First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Commentary

October 1, 2020

Times of uncertainty and unrest often stay around longer than we would like. This certainly is the case with the struggles we are facing on account of COVID-19. When this first hit, you may have been like me and thought we would be facing a little time of precaution, and then things would "right themselves." Obviously, this isn't the case. As one person put it, "unsettled times have seemed to settle on us like a wet blanket, weighing us down and exposing us to every cold wind that blows." We would like things to return to normal - to be the way they were before we encountered this crisis.

The thing is, we don't know when that will be, and we don't know if things will ever be the same as they were. Now, in the normal course of life, we know that we will face events that are life-altering. We should expect them, and I have written many times before about "expecting the unexpected." The issue with our current experience is that it is something totally off of anyone's radar. It is something for which no end can be defined, and we have no idea the extent of the effect it will have on our lives before the end finally comes. In addition, it is truly a universal experience. Everyone is facing this all at the same time.

So, to help us come to a position of peace with our present reality, we need to quit longing for the days of the past. This may not be an easy attitude to adopt, but it is a step that needs to be taken on the path towards developing peace at heart. God calls us to look for His presence here and now. Remembering who He is and that we are His, that we are in His hands, helps to steady our hearts and transform our perspective. We are in the hands of God, and we can rest assured that His hands offer comfort and peace.

Christ gave these words of assurance, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father s hand." (John 10:28=29) This is our present reality, and focusing on this and what is, not on what might have been but is not, will give us a more stable perspective of life as it now is.

Proverbs 4:25-26 speaks to the advantage of maintaining focus on the positive path of life, "Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established." To maintain perspective in the midst of our uncertain times, focus on the presence of God.

Pastor Steve Willis - First Baptist Church - Newton, IL

Devotionals

Pastor Steve Willis

Thursday October 22, 2020

Airline restrictions that have appeared in recent years regarding charges for luggage have changed the way people prepare for trips. These charges made me look more closely on how I pack for trips. Of course, right now folks aren't doing as much traveling as they might, but when you do, you think differently than you did a few years ago. It is amazing how much we can do without stuff when forced to think about what we really need. I used to be one of those folks who severely over packed. I cannot say I am an expert "packer," but I have found living on less is not a real problem.

Why is it that we think we need stuff? Why do we tend to be "packrats" and accumulate so many things we don't need? There are so many things out there that are advertised as items we "cannot do without." In reality, these items are probably the first things we should avoid, or the first things we need to eliminate if we already have them.

We need to avoid this tendency in our spiritual lives. Jesus warned against this tendency in Luke 12. He warns, "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21) Be rich toward God and don't accumulate extra stuff that won't do you any good. Focus on what you really need.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 21, 2020

I remember reading an article that talked about the divided opinions regarding coyotes. Coyotes have made a comeback in my lifetime. Their increasing numbers are viewed as a threat by many because of dangers posed to domestic animals and small livestock. However, others view them as a positive addition because of the role they play in rodent control. So, is their presence to be viewed as positive or negative? It would seem that one's perspective plays a role in the determination of opinion.

The same can be said about those problem situations we face or those dear folks with their biting criticism we often encounter. Are these good additions to our lives or are these negatives? It would seem that one's perspective can play a role in the determination of their status. If we decide to do what we can to learn from adversity or from negative criticism, then it seems we can turn what is a negative into a positive. Now, I am not saying this is an easy thing to do, but if you have lived any time at all, you know that you will not be able to avoid these situations, so what can help is to do your best to make them useful experiences. We recognize the danger they pose, but do we see the benefits that can be derived from their presence?

Paul learned to benefit from negative experiences in his life. He said, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (II Corinthians 12:10) There is no secret formula to how to develop this attitude; it comes from developing spiritual discipline and letting the Holy Spirit work within us to motivate our response. Ask God to help you see the positive where others only see the negative. </

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 20, 2020

In a world where the population continues to increase, I have long maintained that concern for others continues to decrease. All you need to do is visit a parking lot of your nearby grocery store or mall to see the evidence of this. Parking lots are battle zones. Folks fail to yield when they should, continually drive the wrong way, and the boundary lines which delineate parking spaces mean nothing as double parking seems to be the rule and not the exception. To me, the driver of the double-parked vehicle is saying "I am more important than you and whether you have a place to park or not is irrelevant."

Have you seen Fried Green Tomatoes? There is a scene in the film where the character played by Kathy Bates gets really frustrated because a young female driver cuts her off to get to the only available parking space in a parking lot. As the young girl exits her vehicle after pulling in front of Bates she says, "That's how it is when you're younger and faster." Bates, in a fit of anger, smashes into the girl s car and then calls out to the girl, "That's how it is when you older and have more insurance."

Our care for others needs to extend beyond parking lots. We need to open our eyes to see the need of those around us. Christ taught this principle and demonstrated this principle in so many ways when he was on the earth. His life was all about others and we should be glad of that. If it wasn't, he would not have let them put him on the cross.

Christ told his followers that the second greatest commandment was to "Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:31) In other places he defined a "neighbor" as anyone who happens to be close by and has a need. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10?

Don't get into Parking Lot Wars. Be considerate of others. I don't care if you do have good insurance.

Pastor Steve
Monday October 19, 2020

So, what are the two most wonderful words in the English language? Have you ever thought about that? Has anyone even ever asked you that? Well, you have been asked, so what do you think? Let me give you one suggestion as an answer to the question, "What are the most wonderful words in the English language?" I submit that the two most wonderful words are "But God", regardless of what language you use. Whether you say "pero Dios" or "mais Dieu" or "Aber Gott" or even "Kai Theos", these are the most wonderful words.

Perhaps you ask, "How are these the most wonderful words?" Let me give a few reasons: "Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him" (Acts 7:9); "But God has helped me to this very day" (Acts 26:22); "But God had mercy on him" (Philippians 2:27). And how about, "But God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions"? Wow - isn't that wonderful? This is possible because "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." (Acts 2:24)

We were headed down a path towards destruction, but God intervened. Now, where death ruled, we can celebrate life. There was no hope for us, but God gave us eternal hope. I don't know about you, but I think the words "but God" are wonderful.

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 18, 2020

I think I wrote my first love note when I was in the sixth grade. That was also the time I remember receiving my first love note. As I remember, the notes were really thoughtful and deep, something like, "I love you. Do you love me? I hope you do. Because I love you. Love, Steve." Isn't that profound? Well, it may not be the pinnacle of literary endeavor and I am sure it wouldn't scare Shakespeare, but it was effective. The ones written to me were along the same line, and I remember reading them over and over with undivided attention. Those notes really had my focus.

Something else that should hold my attention in this way is another love note that was written to me - actually, not just to me, but to all the world. The Bible is a love note from God to all of mankind. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 reflects the theme of the Bible.

Since we know this to be true, we need to read the Scripture with the same excitement and anticipation as we do a love letter. God has so many wonderful things to say to us. It really is a shame we miss so many of them because we fail to read them! Give God your undivided attention!

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 17, 2020

Have you carved your pumpkin yet this year? Some were sort of fearful that our wet weather would diminish the pumpkin crop, but it appears that diligent farmers have once again triumphed and there seems to be an abundance of the round, orange globes available just for the purpose of decorating and carving. We don't carve pumpkins much anymore as our daughters are all grown up and not around to participate in this task. But I have many fond memories of picking out just the right pumpkins and then spending time preparing them for display.

When you work on a pumpkin, the last thing you do is put in the candle. I remember reading an article by Christopher de Vinck where he called this activity "putting in the pumpkin's heart." Even after the carving, the pumpkin really doesn't seem like much. But when you put in the candle and light it, the pumpkin seems to acquire a personality all its own. That simple little flame inside seems to give it life and makes a statement to the outside world.

Do you let your inner light show to the outside world? Do you let your heart make a statement to others? As followers of Christ, we have light within us that makes us distinctive. However, that light is not meant to be hidden, but to shine brightly to others so that they can see our heart. More importantly, as we let the light out, they are able to see the heart of the Savior.

We read the words of Christ in Matthew 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Let your light shine!

Pastor Steve
Friday October 16, 2020

On November 5, 1947, just two months after being named Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall delivered a prayer that has been entitled "Bifocals of Faith." Before the statesmen of the day Marshall prayed, "God of our fathers and our God, give us the faith to believe in the ultimate triumph of righteousness, no matter how dark and uncertain are the skies of today. We pray for the bifocals of faith that see the despair and the need of the hour but also see, further on, the patience of our God working out his plan in the world he has made."

Hope springs from a heart that trusts in God. All around us we see so many dark clouds of despair and hopelessness. We are beset by economic, medical, and emotional battles aside from the political uncertainty of our day. But with hope, we know that there will be a day of triumph. We know that God is in control and will turn the dark and uncertain days into a time of peace and joy. This is what Marshall proclaimed in his prayer.

Psalm 42:5 proclaims, "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." We need to pray for "bifocals of faith" so that we can see God working out his plan in the midst of a troubled world.

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 15, 2020

The most popular image of Christ ever produced is Warner Sallman's "Head of Christ," which he painted in 1941. This image has been reproduced over 500 million times. Mr. Sallman had been working against a deadline to produce an image of Christ. He struggled with the image: how should Christ be depicted? He awoke in the middle of the night, just hours before the image was due, and penciled the rough sketch that would become "Head of Christ."

It is no wonder that Sallman struggled with what to paint. The New Testament does not contain any physical description of Christ at all. Was he tall or short? Was his hair curly or straight? Was he homely or handsome? We really don't know. Our desire to know what he looked like is so strong that we sometimes accept images such as Sallman's as reality. This, or course, is a mistake.

It really is good we don't know what Christ looked like. This makes us concentrate on what we do know something about - his ministry and his character. The New Testament says quite a bit about both of these. And since it does, these are the aspects of Christ on which we should focus.

I m glad we have no actual physical description of Christ. If we did, we would want to emphasize this in our study of Christ. We would want to imitate his physical appearance. In our appearance-crazy age, I would imagine we would do all kinds of things to "look like Jesus." I am sure that even plastic surgery would be in the mix.

What is important is that you be like Christ and act like Christ, not look like Christ. Paul talks about emulating the attitude of Christ in Philippians 2:5, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus. . ." Colossians 2:6-7 says to us: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." We don't know how he looked, but we do know how he lived. We should want to live like Christ, not look like Christ.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 14, 2020

Ten years ago, I didn't watch the live broadcast, but I saw footage of the last Chilean miner being pulled to safety. That was really incredible. The rescue operation went better than expectations, with the miners being brought out of the mine ahead of the projected time frame. The operation went smoothly, and we certainly saw an answer to prayers.

Jimmy Sanchez, one of the miners, said, "There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here." When I heard this statement, I couldn't help but think of the passage in Daniel 3:24-25 that reads, "Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, 'Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?' They replied, 'Certainly, O king.' He said, 'Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.'"

In both of these situations, we see God answering prayer and taking care of problems. From a human perspective, we would almost say these are "perfect" interventions from God. But what if things had not worked out as well as they did? What about times when we pray and we see what we might call, from our perspective, less than perfect interventions from God?

Our response to these times needs to reflect the attitude of the three men who were thrown into the fire. Earlier, when confronted with the decision to obey Nebuchadnezzar's demands to bow down before the golden image or die, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had replied, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (3:16-18)."

This needs to be our attitude of confidence when we are looking to God for an answer to prayer. The three men had thrust the problem into the hands of God, and had determined to remain faithful to him no matter what the outcome of their dilemma. This needs to be our mindset as well. We are so thankful that all went well in the Chilean rescue effort. But what if the operation had not been so successful? Should we then say, "God did not listen to our prayer?" Reading Daniel 3 should provide the answer to this question. We need to pray and trust God, knowing that he always knows what is best.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 13, 2020

Ten years ago today, the last of 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped in a copper mine since August 5 of 2010, was rescued. One interesting bit of news that emerged from that experience was that the miners argued over the order in which they would be rescued. Now, they didn t argue over who should go first, argued over who should go last. No one wanted to go first.

Chile's health minister, Jaime Manalich, told reporters that the miners' response to his communication regarding the order in which they would be rescued by saying, "'Mr. Minister, that's fine but I want to go last please'. "And then another guy said, 'No, my friend, I said that I was going to be the last one up'. 'No, no, really - I want to go last, please', another guy started saying."

Not what one might expect, is it? Reminds me of a passage I wrote about not long ago that says, "But many who are first will be last, and the last first (Mark 10:31)." In the experience of the Chilean miners, we have a real-life portrayal of how this concept should play out. After more than two months underground, no one wanted to be the first to leave. They wanted others to go before them.

I hope we have this attitude in our churches. We should put the benefits of others ahead of our own. We should not covet to be "Number 1." We need the attitude of John the Baptist that is reflected in his comment about Christ, "He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:31)."

So how are you doing in your struggle to become less? "You go first" should be words that roll easily off our tongue. We should push for the success of others in their Christian experience. Having this mindset is a plus for the entire church. Let's get the "rescue order" right!

Pastor Steve
Monday October 12, 2020

Have you ever had super glue or oil-based paint on your hands? If you have, you know these substances don't come off with just soap and water. You need another special solution to remove them. However, with the right solvent, you can remove the glue or the paint easily.

We sometimes face burdens that prove to be sticky and hard to remove. They just don't seem to go away no matter what we try. The joy of the Christian life is knowing that God can handle anything we turn over to him. However, one of our weaknesses seems to be our unwillingness to hand over to God the issues that we can't handle. For some reason, we want to hang on to them even though we know we are incapable of finding a solution to the problem. They stick to us like super glue or paint. We need to heed the advice of David found in Psalm 55, "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." (vs. 22) Give these issues over to God and let him provide what is necessary to solve the problem. There are times when we don't want things to "stick to us like glue".

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 11, 2020

Psalm 23 is the most recognized psalm in the scripture, and perhaps the most recognized passage of scripture period. Millions have found comfort in this chapter that begins, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. . ." Many of you will remember that, not long ago, I presented a series of articles based in Psalm 23.

This marvelous passage of scripture was written by an author who was described by od in this way, "I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do." (Acts 13:22) About him it is also written, "For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the Lord's commands all the days of his life-except in the case of Uriah the Hittite." (I Kings 15:5)

It sometimes is hard to realize the person who committed the awful acts surrounding the seduction of Bathsheba and the arrangement of the death of her husband could write scripture with such a powerful impact. This serves to remind us of many things. This shows that in spite of our sin and mistakes, we are not disqualified from God's service. When we repent of our mistakes and come to God, trusting his mercy and experiencing his forgiveness, we are restored to usefulness in his plan.

David's confession and plea for forgiveness is found in Psalm 51. Psalm 51 may not be as well-known as Psalm 23, but the impact and promise are just as significant and important. David's trust in God permeated his life and leadership, through good times and bad, giving him courage and confidence to face the future. It was his trust in God and confidence in God's mercy that sustained him in spite of personal failure.

We sometimes struggle with how we fit into God's plans and purpose because of what we have done that we feel keeps us from being used by God. If you struggle with this, remember Psalm 23 and Psalm 51. Consider the experience of the person who wrote these marvelous testimonies of God's provision and God's mercy. What God did for David he will do for you. Appreciate and experience God's grace so that you can be utilized for God's glory.

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 10, 2020

There are times when important people need to go unnoticed. For example, those working behind the scenes on TV broadcasts, or even at live concerts, need to go unnoticed because if their presence is visible, it would distract from the performance or the production. Yet, they are vital to the presentation. If they weren't there, the show would not go on. Technicians, "roadies", and even directors stay behind the scenes but their contributions are necessary.

Jesus said this is the way it should be when we come to the Father in prayer. He told his disciples that when they gave, prayed, or fasted, they shouldn't do it to draw attention to themselves or to please others. They need to do these things to please one person - God. Christ said, "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1)

We don't go about our spiritual disciplines as if they are performances to please or entertain others. We do these things to bring glory to God and to please him. Something within us makes us want to be recognized for our good deeds. There is no wrong in encouraging others and recognizing others, but we should not do things for the recognition. As desire for praise detracts from the spirit of service. We should do things for the Lord.

Pastor Steve
Friday October 09, 2020

I have heard it said, "Never trust a carpenter with soft hands." The meaning of this is evident - if someone claims to be a carpenter then the hands should let it be known. If someone claims that they are in the business of carpentry and their hands look like they have never touched the first piece of wood, then you may want to think twice before you have them fix your roof or add a room to your house. And you certainly need to think carefully before you let them build a house for you. One's hands reveal something of the kind of work he or she does.

What do your hands reveal? You may say, "Well, I am not sure my hands reveal anything." Perhaps you are correct when it comes to your physical hands, but what about the hands you are using to do work for Christ? What about the hands you should be using to reach out to someone who is struggling making a rent payment? What about the hands you should be using to reach out to someone who has just lost a loved one? What about the hands you should be using to reach out to someone with the message of the Savior? Do they show any "wear and tear?" Our hands should give evidence of what we do, and I hope my hands show that I am living for my Lord. If not, I need to start doing what I should be doing. Along with Moses we should pray, "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us-yes, establish the work of our hands." (Psalm 90:17)

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 08, 2020

When I was a kid, we would travel to northern Ohio two or three times a year to visit my aunt (my mother's only sister) and her family. There were a number of tourist attractions near where my aunt lived. We enjoyed visiting Cedar Point, Put-in-Bay, Marblehead, and many other places.

One attraction that always held a fascination for me was a place called the Blue Hole, near Castalia. This was a pond with water that had an eerie blue green "glow." It was fed by subterranean springs which allowed it to maintain a constant level and temperature at any time of the year. Because of the presence of certain minerals, fish could not survive in the pond, and there was also the legend that the bottom could not be found.

One practice of visitors to the Blue Hole, as is the case with many fountains and other bodies of water, was to pitch a coin in the Blue Hole and make a wish. Have you ever done that? This practice is really harmless, unless you are really counting on something to happen. Mercy, I hope you aren't.

Somewhat akin to the foolishness of counting on wishes made when throwing coins into bodies of water is living our lives without plans. We really need to do some thinking about our lives, how we want to live our lives, and what we want to do with our lives. Planning is so important in so many areas - family, finances, our future. Someone once said, "When we fail to plan, we plan to fail."

One important area of planning is how we are going to live for God. What kind of impact do we wish to make? What should I do to please him? What can I do for someone else to make an impact spiritually? How can I help someone else with some need they might have? Asking these questions helps us to make important decisions and helps us to make plans that are beneficial to ourselves and others.

Don't just throw coins in a pool and make a wish. Make some plans on how to become what you should be for God and for others. Proverbs 21:5 tells us, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." Diligent planning leads to directed service!

Pastor Steve Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 07, 2020

Many of us have had "I was only trying to help" moments. One of mine was when I was helping some friends move and I dropped a box containing one of their favorite glass bowls. Oh yes, it broke - into about a million pieces. Well, what could they say? What could I say? "I was only trying to help!" I had nothing but good intentions, but made a mistake.

We read about a fellow with good intentions in Judges 8. Gideon had helped rid the Israelites of the threat of the Midianites. They even wanted to make him king, which he refused. However, he asked for a golden earring from each of the victorious soldiers which he used to fashion into a golden ephod. This golden ephod became an object of worship and eventually led the people away from worship of God. We read in Judges 8:26-27, "Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family." Not only his family, but the next generation of Israelites turned away from the true worship of God, all because of his actions done with good intentions. He may have had good intentions but his decision proved to be very wrong.

Dropping a box and unintentionally breaking a friend's bowl is one thing, but taking our eyes from the true worship of God is another. Watch your lives so that you don't turn away from following God. Your decision may also affect others - and that certainly is not trying to help!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 6, 2020

When I was a kid, we would travel to northern Ohio two or three times a year to visit my aunt (my mother's only sister) and her family. There were a number of tourist attractions near where my aunt lived. We enjoyed visiting Cedar Point, Put-in-Bay, Marblehead, and many other places.

One attraction that always held a fascination for me was a place called the Blue Hole, near Castalia. This was a pond with water that had an eerie blue green "glow." It was fed by subterranean springs which allowed it to maintain a constant level and temperature at any time of the year. Because of the presence of certain minerals, fish could not survive in the pond, and there was also the legend that the bottom could not be found.

One practice of visitors to the Blue Hole, as is the case with many fountains and other bodies of water, was to pitch a coin in the Blue Hole and make a wish. Have you ever done that? This practice is really harmless, unless you are really counting on something to happen. Mercy, I hope you aren't.

Somewhat akin to the foolishness of counting on wishes made when throwing coins into bodies of water is living our lives without plans. We really need to do some thinking about our lives, how we want to live our lives, and what we want to do with our lives. Planning is so important in so many areas - family, finances, our future. Someone once said, "When we fail to plan, we plan to fail."

One important area of planning is how we are going to live for God. What kind of impact do we wish to make? What should I do to please him? What can I do for someone else to make an impact spiritually? How can I help someone else with some need they might have? Asking these questions helps us to make important decisions and helps us to make plans that are beneficial to ourselves and others.

Don't just throw coins in a pool and make a wish. Make some plans on how to become what you should be for God and for others. Proverbs 21:5 tells us, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." Diligent planning leads to directed service!

Pastor Steve Pastor Steve
Monday October 05, 2020

One morning as I was driving to my office at church, a rather interesting thing happened. It was dark and drizzling rain. As I approached an intersection where there was a stop sign, I saw a lady in a yellow rain suit out for a morning walk frozen about one third of the way across the crosswalk. It became obvious to me that she was not sure whether I was going to stop, and she was not about to take the chance to continue. In essence, she stopped because she didn't trust me to stop.

Wouldn't it be so much better to live in a world where we knew we could trust others to do the right thing? If we did, she could have proceeded across the intersection with no fear. How many other examples could we think of if we lived in a world where we knew we didn't have to "watch out for the other guy?" One of the first lessons I gave to my girls as I was teaching them to drive was to "drive defensively."

We should show our trustworthiness with our lives. Others need to know they can trust us. Jethro encouraged Moses to pick out individuals who could be trusted to help with the management of the people. We read in Exodus 18:20, "But select capable men from all the people men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens."

Would you be one of those selected for this task? Do you show yourself to others as one who can be trusted? Another thing - we know we can always trust God. We are encouraged in Proverbs 3:4-5 to "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." So, trust God - and show yourself to be trustworthy! That way you won't terrify pedestrians at intersections!

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 04, 2020
My grandparents were a little leery of banks. Now, they used a bank, but they had been stung by the stock market crash and bank failure of 1929, so they were a little leery of them. And, you really couldn t blame them. The old adage, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" probably could have applied.

They were not alone in their concern. Many folks shared this fear after 1929. That is why the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was established. Of course, even this entity could fail - any human institution can fail. There are no absolute guarantees in life with anything. Actually, that isn't entirely accurate. We know that God's promises to us are absolute. He will never ever break any of His promises to us.

As you read God's Word and come across his promises, you can rest assured they will not be broken or done away with. You will never experience a stock market crash with God. When He says, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5)," He means it. Life is indeed uncertain at times, but God provides assurance in uncertain times. He is infinitely superior to the FDIC. So - put your trust in Him because He will never let you down!

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 03, 2020

During a performance on October 3, 2003, Roy Horn, one-half of the Las Vegas mega-star duo "Siegfried and Roy", was mauled by one of the tigers used in their magic review. For years, this duo kept audiences on the edge of their seats with their unique blend of animal mastery and magical illusion. Although the animals in the act always seemed tame and friendly, for some reason a tiger attacked Horn. The attack ended their brilliant shows. In 2009, they made a "comeback" show of sorts, but the injuries Horn sustained will prevent him from ever being the showman he once was.

No one knows for sure what prompted the attack. Many theories have been put forth, including a couple by Horn himself. Horn suffered a stroke almost simultaneously with the attack. It was not determined if the stroke was caused by the attack, or if Horn suffered the stroke before the attack. Horn thinks the latter, and believes his tiger was reacting to this, doing what he thought was necessary to save Horn's life. Of course, all of this is speculation. One fact that all animal trainers know stands out - you really don't "tame" a wild animal, you simply keep its behavior under control.

James uses the analogy of taming wild animals in describing the trouble we have with our tongue. He says in 3:7-8, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." We have a greater chance of keeping a wild beast under control than we do keeping our tongues under control.

Much training was required to get the animals to the place where they could be "performers" in Siegfried and Roy's show. Much more training is needed to keep our tongues under control. A lot of damage was done to Roy Horn by an out of control animal. A lot of damage can be done to people by an out of control tongue. Keep this in mind the next time you feel that you are losing control of your tongue. Remember it is "full of deadly poison" and needs to be closely guarded. Don't maul others with it - keep it tamed!

An addendum to my original writing: As I have written earlier, my articles at this time are from earlier postings. This one appeared on October 1, 2016. Roy Horn passed away on May 8, 2020 from complications due to COVID-19. I thought this was ironic, and maybe a thought that might find its way into my future writings in some way. Horn survived an attack by a tiger but was killed by a bug. I would imagine there are a number of similar stories along this line.

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 3, 2020

During a performance on October 3, 2003, Roy Horn, one-half of the Las Vegas mega-star duo "Siegfried and Roy", was mauled by one of the tigers used in their magic review. For years, this duo kept audiences on the edge of their seats with their unique blend of animal mastery and magical illusion. Although the animals in the act always seemed tame and friendly, for some reason a tiger attacked Horn. The attack ended their brilliant shows. In 2009, they made a "comeback" show of sorts, but the injuries Horn sustained will prevent him from ever being the showman he once was.

No one knows for sure what prompted the attack. Many theories have been put forth, including a couple by Horn himself. Horn suffered a stroke almost simultaneously with the attack. It was not determined if the stroke was caused by the attack, or if Horn suffered the stroke before the attack. Horn thinks the latter, and believes his tiger was reacting to this, doing what he thought was necessary to save Horn's life. Of course, all of this is speculation. One fact that all animal trainers know stands out - you really don't "tame" a wild animal, you simply keep its behavior under control.

James uses the analogy of taming wild animals in describing the trouble we have with our tongue. He says in 3:7-8, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." We have a greater chance of keeping a wild beast under control than we do keeping our tongues under control.

Much training was required to get the animals to the place where they could be "performers" in Siegfried and Roy's show. Much more training is needed to keep our tongues under control. A lot of damage was done to Roy Horn by an out of control animal. A lot of damage can be done to people by an out of control tongue. Keep this in mind the next time you feel that you are losing control of your tongue. Remember it is "full of deadly poison" and needs to be closely guarded. Don't maul others with it - keep it tamed!

An addendum to my original writing: As I have written earlier, my articles at this time are from earlier postings. This one appeared on October 1, 2016. Roy Horn passed away on May 8, 2020 from complications due to COVID-19. I thought this was ironic, and maybe a thought that might find its way into my future writings in some way. Horn survived an attack by a tiger but was killed by a bug. I would imagine there are a number of similar stories along this line.

Pastor Steve
Friday October 02, 2020

Some time ago, an old house near where I live was torn down. Now, I knew it was an old house before they started the demolition, but as they peeled off the outer layer of shingles, it was apparent to me the structure was even older than what I first thought. The removal of the outer layer of shingles exposed another layer of shingles that was from a much earlier era of building. It is amazing what can be covered up by a new layer of material, isn't it?

Sometimes the same is true in our lives. We try to cover up things about ourselves that we don't want others to know. We try to be something that we are not. We try to hide things. We do good things, but we don't have the right motive for doing them. Sometimes we are successful at covering up things, sometimes we are not. Of course, there is one person that we can never fool - and that is God. We read in I Samuel 16:7: "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

I have often paraphrased a familiar quote from Abraham Lincoln this way: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can't fool all of the people all of the time." I like to add, "And you can't fool God at any time." What's in your heart?

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 1, 2020

Have you ever bought a "refurbished" product? This is an item that for some reason has been sent back to the manufacturer. The product is repaired and then resold as refurbished. This can be a good deal, but of course, the item is not new. To make the item new, you would have to start from scratch.

Let me share a little side-story on a refurbished product. Doesn't really have much bearing on the point I want to make; this just came to mind as I thought about refurbished products. Many years ago, I bought my folks their very first cordless phone. It was a refurbished product that I had seen advertised. Because of the price, I thought it would be a good deal. And if they didn't like it, then not much money had been spent. Anyway, I installed it for them and it seemed to work quite well. That is until I fell on the receiver, taking care of the refurbished phone and doing some damage to me in the process. I ended up with some stitches in my chin. The refurbished phone would need to be refurbished again. Don't know that they ever did that.

Christ does so much more than just simply "refurbish" us when we receive his gift. Paul says he makes us new. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" According to Paul, a new creation has come, the old has been completely removed. Isn't that marvelous? We are made new in Christ! No "refurbishing" here; nothing but new! And I don't think a blow to the chin will have any effect on what Christ has done!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 30, 2020

Everyone likes to be complimented every now and then, providing the compliment is genuine. Being genuinely complimentary of others is a good thing. Being a "schmoozer" isn't. However, receiving a genuine compliment about one's appearance or one's activity is an uplifting thing. It makes you feel good; it makes you feel appreciated; and it can certainly help if received at a time when you have experienced someone who has been less than complimentary about something. So, don't be reticent to give deserved compliments - you probably will help to make someone's day!

We should strive to be worthy of receiving compliments from God. God does give compliments when they are due. Christ speaks of receiving compliments in the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. He talks about the faithful servant receiving a compliment from his master in verse 23, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" The parable is meant as an encouragement for us to live in such a way in order that we may hear these complimentary words from our Father.

Are you good at giving others deserved compliments? Don't be stingy with your compliments when those compliments are deserved. Are you living in such a way so as to be deserving of God's compliments? God is not stingy about giving credit where credit is due. Live in a way so that you are deserving of God's compliments!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 29, 2020

I was in junior high school when I first drank Gatorade. A teammate brought a bottle to football practice. Gatorade is a drink designed to restore lost electrolytes in those who had been involved in intense physical activity. It was named Gatorade because it was developed by a researcher at the University of Florida, home of the "Gators."

Recently I read a story about another type of "gator aid." It seems some recruits at an armed services training facility in Florida were making a habit of slipping off a rope into a pond during a training exercise to "cool off" in the hot climate. To change this habit, a drill instructor had a large alligator put in the pond. From then on, the recruits would swing all the way across the pond without slipping. Wonder why?

God sometimes uses similar tactics to bring us in line with his plan. The use of unfavorable circumstances to mold and shape our character and encourage obedience is seen in scripture and in our personal experience. Hebrews 12:6 tells us "the Lord disciplines those he loves." Sometimes that means putting an alligator in the water as a form of "gator aid." David says in Psalm 119:71, "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."

Remember this the next time you feel that God is using "gator aid" with you. It shows that he loves you. It shows he wants you to be, in the words of the Armed Services, "all that you can be." A friendly reminder - don't let go of the rope!

Pastor Steve
Monday September 28, 2020

"My God, what will become of me? I have no desire but to die!" wrote the 30-year-old lady in her diary. Obviously struggling with depression and grief, what was to become of this person who had come to the end of her emotional rope?

Well, she became a pioneer in the use of antiseptics and chloroform which relieved much human suffering. What became of her was being the founder of the modern-day nursing profession. Florence Nightingale did much to improve the practice of medicine and lived to the marvelous age of 90 before leaving this life for the life to come. What changed was discovering a purpose outside of herself, outside of her suffering. What changed was channeling her suffering and grief into activity that led to the relief of the suffering and grief of others.

Do you feel like you have come to the end of your emotional rope? Look around - who can you help? Remember that in the work of helping others, our own pain can give way to healing.

Like Nightingale, Job came to a place where he wished he had never been born. Job 3:1-3 tells us, "After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: 'May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, A boy is born!'" Also like Nightingale, Job worked through his personal grief and pain. His story has become an inspiration to many others who struggle with grief and suffering.

Facing a painful time? Remember the examples of Florence Nightingale and Job. They worked through what they experienced and were blessed because of their faith. You can do the same.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 27, 2020

According to an old legend, there was once a day when the sun didn't shine. At 6 a.m., there was no evidence of the sun. 7 a.m. came and passed by with still no sun. At noon it was as dark as if it was midnight. People began flocking to churches to pray. Fear gripped them as what should be was not. The sun always rose in the morning, didn't it? It was always there to provide light and warmth, wasn't it? Well, not this day. People prayed that God would send back the sun.

The next day, all the people gathered and faced east, hoping to see the familiar sight of the sunrise. When the sun appeared, a huge cheer rose from the massive throng. What was once taken for granted would be taken for granted no more.

We are prone to do this - take for granted things that shouldn't be taken for granted. We do that with God's benefits and blessings. They are always there, aren't they? Yes, God is always there and always wants to give us good things and provide many blessings; however, we should do all we can to make sure we don't take these things for granted.

What can we do to make sure we don't take God's benefits for granted? Do what David did in Psalm 103. He couldn't list all of God's benefits, but he listed as many as he could: "Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

We can't list all of God's blessings, but we should take time each day to think of some of them. In this way, we will be kept from taking what God gives us for granted. It will keep our focus on the One who never withholds the sun, who never lets us down, who never leaves us alone.

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 26, 2020

Years ago when I lived in Ohio, I would occasionally drive by a small dwelling that was once a school house. It was near the road, and even though it had been modified a good deal for use as living quarters, the shape had not been changed to the extent that its original use was completely hidden.

Another unique feature of this structure was that it had been the scene of a terrible tragedy. Construction workers on a road-building project some distance away were using dynamite to blast some rocks and remove tree stumps. They placed a larger charge than necessary under one particular stump. The explosion propelled the stump almost one-half mile away - right through the roof of the school which was filled with students. One young boy was killed instantly and a number of other students were injured - all as a consequence of an improperly calculated explosive charge.

This was truly a great tragedy, something that one would hope would never be repeated. It shows the need to be careful with dynamite - an explosive charge can lead to devastating consequences.

There is another type of explosive charge that can lead to devastating consequences. Albeit not deadly, an explosion of anger can still produce effects that are harmful, hurtful and tragic. Using forceful words and explosive actions may allow us to get what we want, but it will also leave a good deal of damage in the wake of our words and deeds. Hurt feelings, injured friendships, and damaged relationships are often the results of inappropriate displays of our forceful will.

Moses had to deal with the consequences of an action fueled by anger. We read in Numbers 20:8-12, "'Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.'So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly er in front of the rock and Moses said to them, 'Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?' Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.'"

Moses anger kept him from personally entering the Promised Land. What has your anger cost you? Just as there were consequences to the explosion which sent a stump plummeting into a schoolhouse full of children, there will consequences to our explosions. Explosions are much more easily controlled before the fact - so do what you must to keep things in control!

Pastor Steve
Friday September 25, 2020

When I was younger I used to be called "four eyes" because of my glasses. There is a species of fish found in Central and South America called the Four Eyed Fish, Anableps anableps. It is called the Four Eyed Fish because it has two lenses in each eye - one that enables the fish to look at the world above as it swims near the surface. The other set of lens allows it to see what is going on in the water. This sounds like a useful trait.

We don't have this physical attribute, but we need to develop a "four eyed" spiritual trait. We need to be able to look above, to train our focus heavenward so as to be aware of God and his desire for us and what he has in store for us. Paul states in Colossians 3:1, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." However, we should never lose our focus on our responsibility here and now. There are needs that should be met; there are things that need to be done. Christ spoke often of heaven and our place there (read John 14:1-6), but he also spoke of the need to seek justice and help meet needs now. We find Christ's words in Matthew 5:5-6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Do your best to develop four eyes. Train yourself to look above and look below. In this way we will keep ourselves encouraged as we think of what God has for us, but also keep ourselves involved in what is going on around us. Being "four eyed" is a really good thing!

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 24, 2020

As I opened the box and surveyed the hundreds of parts inside, my first thought was, "What in the world have I done?" The beautiful gazebo that I had ordered for our back deck came shipped to us in two large boxes and didn't look anything at all as was pictured. What to do? Well, the first thing was to find the instructions and see where these parts fit. This was complicated by the fact that the instructions had gotten wet and were unreadable. This is story for a different time - suffice it to say that I was able to replace the instructions and went forward from there.

Going forward meant following the instructions carefully to see where all those little parts fit. I learned long ago that when you assemble something of this sort, you don't freelance; you follow the instructions. And you remember that each piece, regardless of how small and insignificant it may seem, is important. With the help of friends through a few sessions, and following the instructions, we now have an attractive gazebo in the middle of our deck.

A thought that came to me from time to time throughout the process was, "It would be great if we had the person who designed this gazebo here to help us. That would make things go better." That would have been a great advantage.

We have that advantage in our lives. We have the Designer with us as we put pieces of our lives together. We may have times where we feel as if our lives are in pieces and we don't know how things go together. At other times, we may not be sure what options to follow to put things together the right way. When this happens, it is best to make sure that we are following the instructions given us, and that we allow the Designer to weigh in on what goes next. When we do this, the "What in the world have I done?" moments are eradicated.

Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" Psalm 32:8 declares, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." Let God take the lead in the assembly process in your life. Then you will turn those "What in the world have I done?" moments into, "Look what the Lord has done!"

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 23, 2020

"Lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely" crooned Bobby Vinton in one of his hit songs from the '60's. How could anyone be lonely with more than 6 billion people on planet Earth? Yet, there are many people who are lonely. Some of them might be not far from where you are right now. We need to be aware of this, and do what we can to help those who feel like they are all alone in the world. We need to develop "others" awareness and do what we can to encourage those who may feel like they have no one to whom they can turn.

The writer of Hebrews knew the value of being together and helping each other. We read in Hebrews 10:25, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Help prevent loneliness by looking around for people you see need encouragement. A well-chosen word, a timely visit, time spent with others can help combat loneliness.

"Mr. Lonely" may have been a big hit for Bobby Vinton, but we need to do all we can to make sure loneliness doesn't make the charts.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 22, 2020

Years ago the state of Queensland in Australia offered "the greatest job in the world." They offered to fly someone to Hamilton Island, located in the Great Barrier Reef. There, the individual would be responsible for a few tasks each day, would roam around the island, walk the beaches, and report daily on an internet "blog" sight what was taking place. The purpose of the job was to promote tourism. The person was to live expense free in a 3-bedroom house on the island and receive a salary of $105,000 (US). All this for six months' work. Well, it was a grueling job, but somebody had to do it! I never heard who took up Queensland on this offer, but I have no doubt that someone did.

Most of us might drool at the prospect of a job like this, because what we do is nowhere near this job description. Yet, we should not demean what we do. Our work is honorable in God's eyes, and Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:23-24 that "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

I don't know if you have a "cushy" job like what was described earlier; however, as Paul tells us, whatever you do, work to please the Lord, because it is the Lord you are serving.

Pastor Steve


Monday September 21, 2020

These humorous "excuses" have been all over the internet, but I thought I would print them again for your amusement. They supposedly were taken from actual accident reports:

"I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had the accident."

"I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment."

"The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him."

"The telephone pole was approaching fast. I attempted to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end."

"The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him."

"The indirect cause of this accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth."

We are usually pretty good at coming up with excuses for incidents, or when we are trying to avoid culpability in some situation. We come up with excuses for why we have not finished a task we were supposed to do, why we forgot an appointment, and even why we have been unable to attend church. We should be pretty good at this, as humans have been doing this since the beginning. When God confronted Adam and Eve about their sin, Adam said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it (Genesis 3:12)."

Try to break the cycle. Don't make excuses for something you have done or have failed to do. Truth is always the best policy.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 20, 2020

Many of us have had the experience of walking into a room and knowing that someone has been there, or is still nearby, even though we did not or could not see them. We have that knowledge because we detect the familiar smell of their favorite cologne or perhaps we detect by some other means that they were there. "Now, wait a minute," one might ask, "How do you know this since you can't or didn't see them?" Well, there are other lines of evidence that validate their presence.

Many argue against the existence of God because he cannot be seen. However, just because we cannot see him does not mean he isn't there. There are many other lines of evidence that point to his existence. Of course, it does eventually come down to faith. One must believe that God is even though he or she has never seen God. Christ told Thomas in John 20:29, ""Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Hebrews speaks of believing without seeing as being the definition of faith. We read in Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

The old adage "seeing is believing" does not apply here. We believe even though we have not seen. Faith is the ability to "see" the spiritual world, to "see" God. As George MacDonald wrote, "Our goal then is to 'grow eyes' to see the unseen."

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 19, 2020

There is a story about a young girl in Africa who gave her teacher an exquisite seashell as a Christmas gift. "Where did you get this?" the teacher asked. "These shells are only found on a beach that is far away," the girl replied. Realizing that the girl had walked a long way for the gift, the teacher told her she shouldn't have traveled so far. The girl replied, "The walk was part of the gift."

Many people go to great lengths to help others or to find a particular gift for others. They consider the journey part of the gift. Christ's gift to us included the long journey from heaven to earth. Dottie Rambo once wrote in a song, "He left the splendors of heaven knowing his destiny was the lonely hill of Golgotha where he laid down his life for me. If that isn't love. . . " Certainly that is love!

Paul speaks of that journey in Philippians 2:5-8, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!"

As you think of what Christ has done for you, remember that the walk was part of the gift! Pastor Steve


Friday September 18, 2020

Perhaps you have had the experience where you get the tune of a certain song in your head and, try as you might, you just can't seem to quit thinking about it. Actually, the harder you try to forget it, the more "present" it seems to be. That is the way it is with our thoughts - the more we concentrate on trying to not think about something, the more we think about something. The only way to move on to something else is to concentrate on something else.

This especially holds true with thoughts that bring us anxiety and worry. There are things that cause us to worry, and sometimes we spend sleepless nights trying to rid ourselves of these thoughts. What is helpful is to develop a different focus. I Peter 5:7 tells us to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." When we have something that is crowding our thinking and creating fear, we need to focus on God and his goodness. In this way, we give these anxious thoughts to God and release our minds to focus on more positive things.

Paul tells in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Christ himself addressed this issue and told his followers, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34)

That this issue was addressed so many times in scripture shows it is a common experience, but with each of these statements comes sounds advice for us to follow. Focus on the goodness of God. Concentrating on God and his provision will help us release anxious thoughts. God does care for you!

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 17, 2020

Some time ago I was sent some pictures of eagles that had been taken by a local photographer. The pictures were magnificent - of course the eagles looked very regal. They really are incredible birds. Eagles can fly almost straight up. They have the ability to look directly into the sun without being blinded because of a special structure on their eye. They can dive at tremendous speeds. For such a large bird, they never seem clumsy; they seem to be always in command.

As I looked at those pictures, my thoughts were drawn to one of my favorite verses in the Scripture. Isaiah 40:30-31 says, "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." This passage was written to encourage some people who were facing uncertain times. The message for us is just as true - when we face times of uncertainty and times of trouble, we should continue to focus on our Lord who will continue to provide for us and will lead us skyward out of the mess in which we currently stand.

When you are struggling, think of the eagle and remember that God has promised to restore you to a position of strength. Regardless of how "clumsy" you might feel now - someday you will be in command.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 16, 2020

As you are reading this, and as I wrote earlier, I am once again going under the knife. This time I am having surgery to replace my last remaining joint in my lower extremities - my left hip. I will now have metal hips and knees. Such is the nature of our earthly bodies. We sometimes need to continue to patch them up as best we can so that we can keep going as best we can.

Paul speaks over and over of the temporary nature of our earthly bodies. He tells us in II Corinthians 5:1-5, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

The constant failure of our earthly bodies serves as a reminder of what we have now, and what we have to come. We know what we experience now is not the best we have if we are children of God who have placed our faith in His Son. It's nice to know they can repair a job that was done to affect a repair. It is even better to know we have a life ahead of us where we will never need repairs.

Pastor Steve
Tueday September 15, 2020

So many times our prayers are based upon what we want, with little thought as to what God might want for us. There is an ancient prayer that is attributed to Plato that goes like this: "Give us those things which are best, whether we pray for them or not; but command evil things to remain at a distance from us, even though we implore them." Now, Plato probably offered this to a pagan deity, but the principle he reflects is something we should consider in our prayers: leaving the outcome in God's hands and believing that is what is best. Our prayers should be based on personal integrity and a desire to glorify God.

Agur stated this very eloquently many years before Plato. We read in Proverbs 30:8, "Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches." Agur wanted two things - to have personal integrity and contentment. As we offer our prayers to God, we should make these our desire as well. It reflects a willingness to allow God to operate in our lives in a way that he knows best. Our response to this is contentment - knowing we can trust him to always act in our best interests.

Christ tells us in Matthew 7:9-11, "'Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!'" Agur wanted what would reflect God's glory in his life - that should be our desire as well.

Pastor Steve
Monday September 14, 2020

David Doubilet has taken some of the most breathtaking underwater portraits you will ever see. You should check out his website sometime. Some environmental groups have felt that he should use his influence to work against the polluting of our oceans and seas through his photography. They have suggested that he should post more "ugly" scenes. His response to this is he feels it is better to show the beauty of the world that God created instead of showing evidence of man's mismanagement. He believes this is a more forceful apologetic as to why we should take care of our environment.

I think we can learn a lesson from this. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to show what is wrong with the world and talking about all the evils, that we forget we should be offering a positive picture of what God can do when we yield to his control. This should start in our individual lives. We sing the song "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love," yet we often fail to put this principle into practice.

Christ said in John 13:35, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Christ never glossed over sin and neither should we; we simply need to deal with its effects in a positive way by providing a picture of the beauty God intends for us. Show Christ's love in your life and see what kind of impact this will have on your environment!

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 13, 2020

A farmer placed a weather vane inscribed with the words "God is love" on top of his barn. One day a traveler stopped by the farm and watched the weather vane moving with the breeze. Then, with a smirk on his face, he asked, "Do you mean to say that your God is as changeable as the wind?"

The farmer shook his head and replied, "No. What I mean to say is that no matter which way the wind blows, God is love!"

The scripture states that God is Love. This means that the essence of God's character is love. It is just not something he does, that is, love us no matter what. Love is the essence of his being. We will never be able to plumb the depths of God's love. I don't think that we can fully appreciate God's love in this lifetime.

John writes, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. . .God is love (I John 4:8-12; 16).

No matter which way the wind blows, we know God is love. He will never be any other way because he cannot be any other way. He is love. We need to reflect God's love no matter which way the wind is blowing.

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 12, 2020

Some time ago, I had a mildly frustrating thing happen to me. In actuality, I was going to write that it was a very frustrating thing until I came across a story you will read later in this article. Anyway, my mildly frustrating experience involved placing an order over the phone. I had a lengthy list of items and had just completed going over the list with the vendor when he said, "I need to put you on hold to check something." Try not to let folks put you on hold. Nothing good can come of it. I was put on hold all right - the irritating blare of dial tone indicated I could hold on all I wanted. The vendor was not coming back. What to do? Well, we needed the stuff, so I called the company back and told the agent what had happened. Did she have a record of the transaction? No, she didn't. I proceeded to go through the entire list again. This time, I did not get put on hold and we had the items we needed in a few days.

I downgraded this to a mildly frustrating experience when I came across an article about Major General George Goethals. Goethals was the man who took over the job of building the Panama Canal. He was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt on March 4, 1907, as Chairman and Chief Engineer of the Isthmian Canal Commission (I.C.C.). He served in that position until completion of Canal construction in 1914, following which he served as Governor of the Panama Canal until his resignation on January 17, 1917.

During the construction, there were many setbacks. While cutting through the mountains in the center of the Isthmus, a tremendous landslide occurred erasing months of work. While surveying the damage, an aide asked Goethals, "General, what do we do?" Without a moment's hesitation, Goethals replied, "Dig it out again."

Because of such perseverance, there is now a canal in Panama that provides passage for over 14,000 ships each year. This past June, an expansion of the canal was completed to accommodate the much-larger ships of our current day, but it began with the tenacity of Major General George Goethals. The website of the Panama Canal Authority has this testimonial, "The name Goethals will be recorded in history as the man who accomplished one of the greatest feats of engineering and construction since the Egyptians completed the mighty pyramids - the construction of the Panama Canal."

We face setbacks in life that require us to "dig it out again." James 1:2-4 tells us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Perseverance is a difficult trait to develop, but good things come to those who persevere.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 11, 2020

Many of us know exactly where we were 19 years ago today when we first learned of the incredible events that were taking place in New York City and Washington, D.C. I was in my office at church when we got a call telling us to turn on our TV, if we had one available. At that time, I had a little black and white portable with a five-inch screen. I only had the built-in antenna to use, but I got an image. The lack of color and the fuzziness only added to the surreal nature of the events that I saw that day.

The first jet had already plummeted into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At that point, nothing was known about the aircraft. Speculations were being given, and talk was on-going about what happened. Then, as smoke billowed out of the north tower, another jet flew into the face of the south tower. When this happened, it was apparent that what was taking place was not just a random accident.

I have often wondered why it takes events such as these to remind us of the fragility of our position, our existence. That usually is the case, isn't it? Traumatic and painful events jolt us into the reality of our position in the world. We suddenly began to embrace God more closely as we realize we aren t as secure as we thought. This was one of the results in the days and weeks following the events of September 11, 2001. Church attendance increased, there was more "God talk" on public mediums, and people openly shared their fears of our vulnerability. Has this continued? Perhaps for some, but as in many cases, once things "settled down," there was a return to business as usual.

Our relationship with God should never be "business as usual." We should not wait for an event that sweeps us off our feet to realize how insecure we are. Trust God at all times and never fail to acknowledge his Lordship. You will either do that now, or you will do it later. There is no doubt about that. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:10-11, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Don't wait for some great tragedy before you do this. And don't wait until it's too late to do so. Your life is fragile - handle with prayer.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 10, 2020

To me, one of Christ's most fascinating characteristics was his humility. He certainly was a "take charge" person when this was necessary, but we see him model humility is so many ways. His submission and obedience to his Father were certainly ways his humility is seen. His prayer in the garden on the night of his betrayal and arrest shows his humility and submission to his Father's will. In Philippians 2, Paul writes that we should emulate his humility in our lives.

Developing a spirit of humility is not all that easy. This really goes against the grain of how we are typically. We want our "rights;" we want things done our way; we want our ideas to be used; we want our voice to be heard; we want to be in charge.

These are things we need to keep in check as we develop true humility in our lives. Humility may not be easy, but it is certainly the path by which the greater good can be accomplished. Paul instructed Titus, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:1-3)."

How are we at showing "true humility toward all men?" Be honest - and be humble!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 09, 2020

When I was a teenager, I had a camp counselor who would declare "I don't get mad, I just get even" when he found himself on the receiving end of some practical joke. That may be all well and good when you are talking about some light-hearted fun, but there are some who are intent on revenge when the stakes involve more than just jokes.

Seeking revenge is not a behavior a follower of Christ should pursue. We may experience circumstances where we would really like to "get back" at someone, but we need to take a different path. Seeking revenge lowers us to the place of those who have caused our problem to begin with, and may cause us to violate the Christian principles of fairness, kindness, forgiveness, and love for others. We need to allow the goodness of Christ dictate our response at times when we are wronged or are trying to deal with someone who irritates us.

Paul wrote, "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:19-21)

Respond in God's way, not your way, when you find you are in a position where you really would like to do something to someone because they have done something to you. Don't get mad, and don't get even, get glad with God's goodness!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 08, 2020

A man went to see a psychologist because he was struggling with depression. "Doctor," he said, "I am not a happy man. It seems that no matter what I do, I cannot seem to feel better. I am just so depressed." The doctor told him, "I think you need a diversion. The circus is in town - you need to go to the circus. There is a clown in the circus named Grimaldi. Grimaldi will make you laugh so hard you will forget your troubles and you will feel better." "Doctor," the man said, "I am Grimaldi."

I have heard many variations of this story. I have read that it is indeed based upon a true story. What we learn from the story is that things are not always as they seem. We sometimes look at others' lives and secretly wish for what they have. This is one reason why God tells us not to covet. It is also a good reason to focus on our lives and what is taking place. It is a good reason to learn about being content with our blessings. Wishing for something that is not ours, for something that may not even exist, is a pointless exercise.

We should learn from Paul's experience, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11-13)."

Remember things are not always as they appear to be. Don't wish for something that is not there. Focus on the blessings that you have. This is a big step along the pathway to contentment.

Pastor Steve
Monday September 07, 2020

Today is Labor Day, as you well know. Often, I have made the comment that Labor Day is the most hypocritical of our holidays. Labor Day is meant to honor work, and what do we do? Give folks a day off! Well, you no doubt deserve it, so enjoy your day.

As you may know, Labor Day had a sad origin. The day arose out of public outcry over an incident where federal troops killed many striking Pullman Railroad Car workers. I encourage you to look this up if you are not familiar with the particulars. Labor Day is an example of a positive experience that has an origin in a bad circumstance.

God is good at doing this - bringing positive results out of bad situations. Joseph pointed this out when he said, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children (Genesis 50:19-20)." Joseph went through a lot of bad experiences that he could not avoid. However, he knew that the bad experiences he went through were necessary to bring about positive benefits for many others, thousands of others, including seventy of his own family.

Keep this in mind when you face a bad time. God can turn your circumstances around for your benefit, or for the benefit of others. Nothing is hidden from God, and his plan is being enacted. Remember the example of Joseph, and also remember the words of Paul in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 06, 2020

Complete this sentence, "I just can't seem to get interested in ________ ." I am going to go out on a limb here, but I venture to say whatever you put in the blank in this statement is something with which you have not spent much time. Sometimes adults never grow out of their short attention spans. We speak of not being interested in something, and yet, actually, we have not given much time to really experience that for which we have little interest.

This happens in our spiritual lives as well. In our spiritual life, this might be Bible study, or missions, or Church history, or studying spiritual gifts, or our prayer life. Some even go so far as to say, "I just can't seem to get interested in church." We say we can't get interested in these things, but what we are really saying is that we don't want to take the time to invest in these things. In order for us to honestly say we have no interest in something, we should make sure we have spent time in that pursuit. Our degree of interest in something is directly proportional to the amount of time we spend in that endeavor.

Let me give you an example. Now, this isn't a "spiritual" example, but it demonstrates my point. I enjoy sports of all kinds, but I must say there have been some about which I have said, "I just can't seem to get interested in this." Ice hockey is a good case in point here. For years, I said, "I just can't seem to get interested in hockey." Well, one day I came to the conclusion that making this assertion without actually trying to understand the game a little better and spending time with the game was not quite honest or fair. I had never watched a hockey game from start to finish.

Enter ESPN and their hockey coverage. I started watching hockey, learned more about the game, began to understand more of what was going on and more of the strategy, as well as being appreciative of what was being done on skates that I couldn't even do in sport shoes. I started to like hockey and started to follow the sport more. Now, I must say I am not and probably never will be as rabid a fan of hockey as I am of football, but now I truly enjoy watching hockey.

Before you claim you just can't get interested in something, especially something that has to do with the life of the church and your life as a follower of Christ, make a commitment to spend time with the concern. A cause-effect relationship can be seen in Psalm 1:2, "his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." Some might argue, "Well, he spends that much time with God's law because he enjoys God's law." My question is: what led him to enjoy God's law to begin with? Could it be he spent some time with God's law? Hmmm? Spend some time with that thought!

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 05, 2020

Josh Ferrin had just purchased his first home for his family. After picking up the keys, he went by the house to start looking over what would need to be done before they could move in. He opened up the garage door and walked in. After moving a few things around, he pulled down the ladder stairway that led to the attic. Upon climbing the ladder, he found a small metal box that looked like a WWII ammunition case. He carried it down the steps and put it on the workbench. Opening the lid, he encountered a sight that almost made his eyes pop out of his head. In the case were several rolls of $100 bills. How many bills? Well, later that evening his family stopped counting when they got to $40,000.

As Ferrin was counting the money, he began to think of all the things he could do with this amount of cash. What did he do? Here are his own words: "I'm not perfect, and I wish I could say there was never any doubt in my mind. We knew we had to give it back, but it doesn't mean I didn't think about our car in need of repairs, how we would love to adopt a child and aren't able to do that right now, or fix up our outdated house that we just bought," Ferrin said. "But the money wasn't ours to keep and I don't believe you get a chance very often to do something radically honest, to do something ridiculously awesome for someone else and that is a lesson I hope to teach to my children."

Integrity is something we need to develop. It is a characteristic God honors. It is sorely lacking in so many facets of our society. Josh Ferrin called the children of the home's previous owner, Arnold Bangerter. He gave it back. In doing so he, well, listen to what one of the children, Kay Bangerter, said, "(This is) a story that will outlast our generation and probably yours as well." What a story Ferrin created.

Is this the kind of story you want to create? I hope it is. Proverbs 10:9 tells us, "The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out." Be a person who walks secure, who leaves behind a legacy of truthfulness and honesty, and who sets the bar high for others to follow.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 04, 2020

When I was in college, a professor made a mistake posting the final grade I received in his class. I went to speak with him about the mistake, and was assured that it would be changed. However, when I checked after a period of time, the grade had not been changed. I went to speak to the professor and was assured all would be well. To make a long story short, it took a couple more trips to the professor and even a trip to the dean of the college before action was taken to alleviate the situation. I remember the dean's comments, "Well, don't be too hard on the professor. He is a good teacher, but he sometimes isn't all that dependable." Ouch. And I found out later that the dean was a good friend of the professor. The dean was also honest.

Do people say that about you? One of the most important characteristics we should manifest as believers is faithfulness. People need to know they can depend on us. We should be faithful in our lives before others and before God. We should show our heavenly Father that we are someone on whom he can depend. Paul lists faithfulness as one of the fruits of the spirit that needs to be cultivated (Galatians 5:22). He also writes in I Corinthians 4:2, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." Christ spoke of the need for faithfulness on many occasions, one being his parable of the faithful servants in Luke 12:35 - 46.

Be faithful! Show that you are a person upon whom others depend! I have not forgotten that professor. Can you guess why? Is this how you would like to be remembered?

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 03, 2020

Juliette Gordon Low could have been another casualty of adverse life circumstances. As a young lady, she lost hearing in one ear because of improper treatment of an ear infection. Then, her hearing was impaired in her other ear when a piece of rice thrown at her wedding lodged in her ear and burst her eardrum. While she loved children, she never had any of her own. Her husband was unfaithful and they were estranged at the time of his death in 1905. So, what was her response to all of this adversity? Well, many of you have already recognized her name and know her as the founder of Girl Scouts of America.

In 1912, she gathered 18 girls together in Savannah, Georgia, initiating a movement that became the Girl Scouts of America. At a meeting in England in 1911 she met Sir Robert Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts. This provided the inspiration that led to the Georgia gathering. Low had been searching for "something to do with her life," and I think she found it.

Low's life could have gone a drastically different direction. How easily she could have given in to her circumstances and become embittered. Instead, she searched for "something to do with her life," and what a discovery she made. Over the years more than 50 million girls all over the world over have been influenced through their experience as Scouts. And how about the impact of Girl Scout Cookies? The thin mint variety is my favorite.

The point I am making is that in Low we have an example of someone who received some lemons in life and decided to make lemonade. Instead of being overcome with adversity, she overcame adversity and made an incredible impact. She didn't let self-destructive bitterness creep in when life circumstances became negative. This poem was found in her journal after her death:

Only thyself, thyself can harm.

Forget it not - and full of peace,

Ignore the noise and world's alarm,

And wait till storm and tumult cease.

We usually do not have a choice when it comes to the adversity that comes our way in our life. However, we do have a choice when it comes to our response to the adversity. David gives a perspective on dealing with adversity in Psalm 3:5-6, "I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side." Avoid bitterness and allow God to help when adversity strikes.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 02, 2020

John Ruskin was an art critic, poet, painter, and social thinker who lived in London in the 19th century. His work was very influential, and his influence was quite varied from literature to philosophy to art. Once a lady came to him to speak to him about some of his ideas. In the conversation, she lamented about how her valuable handkerchief had been ruined by an ink blot. "Let me see your kerchief," asked Ruskin. He proceeded to turn the ink blot on the handkerchief into a beautiful scene. This made the handkerchief more valuable than ever as it was now an original work of art by Ruskin.

This is what God will do with our lives. He turns the unsightly inkblot that mars the appearance into something wonderful and glorious to behold. He can take the blotches and turn them into beauty. What God is doing with the believer is creating something that will be better than the original. Our lives are marred by the effects of sin, but when we place our lives into the hands of God, he takes the brokenness, the confusion, that which is unsightly, and makes us into a new creation.

Ezekiel 36:36 speaks about the transformational work of God: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Bill Gaither wrote about the transforming work of God:

Something beautiful, something good

All my confusion he understood

All I had to offer him was brokenness as strife

But he made something beautiful of my life.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 01, 2020

My devotionals for the next several days will be reprints of some that I have written in the past as I will be more or less out of commission. I am heading for another surgery, this time to replace my left hip. With this surgery, I will have competed the circuit, more or less, as both of my knees are replacements and I have had my right hip replaced twice.

This past Sunday in church, I commented that some have said how I am going to be the "bionic man." I would rather not have that distinction, but, in one sense, I do. I am not really into heavy metal, but I guess another nickname that would fit would be "Metallica." I would imagine James Hetfield et al would take issue with this, so I will not try to promote its usage.

As I think about names, I am reminded that we can learn a great deal about the character and nature of God through a study of the names for God that we find in scripture. One that always speaks to me is Yahweh ji'reh God who provides. The primary passage where we find this name is Genesis 22 when Abraham tells his son, Isaac, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering." (verse 8) At that point, Abraham was still thinking that the "lamb" would be Isaac, yet his statement shows his faith that God had something else in mind. Indeed, he did - a lamb was provided and God showed Himself to be one who does provide. We read in verse 14, "Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.'" Of course, this event foreshadowed His greatest Provision the provision of a Lamb that would take away the sin of the world. That event took place of the very mountain where Abraham had taken Isaac.

God does provide for us. He is providing for me what I need in these days leading up to my surgery. He is providing for us what we need in these days of turmoil. He is always there for us to bring to us what we need when we need it. As with Abraham, we often cannot see what He is doing "behind the scenes," but we know He is there and will not leave us alone at any time, especially in those times of struggle when we need Him most.

I know He provides because of the promise of scripture, and I know He provides because of my past experience. Even as He was with me before, He is with me now. He is with all of us. He is the God who Provides.

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

September 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 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! !

BLESSINGS TO ALL OF YOU!
Pastor Steve
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!