First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Updated - 1/19/2021>

Worship services at 9 a.m. this Sunday followed by Adult Study and Kid's Hour! Services will be presented online that day as usual! Remember - study groups starting tomorrow night. "Seamless" led by Debbie Diel in the Fellowship Hall and "Horizontal Jesus" led by Pastor Steve in church. Teens - watch for further news about CIA meetings!

As announced last Sunday, we are starting a fund to replace the marquis at church. This will cost approximately $25,000.00 for an electronic led marquis. If you wish to give towards this, mark your gifts to sign fund.

See you soon!

Pastor Steve

Devotionals - Pastor Steve Willis

Tuesday January 26, 2021

A dad took his family to see a stage production of "The Lion King." By the way, if you ever have a chance to do this, you should seize the opportunity. Just getting to see the costumes is worth the price of admission. Anyway, a dad took his family to see "The Lion King." As you may know, the saddest part of the story is when King Mufasa is killed by his evil brother, Scar. Little Simba stands beside his father, alone and afraid, and cries, "Help! Help! Help!" When this scene unfolded as the family watched,, the 4-year-old son stood up in his seat and cried, "Would someone please help him?"

Throughout the scripture, we find folks calling out for God s help. At times, the circumstances are because of the foibles of those who cry for help. Even at these times, we see God intervening and bringing help to those who call upon Him.

The message of Isaiah is mainly one of warning and a statement about future judgment. Yet, in the midst of this proclamation God says, "the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show you compassion. . .. How gracious he will be when you cry for help!" (Isaiah 30:18 - 19) God does not exist just to be our helper, but He will provide help when we need help. Psalm 46:1 tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in the time of trouble."

God may not exist just to provide help for us, but we cannot exist without the help He provides for us. Let's be thankful for the help He gives to us, and let's do what we can to be His feet and hands of help for others when help is needed. If you hear someone calling for help, don't just stand in your seat and cry out, "Would somebody please help him?" Be grateful for God's help in our life, and do what you can to let God use you as a means of help.

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 24, 2021

I will never forget my driver's ed instructor and his tips on how to parallel park a car. He led me through a number of steps that I still use to pull my vehicle in an available space. I even used the tips to parallel park a 22-foot bobtail truck in downtown Dallas when I worked there several years ago.

As I think about parking cars, I recall a statement I have heard, "God cannot steer a parked car." I am not sure where this statement originated. It is a well-meaning attempt to motivate followers of Christ into action. We do need to be active in our walk with the Lord, but there are times when we need to park it. There are times in our lives when God wants us to stop and listen rather than run and do.

We see this principle demonstrated throughout scripture. There are times when the cloud leading the people of Israel stopped and let the folks stay in one place for a while. "At the Lord s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord s order and did not set out." (Numbers 9:18-19)

We see example after example in the Scripture of God's people being put in a position where all they could do was wait. Even Christ spent times of waiting, talking with his Father, rather than moving among the people to teach and to heal. Christ often withdrew to solitary places and "parked it" for a time. Luke 4:42 tells us, "At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place."

Yes, we need to be active as Christ's followers, but there are times we need to stop and wait for his direction. There are many reasons for down times, and we should not be afraid of waiting. Psalm 27:14 reminds us to "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart." Learn to park!

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 23, 2021

The month January is named after a god in the Roman pantheon named Janus. Janus was depicted as a being with two faces - one to look ahead, one to look back. Janus was the god of beginnings.

Looking ahead to new beginnings and new possibilities is a good thing. Being two-faced is not. Folks that speak one way and act another and cannot be trusted because you really don't know what "side" they represent are frustrating. James reflects the attitude of God about two-faced folks, "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:8)

Now, we have no control over others who manifest this undesirable characteristic; however, we do have control over our own behavior. We must make every effort to present ourselves as someone who can be trusted and is not two-faced. We want others to know that we don't speak out of both sides of our mouth.

Proverbs 19:3 says, "Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool." One face is enough - don't try to keep up two at the same time. You don t want to look like Janus.

Pastor Steve
Friday January 22, 2021

Ambidexterity is an interesting physical characteristic where an individual is able to perform tasks using either hand with an equal level of skill. Only about 1% of the population are truly ambidextrous. Usually, if one wants to become proficient at performing a task equally well with either hand, a good deal of work needs to be put in to strengthen the "weaker hand."

Most people tend to ignore their weaker hand and utilize their dominant hand in the preponderance of circumstances. Some state that they are not able to utilize their weaker hand to do anything, and that is because they don't use it. Working to strengthen your weaker hand often proves beneficial. Basketball players work on the ability to use either hand to dribble, pass the ball, or shoot.

I never put in a great deal of time "strengthening" my weaker hand, but I did some, and this has proved useful. Nerve damage has left profound weakness in my right hand, so being able to use my left has proven quite helpful.

Scripture talks about a group of people who worked to achieve a balance in their "handedness." I Chronicles 12:2 says, "they were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed; they were relatives of Saul from the tribe of Benjamin." This turned out to be a good thing for the Benjamites.

Working on areas where we are weak usually is a good thing. This is true not just in our physical endeavors. We may have areas in our lives where we have weakness. Perhaps we feel stronger in areas of gifts we utilize in our spiritual walk. What about working to strengthen those areas where we don't feel as strong? Sometimes we have weakness in our behavior, such as a problem with anger or patience. Working to strengthen these areas would be a good idea. Perhaps we have a struggle in other areas such as trust or faith. These would-be good places to do some strengthening. It would be good to do strengthening in all of these areas ahead of actual circumstances where strength is needed. Remember my hand problem? We never know when circumstances arise where our "weaker hand" needs to be used.

Paul had areas of weakness, and he thanked God for them because they brought about greater dependence on God. He wrote in II Corinthians 12:9 10 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ s sake, I delight in weaknesses." He did not ignore his areas of weakness. He realized these areas drove him to God, and drove him to do what was needed to become more "ambidextrous." We need to do the same.

Pastor Steve
Thursday January 21, 2021

Well, I missed something interesting about yesterday s date. I didn t find it out until I got a text from my brother, Kevin, about the uniqueness of the date. If you used the form 1/20/2021, yesterday's date is a palindrome date, meaning that it is the same forwards and backwards. This happens occasionally; actually, 2021 will have two more palindrome dates: 2/02/2021 and 12/02/2021. The next time this will happen on January 20th will be 1,000 years from now, 1/20/3021. I don't think I ll be around for that one.

One way to think of a palindrome is something that looks the same no matter from which direction you look. There is no difference. Something, or rather someone, else that looks the same no matter from which direction you look is the Lord. God never changes in who He is, what He does, or how He appears to us. He is always the same. He is always there for us, Because of this, we know we can always depend on Him to be there for us, to provide for us, and not be a mystery.

God declares about himself, "I the Lord do not change." (Malachi 3:6). Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." We know we can trust God because He always looks, acts, and provides the same. He is always a palindrome, not just every thousand years.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 19, 2021

In the final scene of "The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King," Frodo and his friends are gathered to watch Bilbo and Gandalf prepare to sail to a place that has been accorded to them by the elves, their "eternal home," so to speak. Then, just before the boat sails, Gandalf turns to Frodo and says, "It's time, Frodo." Frodo's hobbit friends learn that he, too, will be leaving for his final home. They are distressed by this, but realize it is what has to be. Frodo hands a leather-bound book to his closest friend, Samwise Gamgee; a book that was started by Frodo's uncle, Bilbo, and then continued by Frodo. Frodo says, "The last pages are for you, Sam." The question this implies is: "Sam, what will you write and how well will you write?"

The same question may be posed of followers of Christ. We have been given pages to write - what will we write and how well will we write? There is always the need for times of evaluation in our lives, times when we take stock as to what we are doing and how well we are doing.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that God has given us the task of continuing the work of Christ in the world. We need to take time to reflect and ask ourselves "How well am I doing?" Lamentations 3:40 encourages us to "Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!" I Corinthians 11:28 & 32 says, "Let a person examine himself, then. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged." The last pages are for you - how well will you write?

Pastor Steve
Monday January 18, 2021

There was a time when I didn't see the point of texting. I thought, "If you want to communicate with someone, why not just call them and talk with them?" Then, I began to text some. Then, I began to text more, and soon I found many helpful aspects to texting. You can send messages that can be seen more than just once because they are there in print. This is helpful if you are sending something such as directions. You can send pictures. You can make sure the message is sent to a single individual. You can send a communication to a group. You can send messages at a time when other forms of communication might be disruptive. I have found there are a number of helpful features in texting.

As I reflect on texting, it reminds me of how significant it is that God has "texted" us. Through his text, we are reminded of his power that is at our disposal. We are reminded over and over about his power and provision as we are able to read his text over and over. As we read his instruction again and again, we can see how his power can direct our lives. We are reminded of his presence. We have something we can hold in our hands and see with our eyes that is a description of his desire and design for us and is representative of his person. Though his text we are reminded of his promise. There it is - right before our eyes - something we can revisit whenever we want.

Since God has written to us, we can proclaim, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies." (Psalm 119:97-98) Yes, indeed, there are advantages to texting!

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 17, 2021

Operation Smile is one of the many mission organizations that fund surgeries for children born with cleft palates. This condition makes it difficult for the little one to eat, and obviously affects speech development. It is common in the U.S., but in Third World countries is especially prevalent because of insufficient care during prenatal development. A marvelous smile is important for more reasons than aesthetics. So, this program helps families in developing countries solve one of the problems they face when a child is born with this condition. Having a good smile is a marvelous thing.

Do you have a good smile? Smiling is something we need to practice on a regular basis. There are so many benefits from smiling. Smiling is contagious. When one smiles, others tend to smile along with them. Smiling lowers stress and anxiety. Smiling releases endorphins that promote a sense of well-being and contentment. Smiling strengthens your immune system. There are many other benefits of smiling, not the least of which is that you simply look better when you smile. We do experience circumstances that make it difficult to smile, but working on our mood and our inner self through a variety of means including focusing on the development of a smile can help us face those problems in realistic, positive ways.

Proverbs 15:13 & 30 tells us, "A glad heart makes a happy face. . .A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health." Even though he was speaking sarcastically, Job knew the benefits of smiling when he said, "I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile." (Job 9:27) Do what you can to turn that frown upside down and smile! As the song says, "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you!"

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 16, 2021

Yesterday, the following article came up in my timeline as a "Your Memories on Facebook." I thought this a little ironic. As I wrote this article last year, I had no clue about the "gray days" that were ahead of us in 2020. I consider the ideas presented in this post worth repeating, so here it is again.

In spite of the many "gray days" we have experienced, I have noticed that the days are getting longer. Of course, this is as it should be as we are on the upside of the winter solstice. This is just fine with me.

I don't know if I truly have seasonal affective disorder or not, but I do know I really don't care for the shorter days. It seems the older I get, the more going back to "regular" time in the fall bothers me. I have a real aversion to darkness at 5 p.m. However, that is just the way it is, and I adjust. Still, it leaves me feeling a little blue.

How does one cope with blueness? Well, there are many good things to think about to help me cope with the blues. God has given abundant blessings on which to focus that helps ward off the blues. I read an article some time back that gave these suggestions: Problem: Things seem impossible. Answer: All things are possible with God (Luke 18:27).Problem: Life is often exhausting. Answer: Jesus offers rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28-30). Problem: You can't forgive yourself. Answer: The Lord forgives all who confess their sins to Him (1 John 1:9). Problem: You are afraid. Answer: God will strengthen and help you (Isaiah 41:10). Problem: You are worried and anxious. Answer: Cast all your cares on God, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Problem: You feel alone in this world. Answer: The Lord promises never to leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

When we feel a little down, know that God can help us with the woes that are bringing us down. Put your problems in the palm of God's hands. He knows how to deal with the blues.

Pastor Steve
Friday January 15, 2021

A father was helping his young son with spelling words. They came across the word, "unique." The little boy asked, "Dad, what does unique mean?" The father replied, "Well, it means something or someone that is not like anything or anyone else. For example, bats are unique." "Are they unique because they can't see but still fly?" asked the boy. "Well," replied the dad, "they actually aren't blind. They just don't see very well. They are unique because they are the only mammals that can fly." The little boy thought for a moment and said, "I guess God is unique also." The dad had to agree.

He had to agree because God's uniqueness is really unique. As we think about examples of entities that are unique, such as the aforementioned bats, they have the unique characteristic of being the only flying mammals. Yet there are many bats. Snowflakes are unique as no two snowflakes are alike. Still, there are a lot of snowflakes that fly around and come to ground, especially this time of year. Humans are unique, of course, but there are a lot of humans. God is unique as there is only One God.

Isaiah 45:5-6 tells us, "'I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.'" This means that God should occupy a unique place in your life. He should be where no one else or nothing else is in your life. This means that God can and will provide for you in a unique way. This means that God can and will do for you what no one or nothing else can. He is the One with the power, the knowledge, and the wherewithal to help us with whatever we face. He is the Lord and there is no other. Don't let anyone or anything else take the place that the unique God has in your life!

Pastor Steve
Thursday January 14, 2021

Many of us have used the phrase "acid test" in our conversation. We know that an "acid test" is any kind of test that produces undeniable results. It may be some sort of activity or exercise to demonstrate the truthfulness of something that has been said, or something to demonstrate true identity. The idea originates from a practice used during the gold rush days of the 19th century. Needing a way to distinguish genuine gold from other metals, nitric acid was poured on the substance in question. Gold withstood the dissolving properties of the acid, and thus passed the "acid test."

Many times God allows an "acid test" to be applied to our faith in order to prove it to be genuine. Why? Well, Peter has something to say about this. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:3-7)

The acid test is applied to dissolve what is false and leave the truth. The test is like a refiner's fire that dissolves the impurities and leaves what is best. We often struggle with this, but he need to understand God does know what he is doing, and only does it for our good. Remember God works as a divine Refiner, not an arsonist, when he applies the purifying flames to our life. Trust him, and you will indeed benefit from the "acid test."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday January 13, 2021

Many who experience a life-threatening situation often say they "saw their life pass before their eyes." Folks who have these experiences often speak of how their brush with death caused them to develop new priorities and new outlooks on how they are living their lives. John Connally was the governor of Texas and was riding in the limousine when President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Connally was critically wounded in the shooting. Afterwards he said, "As far as Nellie and I are concerned, . . . it inevitably brought into sharper focus what s really important in life. . . . We try not to participate in things that are shallow or in the long run meaningless."

I don't know what the Connally s considered important in life, but I know what we who are followers of Christ should consider important in life. And it should not take a life-threatening situation to bring this into a position of significance in our outlook. Psalm 39:4-7 says, "'Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and from: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.'"

The writer here comments on the brevity of life and his focus during his brief life: The Lord. "My hope is in you," he declares. Make sure your focus in on the Lord! Don't wait for a life-threatening experience to formulate this priority. Life is too short the way it is without needing an alarming reminder!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 12, 2021

There was a popular song released in 1972 by the group "America" entitled "Horse with No Name." The song was rather mysterious, but it spoke of traveling in a desert and some of the strangeness of a desert journey. I don't think many others would have thought of this when they heard the song, but every time I heard it, I would think of the desert wanderings of the Israelites during their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. The song spoke of the need for water in the desert.

Water is a concern at all times for all people, but it would be of special concern if you find yourself traversing a desert landscape. The scarcity of water was an issue for the people of Israel, and often led to confrontations with Moses. God always came through and provided for them, even when they grumbled and complained.

In one instance, God miraculously provided water by turning poisoned water into good water (Exodus 15:22). Another time, he led them to abundant springs (Exodus 15:27). On one occasion he had Moses strike a rock and water gushed out (Exodus 17:1). On another occasion he asked Moses to speak to a rock (Numbers 20:8). In disobedience, Moses actually struck the rock. Still, God provided water.

When we feel we are wandering in the desert; we need to continue to trust God. At times, life can seem like a dry, barren wasteland. However, God is there, He has not left us, and He will provide for us at all times. Even when we grumble and complain, God still stands ready to work for us when we come to our senses and cooperate with Him. God provides for us in unexpected and sometimes miraculous ways. Psalm 81:10 tells us, "I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." Do not ignore His provision. Be grateful for His provision. When we trust God, we will experience rivers of continual provision and grace for every need.

Pastor Steve
Monday January 11, 2021

Do you often think about theological questions? I read once about a 5-year-old who asked her father, "Daddy, do angels sleep?" After a little bit of thought, the father replied, "Well, honey, I think they do." The girl said, "Then how do they get their pajamas over their wings?"

We need to be inquisitive and ask questions about things that are theological in nature. Now, we don't need to go overboard and obsess on items that are of little consequence, but we should be curious about circumstances of a spiritual nature. God wants us to know about his presence in our lives and his ministry in our lives. We should have a natural curiosity about his dealings with us. Just don't get sidetracked by pursuits that lead us away from really understanding him. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (II Timothy 2:23) Avoid those things that are pointless and only lead to controversy. Focus on the important issues and truly coming to know Christ.

Many years ago, there was a group of "scholars" who debated really important issues such as "How many angels can dance on the head of a needle?" If you read this question and say, "I don't get the point of this," then you get the point (pardon the pun). Pursuits such as this are a waste of time. Focus on issues that are beneficial to our spirituality. Don't try to find a needle in a haystack!

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 10, 2021

I remember watching "The Incredible Shrinking Man" when I was a kid. The movie fascinated me then, and still fascinates me. The story is about a person who gets covered by a mysterious dust while on a boat off the California coast. This causes him to shrink, presumably eventually to nothing, although the film ended with him still alive but very tiny. The last lines of the film are delivered through a voiceover by the main character. He laments, "And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I STILL EXIST!"

At times we perhaps feel like the "Shrinking Man". We feel as if we are not important, or as if our opinion counts for little, or as if our absence would not be noticed. Yet, the last lines from the fictional work are so true, "To God there is no zero!" We are known to God and as his child, we are important and significant.

The words of David in Psalm 139 reinforce this reality: "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful." (vv. 1 & 14) God has created us and knows all about us. And when we come to him by faith in His Son, we become his child and are placed in his care. We are important and significant because of what he does for his children and because of our relationship with him. In His eyes, we most certainly are not a zero.

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 09, 2021

In 1966, The Beatles were riding a wave of unprecedented popularity worldwide. During an interview by a journalist in the United Kingdom, John Lennon proclaimed that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus Christ." The remarks were met benignly in the United Kingdom, but when they were published in the United States, the reaction was profound. I remember thinking, "Oh, why did you have to say that? Now my mom will never let me listen to your records." Over three decades later, Liam Gallagher of the group Oasis made the same claim regarding his group.

These remarks do indeed warrant a strong response and criticism; however, at the risk of sounding heretical, could these gentlemen be right? Sad to say, among many, Lennon's and Gallagher's comments may be accurate. But we know that Christ is not involved in a popularity contest and there are consequences to this line of thinking.

As followers of Christ, we need to make certain this is not true in our personal lives. I am not referring to our opinion of Gallagher or Lennon, but to anything that we allow to vie for the attention we should be giving to Christ. It is one thing to say you are a disciple of Christ, but another thing to truly give Christ the place he deserves in your life.

We may be appalled by the statements of Lennon and Gallagher, and we should be; but examine yourself carefully to see if this is true about other matters. Is there anything that keeps you from placing Christ first in your life? Is there anything to which you devote more time and attention than to the matters of Christ? Nothing in our lives should occupy the place that belongs to Christ.

Our desire should be that of the apostle Paul who declared as his primary goal: "I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." (Philippians 3:10) Who or what occupies the principal place of popularity in your personal life?

Pastor Steve
Friday January 08, 2021

Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China, scrawled this note as he neared the end of his life: I am so weak that I cannot work; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God s arms like a child, and trust.

When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, we need to remember that childlike faith is what we need. As a child, I don't remember worrying about too many things, except for maybe the amount of chocolate milk that was in the refrigerator. I trusted that my folks would take care of me. Actually, I really don't remember having a conscious thought about trusting my folks, I just did. That is the essence of childlike faith, which is what we should have.

We read in Matthew 18:2 4: "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" We need to learn to trust. Actually, we know how to trust, we just need to get back to that level of trust we had as kids when it comes to our relationship with Christ. Faith like a child is what we need to have. It takes the worries away!

Pastor Steve
Thursday January 07, 2021

Psalm 122:6 encourages us to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." This is a good thing to do. I do not intend to change scripture here, but we certainly need to pray for the peace of the United States. Scenes that came from Washington, D.C., yesterday were shocking and frightening and remind us of the divisions that characterize our country.

We need to pray for cooler heads to prevail. We need to pray for our leaders to take steps towards establishing more solidarity and for a recognition of their accountability before God. We need to pray for healing and a move towards unity. Abraham Lincoln declared in a speech he delivered on June 16, 1858, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." These were words he took directly from scripture, as we find that Jesus said, "every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:" (Matthew 12:25)

Among us all, there needs to be less pointing of fingers and more folding of hands. We need to pray that our nation finds the right spiritual direction. Continue to look to God as your source of stability and assurance. What we witnessed yesterday can be unnerving, to say the least, but we can be confident since we know Who is actually in control. Tony Evans tells us, "The answer to saving America is not in the White House - it is in the church house." That's a good thing to remember as we go forward with God.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday January 06, 2021

Upon occasion, when I am visiting in southern Ohio, I make it a point to drive by a certain house located in Possum Holler. I have written about his house a few times. The house was a place where I spent a great deal of time when I was growing up - it was my grandparents home. In the front yard, there is a large cedar tree. I remember well when my grandfather planted it over 50 years ago. It was a small slip of a thing that looked as if it needed to be pitched rather than planted.

My grandfather had dug it up from a wooded area in south-central Kentucky near the home where he was raised. Although it looked as if the journey to southern Ohio had pretty much done it in, once it was planted, it began to thrive. Drawing in nutrients from the soil as well as needed moisture, the tree put down roots, took in carbon dioxide and put out oxygen, and grew. It is now a stately, impressive tree that is something to behold, all because my grandfather took the time fifty years ago to plant it.

We should never forget this basic concept - before something can grow it first needs to be planted. Nothing will grow unless planting takes place. Christ refers to the act of planting on many occasions. Paul says about planting, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." We are to be involved in the act of planting the seed of the Gospel. That impressive cedar would not be there had my grandfather not taken the time to put it in the ground. God uses us to plant the seed of the Gospel and then he brings about the results. Put you planting tools to work!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 05, 2021

As a youngster, one of my favorite things to do was to skip stones on bodies of water. There was a creek near my grandparents' home where water would pool in a number of areas that made great places for this purpose. When I skipped stones, I had two goals: First, I wanted to get the rock all the way to the other side. Secondly, I wanted the ripples to spread out to all the land areas around the water. 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 followers of Christ 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
Sunday January 4, 2021

I remember reading an article where the author stated that what we do with the old year is more important than what we plan for the New Year. We should make the end of this year be a time of self-evaluation to see what we might have lingering in our lives that needs to be managed. I Corinthians 11 points out the importance of self-examination.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:28: "Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup." His advice of looking at one's self before taking communion is advice that is applicable to any time of our lives. An honest look at one's heart is helpful to correct any issues that we may be harboring. Self-examination and self-evaluation is good in many areas of our lives. It is helpful to look at what we have been doing, what we have accomplished, and what needs to be done. Then we can make a plan to bring about change where change is needed or make plans to help us reach a goal we have for ourselves.

An honest look at ourselves in nowhere any more important than looking at our spiritual lives. The problem of unconfessed sin should not be ignored. Moses knew the danger of allowing sin to reside in his life. He knew that "secret sins" could cause real problems and should be confesses. Psalm 90:8 tells us: "You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence." Don't let this happen! Practice self-evaluation at all times, and use this time of year to do some serious soul searching.

Pastor Van
Friday January 01, 2021

This is the time for New Year's resolutions. The change in the number of the year brings about a desire to change something in our lives, hence we have resolutions. I don't know how you feel about resolutions, and this is not an article defending them nor decrying their ineffectiveness. I am simply acknowledging the practice of making resolutions. Making resolutions is based on an important reality - there are times we all need to make changes in our lives. Those changes vary in significance, but change is necessary. Not change for change sake, but in all of our lives, there are times when we need to make a change, with the operative word here being "need."

What changes do you need to make? Do you need to make lifestyle changes to improve your health? Do you need to make diet changes because of things going on inside of you? Do you need to make changes in how you treat others? What changes do you need to make to improve your walk with the Lord? Do you need to spend more time with the Scripture? Do you need to be more active in your church? Do you need to give more?

No doubt, most of us do need to make some change in some area. Frankly, there are very few people alive who can honestly say they don't need to make a change somewhere. The only person who does not need to change is God. I Samuel 15:29 says, "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind. However, we are not God, and we do need to make changes. Happy New Year!

Pastor Steve
Thursday December 31, 2020

There are a lot of reasons why we remember things, but events, circumstances, and experiences we have in our life that are either very good or very bad tend to settle in our memories more indelibly. I would imagine 2020 will be one of those occasions as most of us have considered our experience with the COVID-19 pandemic a bad event. And, for the most part, it would be hard to argue with that.

COVID has wreaked havoc with our lives, has taken many lives, has created controversy, has caused economic mayhem, and many other negative consequences. Of course, COVID-19 has not been the only negative of 2020. This has been a year of great social unrest. There have been a number of controversies that were caused by other agents than a raging pandemic. There were other negative events such as the wildfires that raged in California and, most recently, the bombing in Nashville. I have to admit, it is hard to see the silver lining in the gray cloud of 2020. However, I encourage you to do so.

I am not saying we need to develop an alternate reality and pretend 2020 didn't happen. That is not helpful and also is not possible. What I am saying is that we need to look at 2020 in our rearview mirrors. We need to acknowledge the struggle, but learn to cope with the effects. We need to learn from the struggle so that we can move ahead. We need to accept what we cannot change, and emphasize what we can. Why should we do this? Because we do not want to spiral into a sense of hopelessness and a quagmire of negativity that keeps us from doing what we can to enhance our lives and the lives of those around us. We do this because we still face challenges that need to be dealt with realistically and learning from what we have experienced can help us to do so more effectively. We do so because it reflects the hope we have in the Lord that we serve, and also because it reflects His desire for us.

God is aware of what has taken place and He is also there to walk with us as we grow in our faith and look to the future a future of continued trust in Him and of continued growth of our character. Isaiah 2:5 tells us, "let us walk In the light of the Lord." II Corinthians 5:7 reminds us, "For we walk by faith, not by sight."

As with many of our experiences in life, we cannot control the circumstances around us, but we can control how we respond to the circumstances around us. Why is this important? Well, it keeps us from lapsing into depression. It keeps us from becoming ineffectual in how we help ourselves or help others. As I stated earlier, it helps us to work through future struggles. And it also reflects God's desire for us as we demonstrate trust in Him. We do not walk alone through any struggle, and we direct our attention to the One who walks with us as we move into the future.

We are looking forward to 2021 as a change to what we have been experiencing. That will take place, but we need to remember that challenges are there as well some new, and some that have "carried over." Take what we have learned, continue to walk with our unfailing God, and we will meet those challenges with hope and strength! "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11) Happy New Year!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday December 30, 2020

My mother loved Christmas, but she did not like to fly. Because of her fear of flying my mother, like millions of others, never flew in her life. Despite all the statistics showing that flying is much safer than driving, the fear of going up in the air aboard a jet stops many from flying. The thoughts of putting themselves in a position where they are suspended in the air high above the earth for an extended period of time just is more than many want to handle. Researchers say that the real fear is not that they may crash, but that they lose control of their lives once the jet leaves the ground.

We experience a similar crisis of faith when we put our lives in the hands of God. The issue is one of control - we do not like to relinquish control of our lives. Living by faith means letting God have the right to do with our lives as he pleases, and that is a struggle for many. The apostles struggled with this when Christ spoke to them about levels of service and forgiveness that they had not heard of before. In Luke 17:1-4, he warns them to not cause others to stumble and to forgive others unwaveringly. Their reply to this is "Lord, increase our faith." (Luke 17:5) Christ asked them to step out into the thin air of ultimate trust in him, and at first they reacted in fear as they began to grasp what Christ was asking of them. What we do know from looking at Acts and early church history is that they responded in a positive way and "got on board."

We need to so the same. As we encounter circumstances that bring fear because we are aware what Christ is asking of us, we need to ask him to increase our faith so that we will not shrink back from what needs to be done. We need to take that first step of obedience and he will give us the strength to do what is required.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday December 29, 2020

A little boy was bothered a bit on Christmas morning. "Mommy," he said, "I like all my gifts, but this is Jesus' birthday. When are we going to give Jesus his present?" What a marvelous question; a question that we should be asking during our celebration.

What are we going to give Jesus? The little drummer boy said he would play for him on his drum. Perhaps he had a good idea - playing the drum was what he did best, so he was going to present Jesus with a gift of his best. This should be our desire as we consider our gift to him. Whatever it is, it should be our best.

Proverbs 3:9 reflects this ideal, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops." I would imagine you have taken some time choosing just the right gifts for those on your list. Make sure that Christ is at the head of your list, and make sure you give him your best gift!

Pastor Steve
Monday December 28, 2020

Christmas is a time for unwrapping secrets. Those secrets under the tree that had been growing over the past few days are now revealed. In one sense, this keeps up the tradition of the very first Christmas. Christ was a secret that had been promised through the ages. Then, at the time appointed by God and known only to God, he was revealed to the world. For those who cared to listen, angels announced his birth, a celestial event proclaimed his presence, and when he was taken to the temple for the purification rights when he was 8 days old, he was recognized (Luke 2:22-38).

Paul speaks of the mystery of Christ and this mystery being revealed in Ephesians 1:7-10: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ."

Since Christ is no longer a secret, we need to unwrap His message for others. We need to do all we can to reveal the news of "redemption through his blood." We should be more eager to do this than we are unwrapping the secrets that we find under our trees. His message is no secret!

Pastor Steve
Sunday November December 27, 2020

Last Sunday I spoke about the similarities between the cradle and the tomb. We associate the cradle with the beginning of Christ's earthly existence and the tomb with the end of his earthly existence (plus a few days after his resurrection).

The cradle and the tomb were both man-made. To me, this symbolizes Christ's willingness to condescend and become human. The Creator of all that is was willing to be laid in structures that were made by the hands of those whom he had created. This gives us a word picture of Philippians 2:7-8, "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!"

The cradle and the tomb were both borrowed. Mary and Joseph had to borrow space to have their baby, and Jesus was laid in a tomb that was borrowed from Joseph, the member of the Sanhedrin who buried him. As far as we know, Christ never owned anything in this world except his own clothes. What does this say about our attitude toward earthly possessions?

Finally, the cradle and the tomb are both empty The cradle emptied in the natural way; Christ would outgrow his "baby bed," as all children do. The grave, however, was a different thing. Christ "outgrew" the tomb in a supernatural way. In so doing, he provided the means for us to outgrow our graves as well through the promise of the resurrection.

As you celebrate Christmas this year, take time to consider the lessons we glean from thinking about his cradle and his tomb!

Pastor Steve
Saturday December 26, 2020

Have you ever wondered what went through the minds of those who were present at Christ's birth the day after the birth? Joseph and Mary would be adjusting to their newborn, hopefully moved in to some more comfortable accommodations. The shepherds were back in their fields. Even the angels were back to where they were.

The Magi were on their way, but it would be a while before they arrived. What thoughts were going through their minds? Here was this adorable, beautiful little boy, but He was more than He appeared to be. He lay in his accommodations, for all intents and purposes looking no different than any other one-day-old. But He was God. Colossians 2:9 says, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. . ." One wonders how much Mary, Joseph and some others were thinking about this.

Whatever they were thinking, the fact is that little one-day-old was indeed the God of the entire universe. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17-19)"

This was who that little child was. Remember this not only on the day after we have just celebrated his birth, but remember this always!

Pastor Steve
Friday December 25, 2020

We often hear this song sung at Christmas time. It was first recorded by Andy Williams in 1963. I am sure you have heard it:

It's the most wonderful time of the year

With the kids jingle belling

And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer"

It's the most wonderful time of the year

And so it is. What makes it wonderful? The realization that Christ has come into the world and given us the hope of eternal life is what makes it wonderful. Actually, this knowledge makes any time of the year the most wonderful time of the year. The fact is Christ came to the world to bring salvation to all who would believe in him. When we consider what this means, anything else in life pales in significance.

Why can we "be of good cheer?" Because we know we have our sins forgiven and that we have a relationship with God that none can take away. A life in Christ makes anytime of the year wonderful. A life in Christ makes life wonderful in spite of what we may be facing. A life in Christ means we will live with him forever.

Paul writes about our hope this way, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us al--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" (Romans 8:31-32, 34-35) Yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year! Merry Christmas!

Pastor Steve
Thursday December 24, 2020

Stand Up and Be Counted!

And the people answered him not a word. I Kings 18:21.

There were seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed their knees to Baal. There were four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. They could be counted, but Elijah's audience was noncommittal. They did not declare themselves. They were spectators, onlookers.

Too many Christians are in the grandstand when they should be on the team. Too many are snug at home reading communiques from the front instead of going to the battle.

Too many in our meetings are spectators. They are great onlookers. They get used to it at the movies and in the stadium, and they come to church to be entertained.

But we are all participants in eternal issues, whether we know it or not. "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."We cannot play hands off and answer not a word.

"The Lord knoweth them that are his," but He wants us to stand up and be counted.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday December 23, 2020

One of the great things about Scripture is that it gives us the whole story. When Scripture presents the angelic announcement to Mary, there is an honest account of her reaction. She was troubled (yes, I would imagine) and she had questions - just like we would. "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" she asks (Luke 1:34).

Mary's response shows us she was a person just like we are. Yet, after listening to the angel, she said "Let it be to me according to your word" (vs. 38). Her fear was present, but her faith was greater. I have often commented that this response is strikingly similar to Christ's words found in Luke 22:42, "yet not my will, but yours be done." Like mother, like Son.

We learn from Mary to trust God in spite of our fears, concerns, and questions. Obviously, she had a great impact on others, perhaps including her Son about whom the angel is speaking. Praise Him, as did Mary, for His unfailing wisdom and guidance.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday December 22, 2020

In 1996, the "toy that we must have" at Christmas time was Tickle Me Elmo. As a matter of fact, the toy was so popular that many who had purchased the coveted doll for their child or perhaps a grandchild offered the toy for sale at many times the original purchase price. Greed had taken over and once again demonstrated what Christmas has become to so many in our current culture. The desire for the material has taken the place of the desire for the spiritual.

We read many examples of this in Scripture. Esau's great hunger led him to forfeit what his own birthright for a simple meal. We read in Genesis 25:34, "Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright."

Many of us "despise" the real purpose of our celebration of Christmas because we get caught up in the fervor of gifts rather than focus on the Gift. Don't make the mistake of Esau and be short-sighted. Our desire should be for a Gift that will last, not a gift that will perish. I don't care how good the stew might be, when you eat it you will get hungry again. Pursue that which will last.

Pastor Steve
Monday December 21, 2020

Tonight, an astronomical phenomenon is slated to take place. Jupiter and Saturn will align in the closest Grand Conjunction since the Middle Ages; March 4,1226 to be more precise. This will produce the most easily seen conjunction of these planets since that time. If conditions are favorable, it will even be visible to the naked eye. We are advised to look towards the southwest for a bright point of light about 45 minutes following sundown. I hope to be looking.

Because of the proximity of this alignment to Christmas Day, and because of past appearances, many call this event The Christmas Star, or The Star of Bethlehem. Many speculate that this was the manifestation that led the Magi westward to find the King of the Jews. Matthew 2:2 tells us wise men came to Jerusalem at some point after the birth of Jesus and asked, Where is he that is born the King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him. According to historical records, there was a Grand Conjuncture sometime in 7 B.C. Many wonder, Could this have been the star that led the Magi?

Now, I am not going to argue one way or the other on this point, although I do have some thoughts about this that I will state in a bit. I have always thought the star was an appearance of the Shekinah Glory of God, much like what led the Israelites on their journey from Egypt to Canaan in the 14th century (Exodus 13:20 - 22). One reason that I offer this thought is based on Matthew 2:9 10, When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. It seems the star moved to lead them to a specific place. As I said before, I am not arguing one way or another about The Star of Bethlehem. God could use anything he wanted to guide the seekers.

I do believe there are a number of thoughts we can take away from this contemporary event. First, this event reminds us that God is there and that He is still in control. Who created what we are seeing? Who designed the pattern that put these heavenly bodies on a course to line up the way they will tonight? Secondly, this event reminds of the very real appearance of Christ in the world. Christ came to bring hope through his sacrifice. Another observation is the timing of this appearance reminds us that, even in our darkest times, there is a light of hope that our dark times will come to an end. Finally, this star reminds us that Christ will return. As I look to the sky tonight, I know one thing I will be saying is, Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Pastor Steve
Sunday December 20, 2020

It was the night before Christmas,1870, during the height of the Franco-Prussian War, The French and German soldiers were entrenched against each other on the field of battle. No shots were being fired. Suddenly, a French soldier laid down his rifle and started walking towards the enemy line. His comrades, afraid to try to stop him lest they endanger their own lives, watched breathlessly as he approached the enemy troops, fully expecting to hear the crack of a rifle at any moment ending their fellow combatant's life. After advancing several steps, the soldier stopped and started singing, "Noel, noel, noel, noel - born is the King of Israel" then walked back towards his original position.

After he returned, a soldier from the German army began walking towards the French line. He did as the French soldier had done, singing "The First Noel" in German. For that night, peace reigned on that battlefield.

Christ is indeed the preeminent Peacemaker. He came to make peace between God and man, an ultimately in all of creation. "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him(, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:19-20) God took the first step towards peace and has made a way through his Son for us to be at peace with him. Peace initiatives may be rejected, even those of the Father, but we know that at some point in time, peace will reign supreme because of the gift of Christ. "Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled." This is made possible because God took the first step.

Pastor Steve
Saturday December 19, 2020

Much is said about keeping "Christ in Christmas" which is as it should be. As followers of Christ, we certainly know why we are celebrating at this time of year. We should indeed celebrate the name of Christ and "Keep Christ in Christmas." Something I am even more concerned about is keeping the name of Christ out of where it should not be. Some time ago, a network television program focused on the increase in the use of foul language in our society. Something I see that seems to be on an increase is the use of the name of Jesus as a curse. This should not be, especially by those who know the Lord.

Exodus 20:7 tells us, You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." We should not misuse the name of our Savior, yet that is what seems to be the case during this season. The sense of Christmas as being a time for economic advancement and material well being is very strong in our culture. This makes up so much of what is looked upon as Christmas in our day. This seems to be nothing more than misusing the name of Christ!

Don't abuse the name of Christ at any time by using it as an idle curse when things don't go like you want. The name of Christ should be held in honor and reverence. Remember that as you consider your speech. Remember that as you participate in the celebration. Remember that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." (Philippians 2:10) We should hold the name of Christ in highest regard at all times and especially as we celebrate His birth.

Pastor Steve
Friday December 18, 2020

On the hills just outside Bethlehem, angels proclaimed to a group of astonished shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14) This was the promise given over 2,000 years ago, yet we have not experienced that promise. Perhaps current conflicts cannot compare to the scale of the ones that marked the 20th century, but there are still wars and there are still people dying in combat. In addition, domestic violence is on the rise, marriages fail at an alarming rate, lawsuits proliferate court dockets, and violent crime of all sorts is on the rise. Even churches are not immune to conflict - I read recently of a megachurch in California that closed its doors because of conflict. So, where is the peace?

Peace will come. Regardless of how much a lack of peace prevails, our future holds peace. Isaiah 2:4, "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." God made this promise almost 3,000 years ago, and it will happen. In his time, according to his will, this will take place.

As we wait, we have two choices, we can either despair because of the lack of peace, or we can do our best to make certain that peace prevails in our immediate experience. Do your best to live at peace and model the peace that Christ promises in your life every day. We know that the larger stage of world peace is in the hands of God, and he will accomplish it in his time.

Pastor Steve
Thursday December 17, 2020

Late last week, I shared a video of my grandkids singing Happy Birthday to Jesus that my son-in-law, Jimmy, had posted. Some of you may have seen the video. In the video, when the kids come to the part where you sing the name of the person being celebrated, Maddie added Baby in her rendition. Now, it was not unusual for her to do that, but this creates an interesting thought about our celebration. As we think about the birthday of Christ, what do you think of? We think of him as a baby. This is something unique to Christmas (among many other things). Rather than picturing Christ as an adult when we celebrate his birthday as we do for others, we focus on the actual birth and picture him as an infant. It is altogether right that we do this, given the scriptural accounts regarding his birth. For the most part, we don't have birth details about others whose birthdays we acknowledge. With Christ, we have details given in Scripture regarding his birth - where he was born, the conditions in which he was born, the angelic announcements of his birth, and the visitors who came just after he was born and those later on. Don'' you find it fascinating that all of these details are given about his birth? They were given because we need to marvel at his birth. This was God coming into the world as a human. The baby would grow into an adult and die for us; however, we still need to honor the baby - God in flesh, Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 captures the magnificence of this, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." What a wonderful birthday - celebrate the Baby who is our Savior!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday December 16, 2020

I have written before about the story of the origin of the song Silent Night, but it is a story that bears repeating, so I beg your indulgence. I appreciate the carol for many reasons, and one is the situation which brought about the song.

As you may know, it was written rather hastily because of a circumstance involving a faulty church organ. In 1818 in Oberndorff, Austria, Pastor Josef Mohr needed a song for services at his church on Christmas Day. The problem was the organ at the church was not working, so on Christmas Day in 1818, he brought a poem he had just written on Christmas Eve to the church organist, Franz Gruber, to see if he could write some music for guitar. Mohr had been inspired to write the lyrics out of necessity, but also because of the impressions he took away from his attendance at a Christmas presentation by a traveling group of actors held in a nearby home on Christmas Eve. Gruber came up with a tune that day, taught the song to the congregation that gathered for Christmas worship, and the rest is history. "Silent Night" is one of our most beloved songs sung at Christmas.

This story of a last-minute effort to put something together because of extenuating circumstances reminds me of the many times I have found myself scrambling at the last minute to put something together because a change was necessary. That is part of life experience. I do prefer to be able to plan things ahead of time and watch things unfold according to plan but sometimes this isn't possible. The only One who can guarantee that things will indeed take place according to plans that have been made is God.

Many mistakenly think that the Christmas Story is about God's last-minute changes that were necessitated because his original plans didn't work out. This is not the case. What took place in Bethlehem, and all that took place with regard to the life of Christ, was part of God's plan all along.

Ephesians 1:9-10 says, "He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." The event we are celebrating did not come about because God had to make a last-minute switch from the organ to the guitar. He intended to play the guitar all along.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday December 15, 2020

All around us are visual reminders of what season of the year it is. We have lights, greenery, trees, red bows, and many other images that serve to tell us, "It's Christmas time!" These seeable reminders are good things. We tend to be visual people, and "a picture is worth a thousand words."

The followers of God in ancient Israel had many visual images that reminded them of God and of many of his attributes. The design of the tabernacle spoke of the person of God and of his provision. Not every Israelite could see the Ark of the Covenant in the tabernacle, but it stood as a tangible symbol of God's presence, holiness, and provision for the people as well as a reminder of their obligation to God. At different times God had the people construct a special memorial to serve as a perpetual statement of his provision in a special way on a given date. When the people crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan near Jericho, God told them to "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight. . .to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." (Joshua 4:2-6)

Our ornaments and decorations are not nearly as formal, but they serve to remind us of what God has done for us in sending his Son and also serve to remind us that we have a duty to follow him. As we observe these symbols around us, let their meaning sink in and inform our celebration. We can use them as teaching tools for our children and also as a springboard into sharing the story of the Gospel to others. Each morning before I sit down at the computer to finish my article that you read daily, I turn on our tree. The wave of light that hits me emanating from the green branches of the tree sparks within me a prayer of thanks for the Light that has come into our world and into my life. Christ said "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) Let the visuals speak to us!

Pastor Steve
Monday December 14, 2020

I watched a Christmas special the other night (imagine that) where the family had a Christmas tradition of playing a game that featured each person writing something positive or encouraging about all the other folks in the room on individual slips of paper. Then, each family member would read out loud all the statements that were made about him or her and try to guess who wrote each one. The game was just incidental to the plot line that was being followed in the show, but I found it quite interesting. It looked to be a great exercise, especially for a holiday tradition.

As I watched the game unfold, one thought that came to me is that this little exercise should take place all throughout the year, not just at Christmas. This should be a feature of all families, and I think it should be a feature of the family that is the church. We should make it a point to lift up and encourage each other through words, notes, or other means of communication.

Do you have someone you need to encourage? Is there someone in your family who could benefit from a kind word from you? Proverbs 16:24 tells us, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." This is true at Christmas and all the year through. Share gracious words with others - they can be a precious gift.

Pastor Steve
Sunday December 13, 2020

I don't know if you have ever read O. Henry's classic Christmas short story, "The Gift of the Magi." If you haven't, you need to make a point to find a copy and read it. The story is about a struggling young couple that frets over how to go about obtaining the perfect Christmas gift for each other on their limited budget. The man wants to buy his wife gold hair combs for her long, radiant hair. The wife wants to buy the husband a platinum fob chain for his gold heirloom pocket watch. Neither can afford these expensive gifts.

Independently of each other, they make ironic decisions. The wife sells her hair to buy the watch chain, and the husband sells his watch to buy the gold combs. The moment of discovery is priceless as they realize the sacrifice they have made for each other.

A priceless moment of discovery for us is when we come to grips with the great sacrifice Christ made for us. He gave his life for us, and the appropriate response for us is to give our lives to Him. Christ exchanged his throne for a manger and a cross. This certainly does not seem be a fair exchange, but it is an exchange he chose for us. Romans 6:23 reminds us, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life though Jesus Christ, our Lord." What an incredible gift exchange!

Pastor Steve
Saturday December 12, 2020

A college student wanted to find out how much his soul was worth, so he offered his soul for sale on an internet auction service. Surprisingly enough, he received a few bids that topped off at a whopping $400.00. He wasn't too concerned about the person with the winning bid trying to collect - how can you separate an immaterial soul from the material body?

Our soul does have worth. Christ asked, "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?" (Matthew 16:26) Indeed, our souls have worth. They are worth enough for God to send his Son to the world to pay the price for our soul. He came into the world through the normal means of birth, grew up among the people that God chose, and then died on a cross to pay the price demanded by sin for the souls of men.

One of the marvels of the incarnation is that it reveals the willingness of God to freely pay the terrible price that is necessary for one's soul to be redeemed. So, it would seem that your soul is worth quite a bit.

Pastor Steve
Friday December 11, 2020

Elvis Presley had a big hit in 1957 with the song "Blue Christmas." This song was written by Billy Hays and Jay Johnson in the '40's. It was first recorded by Earnest Tubb in 1948. The song is about an unrequited love that is causing a person to be low emotionally around the holiday season.

Now, the intent of the song may be a little "light hearted," but there are a number of folks who are experiencing a blue Christmas. The holiday season triggers some depression caused by a recent loss, or maybe a loss that took place close to the holidays, or some other circumstance that brings pain. Remember to pray for these folks who may be struggling at this time of year. A visit, a kind word, a card might be appropriate to help them know they have folks thinking of them.

We need to remember the hope that we have because of what God gave to us. Focus on his promise, focus on his provision, focus on the hope he gives to us and the help he provides for us. Romans 5:15 & 17 speaks of the gift he has given to us, "But the gift is not like the trespass. . .For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ."

Allowing ourselves to focus on the Gift helps us to remember why this time of year brings us joy. God has given to us something we could never provide for ourselves. To those of you who are struggling emotionally, know our prayers are with you, and know that the Savior loves you and is there for you. Remember His Gift.

Pastor Steve
Thursday December 10, 2020

A little girl was roaming around her grandmother's house looking at all the Christmas items and trinkets that had been placed on tables and shelves for the holidays. She stopped at a small olive wood nativity scene that had been placed on an end table. She picked up the baby carving, cradled it next to her, and said, "Sleep, Baby Jesus." Of all the ornaments and Christmas knick-knacks in the room, she had singled out Christ.

This is as it should be. We are surrounded by many baubles, trinkets, tinsel, and other trappings of the season. Among the bombardment of Christmas regalia, we need to single out Christ. Christ should be the center of our lives at all times. We shouldn't fall into the error of putting him on some side shelf at this time of year because we are more concerned about other holiday endeavors.

Paul spoke of his desire to single out Christ amidst the cacophony of voices that clamored for his attention, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." (Philippians 3:7 & 10)

Make sure you single out Christ in your life not just at this time of the celebration of his birth, but at all times. And don t let the holiday voices confuse you in your celebration of Christ. Focus your eyes on him, and in this way demonstrate that you understand what is truly important in life.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday December 09, 2020

To me, one of the most compelling chapters in the narrative that we call the Christmas Story is the revelation to Mary of her part in God s plan of redemption. I have always been amazed at the response of Mary when she encountered the angel Gabriel and he told her news that would bring about great changes in her life. You can read the entire account in the first chapter of Luke s Gospel.

Mary was an ordinary Jewish girl who was living a normal life and then one day found out she had been chosen for an extraordinary position - to be the one who would give birth to the Son of God. One thing was for sure - she viewed this as a privilege and an honor. Her response indicated her willingness - "I am the Lord s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) She believed what someone has written, "To know God's will is a treasure; to do God's will is a privilege."

Do you look at your work for God as a privilege? Many of us don't give this a thought, and often we simply go a different direction rather than walk in obedience. We fail to see that serving God is not a chore, but an honor. Follow the example of Mary and do God's bidding! Look at opportunities to do God s work as a privilege. There is no higher honor than to serve the King!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday December 08, 2020

A popular television show in the 80's and early 90's had a theme song that contained the lyrics "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." It is nice to be known, to have folks call you by name because they recognize you and know you. Anonymity is overrated. We are made for recognition. We do like being known by others, to have others call us by name.

God is aware of this, of course. This is the way he made us. And he doesn't disappoint us when it comes to recognizing us. The scripture says that the God of the universe, the one who is able to call every star by name, knows my name and knows your name. Isaiah 40:26 tells us, "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing." This same God who can call each star by name knows me and is totally aware of what is taking place in my life

If you want to go where someone knows your name, you don't have to go very far. God knows you and He is everywhere. That means there is actually nowhere you can go where your name is not known! . Matthew 10:30 tells us, And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. When you are faced with a problem that doesn't seem to have an easy solution, remember God knows you and will be there to help. If He knows and takes care of stars, He can take care of you.

Pastor Steve
Monday December 07, 2020

Today is the 79th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii which brought the United States into World War II. I remember my father talking about this day. He was in the Army and was stationed near Ft. Worth, Texas. He was on his way to a football game, but never made it. The news about the attack went out and that all military personnel were to report to their base. It wasn't long before Dad found himself on a troop ship leaving San Francisco bound for the South Pacific. That would be his home for the next 4 years.

Our relationship with Japan has improved dramatically over the years, but our country has never forgotten this event. It would not be possible to forget an event that directly involved more than 16,000,000 U.S. citizens and had a tremendous impact on life for the entire population. Today there are still many who recall this day, but the numbers are shrinking. Of the 16,000,000 who actually served during World War II, less than half a million are still alive.

There is one thing on which I would like to focus as we reflect on the events of this day - the need to expect the unexpected. We do not know what circumstance is waiting for us just around the next bend in the road. We don t know what might happen. Obviously, we can't be prepared for all things, but realizing the potential of unexpected events can go a long way to helping us prepare for our response to such occurrences. The U.S. was taken by surprise on this day 75 years ago; however, the reaction of the country was what was important. The loss we suffered did not destroy us, but led to a response that ultimately produced victory. The victory was not secured easily. The response involved a great deal of time, cost, effort, and the loss of almost 420,000 U.S. lives, but the outcome was certainly more preferable than the alternative.

We have a similar choice when we face an unexpected circumstance that devastates us. We can allow it to destroy us, or we can respond in such a way as to eventually become victorious. And certainly an outcome of victory is preferable to the alternative. This requires an investment of time and effort, but we know we will not be alone. God will be with us each step along the way to our recovery.

The prophet Jeremiah declared, Why are you like a man taken by surprise, like a warrior powerless to save? You are among us, O LORD, and we bear your name; do not forsake us (Jeremiah 14:9)." Here he is commenting on what appeared to be a "surprise attack" against God and his people. What he is saying is there really isn't any such thing - God is never surprised, and his people can count on him to be present when they face an unexpected foe.

Pastor Steve
Sunday December 06, 2020

One of the important aspects about developing good relationships is learning about other's idiosyncrasies and differences and working to accept the differences. We need to learn the beauty of not wanting too control how things get done. This is really important in marriage, in other family relationships, and in any relationship. Sometimes we have a tendency to try to do things for others, to "correct" other's attempts, or to exact our methods and tendencies upon others.

We are all alike in many ways, but we are also different in many ways. We may go about performing the same task by following a different path. We need to learn to not impose our will and our way on others in a non-constructive manner. Remember that others do tasks in different ways. Remember that others have different likes and different preferences. Remember that others have different outlooks and expectations. Taking into consideration these differences is vitally important in developing good relationships.

God is the one who had created and sustains our diversity. Romans 12:6 tells us, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." Remember this as you work to foster your relationships.

Pastor Steve
Saturday December 05, 2020

Some time ago, Scherry and I were driving through Cincinnati, Ohio, when I saw a billboard advertising Skyline Chili. Many of you are familiar with Skyline Chili, but for those of you who are not, Skyline Chili is a restaurant chain that started in Cincinnati in 1949. Their specialty is chili served over spaghetti in Ways. Now, many restaurants do this, but I think Skyline does it best.

The aforementioned billboard featured a picture of Skyline s signature dish, Chili 3-Way, which is spaghetti, chili, and a mound of cheddar. The accompanying caption on the billboard proclaimed Pure Joy. For those of us who like Skyline, this ad would prove rather appealing. For those who really don t get the concept of chili served over spaghetti, such as my wife, this slogan really doesn t apply. Scherry s sauce of choice for spaghetti is marinara, which is fine. She has been known to ask, Why would you put chili on spaghetti? So, for Scherry, Skyline does not equal Pure Joy.

This scenario could be played out in a number of ways. There are any number of things that for some would bring pure joy, but for others, not so much.

You know, there is actually a biblical concept that fits this description. In Hebrews 12:2, we read a statement about Christ that begins, Who for the joy set before him. . . How would you complete this statement? What did he look at as joy? What did he do because of the joy set before him? What path did he follow because he knew it would bring joy? The author of Hebrews tells us that for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame. Whoa. That isn t something I would associate with joy.

If you will, let me expand this a bit. Who for the joy set before him, , , Jesus left his place in Heaven (Philippians 2:6-7); was placed in a feeding trough for animals when he was born (Luke 2:7); had to be taken to Egypt by his parents because some deranged ruler wanted him dead (Matthew 2:13); escaped a murder attempt by his own neighbors in Nazareth (Luke 4:29-30); was continually hounded and berated by religious leaders (see the Gospels); and then endured the cross, scorning its shame. These experiences do not sound like joy to me, but Jesus followed this path because joy would be the result.

Being able to bring joy to us led Christ to sacrifice himself. Thankfully, Hebrews tells us that he was able to sit down at the right hand of God (12:2), but even this is for our benefit (see Hebrews 7:25). The pure joy we have as followers of Christ is possible because of the gift of Christ. There should be no disagreement as to the greatness of this Gift.

Pastor Steve
FRiday November 4, 2020

Sometimes when I am driving, things get really blurry. I have trouble reading road signs, and I just can't see what is in front of me very well. Now, before you get too excited and start PM'ing me all over the place or whatever with advice about how I need to get this problem examined, let me tell you that I wear bifocals. So, things get a little blurry because I have my head in the wrong position and I am trying to look out of the "reading" part of my glasses. When this happens, I just make a little adjustment and look out of the correct part of the lenses.

In actuality, I don't have to wear glasses to drive anymore. This may be a surprise for some of you who have known me for awhile as you may remember my coke-bottle spectacles. I wore contacts for years, but when I had cataract surgery some time ago, my vision was corrected to the point that I no longer require glasses to see distances. This is the case even after my eye problems last year. On the other hand, I cannot see "my nose in front of my face," so I need reading glasses. I had bifocals made after my cataracts were removed because I got tired of keeping track of my "cheaters."

I usually wear my bifocals when I drive as I like to be able to read the dash. So, at times I have to remind myself to change my focus in order to see things clearly as I forget about the bifocals. And, of course, when I do change how I look at things, my vision improves.

This is something that also can be helpful in life, isn't it? That is, change how we look at something in order for our vision of that something to improve. We may have an issue, a problem, a dispute with someone else, a glitch in our own behavior, or something else that comes into clearer focus when we change how we are looking at that circumstance.

For example, if we are having a conflict with someone else, trying to view the issue from the other person's point of view can be the solution, or at least get us down the road to some sort of resolution. Sometimes we struggle with some sort of problem that has us buffaloed. Maybe looking at the problem from another perspective can give us some insight as to how we can go about resolving the issue.

Paul speaks about looking at things from another perspective to help us view things more clearly. "So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:18)

There are times that we need to pray for the vision of God so that we can have a more realistic view of what is taking place in our lives and so that we can see what is really important to see. Life can become a little blurry at times. Looking at what is there from a different perspective can be helpful, and it is wise to ask God for help to view things clearly. Make sure you are looking through the correct part of your glasses!

Pastor Steve
Thursday December 3, 2020

A lady found a wrinkled old baseball card and posted it on EBay, asking $10.00 for the card. She gave the card a second thought and then decided to pull the post while she had it checked out. After consulting with a sports memorabilia appraiser, she found out the card was an authentic 1869 Cincinnati Redlegs baseball card. As many of you know, the "Redlegs" were the first team in professional baseball. The card sold for $75,000.00 at auction, even though it was wrinkled and worn. The value was in its authenticity.

We need to be real in our Christianity. Being authentic is what determines value. Paul remained true to his faith in spite of getting "worn around the edges" from mistreatment. He wrote, "We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger." (II Corinthians 6:3-5) Paul was determined to allow the authenticity of the Christian message continue to shine through him despite being treated roughly.

We need to allow the truth of Christianity to shine through our lives even though we might get battered around by the struggles we face. Sometimes those struggles may even be caused by the message on which we stand. Continue to remain faithful and true! We need to remain real!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday December 2, 2020

The other day I was listening to some Christmas music on the radio. This is not an unusual thing to be doing this time of year. A song came on that intrigued me. It was a version of "Let It Snow" sung by Manhattan Transfer. Now, if you are familiar with Manhattan Transfer, you may grasp why I said I was "intrigued" when I heard the song. Manhattan Transfer is a vocal group known for their unique arrangements. They just put notes together is ways that are unexpected.

God is known to do that on occasion. He puts things together in unexpected ways. He brings things to our lives for which we were not looking. Now, he doesn't do this to be capricious or mean, he just does things the way he does because he knows it is the best way to do what needs to be done. That can cause us a little consternation at times, but it is good to continue to exercise faith in Him, as he will produce a beautiful harmony as He continues to work things out in his way.

Just think of the unexpected way the Promised One, the Hope of Israel, the Messiah, came into the world. His entrance was unusual and unexpected. He didn't appear with great fanfare. Even coming as a child in the way he did, he didn't come through a rich, powerful family who would lavish upon him all sorts of good things. He came by way of a couple who couldn't even afford the usual sacrifice when he was presented in the temple. His earthly father was a carpenter and his mother was a peasant girl. And all worked out in just the way it should.

Isaiah records the proclamation of God, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9) We would do well to take these words to heart.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday December 01, 2020

Some time ago, a 26-year-old Chicago waitress received a rather generous tip. She had struck up a conversation with a visiting businessman. She told him she was a single mother of two young children and had recently moved to Chicago in hope of better opportunities. At the end of the meal, he waived a stack of credit cards at her and told her to "pick a card." When she did, he told her to write herself a tip for $11,000 on his $60 bill. The patron was a CEO of a company on the east coast and was known for his philanthropic efforts. The waitress was on the receiving end of his generosity.

Being generous is a good thing. You may not be in a position of being quite as generous as this executive, but if God has blessed you, why not pass along your blessings by expressing generosity when you see a need? God has been generous with us we are celebrating His great gift to us. As we have the means and the opportunity, we are to reflect His generous nature.

Paul commended the Corinthians for their generosity, "you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so." (II Corinthians 8:10) They had given to the Jerusalem church that was experiencing severe financial struggles.

We are to give with gladness in our hearts. Paul tells us that "God loves a cheerful giver." (II Corinthians 9:7) When you see a need, do what you can to meet the need. As God has given you the ability, share with others and give as you should.

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.


Brad Tarr * Adam Wolf * Tyler Ghast * David Stankus * Sam White

First Baptist Church

June 1, 2019

Folks -

What a great time we had together this past week in worship! We want to inform you of some changes that will take place for our worship this coming Sunday, June 7. In light of information from the Illinois Department of Public Health, we are planning on moving worship inside this week. While we are eager to do so, there are some guidelines we need to follow in order to provide a safe environment for us as we make this transition. Below you will find an outline of what our worship experience will be. Continue to pray in the midst of all that is taking place, and continue to pray for our church and our ministries. Here are some guidelines for our time together as we take this step forward:

We will have two worship times to ensure that we can remain under the suggested number of folks for a gathering. There is not a perfect way to make this division, but here is what we are going to do. Folks with last names from A - L will attend the 9 a.m. service. Folks with last names from M - Z will attend the 10:30 service. We do NOT want to split families, of course, so if this is the case because of our method, please decide as a family which service to attend. We have a little room to be flexible in this area, but we still need to be careful with numbers for reasons outlined below.

Please be patient with us in this arrangement; we know it is not ideal, but we are in an experience that has rendered many of our activities less than ideal. The services will be identical in format.

Please enter through the west doors. Your family will be seated by ushers as we will be working to maintain spacing.

We will use "wedding dismissal" procedure, and ask you to exit using the north doors - we also ask that there be no congregating as you exit, especially for the 9 a.m. service, as we will be needing as much time as possible to prepare the church for the 10:30 service. Pews will be wiped down between services. Those arriving for the second service, please wait until doors are opened.

We are forming teams to prepare the church before the second service - if you would be willing to help, please contact the church office.

We will observe communion on Sunday, June 7th. The deacons, wearing gloves, will pass out the elements individually. If you want, you can bring your own bread and juice for this.

We will continue to have services on the website, YouTube, and Facebook. Blessings to all of you as we continue to move forward as God's people!

Update effective Sunday 9/13.

Our worship this Sunday will be as follows: A - I will meet at 9 a.m., and J - Z will meet at 10:30 a.m. Join us as we meet to celebrate the Savior! The services will be on YouTube, Facebook, and our Webpage. God is good, and we want to celebrate the goodness of our Father!

Update effective Sunday 9/20.

Folks - Worship this Sunday! J - Z will have service at 9 a.m., and A - I will have worship at 10:30 a.m.! By the way - I am home now and thank you for your prayers - hope to see you soon! Operation Christmas Child has begun - you can pick up your box at church - packed boxes will be due on Sunday, November 15!

Update effective Sunday 9/27.

Worship this Sunday! A - I will meet at 9 a.m. and J - Z will meet at 10:30 a.m. Join us in person, or worship with us as our worship time will be on Facebook, YouTube, and our web page!

ALSO - The churches of Jasper County are planning a prayer event for our nation this coming Saturday in the parking lot at Scott Avenue Christian Church, at 8:30 AM. This is in conjunction with a national prayer event to be held in Washington that day.

Update effective Sunday 10/4

Join us for worship this Sunday - J - Z will meet at 9 a.m.; A - I will meet at 10:30! We will celebrate communion this Sunday - so those of you who plan to worship at home, you can share with us - just have your own elements ready! We will be looking at Matthew 5:13 - "You Are the Salt of the Earth" - what does this mean? Come or watch along to find out!
Operation Christmas Child has begun - you can pick up your box at church - packed boxes will be due on Sunday, November 15!

Update effective Sunday 10/11

Hey Folks - Worship This Sunday! Still following COVID protocol of spacing and cleaning - so hope you will join us! A - I meet at 9 a.m; J - Z meets at 10:30. We will talk about "Learning from a Disaster" - Luke 13:1 - 8. Services will be on YouTube, Facebook, and our website that day.

ALSO - remember that we are hoping to hold a Trunk or Treat event on October 30 - are you interested? We have had some folks respond and we hope to have some more! Call the church office or respond to this email!

Update effective Sunday 10/18

PARENTS - Please watch for your weekly mailing from the church - there is a letter inside that details plans for a weekly Kid's Activity to be held between our services - details in the letter! This will start Sunday, October 25! Call the church or Pastor Steve @ 618/553-4264 if you miss the letter!

Worship This Sunday! Still following COVID protocol of spacing and cleaning - so hope you will join us! J - Z meet at 9 a.m; A -I meets at 10:30. We will talk about "An Encounter with God" - Matthew 6:5 - 8. Services will be on YouTube, Facebook, and our website that day.

ALSO - remember that we are hoping to hold a Trunk or Treat event on October 30 - are you interested? We have had some folks respond and we hope to have some more! Call the church office or respond to this email!

Update effective Sunday 10/25

See you in worship this Sunday! ! ! A - I at 9 a.m.; J - Z at 10:30! "What? Me Worry?" will be our focus from Matthew 6:25 - 34.

Parents - we start our Kid's Worship Time this Sunday! This will be from 10 - 10:30! If you come to early service, just plan on staying a bit longer. If you are in the later worship time, come early!! We have things set up for a safe worship experience for kids through 6th grade! Call the church if you have questions!

Trunk or Treat! ! ! Friday, October 30, 5 - 7 p.m. We can still use more cars!

Pastor Steve