First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Commentary

July 1, 2019

Just last week, I saw a post that contained a picture of a banner that said, "Bloom where you are planted," with the caption, "This has taken on a whole new meaning." That is an accurate observation. We are where we are, not able to do all that we would like to do, our lifestyles altered from what they were just weeks ago, and facing struggles we had not anticipated we would encounter.

The adage "bloom where you are planted" is usually applied in a circumstance when we find ourselves in a place or a position that is not really our first choice, but we are unable to change the circumstance. That would be a pretty accurate description of what is taking place now. What we would do at those times where the adage "Bloom where you are planted" fits would be something we can do now. Actually, there are several "somethings." Some of these are from an article written by Paul Chernyak. Most of what I will say is simply a reminder of suggestions I have written before, but sometimes reminders are helpful.

A good place to begin is to remember that we are in control of our thoughts. Acknowledge that you can take charge of your attitude about the situation. Another "something" we can do is to acknowledge the change that has occurred. There have been changes, and will be others. Of course, we can include our realistic hope that this circumstance will change in a positive way at some point. Thirdly, focus on what you have, not on what you don't. Look for things you can appreciate. Another "something" is to try to learn from what you are experiencing. Now, I know it is easy to say, "Grief, do I have to go through this to learn that?" Yes, this is difficult, but this is all part of trying to channel what we are experiencing in such a way as to decrease frustration, not elevate it. Finally, focus on acceptance. I hope some time of reflection on these thoughts will be helpful to some who may be struggling.

Let me conclude with some biblical perspective. Jonathon is a good example of someone who "bloomed where he was planted." Although he was Saul's son, and according to the prevailing practice at the time would be next in line for the throne of Israel, he accepted God's decision to choose David as the successor to his father. Jonathon chose to be David's friend and supported him in any way he could, even working against his father to save David's life.

We read about Jonathon's decision in I Samuel 18:1-4, "After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself...And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt." He learned how to bloom where he was planted.

Learning how to bloom where we are planted is good advice for us in a number of situations. Practicing these principles and following the example of Jonathon is something that can be helpful as we are experiencing a time that has given new meaning to an old phrase.

Pastor Steve Willis - First Baptist Church - Newton, IL

Devotionals

Pastor Steve Willis

Friday July 10, 2020

A little boy was watching his mother apply some creme to her face. "Why do you do that?" he asked. The mom replied, "Because it takes away the wrinkles and helps me look younger." "Then why isn't it working?" the little boy said innocently.

Oh, sometimes the truth hurts, doesn't it? There are times we need to hear a message we don't like, but it is the truth and we need to hear it. If we have someone close to us who is willing to deliver that message, we have a true friend indeed. Sometimes God uses those close to us to point out flaws even though honest words can be painful (Job 6:25) Telling the truth can sometimes be risky, but if we have a friend who is willing to take the risk to tell us the truth, we have a true friend. On the other hand, there are times we need to be that true friend and be willing to tell someone close to us something that isn't really pleasant to hear, but needs to be heard anyway.

David's sin with Bathsheba was something that had to be revealed. Nathan stood courageously before the king and declared, "You are the man." (II Samuel 12:7) These words led David to repent of his sing. Mordecai told his cousin Esther "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish." (Esther 4:14) These words spurred Esther into action that led to salvation for her people.

Proverbs 27:6 tells us, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." Be grateful if you have such a friend. Do the best you can to be this sort of friend for another. The truth may hurt, but deception can destroy.

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 09, 2020

I have always been fascinated with the story of Jonah. Jonah is a man who becomes frustrated with the grace of God. Thinking that the residents of evil Ninevah deserved judgment, he becomes angry when God relents in his punishment of Ninevah after the residents repent. Jonah preached a message calling for repentance, and his message was received and believed. Most preachers would be ecstatic with this result, but Jonah could not wrap his head around God's response.

He said, "Isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity." (Jonah 4:2) Why be unhappy about this? That is a good question, but Jonah certainly was an unhappy prophet.

We need to be careful about having this type of feeling towards those who have done wrong towards us or hurt us in some way. Our usual desire is to see justice done and others "get theirs" after they have hurt us. However, when people repent, God responds in grace. We should be happy with this because we are all in need of God's grace. The words of Jonah are so true, that God is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love." Give thanks for this, and keep this in mind when you struggle with someone who has caused you pain.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 08, 2020

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

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

We may not walk away from a mortgage, but we are often guilty of doing things that demonstrate a lack of love for others. When we leave tasks undone that others must finish, or fail to do something we should have done, or "make messes" that others have to clean up, we are in violation of Paul's words found in Romans 13:10 that say, "Love does no harm for a neighbor."

There are things that need to be done in our lives, in our churches, ministries that need to be accomplished, and work that begs to be finished. When we don't do our part to help with these, we leave the tasks for others. This is not a good way to show love for others and is also a case of robbing your neighbor.

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday July 07, 2020

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday July 06, 2020

Two individuals met on a street one day and engaged in conversation. During their exchange, the name of a mutual acquaintance came up. One told the other that he had just had a chance meeting with the acquaintance. The other said, "Oh, yes, and how long did it take before the topic of the conversation moved to him?"

Would this be something others say about you? It is good to be self-confident, but not self-centered. When we speak with people who seem to know nothing about anyone except themselves, or have a tendency to talk openly and frequently about their exploits, we soon grow tired of the conversation. What we need to learn from this is to make a conscious decision to avoid an unhealthy and annoying focus upon self.

Isaac Watts wrote, "Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to my God." Watts reflects the teaching of the apostle Paul who wrote, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)

When we are speaking of what Christ has done for us that is a reason to focus upon self. Scripture calls us to humility, repentance, worship, prayer and service. We shouldn't let a pre-occupation with ourselves get in the way of developing these characteristics. The things we boast about most reflect our inner values. Where does Christ fit on that list?

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 05, 2020

Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a famous Polish pianist who lived during the latter half of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. He was a statesman as well as a pianist. He was also a successful businessman. However, after his dalliance in business and his "retirement" from his quite varied political career, he returned to performing. He had received many honors and awards, including being names an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. During an interview, he said, "It is not from choice that my life is music and nothing more, but when one is an artist what else can he be?"

Huh? Your life is music and nothing more? What about your successful business? Your political achievements? What about all of your awards and honors? After all this, you still say that "when one is an artist what else can he be?" This was how Paderewski viewed himself. In spite of all the other accomplishments of his life, he viewed himself as an artist. That was what was important to him.

How do you view yourself? What do you consider to be your true identity? What is important to you? For those of the early church, the answer to this was clear - they were Christians. When "the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch" (Acts 11:26), that was a significant moment. They saw themselves and wanted to be seen by others in one way - as followers of Christ. To paraphrase Paderewski, "when one is a Christian what else can he be?" This should be our desire - to be like Christ, to be like him in any way we can. This is how we should wish to be known. What else can we be?

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 04, 2020

I have often wondered what was going through the minds of the 56 men as they put pen to paper to sign the Declaration of Independence. It has been famously reported that John Hancock said something like, "I am making my signature large enough that they will not need spectacles to read it." Whether he actually said this cannot be confirmed. We do know that he was the first to sign, so this may explain why the signature was larger.

Something else we know is that they were aware of the possible consequences of their signing. Much has been written about what many signers endured as a result of putting their name on the line to declare themselves free of English rule. Of course, they were not the only ones to pay a price on account of the desire to have a self-governing nation.

As followers of Christ, we need to realize there is a price to our discipleship. Our eternal life is free; salvation is based on the grace of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 reads, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast." We proclaim this firmly; however, as we continue in our walk with Christ, we often find that following Christ comes with a price. As we take a stand for him, we face opposition to our views and to our message. This opposition may simply be verbal encounters with those who differ in their views, but at times our jobs, opportunities to advance, relationships, and other aspects of our lives feel the effects of our determination to follow Christ. In our world, there are fellow followers of Christ who have to endure far more than this because they "put pen to paper" to declare their commitment to Christ.

Paul writes, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." (Romans 1:16) Christ told his followers of the price that came with true discipleship: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) As the signers were willing to face sacrifice, we should be willing to do the same.

Pastor Steve
Friday July 03, 2020

There were times in Christ s ministry when he walked on or moved away from people because the crowd tried to stone Him, when they tried to crown Him king, or when people tried to provoke a quarrel with Him. There were also times when he moved on for no apparent reason. Then, there were other times that He chose to unexpectedly engage with people or change His travel plans just to meet a single person. Why? He lived in accordance with God's call on His life, eliminating or adding whatever it took to accomplish the Father's purpose.

What would it look like for you to do the same in your life? What things would you add, and what would you take away? Many of us would not even think about altering our travel plans to be able to accommodate a chance to attend a worship service. We would not think about putting off the purchase of something we want in order to be able to give more when there is a need. We would not think about taking on more responsibility in our service to God because we simply don't have the time, but we always seem to manage to say yes to other activities.

Christ knew that following God's call meant he had to make changes to his agenda in order to be obedient to God's desire for him. This was reflected not only in his sacrifice on the cross, but throughout his ministry. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything." (II Corinthians 2:9) This should be our goal. Does it fit you?

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 02, 2020

U-turns are ambivalent entities. Sometimes they are legal, sometimes, they are not. Have you ever been tempted to make a U-turn at one of those places on the interstate where there is usually a sign that says something like, "Authorized Vehicles Only?" Don't answer that - no need to incriminate yourself. But, as I said earlier, there are times when U-turns are legal. In addition, there are times when they are not only legal, they are absolutely necessary. The key is to know when a U-turn is the right thing to do.

There are times in life when we need to do a U-turn. The people of Israel provide a good example of folks who failed to recognize the necessity of performing a U-turn. We read in Jeremiah 5:23-24, "But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say to themselves, `Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.'"

Israel needed to turn around and head the right direction. They needed to repent and follow the Lord. But they didn't heed the warnings and didn't see the need to make a U-turn. Instead, they kept on the path they were following. The result would not be good. God tells them in 5:15-17, "'O house of Israel,' declares the Lord, 'I am bringing a distant nation against you--an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand. Their quivers are like an open grave; all of them are mighty warriors. They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees. With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust.'"

I wrote earlier that sometimes U-turns are not only legal, they are absolutely necessary. Of course, I am not just referring to those that we need to make on an interstate or something. In our lives, we should know when and where to make U-turns. They can be an important part of getting where we need to be.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 01, 2020

Many years ago, a council of the Ministers of France was being held to discuss a treaty they had made with another country. Specifically, the ministers were arguing about breaking the treaty. Doing so would bring certain advantages to France. The council was leaning towards annulment of the document when one on the ministers spoke up. The Duke of Burgundy laid his hand on his copy of the treaty and said, "Gentleman, we have an agreement." With that, he voted against the dissolution of the document.

It is important that followers of Christ speak so that the Savior is glorified. Others need to know that they can trust what we affirm. Our word should be our bond, and being trustworthy should be looked upon as something to be desired. If you make a commitment, honor it. If you have an obligation, keep it.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:37, "All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'." If you are tempted to go back on an agreement or to break a promise, remember the words of the Duke of Burgundy, "Gentlemen, we have an agreement."

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 30, 2020

I would imagine you have heard the expression "you can't get blood from a turnip." This is a truism that can be applied in many ways. Other similar expressions are you don t get orange juice from apples ; you don't get honey from a coconut , and so on. The point of these expressions is to emphasize that whatever is inside of something is that which determines what will come out.

This is true in the case of a person as well. Jesus said, "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45)." A person cannot claim to be kind if his words are unkind. He cannot claim to follow the values of heaven if his mouth speaks the values of the world. Our speech attests to our character. Our heart is the well, and the mouth is the faucet. When the faucet is on, whatever is in the well comes out of the faucet.

Paul addresses this reality in a number of places. In Colossians 4:6 we read, "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Ephesians 4:29 says, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Clean up the inside so that what comes out will be pure.

Pastor Van
Monday June 29, 2020

Try this sometime - get someone to go with you to a beach or a park or other open area, put on a blindfold (this is why you need someone with you), and try to walk a straight line. You won't be able to do it. There is something within us that takes over and causes us to go in circles in the absence of some external outside point of reference on which to focus. We just can't keep straight.

Well, that's interesting, isn't it? It is also a problem we have spiritually as well. Without a guide, we will go astray. Scripture tells us we should stay on the straight path. The reason we don't is because we are messed up inwardly. Isaiah 53:6 says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way." The way to keep our paths straight spiritually is to walk in the way God leads us. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.".

The straight path is the place to be, but you will not find it on your own. Place your faith in God and let him direct your life. We need be led by God because, "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12)." Don't walk around in circles as if you are blindfolded. Let God direct you in a straight path.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 28, 2020

A grandmother took her three-year-old granddaughter to the beach for an afternoon of building sand castles and enjoying the water. After they had constructed a rather elaborate structure, complete with moat, the grandmother got up to deposit some refuse in a near-by trash can. She hadn't gone two steps when she heard a wail from her granddaughter.

She quickly returned to the little girl and asked, "Honey, what's wrong?" "I couldn't see you!" was the reply. "But, darling, I was just right there," said the grandmother. The little girl replied, "I know. But I couldn't see your face!" She wanted to be able to see the "I am right here and I am not going to leave you" expression in her grandmother's face in order to be assured that she was safe and all was right with the world.

David writes in Psalm 27:8-9, "My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper." We should want to see God's face in order to receive the assurance of God's help and protection. We seek his face in order to develop a deeper relationship with him and thus allow our faith in him to be strengthened. We seek his face to experience the affirmation of his care and our safety in his arms.

With all that is taking place in our world just now, it is hard not to have concern and to feel anxious. Uncertainty and unrest have brought questions and fear into our lives. We have no idea what might take place tomorrow, but we know we are following someone who does. We need to seek His face. Looking into the face of our Father gives us the faith to confront our most worrisome troubles. When look into the face of the Father, rest assured that we will get that "I am right here and I am not going to leave you" expression!

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 27, 2020
Do you want to know how to win friends and influence people? Be unselfish. When we make a decision to be unselfish, we start looking at ways to be of benefit to others. We look for ways to enhance someone else s life. Selfishness is at the root of the majority of interpersonal conflicts. Selfishness is a major reason why people are stand-offish and really not easy to be around.

Proverbs 11:24-26 says something about selfishness: "One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God s blessing on the one who is willing to sell."

Living in an unselfish way means you are easier to get along with. It means that you are respected by others because they appreciate your care. Living like this is certainly Christ-like. Living unselfishly will enhance your own life and help you to be of greater benefit to others.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 26, 2020

An article that appeared in "Lead Like Jesus" some time back said this: "When was the last time you forgave someone who offended you or hurt you? Most of us have the opportunity to offer and receive forgiveness on a regular basis. Forgiveness is a gift that God gives us in order for us to pass it on to others. Forgiveness that is hoarded without being shared freely is not being used for God's intended purpose. How does your willingness to forgive reflect the forgiveness of Jesus? Who do you need to forgive today?"

Forgiveness is very much on the mind of God. Of course, it was at the center of Christ's ministry. It had to be. If God was not willing to forgive, we would not have a hope. Christ came into the world because the world needed to be forgiven. And Christ wants his followers to be known as forgiving people.

Peter asked Christ how many times we need to forgive someone. Christ's response was a statement that said we really should not ask this question. He said, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22)." Forgiveness is more than what we do, it is what we are. We are forgiven people, and we in turn need to be forgiving people.

As you were asked earlier, "Who do you need to forgive today?" Make forgiveness a part of who you are, not just what you do.

Pastor Steve Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 25, 2020

Jeffie was a little boy who was doing his best to save his money in order to purchase a gift for his mother. The problem was Jeff really liked ice cream, and he was having trouble not spending his money to buy ice cream when the ice cream man came to his neighborhood in his brightly colored van. So, he prayed, "Please, Lord, help me run away from the ice cream man tomorrow."

Jeff had made a couple of rather astute observations: He knew his tendencies and he knew the best way to avoid these tendencies was to go the other direction.

We need to pray for this discernment in our lives. We should never forget that, even as a believer, we still have the inclination to sin. David proclaimed, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." (Psalms 51:3) We need to develop the same understanding of our weak spots. When we know our weaknesses, then we know we need to avoid those areas in order to resist temptation.

Use the advice Paul gave Timothy, "Flee youthful lusts." (II Timothy 2:22) Pray for discernment to know your weakness, and then pray for help to run from the weakness!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 24, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 23, 2020

Nehemiah opened himself up to criticism. What did he do? Well, he got busy rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem that was in ruins. His activity invited criticism, which is what usually happens when someone gets an idea and then steps out to enact that idea. Nehemiah 4:1-3 records some of this criticism, "When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, 'What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble burned as they are?'"

There are always critics who make their appearance when someone steps up to put action to words. This happens because of jealousy, fear, hatred, pride and other reasons.

If our activity invites criticism, we might ask ourselves, "Is any of this criticism warranted? Are there any good ideas or helpful suggestions that could make our plans better?" If there are some good thoughts, then all the better for us. If the criticism contains nothing more than worthless comments, then consider the criticism as a compliment that you are actually doing something and file the comments in an appropriate place. In addition, make sure you are not one of those who simply wants to be critical because you have nothing else better to do.

Theodore Roosevelt was a man of action. He said, "It is not the critic who counts; nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. There is no effort without error and shortcoming."

Ignore the critics and be a person who is in the arena, not part of the crowd. That is how things get built.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 22, 2020

Did you every play "Follow the Leader" when you were a kid? That was a fun game, and it was always kind of nice to be the leader so that everyone else did what you led them to do. They got to follow your example.

What would the world look like if everyone followed your example? What if they used your tone of voice and the words you use? What if their responses echoed your responses? What if they acted in the way that you do? What if they adopted your values and attitudes?

Would they look more like Jesus? Would they exhibit the same compassion, care, and willingness to forgive? Would they work through problems and deal with others with patience and a desire to understand?

If we ask these questions honestly, we may want to make some changes. In John 13:15, we find these words of Christ to his disciples, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." So, are we doing for others what Christ has done for us? How well are we following his example? What would the world look like if everyone followed your example?

Ask this question often and at various times. You may not like the answer in some circumstances, but the reason for the asking is that you might make an honest evaluation leading to meaningful changes. Live so that others can follow your lead!

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 21, 2020

Father's Day - a time to honor our dads and reflect on fatherhood. To all of you fathers, I wish you a good day and a marvelous time with your family. Without them, of course, you wouldn't be a father. Of course, I am also a grandfather, and that is something marvelous. I love time spent with my grandkids. I hope to see them soon

As I reflect on Father's Day, I cannot help but think of my own Dad. Dad has been gone for many years, but on days like today, I cannot help but think of him and how I was so blessed to have such a marvelous man as my father. Dad would have been 100 now. I cannot imagine him as that old. Of course, he isn't. Dad now is where he no longer ages; he is with his Heavenly Father.

I certainly think about my Heavenly Father today. Was it not for him, I would not have the hope I have of seeing my Dad again. I would not have the hope of living forever with my Heavenly Father and enjoying his presence forever. God will welcome me as did the father of the wayward son in Luke 15:23-25, "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'" Honor your father today, and don't forget to honor your Heavenly Father to whom you owe so much! Happy Father s Day!

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 20, 2020
Once, I read a story about a wounded duck. Some fishermen discovered a duck with an arrow protruding from its chest. All efforts to try to trap the duck so that they could remove the arrow were met with frantic maneuvers by the duck to escape. It is hard to blame the duck, but its instinct for self-preservation that led it to fly away whenever the would-be helpers came close was actually working to bring further harm. After some effort, they were able to contain the animal and take it to a near-by veterinary hospital. The duck was treated and eventually released with the hope that no more arrows were in its future.

We can be like that duck. We can make the wrong moves when we are wounded to cause further harm by evading those who would like to help us. We can even be this way towards God who wants to render aid but is met with resistance because we think we can handle the difficulty we are encountering on our own.

Don't be a wounded duck. When you need help, let others help you. Let God do what he does best for his children - heal your hurt and get them back where you need to be. Remember that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble." (Psalm 46:10)

Pastor Steve
Friday June 19, 2020

Not much baseball is being played right now, at least in the pro ranks, so I thought I would offer a little baseball analogy for your consideration. I found this story in a newsletter of another church several years ago.

Freddy and the Lord stood by to observe a baseball game. The Lord s team was playing Satan s team. The Lord's team was up to bat, the score was tied zero to zero, and it was the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs. They continued to watch as a batter stepped up to the plate named Love. Love swung at the first pitch and hit a single, because Love never fails. The next batter was named Faith, who also got a single because Faith works with Love.

The next batter up was named Godly Wisdom. Satan wound up and threw the first pitch. Godly Wisdom looked it over and let it pass: Ball one. Three more pitches and Godly Wisdom walked because he never swings at what Satan throws.

The bases were now loaded. The Lord then turned to Freddy and told him He was now going to bring in His star player. Up to the plate stepped Grace. Thinking he had won the game, Satan wound up and fired his first pitch. To the shock of everyone, Grace hit the ball harder than anyone had ever seen! But Satan was not worried; his center fielder let very few get by. He went up for the ball, but it went right through his glove, hit him on the head and sent him crashing to the ground; the roaring crowds went wild as the ball continued over the fence for a home run! The Lord's team won!

The Lord then asked Freddy if he knew why Love, Faith, and Godly Wisdom could get on base but didn't win the game. Freddy answered that he didn't know why. The Lord explained, "If your love, faith, and wisdom had won the game, you would think you had done it by yourself. Love, Faith and Wisdom will get you on base but only My Grace can get you Home: "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 18, 2020

On May 2, 1912, Frank and Emma Garber were told by the doctor "that one won't live" after a difficult delivery had left one of their twin girls with severe facial deformities. However, Angie Garber did live, and in spite of many difficulties, became what she wanted to be - a missionary teacher. You can read about her life in a book written by Bill Hybels and Rob Wilkens entitled "Descending into Greatness."

Surgery to correct her facial problems left Angie deaf in one ear. Her father died when she was young. When she was 19, she contracted polio that left her with little use of her left arm. She still cared for her mother for the next ten years. Five years after the death of her mother, financial problems led to the sale of the family farm.

Angie kept trusting in God to help her reach her dream of finishing college and becoming a teacher. Not only did she finish college, but in 1951 at the age of 38, she completed her master's degree at Grace Theological Seminary.

She became a teacher at a Navajo Mission in New Mexico, and for the next 34 years, lived and worked at the mission. Angie faced many obstacles in her walk of faith, yet she was determined to not be discouraged by these obstacles. She was determined to overcome what was in front of her and pursue a life of service to God. She took to heart the advice given by Paul found in Romans 8:35 - 37, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us."

What obstacles lie in your path? What is hindering you from living the life God intends for you to live? Don't let discouragement keep you from pursuing a life of godliness and service. Look to God for your strength and your guidance to navigate the minefields of discouragement.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 17, 2020

I am sure that you have heard the saying "necessity is the mother of invention." Well, in some cases, it may not be so much of a necessity as it is simply something that is very much desired. For instance, consider the invention of the outboard motor. Ole Evinrude invented a small, detachable motor that could be used to propel a small boat because of an incident with his fiancé. They were out boating when she decided she would like some ice cream.

By the time poor Ole rowed the boat to the ice cream stand and then returned to his fiancé, the ice cream was melted. He decided there must be a better way. A year later, in 1907, he submitted his invention of the outboard motor for a patent. HIs fiancé even came up with an advertising slogan, "Don't row! Throw the oars away!"

Evinrude came up with the idea of a lightweight, detachable motor for a boat because of a limitation he faced and the desire to accomplish a task he could not do under his own power. This is something to which we can relate both in the physical and the spiritual realm. We should always remember that there will be things we cannot do under our own power. We need to depend upon God's help at all times. We need to acknowledge our weaknesses and rely upon his power. A wise 20th century philosopher once said, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Yes, we do, and we need to remember the words of the Apostle Paul, "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. . .according to his power that is at work within us," (Ephesians 3:16, 20) As the songwriter put it, "His power can make you what you ought to be."

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 16, 2020

The early disciples lived life with the awareness that they could change the world through their message of the purpose of God. They realized the message they had could make a real difference in the lives of people. As a result, Paul and his friends received a criticism that was actually a compliment from the people in Ephesus. They said, "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here."(Acts 17:6) The King James Version translates this, "they have turned the world upside down."

What could happen if we lived with this same kind of purpose and passion? What would happen if we lived life with the awareness that we could change the world? We need to live with the awareness that every person with whom we come in contact is valuable to God. We need to live with the awareness that our interaction with others has the potential of revealing God to them as we live for Him.

Let's "turn the world upside down." As followers of Christ, let's live with the awareness that the message we have can bring about real change.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 15, 2020

Paul Meier wrote a book with a somewhat controversial title, "Don't Let the Jerks Get the Best of You." Few disputed the content of the book that intended to give advice for dealing with difficult people. However, there was some criticism about the title. Many did not like his use of the term "jerks." Now, I don't agree with the use of the term either. However, Dr. Meier did hit the nail on the head regarding the fact that we encounter difficult people. In actuality, we can all be difficult at times.

Christ dealt with a number of people who proved to be difficult - the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the temple priests, and even his own disciples at times. As we encounter difficulties with others, we need to emulate the example of Christ who responded with grace, compassion, and patience. If the situation warranted, he was stern in his response, but he was always in control, and he never let these encounters discourage him from doing what he needed to do. We should look at this example to keep ourselves from getting discouraged and sometimes making unwise decisions in the wake of a negative interaction. It also helps to remember that we can be difficult as well. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. Don't get discouraged - draw strength from the example of Christ when you face a time of challenge.

God knew Joshua would face times that would be challenging, including criticism from and confrontations with his own people. God told Joshua, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9) Keep this in mind as struggles caused by others arise.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 14, 2020

It seems that you have to be careful if you are relying on a compass for a navigational tool. Since 1989, the earth's northern magnetic pole has been shifting towards Siberia at a rate of 34 miles per year. That has accelerated from 4 miles per year in 1904. So, one needs to be careful when using a compass. You might want to consider a GPS instead, as this device relies on technology that is a little more stable and therefore more trustworthy.

We have to be careful in our spiritual lives as well. We have to be careful with shifting values and standards. Society likes to adjust what is considered to be acceptable and right. We have seen a great moral shift in our culture in the last several years. We should not rely upon societal norms when it comes to what we accept as wrong or right. We need to trust something that is more accurate and not subject to change. God has given us a moral code in the Scripture, and we should rely upon what the Bible says when it comes to living a life that glorifies Him.

Living a righteous life is a sign of maturity. The writer of Hebrews says, "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (5:14) Train yourself to distinguish good from evil. Follow the right instrument.

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 13, 2020

"And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6b) With these words, David closes what has become the most familiar of all the Psalms. Now, when David wrote this Psalm, even under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he did not intentionally set out to write "the most famous psalm." The psalm has become that because of all the hope and promise it contains.

The opening words are words of assurance and comfort, "The Lord is my Shepherd." The closing words express the hope that is a reality for all who trust the Shepherd, "And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." When you put the two together, they in and of themselves make a tremendous statement of promise and encouragement, "The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." However, as we have come to see, the psalm has much more to say to us than just this.

What a great promise is ours when we come to believe in the Shepherd. There is the promise of continual care in our current life and then, when this life is over, the promise of living with Him throughout all eternity. The promise of living in God's house is echoed in Christ's comments found in John 14:2, "My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

I have shared this story many times. When my oldest daughter, Stephanie, was about three or four, she was sad because her uncle (my brother) and his wife were leaving to return home after a visit. She asked me, "Daddy, why can't we just build a big house and all of us live there?" That is exactly what our Father is doing. The Shepherd is preparing a large dwelling for all of his sheep. We will all live there forever. What an ending - no, pardon me, this won't be the ending, it will be the beginning.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 12, 2020

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." (Psalm 23:6a) When David wrote this Psalm, he was coming towards the end of his life. A lot of things had happened over the years and not all of them were good. Many bad events that David experienced had been brought on by his own bad decisions. Other difficulties were out of his hands. Yet, through everything he experienced, he was able to say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." David knew that regardless of what took place in his life or what he experienced; God was with him.

This is a common theme throughout the psalms, whether they were written by David or not. Psalm 46:1 says, "God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in trouble." God is always there so that even through times of struggle, we can see goodness and mercy following us. This is a reality we can experience because the Lord is our Shepherd.

We can be confident that even those times of difficulty will work for our benefit because God is in charge and is directing our lives. We never need to ask "Where is God?", he is always right where we are.

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 11, 2020

"My cup runneth over." (Psalm 23:5c) As David reflects upon all that the Shepherd has provided for the sheep (for him), he cannot help but break out in an exclamation of praise, "My cup runneth over." The Shepherd had provided for his every need, protected him from a variety of evils, and proved to be faithful in every circumstance.

Isn't that just like our Lord? He is a Shepherd that provides for our every need, protects us from a variety of evils, and proves to be faithful at all times. Paul tells Timothy, "If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself." (II Timothy 2:13) The Lord will indeed remain faithful and will care for us in ways we cannot care for ourselves.

So, our "cup runneth over" with blessings that He has for us. When we take the time to consider our lives and all that we have received from Him, our cup simply cannot contain all He has for us. We read in Ephesians 3:20, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." He deserves our praise because we have more than we need.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 10, 2020

"Thou anointest my head with oil." (Psalm 23:5b) Irritations occur in life. We experience physical irritations, emotional irritations, and spiritual irritations. When the sheep experience irritations, the Shepherd uses soothing oil to remedy the problem. The oil helps the healing process and brings comfort and well-being.

God brings healing when irritations are experienced. He can bring healing in all the areas I mentioned above. God knows where to apply the "oil" that soothes the irritations and promotes healing. He gives us what we need to expedite the healing of our wounds.

We receive wounds in relationships, in encounters with others, even in the church, and we need oil to smooth the friction and promote resolution. God can provide what is needed. We need to seek the power of the Spirit when healing is needed. The oil of the Spirit is necessary for good health!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 09, 2020

"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies." (Psalm 23:5a) This statement marks a departure from the Shepherd-sheep motif that is found in the rest of the psalm. Usually sheep do not eat from tables. However, the analogy is certainly true that a good Shepherd will find a safe place where his sheep can eat. He will find a place away from the threat of wild animals, the threat of poisonous weeds, and the threat of not having enough to eat.

This is a good thing because sheep need a consistent source of food, a place away from noxious weeds as they are unable to determine the good from the bad, and a place away from outside threats as outside threats would throw them off their eating habits which would lead to other problems.

God will always put us in the right place. We can be sure that he will put us where we will be safe and where we will be amply supplied. He is the one who prepares the table - we don't have to fret about it ourselves. He knows where they serve the best food, so let him choose where he wants us to be. He will never let us down when it comes to providing for our needs and protecting us from things that would do us harm.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 08, 2020

"Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4b) The rod and the staff of the shepherd were the tools of defense and guidance for a shepherd in David s time. David talks about how these tools that the Shepherd has bring comfort. The Shepherd has a rod, which is a short club that is used as a weapon, and a staff.

The staff is a longer stick that is used for defense and as a tool for guiding the sheep. The staff also provides support and balance for the Shepherd. In other words, the Shepherd is well prepared to take care of any problem or enemy that rears its head.

God indeed has everything at his disposal that is needed to protect us from any enemy we might face. He has dominion over anything that threatens us. He is in charge and will watch over you. Knowing this should provide comfort as we rest safely in his care.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 07, 2020

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil." (Psalm 23:4a) I have never actually come face to face with death, although I do have a heart condition that I understand could be life-threatening. I have resigned myself to doing all I can to take care of the problem and trust God with my life. I still do not consider myself to have come face to face with death in the way that many have. People such as Adoniram Judson, Jim Elliot, and Howard Rutledge faced death and remained faithful.

I consider three volumes based on the lives of these men to be required reading for every believer. Judson's life is recounted in "To the Golden Shore." Jim Elliot's life and death are described in "Through Gates of Splendor." Rutledge's book is particularly compelling as it is not the account of someone in the work of the Lord per se, but the account of an American pilot who was shot down and captured during the Vietnam War. His book is entitled, appropriately enough, "In the Presence of Mine Enemies."

Rutledge describes how his nominal faith became a blazing witness through being sustained by singing hymns, quoting scripture, and praying during the seven years of his captivity, torture, and eventual release. Rutledge credits God for his endurance through this terrible experience.

Even though you walk through the valley of death, God will sustain you. In reality, we all are staring death in the face. The stories I have mentioned above are very descriptive accounts of those who faced death, yet continued to remain faithful to the One they knew had their lives in His hands. We all face death. God can and will sustain us in the face of our inevitable demise. Through our trust in him, we need fear no evil.

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 06, 2020

Good grief I didn't notice until I was getting ready to post today's devotional that I had posted yesterday the devotional that was intended for today. Thank you for being kind and not pointing this out. Today's was intended for yesterday, but the message is still the same.

"He restoreth my soul." (Psalm 23:3a) There is a shift at this point in the psalm from an emphasis on physical provision to spiritual provision. Whereas the previous statements regarding lying down in green pastures and still waters are physical pictures that could have a spiritual application, the statement "he restores my soul" is a plain reference to what God does for us spiritually.

What does God do for us spiritually? Well, he takes a soul that was dead, according to Ephesians 2, and makes us alive. Paul writes, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. . .But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions." (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5)

He restores our souls. He gives us life. There is a mini-progression in these first verses of Psalm 23 from the provision of what is needed to sustain life to a statement of the giving of life. He restores our souls. If you are estranged from God and you need the provision of life, God will restore your soul if you ask.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 05, 2020

"He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake." (Psalm 23:3b) If sheep are left in a given pasture for too long, overgrazing will occur and you will end up with a dust bowl. Sheep require a lot of pasture to ensure a sustainable source of food. Rotating the flock is what many sheep ranchers will do. A good shepherd knows when to take the sheep down a path that will lead to other places of provision.

God will do the same with us. He wants to lead us in paths where we will find new sources of help, encouragement, and provision. We need to be willing to follow him. We need to stay on the paths he prepares for us and go where he leads us. God leads us along paths for His name's sake.

He leads in ways to give us opportunities to reflect his character and his glory. Let him lead us in the way he wants. As I have written before and I will write again, God really does know what he is doing. We need to let him do it.

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 04, 2020

"He leads me beside still waters." (Psalm 23:2b) From what I have read, sheep do not like to drink from running water. Now, I really don't understand this, as back in my younger years, I enjoyed drinking from rippling streams that were found in the hills around my Papaw s farm. For some reason, I always thought that the bubbling water looked fresher and cleaner than the still water.

In actuality, the rippling water was no fresher or cleaner. Another thing that I didn't consider was the fact that, as one writer puts it, "still waters run deep." The ripples were created when the water was moving over a shallower area. When water runs in deeper areas, it is still, tranquil, peaceful, almost solid. There is a lot of substance there.

So it is with us when we allow ourselves to go deeper in the reality of Christ. Plumbing the depths of the mercy and grace of Christ allows us to be grounded, be tolerant of others, and be knowledgeable of God's ways and desires. We should indeed allow Christ to lead us beside still waters. "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (John 4:10)

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 03, 2020

"He makes me to lie down in green pastures." (Psalm 23:2a) I often wonder what has happened to the days when I used to lie down in the yard and just stare up at the sky. There was something so compelling about lying in the grass and watching clouds pass by. It was refreshing, almost rehabilitating, to spend time doing nothing but admiring the surroundings put there by God.

This is why a shepherd makes the sheep lie down in green pastures - it keeps them calm, relaxed, and content. Spending time focusing on what God has provided brings a sense of well-being and tranquility.

God wants to help us lie down in calm surroundings. He wants us to know true peace. He wants us to know true peace of mind. He wants us to experience the fullness of his presence. He wants us to know true contentment.

When you feel harried, depressed, or frazzled, why not take a page from your childhood and go stare at some wonders in God's creation? Why not "lie down in green pastures" and reflect on God's provision for you? Don't ever forget the Shepherd's provision! "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture." (John 10:9)

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 02, 2020

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." (Psalm 23:1) If the Lord is my Shepherd, that means I must be a sheep. And that is exactly what I am - a sheep that really needs a lot of attention. I need a good fence to keep me in because I prone to wander aimlessly. I need to be protected from parasites that attach themselves to my skin under my wool or in my ears. I need shots to keep me from disease, and food and water (more later on these latter two).

As a sheep I pretty much am totally oblivious to what is going on around me, so constant care is necessary. And that is where the Shepherd comes in. A shepherd understands all the work involved with sheep, yet still chooses to be a shepherd. Even as a shepherd has willingly chosen this way of life, so the Great Shepherd chooses to keep watch over us as his sheep.

He knew he would need to pay a great price to provide for his sheep, and he did. He is willing to do whatever it takes to care for His sheep: "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:27-28)

Pastor Steve
Monday June 01, 2020

For the next few days, we are going to take a look at one of the best-known passages of scripture in the Bible - Psalm 23. I am sure you are familiar with it, and many of you can perhaps even quote the entire passage. I remember memorizing it for a Cub Scout project when I was in the third grade.

I don't remember all the details, but I remember my den mother, Esther Irby, challenging me to memorize Psalm 23. Many of you may remember Esther. She is another person who made a big impact on my life as I was growing up. I was asked to memorize Psalm 23, and so I did. I remember standing on the steps in her house to quote it. Why I stood on the steps is another fuzzy recollection.

Anyway, I wrote this series about ten years ago. I drew upon a number of sources for many of the analogies. I would like to share it with you. As I think about the idea of memorizing this passage, I am reminded of something I heard about memorizing scripture many years ago. I don't know if it was a teacher, or I heard it in a sermon, but I remember someone saying, "It is good to memorize scripture, but just make sure that what is in your head is in your heart." That is a true statement. For example, knowing the 23rd Psalm is not so important as knowing the Shepherd. It is easy to know scripture without knowing the Author.

Right now, as much as any time in history, and many would say more so than at any other time in history, we need the guidance of the Shepherd. Humankind has been in a mess from the time of the fall, and we are certainly seeing the effects of the fall being displayed in horrific fashion. As we see what is taking place, focus on the Shepherd. Let Him move in your heart to bring change where change is needed, comfort where comfort is needed, and courage where courage is needed.

Pray for the intervention of the Shepherd in the lives of people whose hearts need to be changed and in the lives of people whose hearts need to be comforted. It is good to have in our heads the words of the Shepherd, but better to allow the words of the Shepherd to change our hearts. Remember the words of Psalm 119:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart." Make sure that you have.

Pastor Steve

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.

Invitation

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!

Activities

Weekly Schedule

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

July Schedule


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.

Deacons

Tyler Ghast
David Stankus
Brad Tarr
Adam Wolf
John Dryden Jr.

First Baptist Church
Reopening

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 6/14.

We had marvelous worship services last week but thought we may want to "tweak" our experiences in some areas.

We think we can do better with our people division, so the groups will consist of folks from A - I in one group, and from J - Z in the second group.

This week, Sunday, June 14, folks in the group from J - Z, will meet at 9 a.m. for worship. Folks in the group from A - I will meet at 10:30. Once again - we do not want to split families, so decide which service to attend.

We will flip the groups from week to week - weekly emails, website news, and Facebook postings will help to keep you on top of your worship time from week to week.

Communion this week! Deacons will serve individually or bring your own elements!

Update effective Sunday 6/18.
Sunday - June 21st - Group A - I will attend the 9 am service and group J - Z will attend the 10:30 service.
Update - VBS 6/18.

Folks - as we announced earlier, we will not have a traditional VBS this year, but we can still have a VBS experience. Attached to this email you will find a letter that details all the information needed about BOLT VBS, which is available now to our church as the CE Board decided to go this route.

The attached letter should answer any questions you might have as to when, how, what, etc. Contact the church if you have something not covered. This is for anyone in the church, and grandparents, if you have grandkids who might enjoy this experience, pass along the contact information contained in the letter! This is VBS, so we can invite whom we wish! If any of you know of other kids who might like this - pass the info along! The website and the password for the information and all you need for the VBS is in the letter!

We hope you enjoy the VBS experience - Great Bible stories, crafts, games, and really good music!

FBC CE Board
Hi Folks!

BOLT VBS IS HERE! We previously sent you an announcement about our VBS this year - it will be an alternative to our traditional program since COVID-19 has led us to change our plans. Though it will be different - this looks like an exciting program that we are sending your way!

With minimal preparation, easy-to-follow instructions, and a video that leads you and your kids step-by-step through each of the 3 days, BOLT is designed for you to perform with your family at home. It's so simple!

We want to give you some more details to help you and your family have the best possible experience. Decide when you would like to have your BOLT VBS experience and then. ahead of time, go to https://www.gocurriculum.com/bolt-vbs - click on the "Family Portal:link, and then enter this password:

LETSBOLT (all caps).

Start by reading the "Parent and Leader Guide" ahead of time. (I've also attached the guide to this email for your convenience.) The guide will answer so many of your questions and give you simple step-by-step directions for using BOLT. There are a few materials you'll want to gather beforehand, but when BOLT begins, the videos will tell you what to do and when to do it. It really is easy!

The "Family Portal" also has all of the videos and documents you'll need for each day. Be sure to read the games document ahead of time so you can be prepared. Then, when you're ready to begin, simply go to the "Family Portal" and play the Day 1 video. The video will periodically tell you to pause in order to play a game, read from the Bible, or answer a question.

And remember, if you feel comfortable gathering with more people, you can invite as many neighbors, friends, and family to your house for BOLT as you would like. It's such an easy and fun way to share the good news of Jesus with our community.

Lastly, take lots of pictures! We'll give you some opportunities to share them with everyone. In the meantime, let me know how we can help you. You and your family are going to LOVE THIS! If you have any issues or questions, contact the church office at 618/783-2226, or call Pastor Steve at 618/553-4264.

Update effective Sunday7/4.

WORSHIP TIMES THIS WEEKEND: A - I MEETS AT 9 A.M., J - Z MEETS AT 10:30! REMEMBER, OUR SERVICES WILL BE ON OUR WEBSITE, ON FACEBOOK, AND ON YOUTUBE! WE WILL CELEBRATE COMMUNION, SO IF YOU ARE WATCHING INTERNET SERVICES AND WANT TO PARTICIPATE, HAVE THINGS READY!

Pastor Steve