First Baptist Church
Newton, IL


August 1, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis - First Baptist Church - Newton, IL


Pastor Steve Willis

Tuesday August 11, 2020

Ever had someone ask you to do something and you really didn't want to do it? That happens on occasion. At times God asks us to do things that we are not really anxious to do. We need to take a lesson from the Israelites about our attitude towards God's work.

We read in Exodus 35:29, "All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the LORD freewill offerings for all the work the LORD through Moses had commanded them to do." As a matter of fact, they were so willing that Moses had to say to them, "'No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.' And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work." (36:6)

What is your level of willingness to do God's work? God wants willing hands and willing hearts. He wants us to respond positively to the moving of the Spirit to serve him and do his bidding willingly. We should really be excited that God wants us to help him. We should look at his call as a privilege and an honor. This brings joy to God and will bring joy to us.

Pastor Steve
Monday August 10, 2020

When you look through a window, what do you see? Do you see just the wood, metal and glass of the window, or do you look through the window to see what lies beyond? Most likely, you are looking beyond the window to see what lies beyond. That is the purpose of the window - to allow you to see what lies outside or inside the window, to let light in, and to enhance the appearance and function of the structure where the window is found. A window is there not to call attention to itself but to enhance the experience of those who encounter the window. Now, folks do like to have attractive windows, and that is all well and good. But if a window doesn't do what a window is supposed to do (see above description), then the window isn't effective as a window.

As followers of Christ, we need to put ourselves in the place of a window. We must remember that we exist not to call attention to ourselves, but to enhance others' view of what lies beyond - our marvelous Savior and how a relationship with him should appear. We should point others to him and allow others to see him. If a window obstructs one's view of the marvelous vistas that lie outside, the window is not designed properly. When obstruct others' view of the Savior, we are not performing according to our design.

Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Since this is true, let's make sure we are a good window that allows others to see Christ, not us.

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 09, 2020

One of the rules of golf is that you can't "ground your club" in a hazard. This means you cannot allow the head of your club to come in contact with the ground in any way when you are in a hazard. One such hazard would be a bunker, an area usually lined with sand. This rule came into play during last round of the PGA Championship a few years back when Dustin Johnson, who was leading the tournament at the time, unwittingly grounded his club in an area designated as a hazard. It was hard to recognize the area as a hazard as it had been trampled by spectators.

Nonetheless, the rule was enforced. Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty which kept him out of a playoff, ending his chances of winning the PGA Championship. There was no recourse, no way of avoiding the penalty or changing the ruling.

This sounds a little harsh, doesn't it? Well, God's laws are just as strict. Christ said we are to "be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48)." James 2:10 tells us, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." The big difference with God, however, is grace. Yes, God demands perfection. Knowing that we cannot be perfect, his plan from eternity past was to allow his Son to come into the arena of human life to offer himself as a sacrifice for those of us who could not be perfect. Hebrews 10:14 says, "Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." This is grace.

There may be no grace in the PGA, but there is with God. Isn't that great? God is willing to "change the ruling" if we come to him through his Son. In this way, we can all be winners in spite of the fact that we have "grounded our club."

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 08, 2020

We have a wonderful promise in I John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Isn't that great? It truly is, but don't abuse the privilege. God will forgive us for what we have done, but what he wants to see is a genuine change that indicates we are truly sorry and are serious when we repent.

We sometimes struggle with this. The nation Israel struggled with this. That is why God demonstrates his exasperation with them when he says, " What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears (Hosea 6:4)." God tells them, "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings (6:6)."

God wants to forgive us, he is ready to forgive us. But what he wants to see in us in genuine repentance that brings about change. Be grateful for the forgiveness of God, but don't take for granted the forgiveness of God.

Pastor Steve
Friday August 07, 2020

We all have habits - some good, some not so good. One habit I would like to encourage you to develop is a prayer habit. I realize there are pros and cons to prayer habits. Some feel that developing a prayer habit can lead to prayer being too ritualistic or mundane. However, this really does not have to be. You can keep your prayer fresh, and developing a prayer habit is a good way of having a reminder of your need to pray and your dependence upon God. Prayer before meals, before leaving in the car, when you first awaken, before you go to sleep, or other specific times and circumstances, can lead to positive exercises that bring us help us develop our relationship with God. We tend to become so busy that if we don't develop disciplines like this, we simply don't pray at all. That is not good.

We see "giants of the faith" in scripture that developed prayer habits. David speaks of praying "evening, morning and noon (Psalm 55:17)." Daniel prayed three times a day, even where there was a ban on prayer. We read in Daniel 6:10, "Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before."

Developing a prayer habit is one of the best habits you can develop. This helps us to keep in touch with God, and to help us remember his importance in our lives. Don't forget to pray!

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 06, 2020

How do you respond when you receive criticism? If someone points out something wrong with one of your ideas or projects, or shows you what is flawed about something you are pursuing, what is your reaction? Most of us really don't like someone pointing out "the error of our ways," but there are many times where the error of our ways needs to be revealed. Professional athletes depend upon advice from coaches regarding their technique to keep them performing at their optimum level. Advice about a swing plane in golf, or arm movement in pitching or throwing a football, or footwork in defending in any number of sports, can be most helpful and can mean the difference between success or failure. We need to realize helpful criticism to correct a fault in our behavior or whatever is a good thing.

Solomon says the ability to accept criticism is the path of wisdom. Proverbs 9:8 says, "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you." In essence he is saying that if you aren't willing to receive correction, you are a bozo. A wise man is appreciative of someone who corrects him, understanding the benefit that correction brings. He will love the person who is willing to help him.

Where do you fall? Are you willing to listen to correction, or are you a little stubborn in this area? Be wise! Listen to those who only want to help you do something better or be better or avoid a downfall because of a need to change. Show a little love to those who want to help!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 05, 2020

A tremendous discovery has been made - the Rubik's Cube can be solved from any of the 43,353,003,274,489,856,000 possible starting positions in just 20 (or less) moves! Isn't that astounding? Well, for any of us who have ever dabbled with a Rubik's Cube, it is sort of amazing. I really got a kick out of the scene from the 2006 movie "Pursuit of Happyness" where Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith), in order to impress a potential employer, solves a Rubik's Cube as they are traveling in a car. My response to the scene was "yeah, right." But, this new study shows it is possible!

Life throws Rubik's Cubes at us at times - seemingly unsolvable puzzles that frustrate and confuse. We rotate, spin, ponder, fret, and sometimes fume, but the colors just don't seem to match. However, there is a solution. We might not be able to see it right away, but there is an answer to whatever is causing us frustration. An important source of resolve in our quest for a solution is God's provision. God wants to help us with those seemingly "unsolvables."

In Daniel 5 we read of Belshazzar's problem - writing on a wall that begged for an interpretation, but his "people" couldn't help him. Then some of his advisors told him of a man who perhaps could. We read in Daniel 5:12, "This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems." And where did he get his problem solving expertise? God and God alone!

God will help us - Psalm 46:1 tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Don't allow the Rubik's Cube to fry your brain - let God help you solve the questions you face.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 04, 2020

Jesus said, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life (Matthew 6:27)? The question is rhetorical - no one adds time to his life by worry. However, we can certainly make our life shorter by worrying. Fretting about things wastes valuable time in our lives, and therefore shortens what is already a short life.

Joanie Yoder wrote, "There's no sadder example of wasted time than a life dominated by fretting. Take, for example, an American woman whose dream of riding a train through the English countryside came true. After boarding the train she kept fretting about the windows and the temperature, complaining about her seat assignment, rearranging her luggage, and so on. To her shock, she suddenly reached her journey's end. With deep regret she said to the person meeting her, 'If I'd known I was going to arrive so soon, I wouldn't have wasted my time fretting so much.'"

Don't waste your time fretting about the things you cannot change. We worry about finances, health issues, family issues, problems with neighbors, and many other concerns. Moses asks God to "teach us to number our days aright that we might gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12)." Instead of wasting time worrying, focus on God's Word. Gain perspective by thinking of what is positive and what is good in your life. Don't make life any shorter than it is by wasting time worrying on what can't be changed.

Pastor Steve
Monday August 03, 2020

Well, today is my birthday. I have always thought that birthdays are interesting things. They provide you with a reason to celebrate and be the center of attention for a little while. Birthday parties are always nice and offer a chance for folks to get together. Those of us with birthdays can make the claim that we are the reason for celebration in August, as there are no official holidays this month.

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Sunday August 02, 2020

Mart DeHaan writes, "Arctic sea birds called guillemots live on rocky coastal cliffs, where thousands of them come together in small areas. Because of the crowded conditions, the females lay their eggs side by side in a long row. It s incredible that a mother bird can identify the eggs that belong to her. Studies show that even when one is moved some distance away, she finds it and carries it back to its original location."

Isn't that amazing? I can't even find my own car keys half the time. How do they do this? Well, one reason is that it seems that the guillemot, in this case we are referring to Black Guillemots, pay attention to detail. They are careful how they do things, and they tend to do things the same way over and over. For example, they carry fish crossways in their bills, and are usually careful to make sure the head always points the same way. So, as a result of paying attention to details, they are able to keep track of their eggs, even when they are mixed in with others. Paying attention to details would probably help me keep track of my keys!

Paying attention to details is a characteristic that can help us in a number of areas. It will help us with our personal lives, and it will help us in our spiritual lives. Paying attention to how we do things can help us grow spiritually and do things we know that are pleasing to our Father. God is good at this - it is how he keeps track of us! Let's follow his example, pay attention to what is going on in our lives, and make sure we please him. David talks about going over details with God, "'All this,' David said, 'I have in writing from the hand of the Lord upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.'" (I Chronicles 28:19) In other words, keeping close to God is how we can keep up with important details. It allows us to distinguish important information so that we can "pick out the right egg." That is what we want to do, because getting the wrong egg is not a good thing!

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 01, 2020

Today is the birthday of Victor Hugo, arguably the greatest poet France has ever produced. He wrote such works as "Cromwell," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," and "L'es Miserables." Hugo was a person who seemed to have his priorities straight when you take into consideration such quotes as "Lastly, this threefold poetry flows from three great sources-The Bible, Homer, Shakespeare...The Bible before the Iliad, the Iliad before Shakespeare." He also said, "England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England."

Hugo wrote the following bit of advice. In 1827, in his preface to "Cromwell," he wrote: "Courage for the great sorrows of life, and patience for the small ones, and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake." Isn't that an encouraging thought? It is also a biblical thought.

Psalm 121:2-4, one of the "pilgrim psalms", tells us, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." That is o comforting thought.

Now, most of us who go to bed at night don't go to bed with the same concern as did some of the folks who sang this song when they were traveling to Jerusalem for one of the festal observances. Their concern was for the dangers that lurked in the night - thieves, wild animals, and the like. However, we often go to bed with anxieties brought on by life circumstances and situations. We need to turn these over to the One who does not sleep so that we can get some sleep!

God is always awake and always alert. There is nothing hidden from Him, and we can trust Him with the details of our lives so that we can rest peacefully. He is always working on our behalf and will care for us. We need to rely on Him. Take the advice of the psalmist, and the advice of Hugo, and "go to sleep in peace. God is awake."

Pastor Steve
Friday July 31, 2020

I read an article sometime back that cited this quote from the "365 Stupidest Things Ever Said": "If you bought our course, 'How To Fly In Six Easy Lessons,' we apologize for any inconvenience caused by our failure to include the last chapter, 'How To Land Your Plane Safely.' Send us your name and address and we will send you the last chapter posthaste. Requests by estates will be honored." Whaaat? Can you imagine this actually happening? Who in the world would take off in plane without knowing how to land it safely?

Actually, there are a number of people who fit into this category. Much scarier than taking off in a plane without knowing how to land the plane when the flight is over is living your life without knowing where you will land when your life is over.

In Luke 12:16-21 we read, "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, `What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, `This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

Don't take off in a plane without knowing how to land, and don't live your life not knowing where you will land. God has made it so we can know for sure where we will spend eternity - and there is no excuse for not knowing. Knowing Christ is the way to ensure a safe landing.

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 30, 2020

I love to fly kites. Of course, I don t do it much anymore, but when I was a kid, I would get a kite kit and put it together, then have some fun. The last time I flew a kite was at a beach in North Carolina a number of years ago. I have always loved watching them dance around up in the air. Some people get really good at flying kites and can make them do "tricks." I was never that proficient, but I enjoy kites. .

John Newton, the author of "Amazing Grace," once wrote a poem about a kite. Here is part of it:

"Once upon a time a paper kite

Was mounted to a wondrous height,

Where, giddy with its elevation,

It thus expressed self-admiration:

See how yon crowds of gazing people

Admire my flight above the steeple?

How they would wonder if they knew

All that a kite like me can do?

Were I but free, I d take a flight,

And pierce the clouds beyond their sight.

But, ah! like a poor pris ner bound,

My string confines me near the ground:

It tugged and pulled, while thus it spoke

To break the string; at last it broke.

Deprived at once of all its stay,

In vain it tried to soar away;

Unable its own weight to bear,

It fluttered downward through the air;

Unable its own course to guide,

The winds soon plunged it in the tide.

Ah! foolish kite; thou hadst no wing;

How couldt thou fly without a string?"

Isn't that just the way we are at times? We struggle with what we think are "strings" that are "keeping us down." We struggle with things like commitment, promises, vows, responsibilities, and, of course, having to answer to others and to God. These things are hindering us, aren't they? Well, go ahead and cut the string and find out! If you are so foolish to do so, you will, like the kite, find that what you thought was holding you down was actually what kept you flying. James 4:10 tells us to, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up."

We need to learn that we cannot fly without a string. We need to learn to be humble and resist our prideful attitudes, thoughts, and our desire to go our own way. We need to realize our commitment to others and especially our commitment to God is the force that gives us wings. A kite that is flying is a beautiful sight. A kite that has crashed is not good. Don't forget what makes you fly!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 29, 2020

Many of us have unfinished projects laying around begging for closure. Some of us have more than others. Then there are those who can't seem to finish just about anything they start. That is another issue in and of itself. Of course, there are many reasons and many factors when we bring up the issue of finishing what you start.

There are a number of famous projects that didn't get finished for one reason or another. What about Mozart's famous "Unfinished Symphony?" Then there is Da Vinci's "Gran Cavallo." Our one-dollar bill is a perpetual reminder of an unfinished project. The Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington found on our money is part of a painting of Washington that was not completed, actually by intention. Construction continues on a cathedral in Barcelona, Spain, that was started in 1882. The list goes on ad infinitum.

One person who always finishes what he starts is God. This truth should bring us hope and certainty, especially when we are uncertain about getting things done ourselves. Paul declares in Philippians 1:6, "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." What a hope! God will not leave us incomplete. God will not leave us undone. This is why Paul could declare elsewhere with confidence, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day." (II Timothy 1:12)

We may have trouble wrapping things up, but God doesn't. We have this assurance. God will finish what he started.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday July 28, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday July 27, 2020

We find the cross in many places in our world. It is found in churches, along the sides of roads, in displays of art, as a Christmas decoration, even as jewelry, which is perhaps the most intriguing. The cross was actually an instrument of torture and execution used for crucifixion, one of the cruelest methods of killing ever developed. Crucifixion originated in ancient Persia and was used extensively by Alexander the Great. The Romans continued to use it as a method of execution, although usually reserving crucifixion for the most heinous of offenders. It was the method of execution Christ chose for himself when he died to redeem humankind. Because of this, it has become a symbol of sacrifice and hope.

The cross is also a reminder of our place in the ministry of Christ. Christ refers to the cross before his death. We find his words in Matthew 10:38-39, "and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." He used the image of the cross as a means to challenge us to take responsibility for how we live our lives as a witness of Christ. The idea of "taking up the cross" refers to dying to self and living for him.

Christ repeats this idea in Matthew 16:24-25, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." Christ challenges his followers to realize what true discipleship means. His followers may have been a little puzzled by his reference to "taking up the cross" before his crucifixion, but they certainly remembered his words after Christ died.

We shouldn't be puzzled by Christ's words. We know exactly what he meant by speaking of the cross. When you see the symbol, when you wear the symbol, when you worship in the shadow of the symbol, remember what it means. Remember Christ's death on our behalf and, just as importantly, remember his desire for our lives. Take up your cross!

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 26, 2020

Have you ever heard of "The Three Deadly C's?" There are many things that we need to avoid in our relationships with others because of the harm they can do, and these are three "biggies." First, we need to be careful about Comparison. Constantly comparing ourselves to others can be a problem. Now, a certain degree of this is normal and helpful, but if we are comparing ourselves to others to the point of causing discontent and frustration, we aren't being wise. You are who you are and you need to learn to be content with who you are and what you have. Trying to "keep up with the Jones" can be detrimental.

Paul addresses this in I Corinthians 10:12, "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." Avoid comparing yourself to others unrealistically.

Another activity we need to be careful about is Competition. We live in a very competitive society. In the right circumstances, competition can be productive. However, when it comes to our relationships, we need to avoid being competitive. This is especially true when it comes to managing conflict. If we have an "I need to win" attitude towards conflict resolution, we can bring all sorts of grief to others and to ourselves.

Saul had this attitude towards David and it fostered jealousy that made Saul act out in crazy ways. We read in I Samuel 18:8-9, "Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. 'They have credited David with tens of thousands,' he thought, 'but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?' And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David." You know how this story worked out! If you don't, read on in I Samuel.

A final "C" we need to avoid is Criticism. Now, helpful criticism can be just that - helpful. However, we need to avoid being critical of others, especially our family and our friends. A critical spirit can be poison. We should look to build others up, not tear them down.

Many times it is those who are closest to us with whom we are the most critical. Don't do that! Smack yourself in the face and snap out of it! As Bill and Ted said in that goofy 80's movie "Be excellent to each other!" Perhaps a better example comes from the words of Paul: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." This is a most excellent suggestion! And so is working to avoid the "Three C's."

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 25, 2020

This past Wednesday, in a ceremony that was tailored for our COVID-19 world, 99-year-old Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, handed over a military position to his daughter-in-law, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. It was the latest in a number of duties that the Prince has turned over to someone else since his "retirement" in 2017. But then, Prince Philip is no stranger to giving up things. Much has been written about his sacrifices and what he gave up when his wife, Princess Elizabeth, became Queen Elizabeth II, ascending to the throne of Britain upon the death of her father, King George VI.

For his 90th birthday, the Queen gave Prince Philip the title "Lord High Admiral of the British Royal Navy." The title was given to acknowledge Philip's sacrifice of his naval career on behalf of his wife. Prince Philip, commenting upon his change in position that took place when Elizabeth became Queen, said it was "disappointing" but "being married to the queen, it seemed to me that my first duty was to serve her in the best way I could."

Perhaps Philip did make a great sacrifice, and perhaps it was somewhat disappointing to relinquish what he had for the good of what was to be, but his sacrifice was that which needed to be done.

As I think of sacrifice, I can think of someone else who had to "relinquish what he had for the good of what was to be" because "his sacrifice was that which needed to be done." So that we might have a hope of a future, Christ voluntarily laid aside what he had in his domain in heaven and became what he needed to be in order than we might have an opportunity to be what we could never have been on our own. Christ was willing to sacrifice, and to become a sacrifice, so that our future could be a reality.

Paul wrote, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21) In Philippians 2 we read, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!" (2:6 8) Christ sacrificed in order to become our sacrifice. And he did not consider it disappointing. We should be grateful that he sacrificed for us. We need to be willing to sacrifice our own desires and concerns to see Christ's ministry flourish. How can we do any less?

Pastor Steve
Friday July 24, 2020

Paul Boese, a Kansas businessman and writer, wrote, "Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." Although Boese does not cite any scriptural comments on forgiveness, this idea reflects a scriptural principle involving forgiveness that is so true.

I know many of my articles have to do with forgiveness, but that is because it is a concept that is at the very heart of our relationship with the Lord. If God is not willing to put our past in perspective when we come to him seeking forgiveness, our future would be very small. Actually, we would not have a future. In light of this, we should never take for granted the importance of forgiveness; both the forgiveness we have experienced and the need to forgive when a circumstance brings the need to forgive into our daily walk.

The first time the word "forgive" occurs in most English translations of the Bible is in Genesis 50. There, the brothers of Joseph put words in the mouth of their dead father in order to appease the anger they fear Joseph will have towards them now that their father is dead. Many years earlier, they had sold him to a band of people heading to Egypt (read Genesis 37).

After the death of their father, they come to Joseph and say, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." (Genesis 50:16-17) They knew their future rested in the forgiveness of Joseph and they were willing to risk one more scheme to obtain that forgiveness. Scheming was not necessary - Joseph forgave them with no strings attached. Their future was enlarged.

We do not have to come up with schemes to receive the forgiveness of God, and neither should others have to concoct some sort of scheme to obtain our forgiveness. We should grant forgiveness freely because we know our future has been secured through the forgiveness we have obtained. Enlarge others' future by putting away the past!

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 23, 2020

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

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

We all face difficult times. Our faith is what can help us through these times. We are able to continue in our lives in spite of tremendous personal loss because of our faith. We know that we can trust in the Lord to be there for us.

Psalm 9:10 says, "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." God will not forsake us. God is there to help us in our hours of darkness. He can bring light to these times as we continue to walk with him.

. Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 22, 2020

Karl Barth was a theologian and professor at the University of Bonn in the first half of the last century. In 1935, he was forced to resign his position and return to his native Switzerland because he refused to swear an oath to Hitler. Upon his return to the university when WWII was over, his began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." </p.>

This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. It is an affirmation that is assumed by followers of Christ; however, we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday July 21, 2020

Why do we procrastinate? Hmmm - let me get with you about this tomorrow. Heh heh heh. Actually, the answer to this question is pretty complicated, and probably not correct. There are many reasons why we put things off. A study showed that Americans lose $400 million a year because they don't file their taxes on time. It would be interesting to see the figures from this year as we had three extra months to file. I'll check that out tomorrow. (another heh heh heh)

We procrastinate because of fear of failure, because we really don't want to do what it is we should do, because we know the outcome of what we need to do will not be good, or we may just be plain lazy and don't want to do something. We do this in our homes, our jobs, and we certainly do it in our churches. There are things we know we should be doing for God that we keep putting off. Why do we do this? Maybe it's for the reasons mentioned above - we fear failure, we don't want to do something, or maybe we are just plain lazy. Whatever the reason, we need to adjust our attitude at times and realize there are things that need to be done and putting them off can mean problems.

James speaks to the issue of procrastination: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:13-14) This is a good reason not to procrastinate. We really don't know that we will have tomorrow to do something. So, it is important to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. The opportunity to do it tomorrow may not be there as tomorrow may not be there. Don't put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today.

Pastor Steve
Monday July 20, 2020

Last Wednesday, I wrote about needing to have a "Psalm 8" moment from time to time. Let me continue this theme today. On this date in 1969, Neil Armstrong uttered his now-famous statement, "That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind." It was quite an accomplishment; however, that is about as far as we have gone. I know great discoveries have been made through space ventures, but one thing it seems we have learned is, to put it in the words of that great philosopher, Harry Callahan, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Indeed, one great lesson we have learned from the space program is actually the same lesson people learned upon building the tower of Babel - we can only go so far. We are limited and we are finite. I know there are plans in the works to head for Mars, which would be another great achievement. However, considering the vastness of all that there is out there, it really is just a chip shot.

This should drive us to another great truth - we are desperately dependent upon an infinite and limitless God. Countless billions have been spent on the exploration of space and we have just barely got off our planet. Now, I am not a foe of this effort; I think we have gained a great deal. However, we need to keep things in perspective and be reminded to not "get too big for out britches." What our exploratory efforts should do is remind us just how puny we are and just big God is.

God did this for Job. We read God's remonstration of Job in Job 38:3 - 8, "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. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone--while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?"

Don't make God have to do this for you. Don't make Him have to put you in your place! We know who is in control and who put things where they are. Celebrate Him for who He is and what he has done, and rejoice in your relationship with Him!

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 19, 2020

When I first started playing the guitar, the ends of my fingers got really sore. Eventually, as I kept on playing and practicing, they became more comfortable as I developed calluses on the ends of my fingers. The adversity and the pain were part of the process that allowed me to be able to accomplish what I wanted - to be able to play the guitar.

Sometimes our path to becoming what God wants us to be and doing what God wants us to do is met with adversity and pain. We do not like to have to travel this path, but it is necessary in order for us to mirror God's image. We should not be surprised by opposition and adversity, but rather realize that these experiences serve to make us what God wants us to be.

The scripture offers an interesting perspective on this. James 1:2-5 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." James says we should consider it joy because experiencing adversity means we are getting to where God wants us to be. It also means that we are making progress towards our desired goal.

If I didn't experience pain in my fingers, it was because I wasn't making progress and doing what needed to be done to get to where I wanted to be. The "wisdom" I needed in this process was the understanding that the pain was part of the process that meant I was doing what I needed to be doing.

When we are faced with pain and adversity in our lives, we should ask for wisdom so that we might have the perspective of God as we go through the struggle. God allows adversity in our lives not to break us but to better us. I could never learn the guitar without some pain in my fingers. The pain in our lives helps us to learn lessons from God. Just make sure that you continue to play!

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 18, 2020

If you have been out and about recently in almost any direction from where you live, I am sure you have encountered road construction. It is summer, of course, and that means many things - time to repair roads, for one. On one of the projects I witnessed, I could see that they were taking out the "bad spots" before they resurfaced the road. Places that were "weak" in the current pavement were being excavated, refilled, and reinforced by asphalt in preparation for the final coat that will make for a smooth ride. Why are they doing this? Because if the weak spots aren't strengthened, then the new topcoat will break down in the same places. The topcoat will look good for a while, but after some use, the underlying weaknesses will be exposed.

This is why it is good not to try to gloss over mistakes or ignore weak spots in our lives. When we have a problem, it is important to deal with that problem and realize that just trying to cover it over will not work. This is the reason why God works from the inside out on a person, not from the outside in. A layer of shiny veneer will make a piece of furniture look beautiful, but if what is underneath is not strong and stable, the veneer will crack, dent, and warp.

We see this happen in the life of Saul. On the outside, he looked like a great candidate for king. He was tall, strong, handsome, and brilliant. However, what was inside was not so good. The Lord declared about Saul, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel?" (I Samuel 16:1). Christ encountered some people who looked marvelous to the eye but were a mess where God could see. He said to the Pharisees and other religious leaders, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." (Matthew 23:27)

Make sure you are clean and strong from the inside out. Know that God is aware of how things really are, and allow him to make sure you are good all the way through!

Pastor Steve
Friday July 17, 2020

When I was young and first learning how to swim, I was fascinated by the feeling you have when you are in water. The buoyancy you experience in water is always a marvelous sensation. You feel lighter, you are able to do things you cannot do when you are on land and are experiencing the full effects of gravity, and you experience a sense of freedom you can't capture on land. I think the only scenario that would even be greater would be the sensation of weightlessness experienced by astronauts. I can only imagine how that must feel - in space you aren't even encumbered by the water and are really "weightless." Talk about an experience of freedom!

We may never have the opportunity to feel the physical sensation of freedom brought on by the weightlessness of space, but we can have the opportunity to experience the spiritual sensation of freedom brought on by the forgiveness of God. The burden of sin weighs us down and keeps us "earth bound." Because of sin we are tied down and encumbered. We struggle and we chafe against the bonds that keep us from enjoying freedom and enjoying the abundant life that God intends for us.

What help is there for us grounded earthlings? You need look only to the provision of help given to us through the promise of Christ. In Christ there is forgiveness and love, acceptance and affirmation, encouragement and hope. Do you want to experience the sensation of weightlessness? Bring your burdens to the Lord. Accept his forgiveness and give him your life. Trust the Savior who gave his life for you.

Think of the words of the song that are rooted in the truth of Scripture, "Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is always here." Christ's invitation to us it to "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) If you want to experience true weightlessness, put your life in the hands of Christ.

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 16, 2020

I wrote a series some time ago on my mentors. Perhaps some of you who read my devotionals remember this. Last night, I lost one of my mentors, a person who was very special to me, my uncle, John Mayfield. John was my mother's only brother; well, her only brother to survive. Her other brother died in infancy. John had a number of health issues. Dementia had afflicted him in recent years. But what took hm was COVID-19.

I learned so much from my Uncle John. For one thing, he taught me how to drive. I may have shared that story with you. He put me behind the wheel of a Chevrolet pick-up when I was 11 or 12 and said, "You are going to drive the truck as we pick up hay. And you will not drop a single bale." After a quick course in the intricacies of coordinating the clutch with the accelerator, I drove. And I did not drop a single bale.

Now, I do share this somewhat in jest John was not a gruff uncle at all. He just communicated what he wanted me to do in a firm way. And I loved him so much for all he did for me, taught me, gave to me, shared with me, and said to me. I loved him for more than just all he did for me; I loved him just because.

I could go on and on about him - he was a talented basketball player -Hall of Famer Hal Greer was a college teammate. He was a computer guru of sorts in the early days of computers, installing the first operative computer in Huntington, WV. He was a Bible teacher who loved the Lord and his church. He was a good bass singer. I loved singing with him and didn't get to do enough of that.

But I did get to do a bunch with him; and I have so many memories for which I am extremely grateful. As I am writing this, I can look beside my chair and see the little side table he refinished almost 60 years ago after I had messed up the top of it with a fork or a knife or something. He gave me this table and its twin a number of years ago. I have always looked at it as an example of what God can do with what has been defaced restore it beautifully. That is what God will do for us. We know he will. Psalm 30:5 says, "Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning." As followers of Christ, we have this hope.

Please pray for my dear Aunt Lynn who, along with struggling with her loss, is sick as well, John and Lynn had just celebrated 50 years of marriage this past May. I got to be an usher and taper lighter in their wedding. Pray for my cousin, Nichole, and her beautiful family. We grieve as people with hope, but we still feel loss.

Almost 60 years ago, John sang with "The Pathfinders Quartet." They had a song entitled, "The Final Move." John had a brief bass solo in the song, "As the evening shadows fall, I can hear my Master's call. Tis so sweet to know that He will not forsake." John heard the Master's call last night. Maybe today he is singing with some of the other fellows in that group who were already where he is now - enjoying the presence of the Lord.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 15, 2020

Every now and then, we need to have a Psalm 8 moment. You may ask, "Now, just what is a Psalm 8 moment?" David wrote, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:3, 9 - read the entire psalm!)

David said this, and he only had knowledge of what he could see. We have more knowledge of just how big God's creation is because of our telescopes, satellites, space travel, the Hubble telescope, and other means. We need to stand in awe of what God has done, and then be amazed even further when we realize that our planet is the one God chose to visit.

LeeAnn Womack once sang a song that said, "I hope you never lose that sense of wonder." Let me echo those words for us. I hope we never lose a sense of wonder when we realize the enormity of God's plan for us. Give him the praise he deserves, and never lose your sense of surprise in what he has done.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday July 14, 2020

The world needs more people like an ex-GI by the name of Downey who led an effort to raise funds to build a hospital and an orphanage in Beran, Ethiopia. An article written in a newspaper about him said just that, "The world needs more beautiful people like Mr. Downey. Why aren't there more human beings like him?"

That is a good question. We may not be able to be a "beautiful person" like Mr. Downey and build a hospital and an orphanage, but we can strive to be a beautiful person in the way the scripture describes how a follower of Christ should be. We can strive to be beautiful people in the way described in I Peter 3:4: "Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God s sight." We should strive to treat others well, be gentle, kind, generous and helpful. We should demonstrate a compassionate and caring attitude towards others. In this way, we can be "beautiful people."

Are you a beautiful person? Show others that you are.

Pastor Steve
Monday July 13, 2020

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 speaks of the responsibility of teaching our children: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." Our role does not involve the "Dead Sea Squirrels," but the Living Word. That is something about which to be excited!

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 12, 2020

Someone once wrote "Where would we be if Jesus' attitude had been, 'I will if they will?'" What if His mercy and grace were predicated upon us deserving His grace? It is actually just the opposite, according to Scripture. Jesus came to serve and save those who not only did not deserve His love and intervention, but those who desperately needed it all the same.

Do you know anyone who might fit this description? Just take a look in a mirror and you will get a good picture of someone who didn't deserve Christ's love and mercy, yet got it anyway. One of my favorite verses is Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." We need mercy and Christ deals with us in mercy. Don't forget this and be thankful for how he deals with you. We need to show mercy and to deal with others the way that Christ deals with us.

Keep this in mind the next time you are tempted to allow some unrealistic expectations or whatever to keep you from showing mercy in how you deal with someone. Keep this in mind as you search for someone to serve in Jesus' name. Avoid the "I will if they will" mentality and show mercy just because it is the right thing to do.

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 11, 2020

It is interesting to see whom Jesus used as role models. He used a "sinful woman" to demonstrate how we should love (Luke 7:47). When he wanted to show what faith should look like, he said about the faith of a pagan soldier, a centurion, "Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." (Matthew 8:10) I would imagine this rattled a few cages. Children were used as examples of trust (Luke 7:47). So, whom did he use when he wanted to demonstrate true generosity? A destitute woman, of course!

Mark 12:41-44 gives us the story, "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.'

Here Christ tells us what true sacrifice and true generosity is. True sacrifice is when you give to the point where you are dependent upon God for other necessities in your life. Not many of us have been to that point. Sheridan Voysey wrote "True sacrifice leaves us vulnerable, with our arms outstretched to God." This is the spirit in which we should give.

Pastor Steve
Friday July 10, 2020

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 09, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 08, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday July 07, 2020

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday July 06, 2020

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Sunday July 05, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday July 04, 2020

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Friday July 03, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Thursday July 02, 2020

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Wednesday July 01, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Our Pastor

Pastor Steve Willis

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Weekly Schedule

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

August Schedule

Our Church

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

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

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

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

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


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

First Baptist Church

June 1, 2019

Folks -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update effective Sunday 6/14.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FBC CE Board
Hi Folks!

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

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

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

LETSBOLT (all caps).

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

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

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

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

Update effective Sunday 7/4.


Update effective Sunday 7/11.


Update effective Sunday 7/19.



The deacons met this past week and have a recommendation. We are strongly encouraging everyone to wear a mask during worship services. There is an increase in COVID cases in the surrounding counties as well as a slight upward movement in our county. We want to do our part to keep our church members and community safe. This is something that is up to you to decide, but we wanted to make this recommendation

Update effective Sunday 7/25.


Update effective Sunday 8/2.


Update effective Sunday 8/9.



Pastor Steve