is what happens to those who choose to follow the Lord. We are able to sing a new song because of what has been implanted in us by the Spirit of God a new heart.

When we are "born again," (John 3:3) a new song is given to us, and we are able to proclaim the good things God has done for us. We are able to sing praises to Him who has given us new life. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" Because of this, we are able to "sing to the Lord a new song, For He has done wonderful things," (Psalm 98:1) We certainly need to "sing out" about what has taken place within us. The work of the Spirit has enabled us to sing a new song let's make it heard!

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 29, 2021

Bill Crowder tells of a sobering experience he had during a speaking engagement in Jakarta, Indonesia. The elders of the church came to him before he was to speak and asked for his Bible. They said that they would return his Bible to him in front of the entire audience just before he spoke. They explained that, as elders, they were responsible for the message to the congregation and giving him the Bible in view of the congregation was a tangible expression of their role as guardians of what the church would hear. This act would symbolize that the elders were entrusting to him the teaching of God's Word for that service. I have spoken in dozens of churches and have never experienced this.

Do we give this kind of respect and honor to God's Word in our worship? For several years now, I have asked my congregation to stand as God's Word is read and I usually do this when I am speaking elsewhere. Now, I am not suggesting the adoption of this little exercise, it is just something we do that I hope enhances the importance of what is about to take place.

Each time we open the Bible to study, we need to remember that we are looking at the very words of God. Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16 that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Some translations render the word translated "God-breathed" here as "inspired." This is an accurate translation, but the literal "God-breathed" emphasizes who gave the inspiration. As we read and study God's Word, we are handling the very breath of God. Keeping this in mind should cause us not to take lightly what we are doing when we open God's Word. You aren't reading Shakespeare or Mark Twain or even Chuck Swindoll, you are reading what God has written.

Don't lose sight of what you are doing when you read God's Word whether publicly or devotionally. Don't lose sight of the importance of the study of God's Word whether you are at church or in your home. The Creator of all that is communicates with us through what He has written. Handle with care!

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 28, 2021

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is almost the hymn that wasn't. The hymn was written by Joseph Scriven. Scriven was born in Ireland in 1820 and immigrated to Canada when he was 25. There, he faced a good deal of sorrow, as did many immigrants, along with his mother, who had also immigrated.

One incident that caused great pain was the accidental drowning of his fiancé. just hours before they were to be wed. Out of his experiences, he wrote the words to this now well-known hymn of comfort. However, he really never intended for it to be used in a public way. A neighbor who was sitting with him during an illness discovered the poem. When he asked Scriven about it, he was told it had been written for Scriven's mother to comfort her at a time of trouble. The neighbor encouraged him to publish the song, which Scriven did, and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" became one of the best-known hymns of solace of the past century.

Scriven did not at first see how his thoughts could be of any benefit to others, and therefore did not pursue sharing his words with others. However, they are. The words are a marvelous statement of God's care and Christ's friendship that are so helpful at times of great distress.

Those who have experienced times of duress have been given resources to cope with life's struggles. Sharing these struggles and these insights with others can be of great benefit to individuals who are caught in the grip of a heart-wrenching circumstance. Perhaps you can be a friend to bring help to a soul in need.

In Christ, we do have a special friend. Proverbs 18:24 tells us, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." This is what Christ will do for us. Indeed, as Scriven wrote, "What a Friend we have in Jesus."

Pastor Steve
Friday August 27, 2021

Upon occasion, I watch some of the renovation shows you find on HGTV. There are a number of shows where a older house is chosen and then modified to"bring it into the 21st century." I just get a kick out of hearing them say something like, "Oh, this house is so dated, it is stuck in the 70's (or 80's or even 90's)." Grief - wasn't that just yesterday?

I am glad I am following a Savior whose name will never go out of date. Revelation gives us his timeless name. John writes, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13) The timeless name ascribed to the Savior reflects his timeless nature. We know that our Savior and his provision will never be out of date. His provision is current, his help is never late.

Jesus is not bound by time and his provision is always what we need at just the time we need it. And, by the way, he doesn't need impressive music and graphics to announce his presence in our lives. He is real and he is always there for us when we need him.

Pastor Steve
Thurday August 26, 2021

The fear of flying is a wide-spread phenomenon. There are millions of folks who would not step on an airplane for love nor money, despite the fact that air travel is statistically safer than riding in a car or even taking a bath. According to research, the issue here is not the fear of crashing, but the idea of relinquishing control of one's life when you are in the air.

A similar crisis of faith occurs at times among those of us who are followers of Christ. We struggle with issues and experience fear because of circumstances not because of the issues themselves but because of the need to leave the "solid ground" of what we know and trust in an invisible God. This is not a new occurrence. Many who followed Christ when he was on the earth had a "crisis of faith."

Just after Christ fed the 5,000, he continued to teach them and tell them what following him would truly mean. I encourage you to read John 6 to get the entire story. I want to emphasize the size of his audience - thousands. At the end of his teaching, which centered around the need to trust him and not rely on what they had previously known, they replied, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60) As a result, ""From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (John 6:66) Only the Twelve remained from a crowd of thousands.

Christ asked the remnant this question, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" (vs. 67). Peter's response was, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69) Even as Christ is the One who provides for us the way of eternal life, he is also the One who provides for us assurance and help through the difficulties of life. We need to relinquish control of our lives to help conquer our fears. We need to say, as did Peter, "We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 25, 2021

Church camp was an important part of my spiritual life and spiritual development. I went to church camp as a kid, was a counselor as a college student, and then served as camp director for several church camps when I became a pastor. I was saddened many years ago when the camp kids from our church attended closed because of financial concerns. I remember that campground with a great deal of fondness.

One feature of the rustic chapel located at that camp was a sign that hung up front that read, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple." (Habakkuk 2:20) Now, from a human perspective, the chapel was, as I said earlier, rustic. Does God inhabit such a building? Of course he does! When God's children were in that building, God was there! I can attest to his presence as I saw many responses of faith in that place. God used that place to touch lives, challenge followers, and change people. God is where his people are.

It is fine that we want to have nice places to spend time in worship, but we need to remember that it is not the building that brings about the worship, it is the people that bring about the worship. God inhabited the temple in the Old Testament, now he inhabits his followers. Wherever we gather we can worship God. That marvelous little chapel at the south end of that camp was a beautiful place - not perhaps so much in its appearance, but because of the marvelous experiences of worship that took place there. Right there, in that very spot, indeed, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple."

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 24, 2021

I would imagine that most of you have seen signs at some businesses that state you need to have the exact cash amount needed for your purchase, or use a card, as no change will be given. There is a shortage of coins, it seems, as the mints have not kept up production because of Covid-19. So, some businesses have adopted this policy.

One thought that has been put forward to help alleviate the shortage is a call for folks to relinquish their "change jars," or whatever they might use where they collect their change. Most folks collect change - Scherry and I do and tell our grandkids it is for an "ice cream fund" that we use on summer trips.

This might be a viable solution to the shortage. According to one article I read, the average household has about thirty dollars "socked" away (pun intended). That may not sound like much, but collectively that amounts to $7.7 billion dollars. So, you can see that a point may be made for contributing to the cause and turning our coins into paper.

I think this is a good picture of the family of Christ. There is a great deal of need in our world, both spiritual and physical. As we look at what we have to offer as individuals, it may not appear to be very much. However, when we pool our resources, well, you can see what the results can be. This needs to take place in our local assemblies, and I hope that it is. We need to understand that by working together, we can accomplish so much more than when we work alone.

Thirty dollars isn't all that impressive, but $7.7 billion is. I Corinthians 12:12 tells us, "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ." Let's work together to see what we can accomplish.

Pastor Steve
Monday August 23, 2021

When a substance is poured into a container to the point that the container can no longer contain the substance being poured in, the substance that overflows is the same as the substance being poured. I know this statement doesn't surprise anyone because this is simply natural law. What about if I told you of a time when what overflows is different from what is being poured?

This can happen in our spiritual lives. Often, we find ourselves in situations where it seems that suffering is being poured in in abundance. Paul reminds us that when we find ourselves experiencing an abundance of pain, comfort can be the overflow as we trust in the grace and provision of God.

We read in II Corinthians 1:5, "For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ"s. We look to the Lord during our times of struggle, He will provide an overflow of help through those times of struggle.

This is not only for our benefit, but Paul, just one verse earlier, tells us,"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" (II Corinthians 1:4 - 5) In other words, the overflow of comfort we receive during our times of trouble is not only for us, but so that we can be of comfort to others who are also facing hard times. This defies the logic and the principles of the natural world, but when we place our lives into the supernatural care of God, we experience what we would not expect. Trust God for the overflow!

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 22, 2021

I have always enjoyed mysteries. When I was young I enjoyed reading "The Three Investigators" and "The Hardy Boys". These mystery series enthralled me with the "whodunnit" or the "what happens next" genre.

Following God can sometimes seem like a mystery as we do not know what is coming next. This can be frightening at times as we struggle through some of the events we encounter and some of the circumstances we face. We can't see the whole picture from our current perspective. This means we need to make a choice - continue to live in fear or live confidently as we trust God for the outcome. As I would read the mysteries, even though I did not know all the particulars along the way, I always knew the outcome would be positive. That was just the nature of the mysteries I read. We can have the same confidence with the "mystery" of our life with God.

Even though we don't know all the particulars, we know what the outcome will be. Paul writes, "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed." (I Corinthians 15:51) We know that whatever we face, whatever the struggle, following God means that our mysteries will have a good outcome. The ending of our mystery is a life with God and a resolution of the struggles we face. The last page of the great mystery we face is a glorious ending.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 21, 2021

This year, gardens have been tremendously productive because of the very favorable growing conditions. Our garden was not so good, but not because of the weather. We don't have a garden because of a deer problem. Deer also have a way of knowing when gardens are good. So, thanks to all who have shared their bounty with us.

Crops are doing well because of the consistent moisture and the moderate temperatures. Gardens and crops are reaching their full potential because of the optimal growing conditions. We are seeing what plants can do when they are provided with the right ingredients.

As believers we need to provide the right environment and the right conditions in order to make sure our spiritual gardens are able to grow and thrive the way they should. Peter tells us what we need to do to have an abundant harvest. We need to "make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1:5-8)

Make sure your garden flourishes by providing the right environment. You can't control the elements that influence the growth of your vegetables, but you can provide the right environment to enhance your faith. Let the garden of your soul reach its full potential by providing what is needed for growth.

Pastor Steve
Friday August 20, 2021

Over the centuries, thousands of tourists have visited the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. This citadel located on a hill in Athens was the site of many religious debates, perhaps even visited by the Apostle Paul, as it is situated near the location of his debate with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers recorded in Acts 17. There are chips of marble lying around that many have taken as souvenirs over the years.

There never seems to be a shortage of these pieces, even though many visitors carried a piece with them as they left. How can this be? Vernon Grounds gives the explanation, "Every few months a truckload of marble fragments from a quarry miles away is scattered around the whole Acropolis area. So, tourists go home happy with what they think are authentic pieces of ancient history."

We need to be careful to not be deceived by imitations. It is so easy to be deceived. One needs to be careful to not be deceived by groups claiming to be followers of Christ, when actually they are following a false doctrine. How can you tell when a group is false? The simplest, and most important test, is ask, "What do you believe about Jesus Christ?" If they do not believe that Christ is the perfect, eternal Son of God, fully God and fully human, who died and rose again for our justification, then what they are saying and teaching is just as false as the chips of marble trucked to the Acropolis.

Don't be confused by imitation "chips." Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) Follow the One who is genuine!

Thursday August 19, 2021

Sometimes we view a setback or an adverse circumstance as some sort of failure on our part. Many teach that if we are faithful as followers of God, we won't face adversity. If we are struggling, it is because of a lack of trust in God. I don't agree with this and I think folks who have this point of view are ignoring Hebrews 11. This passage outlines the lives of many great people of faith. It speaks to their commitment and their unrelenting trust in God. However, it also addresses the negative consequences many faced because of their great faith.

We read in Hebrews 11:35-37, "There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated." This description follows that of many who were much more victorious in their lives and experiences. So, does that mean that those who didn't receive deliverance were not blessed and were less faithful? Not hardly. Hebrews 11:39 tells us, These were ALL (emphasis mine) commended for their faith." They all asked for help, all asked for victory, but not all received the same answer. This was not because of their lack of faith; it was because God had different plans for all of them. Remember Paul's request to be delivered from a "thorn in the flesh?" (II Corinthians 12:7)? He wasn't, because God gained glory through Paul's affliction.

Don't view affliction or a failure as a statement of a lack of faith. Continue to be faithful and know that God knows your heart!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 18, 2021

In 1911, Bobby Leach was the second person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls. He did so in a specially designed steel barrel. He had a few scrapes and bruises, but no broken bones or serious injuries. He was able to accomplish this because he knew of the dangers ahead of time and was able to prepare to face the dangers and survive.

In 1926, while on a publicity tour in New Zealand, Leach slipped on an orange peel and broke his leg. Infection set in the leg, leading to gangrene, and the leg had to be amputated. Two months later, Leach died from further complications involving the leg. He was unable to see the dangers that were ahead when he slipped on the orange peel. As a result, he lost his life in a trip on a slick sidewalk while surviving a fall over raging falls.

We can do our best to prepare for future trips over raging waterfalls, only to find ourselves being tripped by the unseen orange peel. We can try all that we can to prepare for future events, but there will always be situations and circumstances that arise from the realm of the unexpected. It is good to prepare as best we can, but we cannot eliminate the need for trust. We just cannot prepare for every eventuality or possibility. That is why faith is an important aspect of our lives as followers of Christ.

Psalm 20:7 tells us, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 27:13-14 contains a marvelous affirmation of faith, I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Building strong barrels has its place, but we still need to trust God because of the possibility of orange peels.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 17, 2021

One of the most helpful books I think I have ever read is Charles Hummel's "Tyranny of the Urgent." In this little book, Hummel addresses the issue of letting life's demands and pressures become our boss. He outlines some thoughts on prioritizing and organizing our life in a way where we don't feel like we are under the gun all the time.

David Branon writes of a man in New York City who sold magazines and newspapers. He had the habit of collecting the printed copies of what he didn't sell. They were stacked up all over his apartment. One day, they collapsed, and he was trapped for two days until finally rescued by emergency workers. This is almost comical as he was unhurt, but the story could have had a tragic ending.

Often this is the story of our lives - we feel trapped beneath a mountain of demands upon our time. These crush of obligations and the burden of demands press upon us. We would be wise to take steps to alleviate this. The mountain can be very real, and it can be very dangerous. We don't want an alternate ending that proves tragic rather than comical. Make sure you involve the Lord in your everyday burdens and circumstances. Let him help you shoulder the load. Ask for help from others when the weight of stressors is bearing down upon you. Ecclesiastes 4 speaks of the advantage of having someone to help. I encourage you to read the entire chapter, but verse 9 tells us, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor." Seeking assistance can help you with the "Tyranny of the Urgent."

Pastor Steve
Monday August 16, 2021

Many years ago I attended a drag race featuring some Top Fuel dragsters. The fuel used in Top Fuel racing is 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol. Please don't try to use this fuel in your family car to improve horsepower. Your car wouldn't last very long with this in the tank. Engines in the dragsters are specially constructed to use this mix and, as you would expect, the car goes really fast. Another property about the fuel mix is when it burns, you can't see the flames. That can be dangerous. I remember watching a driver fly out of a car and start swatting himself all over. At first, it looked a little comical until you realized that he was on fire and could have been seriously hurt had the pit crew not reacted as quickly as they did and extinguished the invisible blaze.

Someone mistakenly said once, "What you can't see can't hurt you." Whoever said this ignored a great deal of harmful things that cannot be seen. Bacteria and viruses are not detectable with the naked eye, yet can cause a great deal of harm. In the spiritual realm, we know that our adversary is invisible and can cause us great harm if we are not vigilant. Satan and his allies cannot be seen, yet we know they are there and are bent on our destruction. Ephesians 6:12 informs us: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

So how can you keep from being harmed by an unseen foe? Being aware that he is there is one help. Trusting in our powerful, yet invisible, Father is another. Paul proclaims trust in the invisible God in I Timothy 1:17, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." We depend upon our invisible God to help us against our invisible foe. Constantly lean upon him and declare your confidence in God's hand of protection. He will keep you from being harmed by Satan s invisible flames.

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 15, 2021

This is the time of year when there is a scene being repeated thousands of times all across the United States - parents giving their child one more hug before they drive off and leave them at college for the first time. Are you one of those parents? If you are, I can appreciate how you must be feeling. We went through this rite of passage with our two daughters. It is a time that is both exciting, yet a source of fear; happy, yet a cause of sadness; necessary, yet a breeding ground for uncertainty. Have I covered all the bases?

I would imagine Jochabed might have experienced many of these same ambivalent feelings as she placed her infant son in a pitch-lined basket and set him to float among the reeds that grew along the banks of the Nile River. Can you imagine the amount of faith it must have taken to follow this course of action? She knew she needed to have faith in God to protect her son. This faith continued to be evident when she took Moses to Pharaoh s daughter to join Pharaoh s household. "So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, 'I drew him out of the water.'" In order for Moses to become the person God wanted him to be, Jochabed had to place him in God's hands.

As parents, there comes a time when we do the same thing. We do all we can for our children, and one of the most important things we can do is place them in hands of God. One thing is for sure, we know he is capable of taking good care of them.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 14, 2021

I know you are familiar with, and probably have used at some point, phrases using animal references to describe human behavior or character. Someone who is deceitful is a "snake in the grass;" someone demonstrating greed is a "hog;" a coward is a "chicken, or a grouch is an "old bear." We also talk about being "hungry as a wolf," or being an "old sly fox."

This practice has been around a long time; we even see examples of this in the Bible. Jesus, referring to Herod, said, "Go tell that fox, 'I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'" (Luke 13:32)

Another reference in scripture that is not quite as direct is when Paul describes followers of Christ as "new creatures." In II Corinthians 5:17, we read "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature:" We are indeed new "creatures," but we need to beware of old "animal instincts."

As followers of Christ, we are forgiven people, but we still have the ability to manifest some undesirable traits. We still struggle with deceit, with bad attitudes, with bad habits, and other bad behavior. That is why we need to rely upon God s presence to control the beast within.

This is a constant, daily struggle. Paul tells us, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." (Romans 6:12) These desires don't give up easily; but through dependence upon the power of the Spirit of God, and a focus on His provision, we can find what is needed to "soothe the savage beast."

Pastor Steve
Friday August 13, 2021

In his book, "Love as a Way of Life," Gary Chapman uses a pointed metaphor for words. He says that words can either be "bullets or seeds." Words can be used as bullets to inflict wounds, instill poisonous thoughts, and cause injury to others. This can happen in a random setting when personalities are brought together to interact in some matter. This can happen in relationships where people who should be demonstrating caring, loving behavior allow circumstances to warp communication.

Rather than bullets, words should be used as seeds to grow health in relationships Words should be used as seeds to build bridges and restore good will. Words should be used in positive and life-affirming ways wo build relationships.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Proverbs talks about words that heal and allow for growth, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." (Proverbs 16:24) Seeds are much more preferable that bullets.

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 12, 2021

In my job with Design Resource Group when we lived in Dallas, I worked with a plethora of different products from various office systems design companies. My favorite was Herman Miller. Herman Miller has been around since 1905 and produces office furniture and products for the home. The company is credited with inventing "office cubicles," a line of products called Action Office that revolutionized office design. They are the ones who produced the famed Eames office chair.

Herman Miller products always seemed to be constructed with the user in mind. Now, I know all companies would have this aim, it would seem, but for some reason Herman Miller does it best. I much preferred installing their product over against all the other companies that produced similar items. Their design philosophy extended to ease of installation as well and this was really helpful. Keeping others in mind greatly enhanced what they were trying to accomplish.

This would seem to be a good thing to consider for all of us walking through life together. Keeping others in mind is a good thing to do and greatly enhances our life experiences. For those of us who are followers of Christ, this is an essential philosophy. This is what Christ wants us to do and our efforts as followers of Christ are greatly strengthened with this outlook.

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." I don't know if Herman Miller got their attitude from this scripture reference, but I know we should.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 11, 2021

One of the topics that pops up in my writings on a fairly consistent basis is the importance of listening. I have often said that I think listening is becoming a "lost art," and we need to reverse that trend in our lives. This is true in general, and is often all too true when it comes to our listening to God.

William Barclay wrote in his book, "The Plain Man's Book of Prayers", "Prayer is not a way of making use of God; prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest, we wait in silence for God's voice to us." This is a practice that we need to develop. Listening to others is so very important; listening to God is absolutely essential.

Isaiah 50:4 5 speaks to the importance of listening, "The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away." Turn towards God's voice; listening to Him is never a bad idea.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 10, 2021

I have been to Chicago many times, but I have only made to the top of the Willis Tower once. The building was known as the Sears Tower and was, at the time, the tallest building in the United States. We went to the observation floor in anticipation of a beautiful view of the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Well, what we saw didn't quite meet up with our expectations. Because of fog, our view was very short-sighted. In spite of the fact of our elevated position, we were unable to see more than a few feet.

Sometimes we have this problem in our spiritual lives. God has raised us up to an elevated position, but we often allow things to fog up our vision to the point where we are limited in what we see. We put our own agendas ahead of God's, we let sin creep into our lives that brings barriers to seeing God's path, we fail to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives, or we simply disregard what we know to be true. We need to eliminate what keeps us from seeing God's plan for our lives. We need to develop our vision by concentrating on his leadership. We need to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that our vision is clear.

Our prayer should be that of the psalmist, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (Psalm 119:18) Clara H. Scott wrote, "Open my eyes that I may see; glimpses of truth thou hast for me." This should be our greatest desire.

Pastor Steve
Monday August May 09, 2021

A man was talking with his pastor about an upcoming trip to the Holy Land. "You know, pastor, I am looking forward to going to Mt. Sinai, or at least where they believe Mt. Sinai is. I plan to climb to the top of that mountain and read the Ten Commandments out loud." The pastor said, "That's a good thing - but I can think of something even better. Make sure you follow the ten commandments when you get home."

The scripture says a number of things about hearing and doing. While it is a good thing that we want to hear what God has to say to us, what is more important is doing what God wants us to do. James 1:21 - 24 tells us, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

There is another reference in James that emphasizes the need for doing in an even stronger way. James 4:17 tells us, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them. "Don't forget what you look like - make sure you do what needs to be done more so than just hearing what needs to be heard!

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 08, 2021

When I was a youngster, I really liked to stand on top of a bridge that crossed a creek near my grandparents' home and drop stones into the water below. The water tended to pool a little bit at that point, so I was able to create a great ripple effect. I would stand there for ages doing this. I enjoyed watching the ripples spread out to the surrounding shorelines and I would imagine that I was changing the shorelines with the ripples I created.

Although my efforts probably didn't have any effect on the shorelines in my youth, our lives do produce ripples that have an effect on us and on others. We always need to remember this as we make decisions and interact with others. Who we really are and who we are becoming show up in the choices we make.

Paul encouraged believers to make good choices. He wrote, "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ," (Philippians 1:9-10) We will make ripples make sure they are good ones.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 07, 2021

On August 7, 1801, 25,000 came to a meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, to hear Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers preach. According to American Minute, the largest town in the entire state of Kentucky at that time had a population of only 2,000. What was going on? This was part of what became known at the Second Great Awakening. This great revival started in the frontier of the fledgling United States and served to strengthen the spirits of those who were working to build a new country. Fresh from the conflict that led to American independence and on the verge of a yet unknown new conflict, this movement of the Spirit of God encouraged the citizens of this new country and bolstered their spirits. This movement fostered a tremendous growth of denominations, enhanced women's rights, and paved the way for the abolitionist movement. Reports from this meeting at Cane Ridge include the following, "The power of God seemed to shake the whole assembly...the cries of the distressed arose...No person seemed to wish to go home." No one wanted to go home? Oh, my, that would be different!

How did the Awakening start? Was it out of some great convocation of churches or the result of some evangelism committee? It began on the Kentucky frontier when James McGready and his small congregation agreed to "bind ourselves to observe the third Saturday of each month for one year as a day of fasting and prayer for the conversion of sinners in Logan County and throughout the world." The revival spread from there as this little church also agreed to "spend one half hour every Saturday evening, beginning at the setting of the sun, and one half hour every Sabbath morning at the rising of the sun in pleading with God to revive His work." (American Minute)

Have you ever thought what might happen in our time should some small group or church start praying? Most great revivals - the Great Awakening of the 18th century, the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century, the Laymen's Prayer Revival of the mid-19th century, had small beginnings. They were not engineered from some mass movement or plan. They started because a group of people obeyed the leadership of the Holy Spirit. We are in a time when a revival would be a marvelous event. Let's obey the Spirit and see what happens. Let's agree with the psalmist who wrote, "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation." (Psalm 85:6-7)

Pastor Steve
Friday August 06, 2021

I enjoy shopping for groceries. I am not a great cook, but I like to cook, and I also like to eat, so you need stuff to cook to eat. In addition, I think my enjoyment is somehow tied to memories I have of going with Mom when I was a little kid to get stuff. It may also arise from thoughts I have about being sent over the hill from where we lived to Lawrence Baker s store to get food items. Going to Baker's was always an enjoyable experience; I know some of you remember Mr. Baker.

Whatever got me started on the right foot in this vein, it has continued. Of course, one thing I always try to avoid is going to a grocery store on an empty stomach. Oh, that can be bad. My stomach says "Feed ME!", so I start cramming my cart with goodies for my growling inside.

Now, really, this isn't bad in and of itself. It is good that I get hungry to let me know that I need nourishment; but it could be rough on the wallet. Still, wanting to eat well and taking care of my hunger is a good thing.

We should have a spiritual hunger, you know? We should have a heartfelt desire, an actual craving, for the things of God. We have a deep, spiritual longing for what God can provide, and we should allow this longing to guide actions that lead to satisfying this longing. Jesus tells us, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6) There is no problem with going hungry to God s "grocery store!"

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 05, 2021

Memory is a funny thing. We all struggle with remembering things. According to Karen Bolla, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, these are the things we forget the most: Names (83%); where something is (60%); telephone numbers (57%); words (53%); what was said (49%); faces (42%). and whether you've just done something (38%).

Followers of Jesus Christ often have a problem with memory. We forget what he has done for us. We forget the power he has for us. We try to deal with temptation in our own power. We forget what we should be doing for him. We forget our responsibility to others. We forget what our lives should be as believers in Christ.

We need to turn our lives into his hands and allow his power to guide us so that we can be solid followers of him. Psalm 103:2 encourages us to Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Don't forget to walk in the power of Christ! David wrote, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." There are times we cannot trust our memory because we are forgetful. There are times we cannot trust our own abilities because we are unable to stand on our own. We need to trust "in the name of the Lord our God." Don't forget!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 04, 2021
Sometimes we hear the phrase "fight fire with fire." As I imagine you know, this phrase is based on the practice of lighting backfires to create a barrier that helps prevent a threatening fire from spreading. I have used this term before in a previous post, but I want to go in a different direction with it today. Instead of fighting fire with fire, what about learning how to "fight fear with fear?"

Right now, we have a great number of things that produce fear - ominous terrorist threats, frightful weather-related issues, tensions among societal groups, rising crime rates, and if that is not enough, we have experienced a new cause for fear over the last year and a half in the form of an invisible bug. So, what can help?

We are encouraged by the scripture to fight fear with fear. The source of strength and help in fearful times is our Lord whom we are called upon to fear. Proverbs 14;26-27 tells us, "Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death." I don't think I need to belabor the point of the meaning of "fear" in this verse, but let me remind you. It is not used in the sense of being afraid or being terrified. It is referring to faith and trust that is centered on God and His presence in one's life. Proverbs 29:25 tells us, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."

When we fear God and trust his provision, the fear of what is there diminishes. David tells us that walking with God prevents walking in fear, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." (Psalm 23:4). So, fight fear with fear. Doing so brings peace to our lives in the midst of problematic times.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 03, 2021

Well, today is my birthday. Birthdays are interesting things. They provide you with a reason to celebrate and be the center of attention for a little while. Birthday parties are always nice and offer a chance for folks to get together. This year, I am getting to spend time with my kids and grandkids. We tend not to take these times for granted anymore, don t we? Those of us with birthdays this month can make the claim that we are the reason for celebrations in August, as there are no official holidays.

As you get a little older, birthdays also provide some other opportunities. Birthdays can serve as a reminder of how fast our lives are progressing. It can't be my birthday again, can it? Birthdays can offer us a time to reflect on what is going on in our lives, what has taken place, what we would like to see take place, and other considerations. Birthdays highlight relationships that we have. Our celebrations are with those with whom we have a relationship. Birthdays remind of our "links" with other people - people on whom we can rely and have a significant role in our lives.

As you think of this latter provision of birthdays, remember the "link" you have with God. David says in Psalm 22:10, "From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God." We can read later in Psalm 71:6, "From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you."

If I had one birthday wish it would be that everyone who reads this have that link with God and are relying upon him. Would you like to give me a birthday present? Well, the best one you could give would be for you to give your life to the Father. That would be a really great gift for me, but it would be a better gift for you.

Pastor Steve
Monday August 02, 2021

Some time ago, I walked into a store looking to buy a certain item and was greeted by an employee who asked, "May I help you?" I told the clerk what I needed, but was greeted with an expression that made me realize the person had no clue about what I was asking. So, I went to the area where I thought I might find the item, and there it was. I walked into the same store recently and was greeted by a different employee who asked, "May I help you?" I told them what I needed, and was greeted with a "Follow me." The person took me to the item, actually items. The employee pointed out the choices that I had and then gave a description of the differences in my options. Which of these two experiences do you think I found most helpful?

We who represent Christ are not trying to "sell" anything, but this sales experience demonstrates that a person who knows something about the product that is being offered can provide a more helpful experience than one who does not. We who are called to be representatives of Christ to others need to know about what we are representing, and need to live in such a way that we accurately portray the benefits of a life in Christ. We need to know what the scripture says about walking with the Savior and what is expected from a follower of Christ so that we can speak to others in an informed and an effective way.

II Timothy 2:15 tells us, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." This should be our desire so that we can help others who want to know about him make the right choice.

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 01, 2021

Karl Barth was exiled to Switzerland during World War II. Upon his return to the University of Bonn when the war was over, his began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. As believers, it is an affirmation that is assumed, however we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

First of all, we do need to make this affirmation, and make it loudly. I do believe in God. Secondly, we need to make sure we believe in the right God. That is, we need to make our concept of God is correct, and that we aren't conjuring up what we think God should be and using this as a basis for our belief. Study to know what God has said about himself in Scripture. Develop a correct view of God so that when you say, "I believe in God," you are making an accurate affirmation. Finally, let your actions back up your words. If you say you believe in God, this should show in how you live. It should show in how you relate to others. It should show in your character. Saying you believe in God should mean something, and the best way to make this affirmation meaningful is to live what you say.

God acknowledges those who believe in him, and ignore those who don't. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." He doesn't need man's belief to confirm his existence, but he does reward those who truly believe.

Pastor Steve


Weekly Schedule

AM Worship - 9:00 AM
Sunday School - 10:30 AM
PM Worship - 6:00 PM
Dinner - 5:45 PM
Cross Training - 6:30 PM
Prayer Time - 9:00 AM


Our Pastor

Pastor Steve Willis

Stephen G. Wllis has been the pastor of the First Baptist Church since August of 1983. He and his wife, the former Scherry Roth, are natives of Ironton, OH and were married in 1977. Steve has an A.B. in education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV and a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. In October 2004 he received his Doctor of Ministry from Trinity Theological Seminary. He has been active in ministry since 1971, serving as an evangelist and as a pastor before moving to Dallas in 1979 and then to the pastorate in Newton after obtaining his master's degree. In addition to his ministerial duties, Steve is a member of several committees and boards in Jasper County. He has served as president of the Jasper County Ministerial Association and Newton Rotary, and is currently the secretary-treasurer of the ministerial association.

Scherry is a graduate of ITT with certification in interior design. In Ohio she worked as a secretary and then with the Ohio Department of Health and Human Services. She was a secretary in Dallas at Dallas Theological Seminary. After moving with Steve to Newton, she took some time away from the workplace to have two daughters, Stephanie, born in 1983 and Megan, born in 1985. When both the girls were in school, Scherry returned to the workplace, first at Arndt's Stores, then as a painter with Hidden Blessings, and since 1994, as a secretary for the Jasper County Unit #1 School District. She retired in June of 2016. She is active in the church as leader of the Children's Choirs and directing the adult choir.

Megan graduated from Judson University, Elgin, IL in December of 2007, and received her ThM from Edinburgh University (Scotland) in August of 2008. She married Casey Robbins in February of 2014, and they have one child, Sullivan. She also teaches English at Williamsfield High School.

Stephanie is a graduate of the University of Illinois (2005) and received a master's degree from Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia, in May of 2007. She is now a speech pathologist with Southern Ohio Educational Services in Portsmouth, Ohio. She married Jimmy Bailey in July of 2009. Jimmy is a teacher and coach with the New Boston, Ohio, School District. They live in Wheelersburg, OH. They have two children, Madelyn and Cullen.


For those of you not currently attending church on a regular basis we would like to extend an invitation to you. Regular church attendance can make a big difference in your life. Worshiping God, learning more about Him and enjoying fellowship with other Christians is a very rewarding way to spend Sunday morning. Our service at the First Baptist Church starts at 9:00 AM and we hope you will join us soon. You will be greeted by some of the friendliest people in downstate Illinois. If you sometimes feel that there is something missing in your life this could be a great opportunity to fill that void. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Through faith in Him, the void you have can be filled. He said in Matthew 11:32 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

A good way to find out what you need to do to place your faith in Him is to find a church where you can learn what it means to have a relationship with Christ and what that can mean to you. If you are too far away from our location, please try to find a church near by. It can change your life. If you would like to invite Christ to come into your heart as your Savior and Lord, you may do so by simply asking him to do so. Here is what you can do to receive the free gift of eternal life he offers:

1. Acknowledge that you have sinned and need to be forgiven.
Romans 3:23 - "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
Romans 6:23 - "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord."
2. Believe that Jesus died for you and wants to forgive you and give you the free gift of eternal life.
John 6:47 - "I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life."
3. Confess your sins to him and ask him to come into your heart as your Savior.
Romans 10:9-10 - "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

If you are now enjoying all the benefits of being part of a church family, wherever it might be, we offer you a challenge. In your community there are people waiting for you to extend an invitation to them. We urge you to find them, invite them to your church and show them how a relationship with Jesus can enrich their lives. The Word of God ends with an invitation. Revelation 22:17 says, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." Be an inviting person!

Our Church

Welcome to the internet home of the First Baptist Church, located at 400 W. Washington Street in Newton IL. This church was established in January of 1886 as the Newton Baptist Church. The first pastor was J.W Reed who served until 1891 and again from 1896 to 1898. The first meetings were held at the Presbyterian Church until 1892 when it was decided to build a new church. The actual construction was started in 1893 and completed in 1895. The first services in the new building were on April 27th. In 1957 a new educational wing and fellowship hall were added.

The name of the church was changed from "Newton Baptist Church" to "First Baptist Church" on July 25th, 1926. The church has had 31 pastors since its inception including our current pastor, Dr. Steve Willis who has served since 1983.

Our mission is to delight God by developing a church full of people whose integrity is beyond question, whose faith is beyond reason, and whose compassion is beyond compare.

Services at First Baptist start at 9:00 am every Sunday morning followed by Sunday school at 10:30. Our Sunday evening service starts at 6:00 and CrossTraining Bible study is held each Wednesday at 6:30. From September to May, we have CrossTraining classes on Wednesdays for ages 3 through the 8th grade. Our High School group is entitled CIA (Christians in Action) and meets on the first and third Sundays at 6 p.m.

We would like to invite you to join us next Sunday. You will find us to be a very friendly family of believers that loves our Lord and truly enjoys our Sunday morning fellowship.