First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Worship News Update - 6/20/2022


Greetings folks!

We hope all of you gentlemen had a nice Father's Day Celebration.  Speaking for the fellows, I want to once again thank all of the ladies who were responsible for the Dad's Day Program last Wednesday.  That was a special evening.

Our group study in Genesis resumes this Wednesday night at 6 p.m.  We look forward to seeing you there!  Also, ladies, don't forget the study at the home of Debbie Diel on Thursday evening at 6.

Some of you still have Waylon's Warriors T-shirts at the church - call the church office to make arrangements. In addition, we have a few extra adult sizes available.  

Pastor Steve


Devotionals
Pastor Steve Willis

Thursday June 30, 2022

There are certain ad slogans that have become ingrained in our consciousness because they are so ubiquitous. What coffee is "Good to the last drop?" What hamburger do you think of when you hear "Where's the beef?" What bathroom tissue is "squeezeably soft?" Well, maybe I'm dating myself with these, but I think you get the idea. Of course, this is the desire of the folks who develop these ad campaigns.

Another one that comes to mind is, just fill in the blank here, "Nobody does it like ?" This is an older ad slogan for the Sara Lee Corporation - Nobody does it like Sara Lee. Now, this may be true in the realm of food companies, but this cannot be applied in a universal manner. In order for this to be a statement of truth for Sara Lee, you need to define what "it" is.

I am sure you can think of someone for whom this statement would apply, no matter what the "it" is. Nobody does it like God, whatever the it might be. There are a number of things we can include in the definition of "it." One is His power to protect us - Psalm 46:1 tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." We can also talk about His capacity to love us. Jeremiah 31:3 says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness." God has promised to always be with us - "I will never leave you or forsake you." (Joshua 1:5) God has promised to take away all our sadness and grief - "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4) I could go on and on. Nobody does it like God.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 29, 2022

A man was visiting a college campus on a frigid winter day. He came upon two students chipping ice off a sidewalk at a fraternity house. He remarked to them, "I imagine they didn't tell you this would be in the cards when you signed up, did they?" "Well," replied one of the students, "We sort of know by now. I'm the chapter vice-president and this is the president." The two officers of the fraternity were leading by example. They were wanting to show others the meaning of service.

I can think of someone else who did this, can't you? Christ was confronted with a situation where he saw the need to convey the attitude his followers should have. James and John asked Christ to be seated on his right and his left in the Kingdom (Mark 10:35ff) This made the other disciples a little angry. Christ really didn't rebuke James and John. He first spoke of their future suffering for his sake, and then he informed them of a more correct outlook on their ministry.

Christ used himself as the example and said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) When the disciples manifested a little immaturity in their request, Christ "chipped ice." The mark of godly leadership is a presentation of service, not a desire for power. Don't be afraid to chip ice!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 28, 2022

A few months ago, I wrote about the fun we had putting together a gazebo we had purchased. Of course, I had my tongue implanted in my cheek as I wrote that last statement., especially when I threw in the word, "fun." Still, after finally retrieving the directions, and with a lot of much-needed help of other folks, we have a nice gazebo attached to our deck.

My sister-in-law, Sandy, thought it was so nice that she asked us how she might go about obtaining one for her deck. So, we told her where we ordered the gazebo. Now, I could have stopped right there in my conversation with her, but I didn't. I care for Sandy and her husband, Jamie, too much not to fill in some blanks about what they should expect. I wanted her to know that the finished product is certainly worth the effort, but she would need some additional help to arrive at the finished product. Sandy and Jamie needed to know what would be helpful in order to get the thing together.

Sandy and Jamie now have a nice gazebo and were very appreciative that I did not hold back about what to expect. I could have chosen to remain silent about my experience, but I am sure the majority of you reading this would scream, That just wouldn't be right! And, it wouldn't.

Why is it that we wouldn't think of keeping silent about building a gazebo, but we keep silent in situations where we have opportunities to give someone the "instructions" for something far more important? We who have experienced the grace of God are called upon to let others know what to do so that they can experience God's gift. And unlike sharing what would be required for a gazebo, sharing the story of God's grace is all good news.

Jesus told his followers, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) We are expected to do the same. Don't keep silent about what to do to receive God's Gift.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 27, 2022

Have you ever driven a car with a tire that was out of balance? That can be an interesting experience. Usually, unbalanced tires cause excessive vibration. If you have more than one tire out of balance, you may feel like you are sitting in a massage chair. Now, vibration in a massage chair may be a good thing, but excessive vibration in your car is not. Continued driving on unbalanced tires can cause other problems, like wearing out your tires too quickly, increased fuel usage (that would really be a biggie now), and may cause damage to related parts in the car. So, don't drive too long on unbalanced tires.

Sometimes, it may feel as if our life is out of balance. Concerns and issues pile up and cause problems with which we struggle. At times, it seems as if the entire world is out of balance. In order for balance to be restored and maintained, we need to seek out the help of the great "Equalizer," our Heavenly Father.

Isaiah 40;11 12 tells us that God is the One who is able to bring balance to a chaotic environment, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and hills in a balance?"

Relying on the Lord can help bring balance to our lives and heal the damage created by our u periences. Continued trust in Him maintains balance and prevents unwanted consequences.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 26, 2022

Some time ago, I watched a television show where two people who were at odds with each other were placed in a rather interesting situation. They needed to get to a certain part of a building where there was a cut-off valve for a gas supply. Because of a recent earthquake, and the impending danger of aftershocks, they needed to reach the cut-off to prevent a gas build-up that would cause an explosion.

As they were making their way to the room, an aftershock hit throwing them to the ground. One man sustained an injury to his right knee. The other man twisted his left ankle. With their slackened pace, how could they get to their destination in time? An idea hit them - they would bind their injured limbs together and walk in cadence to the destination. Of course, they made it just in time. Isn't Hollywood scripting wonderful?

As I watched them in their struggle, I thought, "Isn't that a great picture of how it should be? People who are far from perfect helping each which allows them to achieve their goals because helping each other minimizes the weaknesses." As followers of Christ, we have the power of the Spirit participating in the process when there is cooperation. The result: needs are met, people are empowered, the work of the Gospel is magnified, God is glorified, and the Church benefits. This picture also gives us a compelling reason to work through differences as working together is always more beneficial than working against each other.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" So, let's tie our legs together! If we do, we can get to where we are going in spite of our weaknesses.

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 25, 2022

In his first inaugural address in 1933, Franklin Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The reason for this statement is that he faced a nation that was in the throes of the Great Depression. Change needed to take place, and people needed to be assured that the future looked a great deal brighter than the past.

Fear takes place when we have a great concern about losing something - our finances, our home, our family, our health, our reputation, our friends, or something else that is precious to us. Our concern about loss creates fear than can cripple us emotionally and sap our strength. Our fear needs to be turned over to the One who can protect our lives and take care of these concerns. We need to entrust our concerns to the hands of the Lord who has the capability of taking control of the issues that make us feel so out of control.

A fearful spirit can lead to compromise and make us vulnerable to attacks from Satan. Indeed, as Roosevelt said, the effects of fear can be more devastating than the consequences caused by those issues that give rise to fear. Give your concerns to God and let him work through you to empower you and strengthen you to face the situations that are causing fear. Psalm 34:4 says, "I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all of my fear." Seek the Lord - then you will know that the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 24, 2022

On a bookshelf in my office I have one of those 3D desk plates that spell out the name JESUS. The thing is that you have to focus on it just the right way to see his name. You are probably familiar with objects like this. If you don't focus on it correctly, it appears to be nothing more than randomly placed pieces of wood with no meaning. A neighbor made this for me years ago and I treasure it because I appreciate the gift, and because it provides a constant reminder to me of my need to focus on Jesus.

It is easy to let things in our lives cloud our focus on Jesus. He is always right there before us but we often shift our gaze elsewhere, or simply fail to concentrate on him to the point that his place in our life becomes obscure. There is a Gospel song that tells us:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full on his wonderful face

And the things on earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us: "We must focus our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." (12:2) Make sure to focus on Christ. If you don't, other things crowd in and take over, making our life obscure. Focusing on him makes things perfectly clear.

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 23, 2022

Some ime ago, there was a story in the New York Post about a young man who lost an arm in an attempted robbery. He held up a driver at gunpoint and when the driver sped off, the would-be thief lost an arm in a subsequent accident. This is what can happen so many times - one bad decision can be compounded by consequences that follow in a sort of domino effect. We need to take this in consideration in our lives as we make decisions and pursue actions, especially if the activities are questionable.

David found this out the hard way after his sin with Bathsheba. His poor decision to seduce Bathsheba and then attempt to cover up the sin led to bigger problems. The family dynamics that were created led to a tragic circumstance of an incestual rape (I Samuel 13:1-21), a revenge murder (I Samuel 13:22ff), and a great deal of turmoil and intrigue (I Samuel 14 & 15).

Numbers 32:23 tells us, "But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out." Yes - our sin will find us out, and will probably lead to more problems. Remember this the next time you are faced with a temptation to do something you shouldn't do or say something you shouldn't say or go somewhere you shouldn't go. Giving in to that temptation can lead to one thing after another with none of those things being good.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 22, 2022

Texas is a pretty big state. Scherry and I experienced that when we moved there In 1979. When we arrived at the state line for the first time, we realized we still had a trip ahead of us to get to Dallas where we would be living. Texas is a big state.

Of course, the size of the state is relative. Texas is a large state, but is dwarfed by the size of the earth, which, in turn, is dwarfed by the size of the solar system which is dwarfed by the size of the universe. The universe is dwarfed by the size of the One who created it.

There is a saying that "everything is bigger in Texas." Well, everything is bigger with God. God is truly big. This means he has a big heart, a big concern about his creation, a big love for us. We truly have a "great big wonderful God." Paul proclaims about God, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" Indeed, we have a big God, but he is not so big that he doesn't care for us. Our great, big, wonderful God cares for each of us and knows all about us. As the Imperials once sang:

We've got a great big wonderful God

A great big wonderful God

A God that loves every one of us

Done so much for all of us

A great big wonderful God!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 21, 2022

Today is he first day of summer. Locally, it looks as if we will not be disappointed today when it comes to summer weather as the temperature will be close to 100. To be a little more precise about the arrival of summer, astronomical summer began at 4:14 a.m. CDT this morning. This marks the summer solstice and was the precise moment then the North Pole tilted closest to the sun, making the sun appear at its highest point in the sky for this year. At that moment, the sun was directly above the Tropic of Cancer. This is the farthest north the sun moves in the sky, which is why days close to the solstice have the most daylight of the year. We sometimes say this is "the longest day," but, as USA Today points out, it's more accurate to say this is the day with the most daylight as every day is the same length.

I don't know what you think about all this precision, or if you were even ready for the first day of summer, but I know there is a day coming for which we need to be prepared. In contrast to the first day of summer, we cannot predict its arrival with any sort of precision. Yet, we are told to "be awake" and be ready for that day. I Thessalonians 5:4 - 6 tells us, "But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober."

We don't know when that day will come, but it will. As children of the light, we look forward to its arrival. We should tell others that, just as certainly as today is the first day of summer as determined by the relative closeness of the sun, we may be close to the appearance of the Son. Matthew 24:42 says, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." But we do know He will come, so let's watch.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 20, 2022

I remember watching an old episode of "Leave It to Beaver." Huh, I don't know why I said "old" here; there are no new episodes of this show. Sorry, let me get back to what I want to say. In this episode, Wally's friends are urging him to ask his father for the car. Wally said, "Well, you sort of need to wait until the right time to ask Dad something like that."

Have you ever known someone that you need to catch at the right time to make a request? Are you someone who others need to catch at just the right time to ask you to do something? I know someone who is not that way.

We can come to God at any time with any concern and we can know that He will listen to what we have to say or what we have to ask. Now, God is going to be straightforward with his reply; He wouldn't be God if He wasn't, but we do not need to hesitate when it comes to approaching Him. As a matter of act, God wants us to come to Him. He does not want us to feel intimidated or unworthy as we bring our lives to him.

It is true that sin hinders our prayers - "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." (Psalm 66:18), So, that is probably something that needs our primary attention as we approach Him. But our sin does not disqualify us from talking with God. We have been blessed with an open door when it comes to bringing our questions and thoughts to God.

Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." I don't know how you feel about this, but as for me, I am glad I don't have to try to guess when it is the right time to talk to God. I can come to Him anywhere and at any time. I do not have to wait. I think that's marvelous.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 19, 2022

My dad was my hero. Now, dad was a hero in the classical sense of the word - the medals he was awarded during WWII provide evidence of this status. However, for me he was a hero for another reason. Dad was always there for me. He always let me know that I was important to him. Proverbs 22:6 talks about training your children - "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Implied in this verse is the idea that you need to spend time with your children. How else will you fulfill this exhortation to train them? Dad was there for me.

My dad was my guardian. He provided oversight and care and protection for me. The idea of guardian is just what I stated - a person who provides oversight and care and protection for another. Parents do this. My dad did this for me. I always felt safe when Dad was there. I always felt like things were going to be just fine. I never worried if I was going to be cared for or not - Dad took good care of me. Probably the best term I can use here is secure. With Dad, I always felt secure. Luke 11:11 offers an indirect commentary on the role of a father as a protector and provider, "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?" Dads are to be guardians - my dad certainly was.

My dad was my mentor. Dad didn't instruct with words so much as he did with actions. He modeled for me the life of someone who was strong, intelligent, confident. He was a man of the utmost integrity. My dad taught me so many things about how to live. His life was incredibly eloquent. The scripture addresses this idea of the father as teacher and mentor both directly and indirectly. Proverbs 22:6 which is cited above is the direct statement. You can read some indirect statements about the father's role as teacher in passages such as Psalm 44:1 or Isaiah 38:19 where we read, "The living, the living--they praise you as I am doing today; fathers tell their children about your faithfulness." My dad was my teacher.

Today we honor our fathers. I certainly want to honor mine. Dad has been gone for many years now, but what he gave to me is still with me. Dads - that should be our desire - to pass on to our children what will help them even years after we are gone. Happy Father's Day!

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 18, 2022

One of my favorite Christian groups is Jars of Clay. From their beginnings at Greenville College in 1993, they became a force in Christian music as they testified to the grace of God. Their crossover success led to influence of the gospel on a broader audience.

Their name is derived from II Corinthians 4:7, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." The group chose this as their name to reflect their desire that Christ's greatness and power would be reflected through their efforts, while their own persona would be diminished.

When you buy a piece of jewelry, it is usually placed on a rather plain background in its box or case. The reason for this is so that the surroundings of the piece will not attract any attention away from the beauty of the jewelry.

We need to remember that we are just the packaging and that Christ's work is the attraction. We should do all we can to draw attention to what Christ has done in our lives. The words of John the Baptist come to me as I write this, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) Let's make sure that we understand we are simply jars of clay and that Christ's work is the real treasure.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 17, 2022

Believers are God's representatives on earth, and his reputation among the people of earth can be enhanced or sullied by the behavior of his followers. We have a responsibility to maintain God's reputation through the lives we live before others. Why is God's reputation dependent upon us? Because that is the way God has set things up.

Joshua 9:18 records that a treaty had been made with the Gibeonites, "the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the Lord, the God of Israel." Many years later, Saul tried to wipe out the Gibeonites. David in his lament about Saul's death refers to this act and the subsequent judgment of God, "Mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain, may no showers fall on your terraced fields. For there the shield of the mighty was despised, the shield of Saul no longer rubbed with oil." (II Samuel 1:21) God brought judgment on Saul and Israel because their actions damaged his reputation among the people who knew of his promise to Gibeon. God's honor was at stake. The solution to the problem was costly - seven of Saul's family were hanged as retribution for Saul's actions. This was to preserve the reputation of God so that he would not be accused of failing to honor his promises. The Gibeonites knew that God was a God of honor.

Even as the faithless Israelites brought reproach upon God's name with their actions, we can bring reproach upon God's reputation. Let's be committed to the cause of Christ, live as committed people, and in this way we bring honor to the name of God.

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 16, 2022

One of the activities in which we sometimes participate is something with which we need to be judicious. Comparing ourselves to others can be a detrimental exercise. One article on this issue said, "Comparing yourself to others is a reliable way to reduce your confidence, motivation, and self-esteem. It must be natural to make these types of comparisons because nearly everyone does it. However, that doesn t mean it's a good move." The proliferation of social media has only enhanced the opportunities for comparison of oneself to others.

, p> There will always be others who seem to have more, be more, or do more in whatever category you are inclined to introduce comparisons, so it would seem to be a good idea to get a handle on this. This can even involve our spiritual lives if we become involved with considering how our perception of our life in the Lord compares to some other follower of Christ.

As we consider the topic of comparisons, here are some thoughts: First, compare yourself with yourself. Don't use the standards of someone else as markers of achievement in your own life. Be content with who you are and if you are concerned about improvement or growth in a given area, compare where you have been in that regard to where you are now and allow this to inform your thinking about you. Another thing to consider is the role of social media in the issue of comparisons. Maybe you need to downsize your interaction in this area.

Finally, let God inform you about who you are. Focus on Him and His role in your life. There is a little interchange between Jesus and Peter found in John 21 that gives us some interesting insight into comparing oneself to someone else. Now, this is not the direct intention of the story, but what takes place speaks to our topic. Peter and Jesus are talking about Peter's future involvement in the ministry when Peter notices that John is following them. Peter asks, "Lord, what about this man?" (vs. 21) Jesus responds, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" (vs. 22) You be the you you were meant to be and don't try to be the you think you see in someone else. Follow what God intends for you and be responsible to use what He has given you.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 15, 2022

Yesterday, I stopped at a convenience mart In Effingham, Illinois to get gas. This is an activity that can, in and of itself, cause a little consternation. The lady filling her tank on the other side of the pump was a little agitated for more than just the price of gas. The pumps featured two hoses, as do many businesses, but both were the same octane. This bothered her. She was alone, but she said out loud to no one in particular, "Why do they have two hoses?" From the tone of her voice, I could tell I it would be best not to try to engage her on the issue. I wanted to say a number of things including, "What does it matter?" This was really a small issue that, in the grand scheme of things, didn't amount to anything, but she was not pleased that her universe had been altered. Sometimes you just don't sweat the small stuff.

>p> Whoever first coined the phrase "Don't sweat the small stuff" had a good idea, but we do need a little balance here. The idea behind this advice goes to stress relief - we shouldn't worry about little details that are not that significant. Richard Carlson wrote a book about this - "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - And It's All Small Stuff." I appreciate the book and its intention, but there needs to be discernment.

I can think of three circumstances where "small stuff" proved very consequential the space shuttle Challenger was destroyed because of faulty o-rings, the Apollo 11 mission was saved by a felt-tip pen, and the Titanic was compromised by inferior rivets. I don't have time to go into all the details about these events so if you are curious, you can do some research on your own. However, in each of these situations it was "small stuff" that played a big role.

I am all for stress relief, but I do know that there are scenarios where we very much need to take care of the small details. A little crack in a dam can lead to big problems. A little inattention to our personal and spiritual habits can lead to big problems. "Oh, it isn't that big of a deal, this little lie isn't going to hurt anyone." This thinking is not wise. We need to be aware that little things can have a big impact.

Christ tells us, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." (Luke 16:10) Small things matter - make sure you gain some perspective here. Yes, there are times when we don't need to "sweat the small stuff," but there are times when we do. Pay attention and pray for discernment to know when to take care of the small stuff.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 14, 2022

Most of us enjoy stories about comebacks. In the 1940 s, The Ford Motor Company was teetering on the brink. The government realized this could be a blow to the war effort and released Henry Ford !! from his military duties to run the company. Things turned around, and the Ford company thrived. What is ironic is that Ford !! can be tied to another automotive comeback story which took place over 30 years after the end of World War II.

Lee Iacocca rose to prominence in Ford after joining the company in 1946. He was responsible for some of Ford's more successful introductions to the automotive world. He rose through the ranks, becoming the president of Ford Motor Company in 1970. A clash with Henry Ford II led to his firing in 1978. In 1978, Chrysler Motor Company was teetering on the brink. When Iacocca was fired by Ford, Chrysler hired him in a flash.

Iacocca led the comeback efforts of Chrysler in the early 1980's, helping the company to re-establish their place in the automotive world (with a little help from the government), and the rest, as they say is history.

From time to time, we need a comeback. In both situations above, the companies found themselves on thin ice because of bad decisions and failure to do what was needed. That can happen to us in our personal lives. We can find ourselves in a place where we need to compensate for bad decisions and correct wrong directions.

The Bible has story after story about comebacks - Abraham, Jacob, David, Peter. Peter failed on more than one occasion, but the one that is best-known is his denial of Christ. "I do not know the man", he declared. (Matthew 26:73)

Peter made a comeback. About a month and a half after his declaring "I do not know him," Peter stood before over 3,000 people and declared, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." (Acts 2:36) With the intervention of the Spirit of God, Peter became what God wanted him to be.

Do you need a comeback? Lamentations 3;22 tells us, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." God provides forgiveness for moral failure. He provides guidance in times of mistaken direction. He provides comfort and strength in times of spiritual, physical, and emotional struggle. With God, there is always the reality of a comeback.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 13, 2022

All of us have character flaws and imperfections. Some struggle to admit this, but most of us acknowledge our shortcomings and want to do what we can to improve in these areas. How many times have you said, "I need to be more patient," or "I need to be a better listener," or "I need to be less irritable?" If you have, you know there are areas in your life on which you need to focus. And that is really the point and the positive side of struggling with some of our imperfections.

When we do, we acknowledge our weakness and our need for help. Those flaws in our character can actually help make us more dependent on God as we rely on him for assistance in dealing with these issues.

Paul acknowledged this and tells us, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (II Corinthians 12:7-10)."

Paul knew there were areas in his life he would like to see changed. He understood the purpose of these issues, and chose to use them as reminder to him of his dependence upon God. We can stew and fret about some our "problem areas," or we can acknowledge their existence, turn them over to God, and allow him to use these weak areas to build our character and strengthen us. I have always loved God's response to Paul with regard to Paul's struggle, "My grace is sufficient for you." Indeed, God's grace is sufficient for us - let his grace take charge in your life and watch his power overcome your weakness.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 12, 2022

When I was growing up, Mom would frequently admonish me about my eating habits. "Steve," Mom would say, "You eat way too fast! You need to slow down and enjoy your food!" I probably did eat too fast, but it seemed there were always other things to do. Yet, most of the other activities were not nearly as important as eating.

Often, we are like this when it comes to the things of God. We rush through them without taking the time to savor the things God has for us. Take Bible reading, for example. Do you take the time to really let the scripture speak to you as you read? The psalmist said about it, "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Ps. 119:103).

At times, our prayer life is done "on the run," unless it is something about which we are really concerned. How do you react when the worship service gets a little "long in the tooth?" Now, I know this is spoken like a true preacher, but our time spent with God in worship should never be considered as being "long in the tooth." I could really get on a soapbox here, but I won't. David said, "I was glad when they said unto me, 'Let us go into the house of the Lord.'" (Psalm 122:3)

When it comes to our spiritual disciplines, we probably need to "slow down and enjoy them." These activities are for our benefit. Don't miss out on what they have for you - slow down and enjoy them!

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 11, 2022

Yesterday I wrote about the grumbling of the people that Moses was leading to a new home God had promised them. Dealing with their complaints and their criticism had to be frustrating for Moses. Actually, it was frustrating, and caused him to be angry. We know this because his frustration sort of came to a head and he did something he shouldn't have done. The story is found in Numbers 20.

The people are complaining about the lack of water. In anger, Moses said, "Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?", then he struck the rock and it yielded water. The problem was, God had told him to just speak to the rock to bring water (vs. 8) Forty years earlier, he struck a rock as God had told him, and water resulted (Exodus 17). This time, he was only supposed to speak to the rock; however, in his exhaustion and frustration with the people, he failed to listen to God. He struck the rock. God informed him that there would be consequences for his disobedience.

I would imagine you can relate to Moses on a number of levels here. We all experience frustration and anger at times. In many instances, this is created because of the actions of others. Usually, the provocation is out of our control, but what is in our control is how we respond. There are many circumstances that can bring problems for us, even things that are unfair. How we choose to respond can be very important. Our response can bring further trouble if we react in the wrong way.

When you feel frustration mounting, take a step back, think about what is taking place, evaluate your response, and, above all, listen to the voice of God and what he is telling you to do. Sometimes he tells us to speak, sometimes he tells us to wait. That is why we should be careful to listen before we take action.

Remember the admonition of Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." This is not the easy path to follow, but the choice will be better path to follow.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 10, 2022

My grandfather used to have a phrase he would use when he heard people complaining or arguing: "Quit your molly grubbing!" We have a tendency to complain or argue, don't we? When Moses was leading the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, he heard one complaint after another - "We don't have any water!", "We're going to starve!", "We can't get our disputes heard!" (see Exodus 18), even "We wish we were back in Egypt!" We can be really good at this as well.

God is not pleased with complainers. You need to read Numbers 11:1-5 to see how he dealt with some of the "rabble." Philippians 2:14 tells us to "Do everything without complaining or arguing."

We need to go against the grain of complaining and arguing. We need to do this because being a complainer really hinders our effectiveness as followers of Christ. When we give in to complaining, we are unable to channel the light and love of God in the way he would like. I would imagine God has times when he wants to say to us just what my Papaw used to say, "Quit your molly grubbing." So, quit it! Buck the trend! The choice is yours!

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 09, 2022

"Happy Thanksgiving!" As you read this greeting, what was your first response? Did you think, "Steve, aren't you are either a little early in your timing?" Well, actually, and I know none of you are going to be surprised by this statement, I am right on time. I even have the venerable Apostle Paul to back me up on this.

Paul says, "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." In other words, we are to give thanks at all times. Now, this idea is not unique to Paul. The author of Hebrews said, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful." Psalm 107:1 tells us, "Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good." We are told to "Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name." (Isaiah 12:4)

So, when it comes to giving thanks, I am right on time with my expression. It's nice that we have a holiday for this, but we don't need a holiday, and we shouldn't wait for a holiday, to express our thankfulness. I have written before about the effects of a grateful heart. Giving thanks is appropriate at all times.

Peter O'Brien wrote, "Thanksgiving is almost a synonym for the Christian life. It is the response of gratitude to God's saving activity in creation and redemption." C.H. Spurgeon gives us a really good reason to practice thanksgiving in our lives. He wrote that we will certainly be involved in Thanksgiving in eternity, "In heaven, we shall give thanks to God always for all things, without exception, and throughout eternity we shall magnify his holy name." So, as we practice our thanksgiving now, we are rehearsing for our activity in our eternal life. It is never too early for Thanksgiving. Let the celebration begin!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 08, 2022

Recently, I was involved in a conversation with a few folks about experiences we have had taking the wrong path on interstates. I don't remember what got this conversation headed this direction (parson the pun), but I did have something to contribute.

Years ago, I was returning home from a trip to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, heading east on I-70. I-70 and I-55 intersect for a time around Troy, Illinois. I was not aware of this back then but what happened on this trip indelibly burned this fact into my brain. As I was tooling along the interstate, I began to notice that the landscape didn't look all that familiar. I eventually realized that I was traveling north on I-55 instead of east on I-70. How in the world did this happen? Well, as I said earlier, I-55 intersects with I-70 at Troy. The point where they separate into north I-55 and east I-70 is rather subtle. If you are not paying attention, as I was not, you can miss the lane to I-70. What makes it even more interesting is that for a few miles, you will see exit signs to some of the same towns that you would find on I-70. So, for a time, the two roads really look similar.

How could I have prevented this from happening? How can you keep from going the wrong way? Well, knowing about the characteristic of the intersection would help. Also, if you have a guide such as a compass, GPS, or a smartphone, you could probably avoid taking the wrong road. GPS technology was not readily available at the time of my mistake. Perhaps the best thing would be to have a person with you who had been on the road before and could tell you to make sure and go the right way.

We sometimes face a similar dilemma in life. We have two paths that look identical - which way should we follow? One is right, one is wrong - which way to go? Well, we have some assistance. Our Heavenly Father can provide us with information so that we can know the right way, if we listen to him. Proverbs 2:5 encourages us to "understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." We also have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us with the decision. John 14:26 tells us that "the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

Finally, we do have someone who has been this way before, and will be there to lead us. Christ can and will provide leadership in our lives. He died for us to give him the right to be our leader. We read in Hebrews 7:25, "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." Make sure you are on the right road!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday June 07, 2022

There are times when words fail us because some experience of event that is before us. I would imagine this describes most of our initial responses to the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, two weeks ago. Noted author and speaker Beth Moore had this post, "I want so much to have some words for you but all I can do right now is sob. My good friend says that tears are liquid prayers. That is how I'm praying for now."

How do you pray at a time like that? What can be said? Our struggle with what to say, what to ask for, what words to use in our prayer can occur not just in circumstances of such horrific news. There are personal experiences we have that leave us in a place where we almost agonize with our prayer. A loss of a loved one, news about a health concern, a relationship problem, or some other event can leave us speechless when it comes to framing a prayer.

When this takes place, there is something we need to know that can bring assurance and comfort. We can rest assured that Someone is praying for us Please note the emphasis on Someone, not just someone, but Someone. Romans 8:26-27 tells us, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God." Rest assured that when words fail us, the Spirit is using a language to communicate the need in a way that we never could.

The next time your words seem to be locked away somewhere, remember the promise of scripture. Whether it be a response to news of a tragedy or an emotional response because of a personal event, know that the Spirit is intervening. Draw comfort from the words of Abraham in Genesis 18:25, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" and the words of the Spirit who is intervening on your behalf, and on behalf of all who need Him.

Pastor Steve
Monday June 06, 2022

The Eagles are one of the most popular bands that have ever hit the airwaves. A distinctive feature of the group is their intricate vocal harmonies. When they prepare for a concert, they sit in a circle with nothing but their acoustic guitars and rehearse some of their numbers. They dubbed this practice the "Circle of Fear," as it was a time when all is out there in front of the most critical and important people - fellow band members. If a mistake was made, it was out there in front of everyone with no way to hide.

If not for the grace of God, we could easily feel that we live in a "Circle of Fear." All of our lives are out there on full display before our Heavenly Father. When mistakes are made, there is no way to hide what has been done. At face value, this reality could produce constant terror within us, but we know that with God there is forgiveness when mistakes are made. The idea that God sees all we do should create a healthy respect within us and concern about how we are living, but we do not need to feel a constant state of terror. In Christ, we have an Advocate who stands for us and pleads our case when we sin.

I john 2:1 says, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." Our challenge is to live lives of integrity and purity that honor our Father. When we do fail, we don't need to fear rejection and ridicule, rather, we are blessed to have the Savior as our Advocate. We don't live in a Circle of Fear but a Circle of Faith.

Pastor Steve
Sunday June 05, 2022

There is a great deal of controversy about the use of paddling as a means of discipline. This was not an issue when I grew up, but my intent in making this statement is not to debate paddling. What I want to write about is restraint. My father never paddled me. My dad never paddled me not because he didn't believe in the merits of paddling. He was afraid that if he paddled me (or my brothers), he would use too much force and really hurt us. He exercised restraint. Now, before I move on to the point, I want to make about this, I must say that Dad never had to paddle me to get my attention. His look was enough.

I have always marveled at the restraint God demonstrates in dealing with his people. He didn't totally wipe out the population and start over from the beginning in the days of Noah (Genesis 6) He listened to Moses and held back his judgment on the people of Israel (Exodus 32).

There are other examples of this not only from God, but from Christ. During Satan's temptation of Christ, Christ could have easily performed the acts Satan asked him to do (Matthew 4:1 - 11). He held back on the signs being demanded by the Pharisees (Matthew 12:38). Herod asked Christ to perform a miracle when he appeared before him as part of the trial process before his crucifixion. That didn t happen. Luke 23:8 tells us, "When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort." Why didn't he? Would that not have cleared things up? He didn't for the same reason that he and his Father demonstrated "the miracle of restraint."

God does this because no great display of power will produce the response he desires. Only love will do that. Christ said, "'And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.' He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die." (John 12:32) God is totally self-aware of his power but chooses to exercise restraint because of his mercy and because he wants his people to follow him out of love not fear of destruction. That is how love is - it has its own power and this is the power God chooses to enact.

Pastor Steve
Saturday June 04, 2022

Of the many metaphors I have come across that are used for God, both explicitly mentioned in scripture and those developed by commentators, one of the most interesting is the use of the eyelid to purvey characteristics of God. Now, before you roll your eyes at me, let me share with you the points I gleaned from the comparison.

Like the eyelid, God provides continual protection. The eyelid guards the eye from danger, removes what might be problematic, and reflexively closes when potential harm approaches. God protects His children. Psalm 91:1-2 says, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" Like the eyelid, God offers provision. Through the continual action of the eyelid, the eye receives nourishment and moisture, necessary ingredients if the eye is to thrive. Philippians 4:16 tells us, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

A final thought is, as the eyelid allows for sleep, God allows for peace in our lives that enhances our sleep. The eyelid closes and brings about rest; God's peace in our lives allows us to rest in Him. "In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8) So, the next time you close your eyes to sleep or open your eyes as you wake, think of the protection, provision, and peace that are brought to you by your loving Father. I don't know how eye-opening this writing has been for you, but I hope it has at least let you clearly see the wonders of God's care.

Pastor Steve
Friday June 03, 2022

"I'm sorry, but I am just not going to drive any faster," I said to the driver of the car that was following me way too closely. Of course, he or she could not hear a word I said, but I still was not going to drive any faster. I was navigating the curvy roads around Wheelersburg, Ohio, and I had precious cargo on board. I was taking my two youngest grandchildren on a "nap ride." With my Illinois plates, the driver of the following car may have thought I didn't know where I was going. Regardless of what he might be thinking, I knew what I needed to do. Something else I need to do is to exercise more patience and understanding when the table is flipped. I need to remember that I don't know what someone else has on board.

As I think about this, I should apply this mindset in other scenarios besides driving. Too often we are quick to form opinions about others or judge others when we really don't have all the facts. We do not know what they may have "on board." Our thoughts and responses need to be tempered by the attitude that is described in Colossians 3:12-14, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

This is what we should display towards others. Often, we don't know what folks might be carrying. We don't know the burdens they may have that have a grip on their lives at a given time. So, we need to respond in love and patience and lay off the horn.

Pastor Steve
Thursday June 02, 2022

I would imagine that you have heard the phrase, "give credit where credit is due." This phrase lays out an action I need to take in that I do need to give credit to my brother, Kevin, for the devotional I wrote yesterday. I did mention that a link to an article he had sent to me provided the inspiration for my writing, but I failed to thank him explicitly for this. That is what I would like to do today - thank him for sending me the link that was the impetus for my writing. Something I didn't mention yesterday is that our back-and-forth messaging on the topic brought up a memory we both have of hearing the Imperials at B & B Supermarket in Huntington, WV, in 1976. I was grateful for that as well.

It is always good to give credit where is due. This is especially true when it comes to the blessings we receive from our Father. Reflecting on this took my thinking in a little different direction. I came to acknowledge that not only do I need to thank my brother for the idea he gave me, I need to thank God for my brother. I am thankful to God for the two brothers that I have. Many of you know Kevin and Phil, and if you do, you realize that I am blessed when it comes to my brothers. I am glad God put us together. I certainly need to give credit where credit is due here and take the time to thank God for the brothers I have.

Paul provides a number of examples of giving credit where credit is due when it comes to thanking God for the people that God placed in his life. In Ephesians 1:16, he writes, "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers." He says in I Thessalians 1:2-3, "We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers." In II Thessalonians 1:3, he mentions his need for "giving credit where credit is due" when he writes, "We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right."

Do you ever take the time to thank God for the people he has put in your life? Do you take the opportunity to let these folks know how grateful you are for their presence in your life? Now, I'm not going to take the time to make suggestions as to whom this would be. I am sure you can come up with a list all on your own. Paul was not hesitant in giving credit where credit was due in this regard. Let s follow his example.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday June 01, 2022

The other day, my brother Kevin sent me an article which stated that, because of a helium shortage, the University of Nebraska was terminating its tradition of releasing red balloons after the first touchdown at home games. I knew of the helium shortage as, not long ago, I had tried to purchase some balloons and was apprised of this situation. We can add this to the list of all the shortages we are experiencing.

Kevin followed up this message by sending me the link to a video entitled "No Shortage," a song by the Imperials. The Imperials are one of my favorite groups, a quartet with roots in Southern Gospel that moved to a more contemporary sound four decades ago. Released in 1975, "No Shortage" has a litany of items that are scarce and laments this problem, but then declares, "Thank Heaven for one thing

That there's no shortage of

There's no shortage on God's mercy

There's no shortage on God's love."

And that is the truth.

Exodus 34:6 tells us, "And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." Ephesians 2:4 talks about the availability of God's mercy and love, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us." God abounds in love, compassion, care, mercy, grace, faithfulness, hope, and justice. There won't ever be a shortage of any of these.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 31, 2022

Herbert Vander Lugt writes about Pat Fillmore: "Pat Fillmore has been a pioneer missionary in Irian Jaya for 40 years. She taught people to read and brought them medications and medical techniques. She maintained airstrips, built septic systems, and repaired generators and appliances. In addition, she established and managed a quality Bible school, and translated parts of the Bible and many study courses into the language of the people to whom she ministered."

Those are some significant accomplishments! You've surely heard of Pat Fillmore, haven't you? If you have, great, but I must say that I hadn't heard about her until I read Mr. Vander Lugt's article. There are so many people who have many great accomplishments, yet we never know about them. There have been many of these people throughout history - there are many even now who fit into this category.

Sometimes we feel like we may be laboring in a "vacuum" as what we do goes unheralded. Keep a healthy attitude about what you do. On the one hand, don't feel like what you are doing is "insignificant" because you don't attract a lot of attention and on the other hand don't feel like you need to be "noticed." Put yourself in the shoes of Paul's anonymous colleagues he refers to in Philippians 4:3, "the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." Who are these people? Well, we don't know. However, God does - and that is what matters. What we do for God does not go unnoticed by God. Colossians 3:23-24 tells us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Always keep in mind we are serving God. This helps keep the "attention" factor in perspective.

Pastor Steve
Monday May 30, 2022

Today is Memorial Day. This day has its roots in the Civil War, when people started getting together to lay flowers on the graves of those who were killed in the conflict. On May 30, 1868, Gen. John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued a proclamation that May 30 be a day of remembrance of those who gave their lives in battle. May 30 was chosen as there were no battles fought on that day, and it would be a time of year when flowers would be abundant. It was actually first known as Decoration Day, and those of my generation and older probably remember using this term for this holiday. It was not until 1971 that it became an official holiday of the U.S., and the observance was set to be the last Monday in May. This year, of course, the observance falls on the actual date of the original celebration. At 3 p.m. local time, individuals are to stop for a moment of silence. The day has broadened to be an observance of all of those who have died.

I don't know how you will spend today, but I hope you do take some time for a "memorial." Remembering death can bring sadness, but we as followers of Christ know that death need not be feared. We know that those who die in the Lord live on. So, we can take time today not just for a memorial, but for a celebration. I placed flowers on about 20 graves the other day - loved ones and family members, some of whom I never met in this life. However, because of our shared hope in Christ, those I "remembered" will be those I will someday meet and for those I knew, I will see them again. I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul reminds us, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words."

This Memorial Day, I am encouraged by the knowledge of our hope in Christ. My desire for you is that you are as well. Happy Memorial Day!

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 29, 2022

This year has been challenging for farmers trying to get fieldwork done. Our spring has been chilly and wet - conditions that are not conducive for planting crops. When there is a window of opportunity to get crops planted, farmers work feverishly to take advantage of it. And when I say window, that is just what I mean. The windows between the rains seem to close quickly, so farmers take advantage of the time when conditions are favorable..

This is a statement that is true of our lives. We need to look for windows of opportunity that at some point will close. We should take advantage of the "dry conditions" while we can as there will be a time when conditions will change. This can refer to specific opportunities that come our way at certain times in our lives, and it certainly refers to our lives in general.

Parents need to enjoy and spend time with their children while they can. Kids grow up and become adults (now that was an earth-shattering revelation wasn't it?). We need to take advantage of job opportunities. We need to be good stewards of our finances as there will be a time when our earning ability is not there. I could go on and on with examples. Paul gives this advice, "Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity." (Ephesians 5:16)

As I said, this refers to our lives in general as well. We only have so much time on earth, have you prepared for the time when you will leave? An example of how not to live is found in Luke 12:16:21, The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 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 my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, You have plenty of grain 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 whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God."

Make sure you take advantage of the window of opportunity you have been given. Accept the Gift that God has for you in Jesus so that you will be ready when the window of opportunity closes.

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 28, 2022

About seven years ago, we purchased a new gazebo for our deck. It was shipped to us in two boxes. I let the boxes go for a bit as we didn't time our purchase very well and they came in when it was too cold to put the thing together. When warmer weather came, I opened the boxes and immediately knew this was going to be a chore because there were dozens of parts. I was undaunted, as I knew there would be an instruction book included for the installation.

Well, much to my chagrin, the instruction book was illegible. Remember me saying that I had let the boxes go awhile? This was not a good idea. The boxes got wet and, hence, illegible instructions. What to do? I was concerned and perplexed. I called the company from whom I had ordered the gazebo. That was not helpful. They gave me an "800" number to call to see if that would work. That was a dead end as well. What in the world was I going to do? I couldn't even get the model number from the box or anything inside the box because of the aforementioned moisture issue. I finally located an original advertisement that supplied me with the model number. Then, I got on the internet and, there it is! Success! I found the instructions, printed them off, enlisted the assistance of a couple of friends, and we still enjoy the finished product today!

I have thought about this incident a number of times over the years and reflecting on the experience brings a little challenge to me. I hope I reflect a concern for directions from God for my life that is equal to, actually greater than, the concern I had for the directions for the gazebo. I don't think I am being too dramatic here, but for a couple of days, my pursuit for those directions sort of consumed me. The thing is, if I didn't find them, what difference would that have made in the long run? I would be out a few bucks, and our deck would not be shaded as well as it is now, but how important is that? My life for God and how I am living for Him should be my uppermost concern. During the time I searched for the directions, my focus was urgently trained toward one objective - finding out how to build a gazebo. My focus needs to be ungently trained toward one objective - finding out how to build a life that is pleasing to God.

Matthew 22:36 tells us, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Psalm 42:1 speaks to the focus we should have for the things of God, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God." Losing instructions for a gazebo is mildly frustrating; losing our focus on God can be a dangerous path.

Pastor Steve
Friday May 27, 2022

Shows such as Law and Order and NCIS have been popular for years. Many times on these shows, we see computer gurus commandeer surveillance cameras to try to get pictures of crime scenes to see if they can get clues to help solve the crimes on which they are working. From these shows, you almost get the idea that there are "eyes" on you no matter where you are. Of course, that is not really the case.

It certainly wasn't the case for Hagar, the handmaid of Abram's wife Sarai. Sarai could not get pregnant, so she gave her handmaid Hagar to her husband for the purpose of bearing a child. However, when Hagar became pregnant, friction developed between Sarai and Hagar.

This eventually led to Hagar fleeing from Sarai because of the mistreatment she endured. Hagar no doubt felt very alone as she fled into the desert, not knowing what the future would hold for her. Her life had suddenly become very uncertain and frightening. There in the desert where it would seem no one could see her, the eyes of God were upon her. God spoke to her, telling her go back to Sarai and promising her and yet-to-be born son a secure future.

In Genesis 16:13 we read, "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'" "El Roi", the God who sees, had eyes on Hagar, and he has eyes on us. He knows our past, our present, and our future. We may feel uncertain about what is to come next and we may feel frightened at times because we don't know who cares, but realize El Roi sees us and knows about us. He is the God who sees you and cares for you now and forever.

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 26, 2022

In 1982, Phil Collins released a song entitled "I Don't Care Anymore." Good night, it just hit me this was forty years ago. Yeesh. Pardon the digression. The song was on his album "Hello I Must Be Going" and earned him a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year. I have always thought the song was rather bleak and, of course, the bleakness of the song is reflected in the title.

I hope you have never been in the position where you could truthfully say, "I don't care anymore" about anything. I hope you have never had the experience of being in such a desperate position. As followers of Christ, there are so many things about which we need to care. The scripture says, "Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name." (Psalm 74:12) James writes "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) Isaiah 1;17 tells us to "Learn to do right; seek justice."

We are to care about living for God and honoring him with our lives. Above all else, we need to care about presenting the Gospel to a world in need. Our care for the message of the Gospel should be uppermost in our thinking. A follower of God should have a high degree of care for a walk with God and high degree of care for God's people. The words "I don't care anymore" should not be in our vocabulary.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 25, 2022

Some time ago, I read a story about a man in South Africa who came home and found nine would-be thieves in his house. Seven of them ran away, but two remained and confronted the homeowner. He struggled with the assailants and managed to throw them in his pool. One couldn't swim, so the homeowner jumped in to save him from drowning. When he got them out, the one who couldn't swim brandished a knife. The homeowner reports, "When I saw the knife, I threw him back into the pool. However, he started struggling to breathe and drowning, so I jumped in and rescued him again."

Sometimes our inner self causes us to confront the One who has rescued us - our Heavenly Father. Even though we have been redeemed through the grace of God, our old nature causes us to rebel against God. When we do, God will take appropriate action. Hebrews 12:6 tells us, the Lord disciplines the one he loves. He will "throw us back into the pool", so to speak. However, he deals with us in grace, and will pull us out when we have learned our lesson.

We need to fight against our inner desire to be a rebel, not against God who has pulled us out of the water. Paul writes about this inclination in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." What is our answer to this dilemma? Read further in Romans 7, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (vss. 24-25) Give thanks to God, who deals with us in grace!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 24, 2022

For years, I helped make the drinks, especially the tea, for our dinners at church. I did this because I wanted to and I had introduced our church to a tea recipe I learned from my brothers. Some didn't like it, but most did, and that s what we served. I made tea for our weekly dinners, and usually our larger gatherings. Covid wreaked havoc with our dinners, and although we have resumed somewhat, I leave the drinks to others.

Some time back, my tea-making practice was the source of one of my more memorable and embarrassing moments. One particular evening, folks arrived, got their food, and sat down to eat as usual. Soon, someone said, "Steve, this unsweetened tea is sweetened, and the sweetened tea is REALLY sweet." I thought, "That can't be - I made this tea as I always do." I tried the tea, and just as I had been told, the unsweetened was sweet and the sweetened tea was somewhere in the area of maple syrup. How in the world did this happen? Many suggested, "Well, you just got the containers mixed up." I knew I hadn't done that as I "check twice and pour once," but what else could it be? This still did not explain how all the tea was sweetened.

The dinner continued and we warned folks about the mix-up. I was ready to chalk up the event as another incident brought on by my increasing forgetfulness, then someone checked the tea bags. "Hey, did you know these tea bags are pre-sweetened?" No, I certainly did not, or I would not have used them for the unsweetened tea. This little revelation solved the mystery and helped me to feel a bit better about my forgetfulness; however, it did not absolve the fact that I hadn't checked the label on the new tea bags before I used them.

Checking labels is a good thing. Because of our health issues, Scherry and I are better about this, except for this tea incident. This is also a good thing to remember when it comes to other things we are putting on our inside. What are we reading? What are we viewing? To what do we listen? How is our conversation? What kind of stories are we sharing? Are we talking in a way that we shouldn't - listening and sharing some things we might call "off-color?" Do we like to listen to and share those things that amount to nothing more than gossip?

Proverbs 23:7 tells us, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. 'Eat and drink!' he says to you'" What are we putting on our inside? I know you have heard the old saying, "It's what's on the inside that counts." This is true - and we need to be careful about what we are putting inside.

Pastor Steve
Monday May 23, 2022

The Striding Lion of Babylon is artwork made of molded brick that would have been found in ancient Babylon in 604 - 562 B.C. One-hundred twenty of these mosaics lined the "Processional Way" that led out of the city through the massive Ishtar Gate. The lion was the symbol of the goddess Ishtar. One of these is on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and there is a large mural-type painting of one at the Oriental Institute in Chicago.

Daniel would have seen these Striding Lions when he was taken to Babylon after his capture. As other Hebrew captives were brought to Babylon, this was one sight they would have witnessed. Perhaps many thought that Ishtar had defeated the God of Israel. This was not the case, as Babylon was later defeated by the Persians. Eventually, those who had been taken captive were allowed to return to their homeland. What is ironic is that Daniel would face real lions, as you well know, and God would show his power over the lions by shutting their mouths and preserving Daniel's life. Nope, God had no problem showing his power over both the lions and the Babylonian empire.

The leader at the time of Daniel's encounter with live lions concluded, "King Darius said, '[Daniel's God] is the living God and he endures forever . . . . He rescues and he saves,'" (Dan. 6:26 27) King Darius came to this conclusion because he witnessed the faithfulness of Daniel. Daniel never thought that God had been defeated. He remained true to Him, even though it brought him into conflict with those in charge.

Some today may be tempted to think that maybe God isn't all that powerful because of the state of affairs in which we find ourselves just now. That would be wrong thinking. Even as Daniel, we need to remain faithful during times of duress.

Daniel provided an example of faithfulness that led to a king being influenced by his life. In times of uncertainty, live to show that you believe God is in charge. You never know who might be influenced by the example you set.

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 22, 2022

Usually, when we ask people "How are you?", we don't expect an answer. At least, we don't expect a real answer. We use this phrase as simply a phrase of greeting, not actually a request to learn what is going on inside the mind of the person to whom the question is directed. Now, that is the way it is for the most part, and I am not out to change the practice by writing about it; I just what to bring some awareness that there are times we need to ask that question with intent.

We do want to be, and we want others to be in good spirits. That is sort of what we expect when we use "How are you?" as a greeting. It is why we ask, or are asked, to smile when pictures are taken. And that's ok also, but we need to remember there are times others don't feel like smiling, and there are times when we don't feel like smiling. When we know this is most likely the case with those close to us, that's the time we need to ask "How are you?" with more than just a desire to greet them. That's when we ask because we want them to know we are concerned. We want them to know that, although we probably won't have answers, we are willing to listen and reflect love, care, and empathy for them as best we can.

The best thing Job's three friends did for Job was what they did when they first came to him - they were there and they just sat with him. Job 2:12 - 13 tell us, "When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." They really didn't need to ask, "How are you?", as this was evident. Their presence showed their care. Our presence shows that we care. And so we should.

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 21, 2022

For years, researchers in the Pacific Northwest have fought a problem - the disappearance of the Spotted Owl. There have been movements to regulate timber harvesting to preserve their habitat, but another issue surfaced that seemed to expose one of the real culprits in the problem - the barred owl. Until the late 20th century, the barred owl was found exclusively east of the Mississippi River. Then, the barred owl, also known as the "hoot owl," began a westward migration. They are larger, more aggressive, and more adaptable than their spotted cousins. So, as they began to occupy the spotted owl's home, the numbers of spotted owls declined.

Many times, our greatest source of spiritual conflict in our churches comes from within and not from the outside. This has been the case with the church even since the beginning. Paul dealt with conflict with the church of Corinth in the first century AD. He wrote, "You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere human beings?" (I Corinthians 3:2-4) They were arguing over which leader they should follow Paul? Apollos? Peter? Paul told them to agree on the essentials and not be divided over the non-essentials. They were valuing their favorite leader over unity in Christ, so Paul reminded them of the essential of the church - to proclaim the Good News.

As we focus on the essential, we unify the church and counter that which is bringing conflict. Later in his letter, Paul writes, "there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another." (I Corinthians 12:25) Let's preserve unity by being caring and not carnivorous.

Pastor Steve
Friday May 20, 2022

The front of our house faces east. So, with regard to the weather, I can look out the window in our front room and see what is currently taking place. Then, I can look out the windows facing west and see what is coming. Even as I am writing this, I look out the eastern-facing windows and see lighter skies, even traces of blue, but if I were to walk to the other side of the house (as I did a few moments ago), I can see the dark clouds of an approaching storm. Now, there have been other occasions when the opposite is the case dark clouds to the east on their way somewhere else, and marvelous, bright-blue skies with sunshine in the west.

What we experience with respect to the weather is also true for other aspects of our lives. Often, we are in the midst of a bright time in our life, but then we are interrupted by an on-coming problem. Then, there are experiences when we are dominated by the clouds of a struggle, and we eagerly await the blue skies of better times.

Scripture has something to say about both situations. The people of Isaiah 40 are in a time when all seems to be well, but a storm is brewing. Some are aware of this, and some are not. God gives them words of encouragement to bring confidence to those who follow Him so that they will weather the on-coming storm. Isaiah 40:31 says, "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Now, for people who are currently in a time when a storm is raging, Psalm 30:5 promises that "weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning."

Whether the storm is on the way, or you are in the storm and want it to leave, God is with you. We look forward to the time when we will no longer have to worry about impending dark skies, but we aren t there yet. As we now are in a time where we experience abrupt life changes along with our tumultuous climactic changes, rest in the hope that God gives you.

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 19, 2022

In our Bible Study last week, a concept came up about which I have spoken on a number of occasions. We were looking at the actions of Noah and his sons post-flood that are found in Genesis 9. We saw that, along with triumph and blessings, there were downfalls because of human weakness. I made the comment that I am glad that when we see individuals presented in scripture, the pictures are painted warts and all.

I think there are some important thoughts that arise from this. First, it underpins the authenticity of scripture. The Bible does not contain stories of unreal "super heroes" where "bullets bounce off." These are real people with real issues. Secondly, this gives a picture of our gracious God. I came across this statement, "In Genesis, it seems that almost every person and family mentioned is dysfunctional. The text is filled with accounts of jealousy, anger, violence, and deception that leave a trail of damaged relationships. Even Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lauded as heroes of faith in Hebrews 11-display flawed character and spiritual lapses. But God never leaves them that way." No, He does not.

We should be encouraged to see that God doesn't abandon people because of their failures, but continues to work with them and help them to gain control over the cause of the failure. He does the same with us. What we have defaced, He can refine. What we have destroyed, He can rebuild. God can turn around those who turn to Him.

A final thought: the way God deals with the failures of people should inform and define how we deal with the failures of others AND our own failures. We can have struggles in both of these areas, often the latter struggle is the most difficult. Dr. Carlyle Marney wrote, "The last person on earth we forgive is ourself." Let the example of God's forgiveness inform your response to both the failures of others and the failures that belong to you.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 18, 2022

I am fascinated by the events described in Nehemiah 8. Here is a small excerpt, "So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law . . .Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up." (8:1-3, 5)

I don't know if you kept track as you read, but let me point out some interesting observations. First, as the Torah was read in the presence of the people, all the people stood. Secondly, they stood for about five hours as the Torah was read ("from daybreak till noon"). Finally, "all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law." Wow. A scripture reading that went on for more than five hours with everyone standing and LISTENING. I would imagine there are a number of activities to which we would be willing to devote five hours of our time, but would Bible reading be one of them? My, there are so many things I could say about this. However, I want to simply make one application. From this time on, the people of Israel were known as the "People of the Book." Could this description fit us?

Wouldn't that be a wonderful testimonial to be known as the "People of the Book?" Of course, this presupposes that we actually are people of the Book. This decryption would indicate that we are indeed people who love God's Word and wish to know and follow it attentively. I hope this passage could describe us. I don't know how far I could get with a five-hour Bible reading outside with everyone standing, but our devotion to His Word should be as great. The question is: How great is our devotion to God's Word? Think carefully before you give an answer.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 17, 2022

Some time ago, an acquaintance told me about an incident she experienced when she attended her granddaughter's dance recital. While she was leaving, a young lady was holding the door open. A number of people ahead of her exited through the door. When she passed her young benefactor, she said "Thank you for holding the door open!" The young lady replied, "Your welcome! And you are the first person to thank me for doing this!" Isn't that a shame? Yes, it is, but not surprising.

Folks have had problems with gratitude all the way back to the time of Christ. Do you remember the incident involving ten lepers whom Christ healed? You can read about this in Luke 17:11 - 19. Ten men afflicted with leprosy sought help from Christ. Christ healed all of them, and he told them to go show the priests that they were healed. Only one of them took the time to thank Christ for his healing. Christ responded, "'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'" (17-19)

Isn't that something? And as we saw earlier, this behavior is still common today. Well, don't let it be common with you. Don't be the one to not say thanks. Others may not thank you when thanks are deserved, but you can't cry over spilled milk. And you can't control the actions of others. What you can control is your own behavior. Make sure to give thanks when thanks are due; and make sure you thank God! It's what should be done.

Pastor Steve
Monday May 16, 2022

I have always been fascinated by the Argiope aurantia. You probably know this creature by its more common name - the yellow garden spider. These black and yellow arachnids are the ones that weave very intricate, precise, circular webs that serve as the stereotypical spider web. I hope you have had the opportunity to see one of these webs up close, and maybe even had the chance to watch one being created.

My first experience with one came at my grandparents' home when I was a young boy. I remember sitting on the steps of their large front porch and watching a web being spun in a bush right next to the steps. I was fascinated watching the web being created. These webs are a marvel of engineering, yet are created without any rulers, transits, levels, or anything that humans would need to use to get the get the proper spacing and levels correct. At night, the spider will consume the inner circle of the web and then rebuild it during the day.

When I observe phenomena such as this in nature, I gain new appreciation for the marvelous creativity of our wonderful God. These little displays are simply microcosms of his grand ability and skill. I believe God has placed these little reminders in our world to say to us, "Don't forget who I am or what I have done or what I am going to do." We shouldn't need any reminders, but frankly I am glad they are there. As we view them, they should instill within us a sense of awe and wonder of the grandeur of God and his marvelous work.

Psalm 40:5 says, "Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." Isn't that the truth? Let the spider webs of the world speak to you about the wonders of our God!

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 15, 2022

"The pilot is unconscious and I have no idea how to fly this airplane." This statement did not come from a TV show or movie script. It was uttered to air traffic controllers just the other day by a passenger on a Cessna 208 aircraft flying from the Bahamas to Florida. The air traffic control room got busy. Robert Morgan was one of them, a controller who is also a certified flight instructor.

Morgan got on the radio to communicate with the "pilot." "He was really calm," Morgan said. "He said, 'I don't know how to fly. I don't know how to stop this thing if I do get on the runway.'" Morgan told the person to listen to him very carefully. Guess what? There was absolutely no push-back from the pilot! He knew better - his life and the lives of the others on that flight depended upon his following Morgan's advice explicitly.

Morgan issued a series of instructions, "Try to hold the wings level and see if you can start descending for me. Push forward on the controls and descend at a very slow rate Try to follow the coast either north or southbound. We're trying to locate you." This situation had a marvelous conclusion. The person flying the plane made a safe landing at Palm Beach International Airport. The landing rated 10-out-of-10, in Morgan's view. No report on the unconscious pilot was available, but everyone else on the flight was just fine.

Can you imagine what was going on in that passenger s head through this? We probably can't, but we need to develop his listening skills. We need to listen to God just like he listened to Morgan. Listening to Morgan, and doing what Morgan said, made things turn out right. There was no backtalk, no second guessing, and he certainly didn't say, "You know, I think I can do this on my own." I think we will find that listening to God will vastly improve our experience in life.

Jesus said, "Whoever has ears, let them hear." (Matthew 11:15) Why should we listen? Because, "Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many." (Proverbs 4:10) We are told to "Give ear and hear my voice, Listen and hear my words." (Isaiah 28:23) We should listen as if our life depended on it.

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 14, 2022

It is graduation time here in our community. We have students moving up to another level of their educational pursuits as they move into the high school training ground. There are students leaving high school to pursue educational and vocational goals. College graduates have come to the goal they have been pursuing for most of their lives. All along the way, there were teachers, counselors, administrators, and support staff who worked together to build into the lives of these young people so they might develop personally and prepare to contribute to the lives of others. Each of these mentors occupied a certain segment of the process - they took over from others who had been invested in the lives of the students earlier and then prepared them for what was ahead. In the majority of cases, folks involved in this process will never actually witness the "finished product," but are still committed to do what needs to be done to train young lives for the future.

Those involved in the process are like the craft people who create fine musical instruments. Luis Antonio Rojas, who played double bass for the Mexico City Philharmonic, describes the process of creating a worthy instrument: "You must age the wood for 80 years, then play the instrument for 80 years before it reaches its best sound. A craftsman must use wood cut and aged by someone else, and he will never see any instrument reach its peak during his own lifetime." Isn't this an apt description of the educational process?

This process not only takes place in our schools and society, but takes place in our churches. We need to be committed to this educational model knowing that we may never see the "end product" but realizing how important it is to be committed to this process. We need to train others to carry on what has been done before and needs to be continued. This is why God said, "Now this is the commandment--the statutes and the ordinances--that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long." When it comes to training others, we must be committed to the process in spite of the fact that we may never see the product.

Pastor Steve
Friday May 13, 2022

I learned something new the other day. I found out that the state of California is named after a fictional island that appears in a book written in 1510. Spanish author Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo penned "Las Sergas de Esplandien" (The Deeds of Esplandian) in 1510. This book described the exploits of Amazon-like warriors that lived on California, a paradise island rich in gold and precious gems. The protagonist, Esplandien, helped them in their derring-do. The novel was so popular that when explorers under the command of Hector Cortez landed on what they believed to be an island on the Pacific coast, they named it California. So, there you go.

As I think about the origin of names, Acts 11:26 comes to mind, "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." The thing is, they were not called Christians because they were popular. The people of Antioch were using the term as a derogatory epithet. They were being called Christians because folks were mocking them for being "followers of Christ," which is what the Greek word "christianus" (Christian) means. This was what they intended to be, so being called "Christianus" actually was an unintended compliment.

The term "Christian" is used in many applications in our world today. As a followers of Christ, our lives should give true meaning to the term "Christian." There should be nothing fictional about this name as it applies to us. To quote the eminent philosopher, Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 12, 2022

Dwight D. Eisenhower experienced the winding, narrow roads of Europe during World War II, as he made plans to move troops, equipment, and supplies from one place to another. So, when he became president, he used these experiences to persuade Congress to pass the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 leading to the construction of our present-day interstate highways.

Can you imagine what travel by automobile would be like had this not been done? Well, some of us can remember what travel was like before interstates; however, there weren't nearly as many vehicles then as there are now. A way was prepared for future access.

This is what we need to be doing as followers of Christ. We need to be preparing access for others to find Christ. It was said of John the Baptist that he was the "voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'" (Matthew 3:3) We need to be doing this as well. We need to do what we can to level out the roads, take down the mountains, build bridges over obstacles, and whatever else needs to be done so that others may see the way to Christ. How are you doing in your spiritual engineering?

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 11, 2022

Yesterday, Scherry and I were traveling south of town on 33 when we saw a sizeable cloud of dust up ahead in a field. As we got closer, I could see that the cause of the cloud was a tractor working in the field. I was impressed by the size of the dust cloud. The field equipment was totally enveloped. Saying we have received a great deal of rain in recent weeks is a bit of an understatement. I was amazed that the ground had dried out that much in such a short period of time, making the large dust cloud possible.

The effects of the absence of moisture were evident. It doesn't take dirt long to dry. It doesn't take long for us to dry out physically if we don't have moisture. And it doesn't take long for us to dry out spiritually in the absence of a good drink of spiritual refreshment. Many of us may be walking around in "dust clouds" because we are not replenishing ourselves correctly.

God warns against this, "They have turned away from me, the spring of living water. And they have dug their own wells, which are broken wells that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13) We need to make sure we are doing what we should to maintain a good relationship with our Father. We can easily experience a "dust bowl" in our spiritual lives if we don't hydrate regularly.

In our physical experience, a dry mouth, a thick tongue, headache, and weakness are the results of dehydration. If we experience spiritual dehydration, the effects can be bitterness, worry, guilt, and fear. Make sure you are doing what you should to stay hydrated so you can avoid these problems. Get plenty to drink!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 10, 2022

We sometimes use merisms when we want to emphasize the extent of something. A merism is a figure of speech that uses two contrasting parts of a whole to describe the whole. One might use the phrase "we searched high and low" to mean that you searched extensively. Another example is to say "He knows that from A to Z" when you want to say that someone knows something well.

You can find many uses of merism in the scripture. As a matter of fact, the Bible starts with a merism, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) Psalm 139 contains a number of merisms "You know when I sit and when I rise," (vs. 2); "You hem me in behind and before." (vs. 5) Ecclesiastes 1:1 10 is a list of fourteen merisms. Ironically, the very last chapter of the Bible contains a a merism. Revelation 22:13 says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

Christ is describing himself here, and is telling us that He is the first and the last when it comes to, well, when it comes to everything. He is the One who created all things (Colossians 1:16), and He is the one who brings all things to an "end" by creating everything new. (Revelation 21:1 7) Within the scope of this merism used to describe Christ is the idea that not only is He is control of all things; He knows all things. He knows big things, like the future of the world, and he also knows "little" things, like your future. You can say that He knows you from "A to Z." In light of that, it would be good to put your life in His hands. You won't find anyone else who knows you, or cares for you, like this. He knows you, He loves you, He has plans for you - so give Him your "A to Z."

Pastor Steve
Monday May 09, 2022

"Always read the fine print" is advice we know and understand. Many of us have been "zapped" in some way because we failed to notice a disclaimer in a piece of advertising or perhaps in a contract that was not really in plain sight. I mean, the statement was there all right, it was just printed with a much smaller typeface and maybe even placed in a position in the form or on the screen that was not readily apparent.

I remember a TV ad from a restaurant chain saying they are going to give away free breakfast sandwiches. Wow! That's great! Just don't fail to notice the little sentence at the bottom of the screen "with the purchase of a breakfast sandwich at regular price." This is still a nice offer, but the sandwich is not exactly free.

Aren't you happy that God doesn't use fine print? Whenever he makes a statement about something or gives a promise, there isn't any disclaimer. We read in Psalm 18:30, " As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." Everything you need to know is laid out right there before you. Of course, you still need to read it! It's just you don't have to worry about needing to pull out the magnifying glass to make sure you have read it all!

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 08, 2022

While looking for readings for our Ladies' program last week, I came across one quote that really struck me - "A mother is the type of person that, upon seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, says, 'I really don't care for pie.'" Upon reading this, I thought, "Well, that sounds like Mom," except for the part about declaring she doesn't like pie. Mom liked pie, so she wouldn't lie. She would just say, "You take that piece of pie." And if you were to protest, she would just look at you with a lovingly stern expression and say, "You take that piece of pie!"

Often, I have spoken about being others-centered. I think, no, I know, that my mother was the most others-centered person I have ever known. She just could not find a comfort zone unless everyone around her had found a comfort zone.

I love Philippians 2, and Mom was the epitome of a Philippians 2 follower of Christ: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:3 - 4) Mom lived this edict.

To put it another way, allow me to continue with the pie analogy. Mom would never ask, "Does anyone want this last piece of pie?", if she was asking for herself. She would assume someone else does and that someone else should have it. I must confess, I don't think I've quite gotten there yet, but it isn't because I didn't have a good role model to emulate.

If it sounds like I am bragging on my mom, well, I am. Isn't that what sons should do?

Today is Mother's Day, and I want to honor the memory of Mom, and to wish all of you ladies a very happy Mother's Day! Thank you for all that you do and for being all that you are.

Pastor Steve
Saturday May 07, 2022

In years gone by, churches living along major traffic routes at times would pick up unwanted CB transmissions over their PA systems. Many years ago, I was attending a funeral at a local church that was interrupted by a broadcast of a passing trucker. Needless to say, this was not an appropriate moment for this to occur. I am not a real electronics whiz, but I think the use or shielded speaker cable and the decrease in CB usage has pretty much eliminated this problem.

There were times when this intrusion could be rather humorous. During a worship service, a pastor started to pray, "Dear Heavenly Father. . ." The congregation erupted in laughter when his prayer was interrupted by "Hey there, good buddy!" The Lord had spoken! The pastor was His friend!

Maybe this wasn't actually God's voice, but being God's friend is real. The issue of friendship with God is addressed in scripture. Exodus 33:11 tells us, "the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend." Abraham is called the friend of God. (II Chronicles 20:7) I have always understood the "friend" of Proverbs 18:24 to be the Lord who is always there for His followers - "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

Jesus addressed friendship with Him. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Christ continues, "You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (vss. 14-15) Christ wants to be our friend. He wants to be that friend that talks to us "face to face." He wants to be that friend that "sticks closer than a brother." He laid down his life so that He could be our friend. He tells us that to be His friend, we need to listen to what He says and follow Him. I am glad that Christ is more than my "good buddy," He is my friend. I hope He is yours.

Pastor Steve
Friday May 06, 2022

It has been said that a watched pot never boils. I beg to differ. A pot will boil, if heat is applied, whether we watch it or not. Of course, this idiomatic expression is not meant to be taken literally. It is a way of stating that when we are waiting for something, it seems as If time is frozen, and that it is taking forever for the awaited event to occur.

At face value, this sounds like a negative experience, but it is my contention that we need more of these "watched pot" experiences in our lives. That is, we need more times when it seems as if time is frozen. Usually, we are in so much of a hurry that we fail to fully experience life's little treasures. This can be especially true when it comes to taking time to experience our walk with the Lord (heavy emphasis on walk here).

Jesus had "watched pot" moments. On more than one occasion, we see Christ withdrawing from his usual activity of teaching and healing to freeze time with the Father. "But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray." (Luke 5:16) Please take note of the word "often" here. Forgive me for being redundant - just call this a "watched pot" moment - but this means that his action was the rule, not the exception.

Do you remember what I wrote about yesterday? When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, watching a pot boil needs to be the rule, not the exception. "And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God." (Luke 6:12) I have often said that if the Savior of the world felt the need to have these times, how much more should we be planning for them in our busy lives? By the way, don't try to say that you "can't even boil water." This excuse will not hold water here. Just make sure you watch the pot!

Pastor Steve
Thursday May 05, 2022

Today is the National Day of Prayer. I encourage you to spend some time today in prayer for our country. Pray also for your community and your church. The other day, I read an article about an interview that took place on the eve of a recent day of prayer. The interviewer asked the Day of Prayer spokesperson that, in light of the declining moral values of the nation, "Does that mean the Lord didn't listen to last year's prayer?"

Let me say a couple of things here. First, we need to let God answer our prayers the way He wants to answer our prayers. This is a matter of trust. God sees things differently than we do, and God is in a better position to know what is going on. Isaiah 55:8 tells us, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord." So, have faith in His ability and His plan.

The second thing to consider is how we look at prayer. Prayer is more than just asking and receiving. Prayer is a conversation we have with God where we talk to Him because we love Him and He loves us. We talk to Him because we want to draw nearer to Him. Usually, we like to talk to people we love. If the only communication we have with someone with whom we have a relationship is to ask for something, that is sort of sad. We talk to people we love to build our relationship, not beg for results.

When we pray, we are enriched by the growing bond with the Lord. James 4:8 says, Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. This should be our motivation to make every day a day of prayer.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday May 04, 2022

I had an experience in student teaching that was a startling dose of realism. My supervising teacher had given me a teaching assignment on the anatomy of the heart in his advanced biology class. I was brimming with confidence as I started the session. My confidence received a little knock when one of the students asked me about an issue associated with the pericardium. I had no clue what he was talking about, and I stammered as I gave a rather weak answer. After class, I found out after class that the student was a son of a local cardiologist, I still made a valuable observation: despite my degree, I had a lot to learn.

As I have proceeded through life, it seems that, to paraphrase the White Rabbit, "the hurrieder I learn, the more I don t know." And that is true. The limitations of life make it impossible to know all things, and there are a number of questions for which I may never know the answers, This is true about life in general, and also true in our spiritual lives.

I recently came across this statement that offers an helpful perspective on this: "Long ago I came to the realization that as a finite human being I do not have the mental capacity to grasp fully what is infinite and eternal. I also have learned that what matters most is not gaining more knowledge about life's mysteries but putting into practice what God has clearly told me. As I do that, I will become the kind of person He wants me to be." Knowledge is power, but knowledge that is not put into practice is useless.

James addresses this. He wrote, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." (James 1:22 25) James also wrote, "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (James 4:17) Knowing is important, but it isn't a problem that we will not know everything. What is a problem is knowing something and not doing anything with that knowledge.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday May 03, 2022

There are many examples in nature of things that are beautiful, but can actually be deadly. A puffer fish looks so cute, especially when "inflated", but is the second-most venomous animal on earth. A tiny dart frog looks like it wouldn't harm anything, but the poison on its skin is deadly. Early Native Americans used the poison on their darts to create more effective weapons. Belladonna and Rhododendron are attractive plants, but can be lethal if ingested. Belladonna is particularly devious in that it produces lovely berries that really look good enough to eat.

These deceptive things in our natural world serve as a reminder of something, or rather someone, else that mimics the pattern of having an attractive appearance but is actually quite deadly. Christ commented on the character of Satan when he called him the "Father of lies." (John 8:44) Paul wrote this about Satan, "And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." (II Corinthians 11:14)

The statement of Paul about Satan is found in a larger warning about those who proclaim false messages. There are those who proclaim attractive messages but what they are saying is not truly rooted in the reality of scripture. We need to be aware of this and be discerning when it comes to folks who are making claims supposedly based in scripture but are not true.

I John 4:1 offers this advice, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world." This was good advice for John's readers, and still applies today as we still have those who use the scripture for their own means. Remember, even that which is beautiful can be deadly!

Pastor Steve
Monday May 02, 2022

Yesterday, I wrote about May Day and how it was a day celebrated in older times as a time when the season is changing to spring-like conditions. That is happening this year, as in most years, but it really is sort of taking its time to do so. Cooler temperatures and a lot of moisture is what have been experienced for the most part so far. But we know that, at some point, warmer weather will be here, water will bring green, and we will fully experience a change in season.

Our lives are like that - we move from season to season, just as does the weather. We know that the next season is inevitable. Sometimes those seasons bring with them concerns and questions. This is especially true in the later seasons of life. Questions and anxiety can arise as one is faced with the increasing need of support from others, deteriorating health, financial concerns, and other issues.

Whatever season we are in, we need to make a choice. We either allow our fears to dominate our thinking and bring anxiety or we "cast our care upon the Lord because he cares for (us)." (I Peter 5:7) We should try not to waste the season, but, as Paul said, to make "the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (Eph. 5:16)

Because of the presence, the promise, and the provision of God, we can make the most of the time in every season of life by following Christ and living as he lived - forgiving others, living in obedience to the Father, service others with joy and generosity, and allowing His spirit to dominate our thinking and our emotions. Make the most of the season you are in consider it a blessing from God!

Pastor Steve
Sunday May 01, 2022

Today is May Day. It seems in my school days of yesteryear, we made more of an event of this than we do now. Recently, I spoke with a few folks about May Day, and they offered memories of some of the practices they had at home and in school to observe the day. Some European cultures still make this a day of celebration. In ancient Celtic cultures, this was a spring holiday The newness of life and a return to more enjoyable conditions was what was celebrated in ancient festivals.

We may be back and forth on whether we need to celebrate May Day, but I am of the opinion that we should. Actually, I think that as a follower of Christ, I should celebrate every day. Now, you may ask "For what reason?", or you may say, "Well, what if I don't feel like celebrating?"

To the former inquiry, I would say that a child of God has a reason to celebrate every day. Earlier, I mentioned that the ancients celebrated May Day because of the newness of life and a return to more desirable conditions. That has taken place within us. We have experienced new life. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come." (II Corinthians 5:17) Even though we struggle with issues, inwardly we have been returned to more favorable conditions and are being renewed daily. We have been forgiven from sin and given new life.

Jeremiah wrote, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23). II Corinthians 4:16 tells us, "Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." I think all of these answer the second question above as well. Yes, we struggle, and, yes, we have things that weigh heavily upon us, but we still have much to celebrate. Our earnest focus on celebrating the things of God helps us with our burden.

Psalm 118:24 encourages us to remember "This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it." So, it is May Day and I encourage you to celebrate. I also encourage you to celebrate May Two Day, May Three Day, and so on and so forth.

Pastor Steve

Activities

Weekly Schedule

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

Schedule


Our Pastor

Pastor Steve Willis

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

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

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

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


Invitation

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

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

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

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

Our Church

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

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

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

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

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