First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Worship News - 7/22/2021

We are planning a Woman's Day Out' on Thursday, August 5. We will be going to Arthur to have lunch in an Amish family home. Afterwards we will stop by Beachy's Bulk Foods. We leave the church at 9:45 and should return back by 5:00.

The meal will cost $20 for each person in advance. If you plan on joining us. please write your check to "American Baptist Women" and give it to Gloria or Judy by Thursday, July 29. We hope you will be able to join us!

Remember worship this Sunday at 9 a.m., followed by Bible classes. We are continuing our look at the Work of the Holy Spirit in the Early Church.

Our free giveaway is approaching quickly! Continue to save those items for the giveaway - you can start bringing them in on Monday, August 2. ALSO - we need plastic bags! Workers are still needed for all days - sign up at church or call the church office at 783-2226.

Pastor Steve


Devotionals
Pastor Steve Willis

Tuesday July 27, 2021

Having a daughter who was living there at the time got me interested in the climate of Edinburgh, Scotland. What I learned was that the folks in Edinburgh enjoy a more temperate climate than that of many other cities located along a similar northerly latitude. Edinburgh and Moscow fall about on the same line, but the winters in Edinburgh are much less extreme. As I imagine most of you know, the reason for this is because Edinburgh is located in an island nation and the surrounding water acts as a buffer, of sorts, that has an effect on climate.

As followers of Christ, we have a buffer as well. We are aware of what is around us, and we still experience the effects of living in a fallen world, but God offers protection and help. Many times, this help is imperceptible to us. God is always there for us, hedging us in, helping us through the rough times, protecting us through satanic oppression, and other things that He does for us for our benefit. We may not be totally shielded from all the bad, but there are times the experience would be much more intense without the protective hand of God.

Psalm 46:1 tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." God gives us this assurance, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Be thankful for the presence of God, even at times when you don t perceive His presence. He is there and He is making your life more "temperate," even though you don't see what He does.

Pastor Steve
Monday July 26, 2021

Yesterday, I wrote about the excitement about learning something new. Allow me to continue along that line of thinking. I have made a startling discovery. When you alphabetize documents, they are easier to find. Yes, of course, I am being a little sarcastic. The sarcasm is aimed squarely at me. I have a big binder in which I store all the lead sheets for our praise band songs. I still play with the group from time to time, and on the days I play, I locate the sheets and usually copy them so I won't lose the originals.

I have always dreaded this process. The reason for my dread was the difficulty I had finding the right sheets. What was the solution? A really profound trick - alphabetize the music! Now, I knew this all along, but simply had never taken the time to do so. The result? A much less arduous experience in finding the music.

I know you are saying, "Well, duh?" at this moment, and I deserve that. Sometimes we fail to do what we know we should do; you know? There was an obvious solution to my dilemma; I had just never exercised the solution. I had never taken the time to do what I know I should.

We often do this with our relationship with God. We know that the best course of action is the most obvious course of action - we need to trust Him and obey Him. Yet we find ourselves neglecting the obvious course of action which leads to problems. It is always best to obey God's principles and to trust in God's provision, but often we ignore what is best and fumble through the pile in search of the right "music." This leads to frustration and disarray.

Deuteronomy 5:33 tells us, "Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess." Later, Moses writes, "It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him." (Deuteronomy 13:4) We might say "well, duh" to this because we know the correct thing to do; however, we sometimes neglect to do what we know we should. Our "new" thing could very well be something old school!

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 25, 2021

Do you still get excited when you learn something new? Do you remember how excited you got as a kid when you learned a new skill? I can still recall vividly the thrill I felt when I tied my shoes all by myself for the first time. I do not recall how old I was, but I still remember shouting, "Hey, I did it!"

For some reason, it seems that, as we grow older, the excitement of learning new things abates. Now, I am not saying that we need to shout out a response, or run around with reckless abandonment when new things are discovered. Oh, I wish I could though. That would be fun. But I digress.

I think we should still have a desire to learn new things, no matter how many new things we have already learned. This should be especially true when it comes to spiritual enlightenment. We should never lose our desire to learn more about the ways of the Lord and about our relationship with Him.

God is excited about doing new things for us. Psalm 40:3 says, "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him." I can feel God s energy when I read Isaiah 43:19, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

Don't lose the wonder of learning new ways and new ideas about your life with the Savior! You are a new creation (I Corinthians 5:17); don't let the new fade!

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 24, 2021

I have used the following story on a number of occasions. A young boy was trying to lift a large stone. He pushed, he pulled, he tugged, he huffed, he puffed, but try as he might, he could not move the stone. His father was nearby watching his efforts and asked, "Son, can't you move the stone?" "No," his son replied. The father continued, "Have you done everything you can to move the stone?" "Yes," said the boy. The dad said, "I don't think you have - you didn't ask me to help."

Who is helpful to you in the work that God has called you to do? Who walks alongside you so that together you can accomplish more than you could on your own? I think it really interesting that one of the first things Christ did as he began his earthly ministry was recruit others to go with him on the journey. Now, I realize there were many reasons for this, but I think it important to note that even the Son of God did not want to walk alone when he was on the earth. He had trusted companions that may have worked in fits and starts at times, but were there nonetheless to learn, to assist, to walk with the Savior so they could continue his work. Paul had companions on all of his journeys. He told Timothy to "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." (II Timothy 4:11)

Ecclesiastes 4:8-10 tells us, "There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."

Find friends who can help you walk and work the road of God's calling together. Family members and friends who are there for you and have you there for them to share burdens, share ministry, celebrate joys, and experience life are vital. Don't walk alone.

Pastor Steve
Friday July 23, 2021

Earthquakes are events that can have devastating consequences and far-reaching effects. The Sumatran-Andaman earthquake of December 26, 2004, was centered near Sumatra, Indonesia, but it literally shook the entire planet. Fourteen countries near the epicenter experienced tsunamis that killed more than 200,000 people. It remotely triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska. The ground shook all over planet earth.

Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish philosopher, wrote that his world was rocked by an "earthquake" when his religious father cursed God because of the treatment he was experiencing from others. This event affected Soren so profoundly that he called it "The Great Earthquake." For the rest of his life, he wondered how his life was touched by what took place.

All of us experience "earthquakes" in our lives. We face difficult times and, at times, experiences that leave us devastated. During these events, let your faith step in and hold you fast as your work through the results of what is taking place or has been done. Focus on the strong provision of God who always has you in His hands and will hold you fast when your world is quaking.

We are in God's hands, and he will give us strength, protection, and healing. John 10:28-29 tells us, "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." Paul writes about God's provision for his children in Romans 8:37-39, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." When your world is shaken, trust God to hold you fast.

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 22, 2021

In II Corinthians 7, Paul defines his relationship with the Corinthians by calling them "dear friends" and telling them, "I am glad I can have complete confidence in you." (vs. 16) The language Paul uses here in his greeting to them stands in stark contrast to how he had addressed them earlier. When you read I Corinthians, you will come to a section where Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not taking care of a problem that existed among them. (I Corinthians 5)

What made the difference is that the Corinthians confronted the wrongdoing, repentance followed, and the Corinthians forgave the person. This led to reinstitution in the church and a reinforcement of God's desire. The person prospered and the church thrived.

At times, we have a problem with being forgiven and accepting God's forgiveness. Even though we know God forgives, there are times we struggle with allowing God's forgiveness to infiltrate our being and rid us of the guilt we feel for the sins we commit. We cannot undo the past, but when we repent and receive God's forgiveness, we need to present him with the consequences and give this to him.

Psalm 32:2 tells us, Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. He truly forgives us, and we can live as forgiven people. Fellowship is restored, and we can know we are his "dear friends."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 21, 2021

I read the other day that only 30% of the population of the United States do not need glasses. Now, as a person who has needed visual correction for almost all of my life, I am not surprised at this statistic. Actually, I doubt this news surprises any of you. I would imagine only a handful of those reading this article are doing so without some sort of correction. I would imagine you could only come up with a short list of folks that you know personally who do not need visual correction of some sort.

Another need exists among humans. We also struggle with our spiritual vision. Even those of us who are following the Savior do not have perfect spiritual vision. Paul talks about this in I Corinthians 13:12 where he writes, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." At the time Paul wrote this, mirrors such as we have now did not exist. Pieces of polished metal served as mirrors and provided reflections that were dim and distorted.

Even those who follow Christ suffer from limited spiritual vision because of the limitations of humanity. This means that things happen that we don't understand. This means that we cannot fully comprehend all that is taking place. This means that, in many instances, answers to life's questions will not be there or will only be vaguely understood. We only "know in part," as Paul wrote. (I Corinthians 13:9).

This is why faith is so important. We don't see clearly now, but we will "know as we are known" at some point. Until that time, we should look to God to help us with our impairment. He is the only One who can supply us with the correction that we need.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday July 20, 2021

On those days when it just seems I am stuck in a lower gear, I start to do a little rehearsing. I have found that a rehearsal of all the things for which I am thankful helps me to put away the doldrums and the lethargy and provide some energy to help me with the tasks at hand. Now, you can think of some specifics in this exercise, but I have found using a "scripture guide of things for which to be thankful" is helpful.

There are a number of passages that can be used for this; Psalm 103 is a good one. David found that lifting up his thanks to God was a way to bring joy to his soul. He thanked God for all of his benefits (vs. 2). He thanked God that he forgave his sins (vss. 3). He thanked God for not dealing with him as sins would dictate, but removed them from his life (vss. 10 & 12). He thanked God for healing and looked forward to the time when all of our physical afflictions will be done away (vs. 3). David thanked God that he would not face punishment but instead be a recipient of God's love and great compassion (vs. 4). He thanked God for the satisfaction he found in Him and for the energy that God supplied to him as he went through life (vs. 5). David was grateful that God's love is enduring and goes on and on, and would even be extended to his progeny (vs. 17).

David found that giving God thanks and praise led him to a peace of heart and an experience of joy that did not come from other pursuits. So, do you need a little kick in your step? Start with the Lord, "Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits." (103:1) This will help you soar like an eagle (Psalm 103:5).

Pastor Steve
Monday July 19, 2021

A newspaper ad for a new model of Jaguar stated, "Once again envy will be standard equipment." It may not be wrong to own a Jaguar, but if my neighbor has one and I am overly envious of having one as well, that is an issue. This is an area that, at first thought, we might not consider too serious; but the scripture tells us that it "ranks" right up there with sexual immorality and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21)

Envy motivated Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery (Acts 7); Envy fueled the fires of those who wanted to destroy Christ (Mark 15); Envy led Paul's opponents in Thessalonica to incite a riot (Acts 17).

Envy left unchecked can lead to actions that are negative in intent and destructive in nature. We need to recognize envy in our lives and remove it from our hearts. Ecclesiastes 4:4 tells us, "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

Don't let envy be standard equipment in your life. Control this attitude that can lead to awful consequences.

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 18, 2021

We all know the problems distracted driving can cause. Distracted walking can also be a dangerous endeavor. I was talking with my brother the other night and something we said reminded me of the time that I walked into a USPS mailbox on a sidewalk in Charleston, South Carolina. I hit it so hard that I knocked it off its moorings. Of course, I took a tumble as well and banged up my legs. I was texting while I was walking and not paying attention to where I was headed. Not good.

We can have problems in our walk with the Lord when we let distractions take over. Activities we should not pursue, issues that we think are so very important, neglect of time that we should be spending with Him, and other circumstances can pull our gaze away from where it should be. When we are tempted to focus on something else rather than our focus on Christ, we need to do something about it, or the consequences could be detrimental. The answer to distracted walking is fairly simple, whether you are talking about your physical walk or your walk with God: don't pursue distractions!

I Samuel 12:21 & 24 tells us, "And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you." Focus on the Lord and save those mailboxes!

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 18, 2021

We all know the problems distracted driving can cause. Distracted walking can also be a dangerous endeavor. I was talking with my brother the other night and something we said reminded me of the time that I walked into a USPS mailbox on a sidewalk in Charleston, South Carolina. I hit it so hard that I knocked it off its moorings. Of course, I took a tumble as well and banged up my legs. I was texting while I was walking and not paying attention to where I was headed. Not good.

We can have problems in our walk with the Lord when we let distractions take over. Activities we should not pursue, issues that we think are so very important, neglect of time that we should be spending with Him, and other circumstances can pull our gaze away from where it should be. When we are tempted to focus on something else rather than our focus on Christ, we need to do something about it, or the consequences could be detrimental. The answer to distracted walking is fairly simple, whether you are talking about your physical walk or your walk with God: don't pursue distractions!

I Samuel 12:21 & 24 tells us, "And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name's sake, Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you." Focus on the Lord and save those mailboxes!

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 17, 2021

I remember reading a story about an incident that took place during the Korean War. While engaged in an offensive, Baker Company was separated from the rest of their unit. For many long hours, headquarters waited anxiously for some communication from them. Finally, a faint radio message was heard. Headquarters responded, "Baker Company, what is your situation?" The reply from Baker Company was, "The enemy is to the east of us. The enemy is to the west of us. The enemy is to the north of us. The enemy is to the south of us. The enemy is not going to get away from us now!"

Although in a precarious circumstance, Baker Company was thinking about victory, not defeat. This is how we can look at tough times in our lives. Whether we are engaged in a time of difficult spiritual warfare, or we are struggling with a set of circumstances that seem to have us surrounded, we can focus on victory, not defeat. Paul speaks about having an attitude of victory when things look bleak, "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (II Corinthians 4:7-9)

When we are surrounded by the enemy, remember the strength you can have through God's provision. Think, "The enemy is not going to get away from me now!"

Pastor Steve
Friday July 16, 2021

Bridges are an important part of our road infrastructure. When a bridge is out, it can be really problematic. Several years ago, a bridge on I-64 that connected Louisville, Kentucky, and New Harmony, Indiana had to be closed when some structural problems were discovered. This made for a long commute for local residents and a confusing detour for infrequent travelers. I traversed that road on my travels to Ohio to visit my family. The detour added a good bit of time to our trip. After the reopening of the bridge, I have never again taken it for granted.

We need bridge builders in our world in general and in our churches. We need people who can help connect disparate circumstances and, at times, disparate people. Barnabas was just such a bridge builder. When Paul experienced difficulty being accepted by the folks at Jerusalem, Barnabas stepped in. You really can't fault the folks at Jerusalem, given Paul's background, but he had experienced the grace of God. Barnabas intervened on his behalf by building a bridge between Paul and the Jerusalem church. Luke writes: "When (Paul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles." (Acts 9:26-27)

Are you aware of a situation where a bridge is needed? Perhaps you can be that bridge and keep folks from taking unnecessary detours and going in wrong directions. I have always maintained that the church would benefit from more folks like Barnabas. Are you a Barnabas?

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 15, 2021

An intersection exists in our town where, because of the proximity of a building to the intersection, drivers are unable to see oncoming traffic. Now, a traffic light is present there, and one would think that might take care of the issue, but sometimes on-coming drivers ignore the light and zip right on through. Because of my experiences there, I have learned to hesitate a bit before I start into the intersection when the light turns green. Often, I wish a big mirror could be placed in the intersection, one like is found in hallways of buildings, but that is not possible. Well, you could do it, but the problems this would cause would outweigh the advantages.

At times we wish that we could see "around corners" into the future. If we could just see what is ahead, we sometimes theorize, "we could be better prepared, and maybe even avoid things." This could be true, to some extent, but the problems would outweigh the advantages.

A little girl was helping her grandmother boil some eggs for breakfast. As they were looking at the eggs and talking about how long it would take to get them just right, the girl said, "It's a shame we can't open the eggs up to see how they are doing." But they knew that would spoil them and they had to rely on their guesswork.

Messing around with the future, like opening a partially-cooked egg, could make a real mess. Both what is happening right now, and what is happening "around the corner," could be knocked off-kilter.

Jesus had something to say about how our perspective of today and tomorrow. He said, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:33 34) Make sure you are doing what you should to take care of today, and trust Christ to guide you with what is around the corner.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 14, 2021

I enjoyed the PBS series "Downton Abbey." One of the things that made the series enjoyable for me was listening what they called each other. Titles were very much a part of British culture in the time frame of this series. They still are to some extent. I always got a kick out of hearing Robert Crawley (the Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville) call his mother the "Dowager Countess," a role played brilliantly by Maggie Smith. I would think, "She's your mother, for goodness sake!" Oh, I really loved her character. Anyway, titles were very much a part of the dialogue. Some cultures value titles more than others.

In scripture, we find that Paul was not into titles that much, but he did use the term "apostle" frequently in his writings. This demonstrated why he had the right to send the letters he wrote. For example, we read in II Corinthians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all his hol y people throughout Achaia." He used this title upon occasion when he wanted to state his role in the ministry.

There were also other terms he used about himself. These were of a different nature. Paul had formerly been a "blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man" He said that he considered himself to be the "chief" of sinners. But because of God s mercy, he was now an apostle, one to whom "the King eternal" had committed the glorious gospel and whom He had sent out to share that gospel. (I Timothy 1:13, 15, 17)

There are terms that can be used to about us that are not so much titles as they are descriptions of character. "Liar," "sneak," or "two-faced" are titles we certainly don't want. Rather, we would hope that terms like "honest," "dependable," or "kind" could be used. These titles may not be "official", but they certainly are significant. These titles are up to us - we gain them through our lifestyle. So, what is your title?

Pastor Steve
Tuesday July 13, 2021

I enjoy seeing pictures posted on Facebook and other social media of folks' travels to some of the marvelous places we have on our planet. Just this morning, I saw pictures from England, the northwest United States, a beach in Florida, and the mountains of Tennessee. Over the years, I have been blessed to visit some of the beautiful places that God has created. There are many I would still like to see, but I am grateful for some of the sights I have witnessed - rainforests in Costa Rica, sand dunes in Peru, mountains in the U.S., and other marvelous scenes.

Have you ever wondered what God looks at when he observes His creation? Have you ever wondered what he thinks about when he looks at what He has set in motion on Earth? What is it that draws his attention? The writer of Psalm 33 gives us an idea, "From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth--he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine." (vss. 13-15; 18-19)

God doesn't look so much on the wonders of nature as he does people - us. What does he see? What kind of view greets him? As he looks at his children, is He pleased with what he sees, or does He wince at the sight of what is before his eyes? He looks at us with a heart of love and longs for us to trust him. He wants to help those whose hope is in him. He wants to deliver us and provide for us. Let's show him we appreciate what he does for us by giving him something really special to view!

Pastor Steve
Monday July 12, 2021

You can put this in the "Believe It or Not" file if you wish. I know I found it hard to believe until I actually read some information about it. There is a group that has developed what is being termed the Quantum Sleeper. This is a bed that can help you survive if someone breaks into your home, or there is some sort of natural disaster, or any kind of apocalyptic scenario.

The bed features an alarm system that warns of imminent danger whether an intruder or bad weather. It has bullet-proof armor, a water circulation system, an air purification system, hook-ups for video feed, gaming, and DVD, and, of course, a food supply. Are there bad guys trying to get you? Don't worry - your bed will spew tear gas and take care of the threat. Whenever a threat is detected, the bed closes up and you are warm and safe within its confines. All of this security in order for you to get a good night's sleep!

David had another solution for getting a good night's sleep. We read in Psalm 4:4-5 & 8 "Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord. Many, Lord, are asking, 'Who will bring us prosperity?' Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety."

As we submit our lives to the Lord, He brings us a sense of security and well-being that allows us a good night's sleep. All the armor in the world and all the tear gas in the world will only go so far. God goes into areas of our lives that no one else can enter, when we allow Him to do so, to bolster our confidence and bring contentment. So, invest in a Quantum Sleeper if you wish. My hope is in the Lord.

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 11, 2021

Today marks the 50th anniversary of my first sermon. Now, I preached a number of sermons in the living room of the home where I grew up in Deering, Ohio, but my first "official" message was in the Sunday evening service at Zoar Baptist Church in Coal Grove, Ohio, on July 11, 1971.

My text was Matthew 9:36-38, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.'" My Papaw, John Mayfield, who was a minister, helped me with the sermon.

I don't recall my original outline, but I see three thoughts in this passage. First, our compassion for others needs to be like that of Christ's. He looked and saw needs that begged to be met. Do we look for needs that ask for our intervention? Secondly, we are asked to pray for action and for answers for the needs that we see, in particular, the spread of the Good News of the Gospel. Finally, we should look to be the answer to our prayer for "workers" for the harvest.

This is the desire that I have for the ministry in which I am engaged. I don't think I have another 50 in me, but I'll keep trying for as long as I can.

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 10, 2021

This summer, we have been able to enjoy a lot of activities and pursuits we missed last year because of COVID. Ballgames, outings, traveling, and other things were back on the docket after being, for the most part, shelved last year. For some, this raises a question - should I actually miss these activities or are they simply frivolous endeavors that we really shouldn't pursue in the first place? What about recreational activities or things we do simply for pleasure? Should these actually be part of our lives? For many, this is not a real issue, but I have been asked questions along this line.

The desire for having fun is a good thing. I cannot help but think that Paul must have been a fan of sporting activities as he used these for object lessons on more than one occasion - read I Corinthians 9:24-27. He also writes about social events such as going out to dinner with other folks (read I Corinthians 10). We are built to enjoy these things, and Paul also comments that God, "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." (I Timothy 6:17) We should enjoy activities simply for the sake of having a good time, but as with many things, we need to take care that our pleasurable pursuits do not become our primary pursuits.

King Solomon made this mistake and wrote, "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 2:10) Solomon stated that he put everything, even his work, ahead living to please God. Eventually he learned the emptiness of living this way and the folly of putting his own desires ahead of God's desire for him. He wrote, "He who loves pleasure will become a poor man." (Proverbs 21:17)

Being involved in fun activities and pursuits that bring pleasure is not a problem unless we put them in the place of our pursuit of God. Solomon came to this conclusion, "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all people." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) This should be our conclusion as well. Enjoy your summer!

Pastor Steve
Friday July 09, 2021

As I read the scriptural accounts about the lives of the people whom God uses, I am struck by a particular observation - they were all ordinary people doing ordinary things when God called them to do something extraordinary. Abram was tending his flocks in Ur when God called him to leave. (Genesis 12:1-5) Moses is interesting because he was a "nobody" who became a "somebody," but was taken back to "nobody" status before God used him as a "somebody." (Exodus 3 & 4) David was a boy watching his father s sheep who became a valiant warrior and ultimately King of Israel. (II Samuel 5:1-5)

I find the account of Mary particularly compelling both for what took place, and because of her verbal response to the call on her life. What sets all of these people apart and gives us insight into the reason they were used by God in the way they were is found in her words, "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38) These were the words Mary used in her response, and not the exact statement of the others, but these words certainly match the heart of all of the others I have mentioned. What set them apart was not their dynamic abilities or splendid acts; what set them apart was their willingness to obey when God called them to serve.

Mary was living the simple, plain life of a Jewish girl in Galilee. She was doing what all the others of her age were doing. There was nothing out of the ordinary about her life that would have given any indication she had been set apart for her specific, and special, place. What set her apart was her response when she was called. I won t take the time to comment on this now, but I have often pointed out the similarity in her response and that of her Son when he prayed to His father on the night before the crucifixion. Christ said, "yet not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:29-35)

What is God asking you to do? It may be something really big, or it may be something ordinary. It may be to respond to a call to act, or simply to wait in the wake of a present difficulty. I am not all that familiar with him, but recently I came across a quote from the 18th-century writer Jean-Pierre de Caussade, "What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the holiest thing that could happen to us." Let your heart be in agreement with and in the company with Mary and all the others I mentioned earlier. As your live for God, let your response to Him be, "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 07, 2021

As I wrote earlier, in my recent travels I encountered road construction. This is the norm, of course. At the present time, if you travel east on I-70, you will encounter road construction just before you get to Indianapolis. In actuality, if you plan to travel through Indianapolis on I-70 right now, you will detour around the city on I-465.

I have traveled I-70 frequently over the past years, and I know that section just before Indianapolis has been re-worked before. So, the question is, if they have already worked on that section before, why are they tearing it up again and doing more work on it? There may be a number of answers to this, but the bottom line is, it needs to be done to make it better.

In our experience as followers of Christ, we often speak of God using life circumstances to mold us and shape us and help us to be what He wants us to be. At times, it seems as if we go through experiences where we feel as if we have encountered before a similar circumstance. That, of course, may well be the case. God uses experiences to teach us and to build our faith. In His wisdom, repeat experiences may be what is best for us. As with people tearing up what has been worked on before to make improvements, God will use what is best for us to bring us to where He wants us to be. The thing with God is that, unlike people's abilities and understanding, His ability and understanding is always best.

We exercise faith when we yield to His work in our lives and let Him do what He knows is best. I have no clue whether it was the best thing or not to rip up I-70 just before Indianapolis, but I know that whatever God does in my life is indeed the best thing. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells us, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." H writes elsewhere, "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) God continues to work in our lives, and, at times, does things over in order to bring us to where He wants us to be. Travel the road with God, and let Him decide which detours we need.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday July 06, 2021

My 18-month-old granddaughter, Edith, makes the cutest facial expressions. I love to watch her as she walks around playing, talking, and singing, all the while making a face to suit whatever thoughts happen to be in her little mind at the time. You can ask her, "Edie, show me your happy face," and she beams and smiles. "Show me your sad face," brings an expression that might must bring tears to your eyes. And be prepared to be intimidated if you ask her to show you her angry face. She is a little expressive sweetheart.

Our facial expressions communicate what is going on inside of us. They let others know what we are thinking and feeling and reveal our attitudes about issues and circumstances. Our facial expressions reveal outwardly what is going on inwardly.

In the Old Testament, we read of a group of people who were profoundly affected by someone's facial expression. After Moses' encounter with God on Sinai, we read about the response of the people to the appearance of Moses, "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them." (Exodus 34:29 31) The face of Moses was radiant because of his encounter with God. His outward appearance revealed his inner character.

What about us? Does out outward radiance reveal our inner character? Does it reveal that we have had an encounter with God? Now, I am not saying that our face should glow so brightly that we have veil ourselves in the presence of others, but our outward expressiveness should reveal our inner attentiveness. We should do what we can to reveal the character of God in how we express our lives. So, show me your happy face!

Pastor Steve
Monday July 05, 2021

I would imagine you have heard the name Noah Webster. He fought in the Revolutionary War, then became a lawyer. Of course, he is best known for producing the first American dictionary of the English language. I know I have written about this before, but I keep coming across these fascinating articles that remind us of how highly the Scriptures were once thought of by scholars and utilized in our educational process.

In his book, The History of the United States, published in 1832, Noah Webster wrote: "All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." Webster understood the importance of using the Bible in life.

Moses spoke about the importance of scripture and tells us what we should do: "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead." (Deuteronomy 8:8 9)

I do not know what lies in the path of our society, but I do know the neglect, in actuality the spurning, of scripture is not going to be without consequence. Noah Webster recognized this over 170 years ago. We are witnessing the decline of Western civilization as a result of the neglect of Scripture.

Don't allow a decline in your life because of a neglect of scripture. The author of one of the most important works in the English language warns against the neglect of scripture. Affirming what Moses said, Webster understood the importance of words and the importance of the Word. We need to follow the advice of the authority about the Authority!

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 04, 2021

Today we celebrate Independence Day. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain. July 4, 1776, is the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a document intended to define just what was meant by the vote on July 2. In a letter to his wife, John Adams wrote that the day should be celebrated with parades, fireworks, and all kinds of other activities. I don't know if our customs of celebration are because of Adams' suggestion, but this is what we do to celebrate.

Independence Day falls on a Sunday this year, and as it does, I am reminded of another year when our celebration fell on a Sunday. That was 45 years ago, our bicentennial year, July 4, 1976. At that time, "Get All Excited," the group I had with my brothers and others, was going strong. We were pretty active on July 4, 1976. I hope you will forgive my reminiscing today, but since the actual day coincides, it has led me to be a bit nostalgic.

We were pretty active on Sunday, July 4, 1976. That morning at about 9, we sang at Gateway Baptist Church in Ironton, Ohio. They blocked off the east-west cross-street that ran between South 5th and South 6th. Some of you reading this may be able to name that street, but it escapes me at this time. Actually, this arrangement was just for high school and college-aged kids, as I recall. We sang and Jim Howell, Jr., spoke. After this, we traveled a little south to the Christ United Methodist Church to sing in their morning service. From there, we traveled upriver to Gallipolis, Ohio, about an hour and a half drive, for a concert in the city park with other groups. There were hundreds of people there biggest crowd we ever experienced. Then, we hopped on Route 7 and traveled back to Coal Grove to sing in the evening service of our home church, Zoar Baptist. For the benefit of those reading who are not familiar with southern Ohio geography, Coal Grove is right next to Ironton. This was quite a way to celebrate, and is one of my favorite memories of our "traveling" days.

We do need to celebrate today. We should be thankful for our country and what it means to be a part of this country. We are struggling with our direction and there are problems, but I am glad I live here. God has used our country in a unique way over the past three centuries to have a profound impact on our world. The people of God are still present in our country, and we need to continue to do what we know is right in the eyes of God.

As you celebrate your freedom as a citizen, don t forget to celebrate your freedom as a follower of Christ. For some, this may sound cliché, but cliché or not, it is truth. Galatians 5:1 says, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore." II Corinthians 3:17 declares, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Finally, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) Celebrate our freedom, and celebrate your freedom in Christ. Happy 4th of July!

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 03, 2021

I once read the account of an elderly lady who lived in Moorefield, Virginia, during the War between the States. Actually, the town was located in the part of the state that would become West Virginia during the conflict. Because of its location, the occupation of the town changed almost daily. One day it was in Union hands, the next it might be controlled by the Confederate army. A knock came on her door one morning. It was some enemy troops, and they demanded to be fed. She had them come in and cooked breakfast for them. When they sat down, she said, "I always read the Bible and pray before breakfast. So I will do that now."

She opened her Bible and randomly selected Psalm 27. She read, "The LORD is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, then my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." Then she prayed. At the conclusion of the prayer, she raised her head and found that all of the soldiers had left.

What enemies are you facing? When you have foes in your home demanding breakfast, take time to read Psalm 27, pray about what you face, and trust God for the outcome.

Pastor Steve
Friday July 02, 2021

Did you ever threaten to run away from home when you were a kid? When I got mad at my parents I did. The problem was I could never come up with a good place to go. We lived too far out in the country to have a destination that would work.

David, the author of Psalm 139, asked a provocative question: "Where can I flee from Your presence?" (v.7). He answered his own question with two parallel responses. He first replied, "If I ascend to heaven, You are there" (v.8). It doesn't take a theologian to figure that out. After all, where else would God be?

David's second response is quite interesting. "If I make my bed in hell, you are there." Hell? Yes, that is what he wrote. The point David is making is that you can't go anywhere where God isn't. He is everywhere. This truth is both convicting and comforting. It is convicting because it means God is present when we are doing our worst. However, it is comforting to know he is present when the worst is being piled on us. He is there.

So, don't make plans to run from God - you will not be successful. Yogi Berra once said, "No matter where I go, there I am." Well, the same can be said about God.

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 01, 2021

My handwriting is atrocious. No matter how hard I try, I have never been able to write well. A bird with ink on its feet could walk across a sheet of paper and make something that would be more legible than my efforts. I remember a comment a professor wrote on one of my exams, "Mr. Willis, your handwriting is well-nigh unreadable, but your logic is irrefutable." I'm glad he appreciated that.

There is a discipline of study called graphology which says that one can determine a good deal about an individual's character by studying their handwriting. I am sure mine would make an interesting study, if they could make heads or tails out of anything I have written.

In the scripture, Paul refers to the handwriting of our lives. He says in II Corinthians 3:2-3, "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." What kind of writing are you showing with your life? If the handwriting of your life were to be studied, what would it say about your spiritual character?

You may have heard it said, "Your life may be the only Bible some read." If this is true, what is your life saying? We should live to please the Lord. If we do, then we are writing eloquent testimonies to his Grace that can be an effective testimony for our Heavenly Father. Let's determine to write statements of godliness and obedience with the instruments of our lives.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 30, 2021

Forgive me for keeping the vacation motif in my writing today - we just had a really good experience being with our kids. We did encounter some little difficulties getting to our destination - this is usually the case but not that many and not that problematic. They were just things that can happen - dealing with traffic, and we did have a booking issue with the hotel we stayed at the first night. Yeesh - don't get me started on that.

With any sort of travel, you find out that getting from Point A to Point B may mean dealing with struggles. I am sure that most of you can relate to this. Perhaps you can recall a trip where you can provide a litany of bad circumstances that you encountered - car trouble, sick kids, traffic, getting lost, angry drivers, and maybe other issues. Then, when you arrived at the destination the sound of the surf, the majestic view of the mountains, or whatever else you went to experience, made you forget all the struggles you faced along the way to get to where you wanted to be. That was certainly the case for us this year.

Peter reminds us that our road to where we want to be will not always be smooth sailing, but there is inexpressible joy that awaits us. He writes, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." (I Peter 1:3 6)

A wonderful destination awaits us, but getting there may mean that we "suffer grief in all kinds of trials." As with our earthly trips, it helps to have an expectation of the rocky path that may be ahead of us as we make the journey to where we want to be. Our arrival at our destination will erase the struggle we have faced in getting where we want to be. Paul tells us, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4:17 18) The journey is many times rough, but the destination will be all that we imagine it to be.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 29, 2021

In the 70's there was a TV show called "The A Team." I think they tried a revival of this show a few years ago. The storyline featured a team of characters with somewhat checkered pasts and some military background that ran around taking care of "problems." One of the characters was "B.A. Baracus" played by Mr. T. The character played by George Peppard was fond of pointing out what B.A. stood for. As you might have guessed, if you didn't already know, B.A. stands for "Bad Attitude." Whereas "Bad Attitude" may have been glorified in this TV series, someone with a "bad attitude" is usually not looked upon favorably.

Having a bad attitude makes one difficult to be around, hard to work with, hard to live with, hard to understand. Having a bad attitude really only hurts the one with the bad ttitude. Sometimes we have a bad attitude about church and being in church. Then we wonder why we don't get anything out of church.

If we expect to receive blessings, see the hand of God in our lives, grow in the Lord, learn more about God's word, be a blessing to others, we need to have a good attitude. Paul talks about developing a new attitude that befits our position in Christ. He writes in Ephesians 4:23-24, "to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." He writes further in Philippians 2:5, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Peter speaks of attitude in I Peter 4:1, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin."

So, "arm" yourselves with a good attitude. This is the way to ensure that you can be used by the Lord, you can ensure that you will enjoy your relationship with the Lord, and you can be an encouragement to others. Don't be a "B.A.", be a "be nice!"

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 26, 2021

God never calls upon us to do something we can't do. He knows our abilities and he knows our weaknesses. When Paul proclaimed in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength," he knew what he was talking about. Christ had led him into circumstances and situations that would seem impossible, yet he knew that Christ would always be there to help him with those times.

William Carey was another man who knew the reality of this scripture. Born in England, William Carey (1761-1834) was a Baptist missionary to India. A pastor before going to the mission field, he spent an active forty-one years serving the Lord in India, including translating the Scriptures. Carey never returned to England. He translated the Scriptures into Bengali, helped end the practice of suttee (where a widow is burned alive along with her dead husband), established churches and medical clinics, and so much more. On May 30, 1792, at the occasion of a ministerial gathering, he preached from Isaiah 54:2,3, in which he laid down his two general arguments, which have since become a missionary motto, "Expect great things from God: attempt great things for God."

When God calls you to perform a task, he is already preparing you to accomplish that task. Remember the examples of Paul and Carey when you face daunting tasks - know that God is right by your side.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 25, 2021

My grandparents had a painting hanging in their front room of a young boy and girl walking across a rickety bridge while an angel, without their knowledge, watched their steps. As a young boy, I was quite fascinated by this portrait. I often wondered if there was an angel watching over me.

As I grew older, and was able to read and understand what the Bible teaches about this idea, I found out that the painting was really not too far from reality. The scripture speaks of angels, and also addresses the issue of angels who watch over folks. Are there really "guardian angels?"

Our thoughts about angels are sometimes not too accurate, but the Bible does proclaim that angels do minister to those of us who live on earth. Hebrews 1:14 tells us "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" Another reference that points out the existence and reality of angels is Hebrews 13:2, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

There may not be "guardian angels" as some envision, that is, a specific angel assigned to a specific person, but the scripture does tell us that there are angels who minister to the followers of God. These verses attest to the existence and reality of angels. We should thank God for their presence, even though we do not know who they are. They are there, and we probably will never know all that they do for us. Be grateful for our "silent partners!"

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 24, 2021

Sometimes, the harshness of God's judgment surprises us. In Leviticus 10, we read of the death of Aaron's sons simply because they didn't conduct an offering in the right way. We read of God striking down men who looked at the ark (I Samuel 6) and of a man losing his life because he touched the ark to keep it from falling from a cart - "When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God (II Samuel 6:6-7)." How do we explain these events? Is God overreacting?

Well, for one thing, we shouldn't presume that we need to explain these events. And, God does not overreact. What we see in these passages is God showing people his holiness and what he thinks of disobedience. In each of these events, we see God's commands being broken. God is a God of love, but he is also to be feared and respected as holy and righteous. We need to take his holiness seriously and understand his sacred character. Scripture demands that we live righteously before the Lord. We cannot take his holiness for granted. Remember - God is God he tells us in Leviticus 10:3, "Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored."

Yes, we do have a loving God who has our best interests at heart. But he wants us to respect him and be in awe of who he is. This, to be quite frank, is not too much to ask of us. It helps us to keep in mind just who God is, and who we are, and that all we are depends on Him.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 23, 2021

This past Sunday evening, well, to be more precise, early Monday morning, I experienced my first named storm. Tropical Storm Claudette passed through the area where I and my family are currently vacationing, Emerald Isle, North Carolina. As far as storms go, it was not a particularly strong one. I have witnessed worse, and I am sure that all of you coastal dwellers and others who live in areas where named storms tend to frequent have had worse. I know many of you have had loss because of a storm. The folks here have seen stronger storms - since 1930 this immediate area has been on the receiving end of 94 hurricanes. What was significant for me, as I said earlier, this was my first experience with a storm that had a name.

The National Hurricane Center started naming hurricanes in 1951. They did so as they found this to be a simple way of keeping straight the data on storms and not getting storms confused. They patterned their model for doing this on the informal practice of Naval Meteorologists naming storms during WWII. Since about 1960, the names of particularly eventful storms have been retired.

God is someone else who places particular significance on names. Genesis 2:19 tells us, "Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name." We see the importance God places on names in other actions - He renamed Abram and Sarai (Genesis 17:5-6); He changed Jacob's name to Israel (Genesis 32:28). And, of course, there is the matter of the names associated with the Savior.

The first of these references is found in Isaiah 7:14, "the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us)." Then, in Matthew 1:21, we read this statement of hope associated with the angelic instructions given to Joseph about the birth and naming of his future son, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." The name Jesus means "God our Savior." Of course, Jesus is God, and He is our Savior.

As you read further in the scripture, you come across these references to the significance of the name of the Savior: "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Philippians 2:9-11 says this about the name of the Savior, "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." In the name of Jesus, there is hope, there is help, there is healing.

We sing about the glorious nature of the name of Jesus. Songs from "What a Lovely Name" and "There's Just Something about That Name" by Bill Gaither to Hillsong's "What A Beautiful Name It Is" and Lincoln Brewster's "There is Power in the Name of Jesus" speak about the glorious nature of the name of Jesus. Yes, there is significance in names, and certainly great significance in the name of Jesus. I am glad that is one Name that will never be retired.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 22, 2021

At the time it was built, the Kansai International Airport near Osaka, Japan, was the most expensive construction project in history. One item which helped to make this project so costly was that a man-made island was to be built for the airport. It would have to withstand earthquakes and typhoons.

Construction started in 1987. The sea wall was finished in 1989 (made of rocks and 48,000 tetrahedral concrete blocks). Three mountains were excavated for 21,000,000 m3 (740,000,000 cu ft) of landfill. 10,000 workers and 10 million work hours over 3 years, using 80 ships, were needed to complete the 30-metre (98 ft) layer of earth over the sea floor and inside the sea wall. In 1990, a 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) bridge was completed to connect the island to the mainland at a cost of $1 billion. The airport did survive a tremendous earthquake in 1995 and a typhoon in 1998. However, there was another problem: the island was sinking.

This was expected and several engineering features were added to compensate for this. Today, this seems to be under control and the airport is one of the busiest in the world while being able to boast of having the longest terminal in the world (1.7 miles). The powers that be who were behind the construction of this airport took a lot of flak but when it withstood earthquakes and storms, the critics had to temper their attacks.

The sinking problem reminds me of the parable Jesus told of building houses. We read in Matthew 7:24-27, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." We will face a number of storms in our lives, and it will be these storms that demonstrate what type of foundation we have used. We can silence our critics by making sure we are building on a rock. Of course, building on the Rock, Christ Jesus, is what we need to do (Read Romans 9:33).

Build on the Rock. Then, when storms come, your house, or airport, or whatever you wish to call your life, won't sink!

Pastor Steve
Monday June 21, 2021

British statesman John Morley once traveled from England to Canada to deliver a commencement address at a university. He began his address by saying, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I have traveled more than four thousand miles simply to tell you there is a difference between right and wrong." This is indeed a basic reality yet we often need to be reminded of the "basics." Even with all of our cultural advances, we still face prejudice, dishonesty, violence and oppression in our society. Evil is still very much with us and everywhere present.

We need to guard ourselves in order to not be taken in by what we know to be wrong and we need to stand against what we know to be wrong. As followers of Christ, we are not immune to the effects of evil, but we do have the strength to avoid evil. Psalm 94:16 asks, "Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?" We, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are the ones who can rise up against the wicked and take a stand against evildoers.

There is indeed a difference between right and wrong. As followers of Christ, we know the difference. We need to resist what is wrong, point out evil when we see it, and stand firm in the power of the Lord. We need to tell others the difference between right and wrong, as basic as that may sound, because people need to be reminded. We need to be reminded. And we don't have to travel 4,000 miles to do it.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 20, 2021

The first formal "Father's Day" was celebrated JUNE 19, 1910, in Spokane, Washington. Sonora Louise Smart Dodd heard a church sermon on the newly established Mother's Day and wanted to honor her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, who had raised six children by himself after his wife died in childbirth. Sonora drew up a petition supported by the Young Men's Christian Association and the ministers of Spokane. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson spoke at a Spokane Fathers' Day service. President Nixon, in 1972, established Father's Day as a permanent national observance.

Today as you celebrate Father's Day, don't forget to honor our Heavenly Father who is with us always (Hebrews 13:5), will supply all of our needs (Philippians 4:19), will help us in our times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and will never change (James 1:17). God wants to take care of us even as an earthly father wants to take care of his children. Matthew 7:11 tells us "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!"

I was wonderfully blessed by my Heavenly Father with a Dad who loved me and taught me a number of important things - including the need to celebrate my Father who made our relationship possible. I am so thankful for both. Celebrate your father and your Father on Father's Day!

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 19, 2021

Robert Fulghum wrote a little gem entitled "Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." I have referred to this book from time to time. One of the things he wrote was "don't hit people." Our initial response to this little bit of advice is probably "Sure - you shouldn't hit other people!" And that is true. Most of us wouldn't dream of causing pain to someone else by hitting them. However, we are often guilty of bringing pain to other people by "hitting" them with an unkind act or saying something that is out of line or simply not being very nice.

As followers of Christ, we need to take care that we don't "hit" someone else. We get enough grief from life as it is, we shouldn't add to someone else's sadness by being unkind or unfriendly to them. People need encouragement and acceptance, not rudeness and rejection. If you are the reason someone else feels unwelcome or hurt - shame on you!

Proverbs 11:17 tells us, "A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself." Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us that kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Paul also tells us in II Timothy 2:24, "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone."

Don't hit people! Be kind! We live in an unkind world - make sure that kindness rules your life!

Pastor Steve
Friday June 18, 2021

In the 1983 film War Games, Matthew Broderick plays a young man who unwittingly hacks into a Defense Department computer, and thinking he was playing a computer game, almost causes a nuclear war. One wonders if this could actually happen. Well, it could, and in the days of the Cold War, it almost did. On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet officer, correctly identified a warning signal of an impending nuclear attack on the Soviet Union as a computer error thus averting a retaliatory strike against the United States. War Games had just been released in the summer of 1983. Rather ironic, don t you think?

You know, if you were to dwell on things like this, it could really bring about a lot of fear. For some, it does. However, we who know God know He is a Sovereign Lord who is in control and has told us what will take place to bring about the end times. Many fear a nuclear holocaust and believe that human actions will bring about an apocalyptic end to our world. God is the one in charge, and He is the one who will cause things to happen according to His timetable and in His way. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of this. Job was reminded of this when God said to him, "Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand (Job 38:3-4)."

Don't spend time needlessly worrying about things that will not happen. Trust God who knows the future and knows your future. Now, if you have not placed your trust in Him, then that would be a good thing to do because "Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever (Psalm 125:1). Don't play games with your life - let God take control!

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 17, 2021

Do you ever wonder why cotton candy exists? If there was ever something that was actually nothing, cotton candy is just that. When you look at it, it looks so delightful, so delicious, so delectable. Then, when you start chomping down on that big mound of colorful fluff, that is exactly what you get - a big mound of colorful fluff and little else. Yet, it still proves to be a staple at amusement parks, fairs, and festivals. I know many of you are cotton candy fans. I am just not one of you in this category. It just really doesn't offer much in spite of its attractive appearance. Some may disagree, but we are all searching for something in life. We have a longing within us that wants to be satisfied. There is so much "cotton candy" out there that looks good but really doesn't satisfy our hunger. Satan offers much that would seem to satisfy, but certainly doesn't.

Christ speaks to this issue of spiritual hunger in the Beatitudes. In Matthew 5:6, we hear Christ saying, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." We have an inner hunger, an inner thirst, that can only be satisfied by that which Christ provides. He tells us in John 6:35, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

We have a spiritual longing, a spiritual hunger and thirst that only Christ can satisfy. Don't pursue the cotton candy of the world. Look no farther than what you see in Christ. He will take care of your needs. He will give you joy that will be more than just a sugar high. Why settle for nothing when you can have something?

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 16, 2021

Fiorello LaGuardia was the mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945. Known as "The Little Flower" because of his diminutive size, he was well-liked because of his fearlessness, lack of pretension, and fairness. From time to time during his tenure, he would serve as judge during night court. Once, a man was brought in who had been accused of stealing a loaf of bread. The man confessed, saying it was for his starving family. LaGuardia said "The law is the law - the fine is ten dollars." He then proceeded to take ten dollars from his own wallet for the fine. He also told everyone else in the courtroom to donate fifty cents to the man to help him. Quite a story of grace, isn't it?

We stand condemned before Christ, who is the Righteous Judge. Our sins have condemned us, and the penalty is death. There is no way around the judgment, but Christ took care of the penalty. He gave his own life for us, and then made sure we have all we need to live for him. II Peter 1:3 tells us: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

Christ has taken care of the problem we face because of our sin. Our guilt is removed through his act of grace. LaGuardia's actions over a loaf of bread were a good example of grace. Christ, as the Bread of Life (see John 6:35 & 48), is grace.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 15, 2021

An older lady was preparing to move into an assisted living facility upon the death of her husband after 70 years of marriage. "Wilma" was someone who tried to meet each new day with joy and eagerness, looking forward to what was in store for her.

On the day she was supposed to go to her new home, a neighbor drove her there. When they arrived, they were told it would be a little while as the room was not quite ready. Finally, after waiting for some time, an attendant came and told them that it was finished. "Your room is all prepared for you," she said. "There are new curtains on the window, and we have recently changed the color of the walls. There is new furniture, and a lovely quilt on the build I think you will like." "Oh, I love it!" exclaimed Wilma. "But you haven't seen it yet, Mrs. Jones," the attendant replied. "That doesn't matter," said Wilma. "Happiness is something you choose. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the room is arranged, it's how I arrange my mind."

Well, isn't that something to think about? We usually let circumstances dictate how we feel. Be proactive about your mindset. Remind yourself often of what Christ has done for you and be thankful. in Philippians 4:6-8, Paul tells us "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This is how to arrange your mind.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 14, 2021

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
Sunday June 13, 2021

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."

Often, we are able to fool others with a "new coat of shingles," but we can never fool God. God knows the real us and no amount of effort will keep him from knowing the real us. Be you! Don't try to be someone or something that you are not! This honors God, and honors you!

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 12, 2021

"I'm too blessed to complain." Now, isn't that an intriguing perspective? I remember reading this unique statement somewhere, and it left an impression. We are usually so busy focusing on the rotten stuff that takes place in our lives that we forget to look at the things for which we should give thanks.

We need to concentrate on developing an attitude of gratefulness (you probably thought I was going to say "attitude of gratitude there", didn't you?), but our tendency is to pile on with the negatives. I have used my mom on more than one occasion to illustrate this concept. I remember her saying so many times after her fall that basically left her confined to a chair for the last two and a half years of her life, "I am so blessed."

We should realize that for all the junk we face, there are many good experiences that need to be appreciated. Instead of lamenting what doesn't go our way, we need to focus on the gifts God has given to us. Psalm 107:8 tells us, "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for humankind." We should focus on our gifts rather than our "lacks." Even when we experience the lows of life, we should focus on what we receive from on high. We are certainly "too blessed to complain."

Pastor Steve
Friday June 11, 2021

In the vows that I use when I perform a wedding there is a time when I have the bride and the groom pledge their love to each other "in prosperity or in adversity." The pledge is to be true to each other regardless of the circumstances. The idea is that in either extreme, their love and commitment will remain.

The extremes of either of these states can be dangerous. It can be just as harmful to experience an extreme in prosperity as it is to experience extreme adversity. This is true not just in the marriage relationship but in our lives in general. Having too little can be life-threatening, but having too much can be life-altering. A person who has too much can encounter as much difficulty as the person who does not have enough.

Agur writes in Proverbs 30:8-9, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." He asks to be kept from extremes, only wanting that which will be enough to sustain him. He is afraid that either extreme would interfere with his relationship with God.

We certainly want to be able to live in such a way that we do not have to worry how we are going to live another day, but we also should not covet more than we need. We should be satisfied with what we have and not constantly desire more, thinking that this will bring us happiness and security.

The next time you find yourself coveting what you do not have, take a moment to consider the danger you may be placing yourself in with your lack of satisfaction. Craving what we cannot have can lead us into a life of discontent and bitterness. Gratefulness for what we have demonstrates our faith and leads to a life of peace.

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 10, 2021

There is a scene in the movie "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" where Captain Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe, tells his crew, "Although we are on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England." Dennis Fisher commented, "Captain Aubrey's view of citizenship is based on loyalty, not location."

As followers of Christ, this needs to be our attitude about our current place of existence and where our citizenship actually lies. The writer of Hebrews talks about the attitude of people of faith, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

We need to remember that though we are living on earth, our home lies elsewhere. Regardless of where we are spatially, as followers of Christ, our home is somewhere else spiritually. Let's live as citizens of the land where we will be, not the land where we are.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 09, 2021
I remember an incident when I was a young boy in school when two of my classmates got into a scuffle during recess. I knew that if they continued, they would get in real trouble, maybe even be expelled from school for a time. So, I intervened and broke up the fight. Another of our classmates said to me, "Why didn't you let them fight? It was fun watching them!" I disagreed and, for some reason, quoted Matthew 5:9 to him. I think I had just learned it in Sunday School or our youth group or something. This verse says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." My classmate looked at me as if I had two heads or something and just walked away.

Those who seek peace in their lives, and do what they can to settle differences between others are truly blessed. Conflicts are inevitable, what we need are those with cool heads who can speak to situations where reason is needed to head off a problem. We have enough "hotheads" in the world. We need those who will keep calm when tempers flare.

Eric Liddell, after his Olympic championships, served as a missionary to China for 20 years. He died in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. During his time there, he made a profound impression on those in the camp because of his efforts to preserve peace in stressful times. Even the guards noticed his penchant for conflict resolution. One guard upon his death commented, "He was a Christian, wasn't he?"

Are you known as a peacemaker or a trouble maker? You and only you can determine which you are.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 08, 2021

Some of you have perhaps been in a leadership position and have felt resistance to your ideas and your direction. At those times, we need to make sure our motives and thoughts are in the right place. We should speak the truth in love, but we need to make sure we are doing so from a position of grounded thinking that is not rooted in our own ego. This is good advice for those in leadership in any circumstance - jobs, organizations, committees, community agencies, and certainly in churches.

When you are in a position of leadership, you need to lead by example, and follow the example you have before you. When we are in a position of leadership in the church, and this goes for anyone, not just pastoral leaders, we need to always follow the example and teaching of Christ. We are imperfect people, but God can still use us and wants to use us but we need to be committed to his principles. We must never forget our accountability before God and we work with and as we lead others.

Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48) This has application to leadership roles. Lead the way Christ intends for you to lead.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 07, 2021

Did you hear about the golfer who set his local country club on fire? And I don't mean in a figurative sense by shooting a low score, I mean literally set it on fire. He didn't mean to, he was just playing out of the rough, as all of us who have ever played golf have had to do at one time or another. He was playing a shot out of tall, dry grass. During his swing, he hit a rock embedded in the ground, causing a spark. The spark set the grass ablaze and before the blaze was stopped, 25 acres had been charred. It took 120 firefighters, several fire trucks, and a helicopter to extinguish the blaze. This incident sort of adds another twist to the song "It only takes a spark. . ."

This story goes to show what a little spark can do. We should keep this in mind when it comes to our ideas to help others. We need to keep this in mind when it comes to our contribution to the ministry of our church. Do you see an area of need? Well, why not provide the spark that gets the fire started to take care of that need? Big movements and big contributions often start with small steps.

Naaman's maid provided a spark that led to the fires of healing for Naaman. When she learned of Naaman's plight, she made the brief statement, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy (II Kings 5:3)." Perhaps you are familiar with the story I encourage you to read II Kings 5. The girl s little spark led to big results. She suggested that Elijah be contacted on behalf of Naaman. He was, and Naaman s encounter with Elijah resulted in his healing from his leprous condition.

Don't discount your idea because you think it might be too insignificant. Don't downplay or count out those "little" thoughts - they just might be the spark needed to start a big fire. Now, we don't need "wildfires," but we often need to have a fire set under us to keep us from becoming stale and bring improvement. You might just have the right idea to bring about good things.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 06, 2021

A man was in a hospital recovering from heart surgery. A nurse came in the room and asked if he needed anything. He said, "I would like some ice." The nurse said, "Would you like a new BMW or some ice chips?" The man replied quickly, "Ice chips!" "Don't ever forget that," the nurse said.

Many might think this an unrealistic story because, well, who would want ice chips over a BMW? Actually, it is a true story, and I would imagine that those of you who have had surgery could vouch for its realism. Having had surgery a few times, I know that I certainly can.

Certain things in life remind us of the need to be thankful for the little things. I hope you don't need a stay in the hospital to teach you this lesson. We should never take little things for granted.

Colossians 3:16-17 tells us, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Be grateful for all things, great or small. Many times ice chips are indeed superior to BMW's.

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 05, 2021

Florence Chadwick was a long-distance swimmer from the middle of the last century. Among her many accomplishments was being the first female swimmer to cross the English Channel both ways. In 1952 Chadwick attempted to swim 26 miles from the coast of California to Catalina Island. After 15 hours, a heavy fog began to block her view, she became disoriented, and she gave up. To her chagrin, Chadwick learned that she had quit just 1 mile short of her destination.

Two months later Chadwick tried a second time to swim to Catalina Island from the coast. Again, a thick fog settled in, but this time she reached her destination, becoming the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel. Chadwick said she kept an image of the shoreline in her mind even when she couldn't see it.

I take away a couple of important life principles from this story. The first is that when you fail in some effort, learn from what went wrong and then try again. Of course, this suggestion presupposes that you did learn something from your initial experience, and that you have the courage to try again. You need both - the education you obtained from failure and then actually putting your new-found knowledge into another effort.

A second thing I take from Chadwick's experience is the importance of having the correct focus in life's endeavors. Life brings many challenges that sometimes even takes us to the brink of throwing up our hands and admitting defeat. Looking with our eyes of faith as to what is ahead, especially at times when we cannot actually see what is ahead, is what can help us see through the fog and continue going forward. A beneficial exercise is to develop a mental picture of what lies ahead at the end of our journey, and focusing on this as we wade through our struggle. Hebrews 12:1 2 encourages us to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Hebrews also tells how looking ahead to an unseen goal as if if were seen motivated Abraham, "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:8 11)

As we focus on what will be, even when we cannot see what will be, we find strength in our struggle with what now is. Look to that reality to help with real solutions in the midst of our often-foggy journey.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 04, 2021

I have always been fascinated by the story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. In 1803, they were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to find a route across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean. I just cannot imagine the spirit and fortitude these men and those who were with them must have had. They had no idea where they were going, they weren't entirely sure what they would find when they got where they were going, and they really weren't quite sure what they would find along the way. Yet, they went.

One encounter they had on their journey proved to be rather helpful - they were joined by a French fur trader and his Native American wife, Sacajawea. If you know the story of Lewis and Clark, you know the incredible significance of this "chance" meeting. Sacajawea's help was invaluable - she was able to be a guide, a translator, a cook, and a tremendous ally. A further development was finding her brother, who was now the chief of their tribe. It is really hard to speculate how much different this expedition would have been had Lewis and Clark not met these people who became trusted advisors on their two-and-a-half-year journey. The meeting was unexpected, yet was certainly welcome and invaluable.

You may feel like you are embarking on a journey into the "unknown." You may be facing a circumstance in your life where you really don't know much about what is going to happen. Maybe it is a new job, a new locale, new relationships. Maybe you are facing something that is going to be more challenging than these events - you have encountered a loss, you are facing an illness, or something has happened that is causing some other hardship. When these things happen, realize that God can and will provide help. Sometimes this help comes in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. God can provide help from unexpected sources. Continue to look to him and realize he is there. The way ahead may look mysterious, but not to God. He is there, he knows he way, and he will not leave you stranded.

Ancient pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem for feasts sang, "I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2)." They were looking for help because the road in front of them was filled with dangers. God was there to provide help for them, and he is here to provide help for us.

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 03, 2021

In generations past, something that would bring a good deal of excitement to a family was the arrival of a new catalog. Be it from Sears, J.C. Penney, or Montgomery Ward, a new "wish book" was highly anticipated as the pages were filled with items one could see and hope to obtain. I remember my great anticipation of the Christmas catalogs from Sears and Penney s. I would thumb through the toy sections, looking at various items which I thought would look great under the tree on Christmas morning. There were always so many items I hoped to see in real life.

The Bible is a book that brings great hope as well; however, the hope it brings is of a more lasting nature and of greater consequence than the items one would see in catalogs. The Bible describes man's need and God's provision. It outlines God's plan of redemption for mankind and the blessed hope that is ours when we come to God by faith. What is contained in the pages of scripture is hope. The hope that is presented in the scripture is certainly not like the pictures in a new catalog - objects that we may or may not obtain. What is described in the Bible is a hope that is ours when we follow our Lord.

Hebrews 6:18-19 describes this hope, "God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

Don't wish for things that you may not have - put your hope in God and what he tells us is ours when we follow Him. The Bible is not a book of wishful thinking; it describes a reality that is ours when we place our faith in Christ's provision. Looking at the pages of a catalog and wishing for things we want and then don't receive brings disappointment. Reading the Bible and placing our hope in what it says will never disappoint. What God says is ours is really ours - and no one can change it!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 02, 2021

I have always enjoyed reunions, especially family reunions, whether of the "formal" or "informal" variety. After over a year of not being able to have such events, it is really nice to be returning to these times. As many of you know, recently I was in Ohio for a "reunion" concert of "Get All Excited," a group my brothers and I had, along with a number of others, when I lived in Ohio. That was a great experience and getting together with my family and friends was a treat. Experiences like this have proved precious over the last 43 years.

The biggest down side to these events is that they don't last. There is always a time when goodbye had to be said, and we return home. We had planned for our recent reunion for several weeks, and it was all too short when it took place. That is the nature of our times of reunion here and now.

One of the great things about our experience in heaven is that when the gathering has been joined, it will never be dismissed. That will be one of the truly marvelous things about heaven. I cannot help but think that our time in heaven will be spent with loved ones and people with whom we will share stories and share our lives. Paul writes that there will be a reunion that will never end, "The dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)

John writes, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7) This verse describes what takes place in this life, and is something that will continue to take place in our lives in heaven because of what Christ has done for us. I know I will enjoy that reunion.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 01, 2021

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

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

Schedule


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!

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

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