First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Update effective Sunday 11/29

This week, J - Z will meet for worship at 9 a.m., A - I will meet at 10:30! Look forward to being with you! Remember that services will also be found on YouTube, our website, and on Facebook.

As we have been announcing, our plan is to have one service beginning December 6. We ask for continued observation of social distancing, and masks are strongly suggested. The kids through 6th grade will meet immediately after the service - there will be a single class meeting in the church for everyone else.

Sunday night we will be decorating the church. As usual, we will need a good bit of help.

Sunday will be the deadline for poinsettias! Contact Laural Ackerman! They are $10 each.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Pastor Steve

Devotionals

Pastor Steve Willis

Monday November 30, 2020

At our church last night we decorated for the Christmas season. I really enjoy the process of putting up all of the accoutrements that enhance our worship surroundings this time of the year. I appreciate the appearance of the church when we get all the lights placed where they need to be and have the greenery arranged around the church. I used to be able to help more than I do now - climbing ladders, putting up wreaths, or assisting with the assembly of the outside stable. Nope - that's all for other folks. Now I do what I can.

As we were placing everything where it needed to be according to the plans we had mapped out, I did some thinking about the event that is the foundation of our efforts. Well, should I even speak of what we did as an "effort" when we think of what God has done ,for us? And to think that what he did for us was planned by Him even before we needed Him to do anything for us.

To put it another way, God made plans ahead of time to send the Light to the world. According to the scripture, these plans were made long ago. Christ's appearance in the world was not a last-minute strategy made in the wake of man's fall. The plans for the redemption of humans were made long before humans needed to be redeemed. Ephesian 1:3-4 reveals to us God's foresight and planning, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."

Plans and preparation were made for what we did last night. This is only fitting as we consider all the plans God made and the preparation God did for us so that we might have a relationship with Him. Think about this as you view the lights and decorations that surround you at this time of year. Be grateful for God's great love for us that is at the center of all of His planning.

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 29, 2020

"Human History...is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy" wrote C.S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity." This started out with Adam and Eve thinking they would be happier with supposed "greater knowledge" and continues through today. Most conflict among humans is caused by our desire to attain something we don"t have that we think we need to have so that we will more content.

I have often wondered why God still puts up with us when it seems that we do nothing but try to replace him with some idea or some world view or some material thing that we think is the berries and will bring us "total consciousness" or whatever (with apologies to Bill Murray).

The thing is - we will not and cannot have true happiness apart from God. And the wonderful thing about God is that he is aware of this. Since he is aware of this, he pursues us to help us realize we need him desperately. We are celebrating His Great Outreach to humankind through sending His Son to the world to provide a means for us to attain true happiness through following His plan. To me, this is really incredible. How many of you would spend any time at all trying to convince someone who doesn't want anything to do with you that they need to have something to do with you? No matter what humans do to say "No thanks" to God, God still remains available and offers the invitation to all to come to Him.

God says "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me Listen, that you may live." (Isaiah 55:1-2) Christ told his followers "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and yo"u will find rest for your souls For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:28 - 30) Nothing other than God will bring us true happiness, so don't expand your search parameters.

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 28, 2020

It seems like a lifetime ago that I finished my doctorate. While I was working on the degree, I often wondered if I would ever get through and if the task would ever end. It seemed as if I would be doing all that work for the rest of my life. However, as I look back on that experience, it was just a brief period and I am amazed at how quickly it went by. The work is done.

Sometimes experiences in life require :temporary intense effort, often even struggles, for a short period of time. At the time we are in the experience we may feel as if it will never end, but it does, and we have the accomplishment to show for our struggle.

Peter writes about these experiences. He wrote, "In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:6-7)

Peter said that temporary, intense struggles are meant to bring about a great glory in us so that we can bring glory to God. This is exchanging tough times for good results. We might call this the "school of hard knocks" in keeping with the educational theme that was introduced earlier.

We may not have chosen these events, but they are there, and they bring about "praise, glory, and honor" that, in a very real sense, will last for an eternity. This is an example of a short-term investment bringing long-term benefits.

Paul wrote, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (I Corinthians 4:17-18)

Pastor Steve
Friday November 27, 2020

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and maybe you have an issue that is just craving an answer: What do I do with all the leftovers? I hope you find ways to take care of them creatively. You wouldn't want any of that delicious food going to waste! Of course, you need to deal with leftovers appropriately, or they won't be of any benefit and might be a little dangerous.

Dealing with leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner is a good problem; however, some of you may be dealing with leftovers of another nature that are not a good problem. We all have made mistakes and done things we should not have done. Sometimes dealing with the "leftovers" from these times is a tough thing. There may be actual physical ramifications on account of our wrong-doing, or perhaps it is the struggle with the emotions we have as we think of our actions. This can be a really difficult issue. You need to deal with these issues appropriately or they can cause real problems.

Whatever you may have done, remember there is forgiveness with God. Seek his forgiveness. If you have wronged others, seek their forgiveness and do what you can to right the wrong. Finally, accept God's forgiveness and forgive yourself. If there are consequences to deal with, deal with them as need be and work to move on.

David knew the death of his infant son was a result of his wrongdoing with Bathsheba and what he had done with Uriah. He knew he had to deal realistically with the consequences, seek God's forgiveness, and seek other's forgiveness. His realistic understanding of the situation is reflected in his reply to his servants when he was told of the death of the baby, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." (II Samuel 12:22-23)

David sought God's forgiveness (read Psalm 51), did what he could to right the wrong. He continued to trust God. I find it interesting that the brother of this infant became David's successor - Solomon. God did not condone the wrong, but he commended David's actions of forgiveness and restitution. David dealt with the "leftovers."

Deal with the leftovers. Deal with them properly. Dispose of what needs to be disposed. Use what is beneficial. This is a good thing to do.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 26, 2020

I would imagine you are fairly familiar with the story of Squanto and the Pilgrims. This story is the stuff of fictional best-sellers. Think about this for a bit - a group of people from Europe travel thousands of miles in a wooden craft in 66 days, miss their target by a few hundred miles, and just happen to land in a place where they find a native who speaks perfect English. Keep in mind that it was at the beginning of the 17th century. How in the world does that work out? It was almost as if they were expected.

In one very real sense, they were. This is an example of God doing the unexpected at a time when the unexpected was necessary.

God will do this in our lives at times. We never really know when it might take place, and we shouldn't try to predict these events, but we know God is always there and is watching out for us. We should never take God's providence for granted. Those early settlers certainly didn't. We shouldn't either.

Paul refers to God's providence in Romans 8:28 when he writes, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." God is at work in our lives. He goes ahead of us, working on details in ways that are hidden from us, making things look like it is just the way it should be when, in reality, we were heading in a different direction. He provides for us in ways that we will never know about in this life.

God doesn't keep us from experiences that are not all that good, but he is working with us at those times and will bring us through. Once again, think about the ordeal of those 17th century travelers. They endured a great deal before things turned around for them. That is why we have Thanksgiving.

Enjoy your turkey today, and give thanks for the things you see around you that you know came from God. And don't forget to thank Him for all those things you don't see but are just as "there." Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 25, 2020

Tomorrow is a day when many families plan to get together and share a meal as Thanksgiving is celebrated. This is a good thing to do, and for many families, may be one of the few times when sharing a meal together around a table actually takes place. It seems that busy schedules in today's world hinders what was once a typical setting. Still, amid busy and varied schedules, many families find a way to sit down together for dinner regularly.

I remember once reading an article that spoke about the good things that result from family meals. In the article, family-health advocates described the benefits: an increased sense of unity, children sharing news and feeling listened to, and the physical perks of a planned, seated meal.

In Scripture, many great encounters between people and God happen around meals. Abraham and Sarah prepared a meal for three guests who turn out to be angels (Genesis 18). God gave instructions to the Hebrews to eat a special meal together before their delivery from Egypt (Exodus 12:9). Every year since, Jews celebrate the Passover feast. Elijah was strengthened with food served by an angel (1 Kings 19). Jesus shared meals not only with religious leaders but with "sinners" (e.g., Matthew 9). Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples before his death has become one of the Church's sacraments and a "foretaste" of the heavenly banquet to come. Christ said to his disciples, "I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:29)

It is a good thing when families have the opportunity to eat together. This is good at holidays; this is good at any time. As followers of Christ, it can be a holy time in God's presence. Sometimes circumstances and schedules don't allow this to happen, so enjoy the opportunities that you have, and gives thanks to God for the time you share.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 24, 2020

Often where you live has a bearing on how you live. I'm not talking about trying to "keep up with the Jones'". I'm referring to some rituals and responsibilities that arise from being courteous to those who live around me. In our neighborhood, trash is collected every Friday, so we set our "mini-dumpster" out each week and don't let our trash build up.

I get along with my neighbors and want to keep this up. I have neighbors on all sides, so we try to maintain things so that people don't to stare at junk. We have children in our neighborhood, pets who are let out on occasion, and people who walk in our neighborhood because it is a nice place for this, so I make sure to watch my speed to prevent bad things from happening. All of these are determined by where I live and I hope my actions reflect a good attitude about my surroundings. It is important for us to remember that God has placed us in the "kingdom of His Son." (Colossians 1:13)

Our lives should reflect some behaviors that give an indication we are living in God's neighborhood. In Matthew 5, Christ refers to some attitudes that give evidence about where we live. Christ tells us that residents in his kingdom are to reflect such characteristics as mercy, purity, and being a peacemaker (vss. 7 9). A resident of God s kingdom should "hunger and thirst for righteousness." (Matthew 5:6) We should live so that we are a source of joy to others (Romans 14:17).

Why should we live like this? In Romans 14:18, we see a reason given to us by Paul, "because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval." Let where you live affect how you live. If you claim to be a resident of God's neighborhood, then your life should show where you live!

Pastor Steve
Monday November 23, 2020

Samson was an interesting character. His birth was announced by an angel (Judges 13:2-5). He had to follow certain rules during his life and became a mighty man capable of doing great things for God (Judges 13:5). Samson did amazing things during his life, but he really never lived up to all that he might have been. There were distractions in his life that kept him from being all that he could have been in his service to God.

It was his last act of strength that showed the possibilities that were left unfulfilled. Of course, his last act claimed his life, ending any chance for him to become what God intended him to be. Although Samson had done many incredible deeds in his life, he could have done so much more.

God has plans for our lives; however, we can frustrate those plans when we fail to follow him completely. This keeps us from living to our potential and doing God's will. It was only at the time of his death that we see Samson acknowledging God's sovereignty and putting himself in God's hands, "Sovereign Lord, remember me." (Judges 16:28)

Don't wait until it is too late to fulfill your role as God's servant. Live a life of obedience and trust in him. Avoid the tragedy of wasted potential.

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 22, 2020

On November 22, 1963, an assassin s bullet ended the life of the 35th president of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Those of us who are old enough to remember this event remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news that the president had been killed in Dallas, Texas. As a former resident of Dallas, I have driven by the site of the shooting many times. Each time I did, I felt chills.

As with most presidents, Kennedy had success and failure as a president. Perhaps his greatest failure was the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961. Ironically, his greatest achievement may be averting a war with the USSR through the dramatic events of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. In the aftermath of Kennedy s death, questions arose as to how many shooters were involved. Did Oswald act alone or was there a conspiracy? One question that will never have an answer is how the world would be different if he had not died. We will never know the answer to that question. This question is moot as JFK died and events transpired the way they did.

I am glad there is another question for which we will never know the answer: How would the world be different if Jesus had not died? This scenario would be of infinitely greater consequence than the death of Kennedy. The death of Kennedy affected world events and changed lives, but all of these changes were temporal in nature. Individual lives and world events may have gone different directions if Kennedy had not died, but each of these paths would ultimately end with the death of the people and the end of regimes. Christ's death effected the possibility of change within the lives of people that is eternal in nature. His death, along with his burial and resurrection, brought about the reality of eternal life for those who trust Him.

We do not want to know what a world without Christ would be like. The scripture tells us that "at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6) One's belief that his death brings new life means your life is changed not just for now but for all of eternity. Don't risk the consequence of unbelief. Christ died for you. Don't let your unbelief make the question of his death moot.

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 21, 2020

A family decided to sell their home on their own rather than using a realtor. They placed a sign in their own yard, and then asked permission of their neighbors to place a directional sign at the corner where potential buyers would need to turn to find the house. Most of the neighbors acted surprised that they asked for permission. However, one individual replied, "Since you asked, I say yes. You know what might happen had you not asked." What might of happened was demonstrated when another party posted a sign in his yard without asking - it ended up in the street while the sign of the family who had asked permission remained unscathed. A little respect goes a long way.

Why is it that some find it difficult to extend respect to others? It really is not all that difficult to treat others the way we ourselves would want to be treated. Those of us who are followers of Christ need to add this to our character list. We should show respect in how we treat others both in face-to-face encounters and matters involving others' property and possessions.

Remember the words of Christ found in Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." This is the so-called "Golden Rule," and I do think that with regard to how we should treat others, it pretty much sums it up.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 20, 2020

God's timing is always perfect. Usually, when we say this, we are referring to an incident or a situation where we have experienced God moving in our lives in a unique way for our benefit. It could also describe a circumstance where you are the benefactor, rather than the beneficiary. Sometimes, a phone call to a colleague, friend, or family member can turn out to be God's sovereign timing when you learn through the call about a problem they are facing.

Maybe you have received this information for a reason. As you hear about the circumstance, you may learn you have the means to help with the problem, or maybe they just need a willing listener. Maybe the situation asks for a reminder of a biblical principle or examples that can allow them to gain some insight that would be helpful. It might be a financial concern that you have the means to remedy.

These ministry opportunities are often the work of a wonderful Heavenly Father who placed you in the right place at the right time. Look for these opportunities and seize them in order to be a willing instrument in the hands of God in someone else's life. You will reap a blessing as well. Indeed, you may be on the receiving end of one of these "chance" ministry opportunities at some point.

Paul tells Timothy to "be prepared in season and out of season." (II Timothy 4:2) We need to be prepared for these times of ministry when we can be used as God's hands, or God's ears, or God's eyes, or God's feet. Let your love for God extend to others when others need His touch.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 19, 2020

One of my favorite things to eat is chocolate. If I would allow myself, I could eat chocolate until I make myself sick. That really isn't very good. I know this, and although I don't totally abstain from eating chocolate, I always exercise my awareness of what chocolate could do to me if I decide to indulge too much. I know that it isn't good for me, so I choose to exercise control over it so it will not control me.

Most of us have weaknesses in some area. Knowing these weaknesses and acknowledging these weaknesses are important steps to gaining mastery over our weaknesses so that we can maintain control. When you face these areas where you struggle: 1) Acknowledge that you have a problem and need help with the struggle; 2) Take steps to gaining control over your area of weakness; and 3) Avoid activities and scenarios where you know your area of weakness is likely to be strongly tested.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." When you make an effort to guard your heart and your ways, you are empowered to overcome your area of weakness. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Know your "weak links," and take steps to make them strong.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 18, 2020

I would imagine many of you have had the experience of taking care to do the right thing and diligently working to make sure you are following the correct path, only to end up facing disappointment and discouragement. Often, we are rebuffed in our efforts even when we have followed instructions to the letter and have made no error in what we have done. There are times when it seems that there are no visible results in spite of the fact that we have given all we could to a task. Sometimes recognition of our efforts just isn't there or, worse yet, someone else gets the credit.

When we have these experiences, it is good to remember that it is the Lord who will have the final say about what we do. It really is good to remember that he is watching our lives and knows what is taking place. Nothing escapes his vision, and he will be the one to ultimately give credit where credit is due. He will bless our work in ways that may not be readily apparent, but he will not neglect us. There are no oversights with God. Try to keep his perspective, and we will find help when those discouraging times pop up.

Isaiah 49:4 says, "But I said, 'I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord's hand, and my reward is with my God.'" Nothing is in vain when we offer it to God. Trust in him for your recognition, and you will not be disappointed.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 17, 2020

"What is that in your hand?" God asked Moses. (Exodus 4:2) God was responding to the statement Moses had made reflecting his feelings of inadequacy concerning God's call on his life. God told Moses that the staff he had in his hand would be a valuable tool in his work for God because God would empower him to be able to use what he had. That is what God can do for us - help us to use what we have in our hand. The question is - what have we have placed in our hand?

Sometimes we fill our hand with things that hinder us from being used by God instead of enhancing our usefulness. When we fill our hands with doubts, unconfessed sin, worry, or our own agenda concerning how to live our lives, we hinder our usefulness for God. When we fill our hand with these things we cloud our thinking and keep our world centered on ourselves instead of God.

God peeled back the layers of doubt with Moses and convinced him to use the staff in his hand. However, it went so far that God became angry with him because of his reluctance. "Then the Lord s anger burned against Moses." (Exodus 4:14)

Don't push God that far! Surrender your whole self to him, the good and the bad, so that you can re-center on him and his purpose. What is in your hand? Give it to God and watch how he can use you!

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 15, 2020

Recently, I was watching a show on TV and one of the characters said, That's the good thing about being your own boss - you can take off whenever you want." Being your own boss does have its benefits; however, one needs to be careful with the idea of not wanting to have to answer to someone else. Regardless of our employment status or our business position, we are all accountable to others.

Even if you are your own boss you are accountable, at the very least, to your customers. If you don't understand this, I imagine your customers will get this message and find others that take care of their concerns more suitably. At its worst, the absence of accountability can degenerate into anarchy. That would not be good for anyone, even those who want to be their own boss.

Being your own boss does have benefits, but understanding the positive side of accountability also has benefits. Understanding our accountability to God is, of course, the most significant level of appreciation of answering to someone else. We are dependent upon God, and we answer to God. The sooner we accept this and the more deeply that we internalize this reality, the more blessed our lives will be.

Christ said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30) These verses reflect the nature of our accountability. If you are an independent thinker and want to be your own boss, good for you. An enterprising spirit is a good thing. Just don't forget to whom you are accountable!

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 14, 2020

I have always maintained that one of the most effective ways to communicate our testimony is through our work. I am not referring to what we might say at our work but how we go about performing our work. The Lord has blessed me with a number of jobs through the years from helping on farms to teaching to working in the business world to ministry. Each one offered opportunities to glorify God. This is why we should work - not just to draw a paycheck but to bring praise to the one who gave us the capability to work.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote, "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live." Where do we find that hope? What gives our work hope? Our Heavenly Father supplies this for us through the efforts we pursue. Paul writes in II Thessalonians 2:10, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'he one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.'" Have a healthy attitude towards your work. Use your work as a means to give praise to God and communicate your love of the Lord.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 13, 2020

Much careful work and meticulous craftsmanship goes into the creation of a Steinway grand piano. From the selection of the wood to the construction of the parts, great care is taken to produce an instrument that is unparalleled in beauty, sound, and playing characteristics. The work is done by hand - an assembly line procedure could not come close to producing an instrument of the quality of a Steinway. The work takes great time and great patience. Not a single step is rushed because this may lead to flaws.

God takes great care in his work in our character. He is involved in every step of our development. Paul tells us "For we are God s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) He writes, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) God is interested in creating Steinways, not toy pianos. The ultimate price was paid - the death of his Son - so that the work may begin in us. If he was willing to pay such a great price in order to start the work in us, he will not cut corners when it comes to developing our character and our faith. He will take his time and produce something marvelous. The next time we are tempted to shirk our duty for Him, remember the great lengths He has gone to for us.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 12, 2020

R. G. LeTourneau was a Christian businessman and inventor. He is best known for the earth-moving equipment he developed. Seventy percent of the excavating and engineering equipment used by the United States during World War II was designed and built by his company. By the time of his death, he held over 300 patents for his productions. One of his machines was simply known as "Model G." When asked what the "G" stood for, a salesman replied, "It must stand for gossip because it moves a lot of dirt and it moves it fast."

The Bible has quite a bit to say about gossip. Proverbs 16:28 says, "A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." Proverbs 20:19 says, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." Proverbs 26:20 says, "Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down." A meaning of the word that is translated gossip in the Old Testament is "whispering that is damaging." Indeed, we need to avoid gossip so that feelings will not be hurt, slander will be avoided, and reputations will not be damaged. There is nothing good about gossip, and folks who choose to participate in this practice are simply "Model G's" - dirt movers.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 11, 2020

Today is Veteran's Day. On this day in 1918, the Armistice was signed effectively ending the hostilities of World War I. The signing of this armistice ended a war that was to have ended all wars. This was not to be as there have been many wars since World War I. Because of this the name for this observance was changed to Veteran's Day, a day set aside to honor those who have been involved in armed conflict. Even now, our nation is still involved in conflict.

It is appropriate that we spend some time honoring those who have served, and remembering in a special way those who gave their lives in the service of our country. They deserve our accolades. However, one thing we cannot do is celebrate the end of conflict. We look forward with great anticipation that God steps into time and brings about the events that will lead to peace. We know that will happen; we are just not sure when it will happen. I cannot help but think that day could be near, but we know God s timing in perfect in all things and it will take place when He decides it should take place.

We look forward to the day that He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2;4) We look forward to this "Armistice Day." Then there will truly be peace. Until that time, however, we will see conflict rage on the earth. Today we honor those who have first-hand knowledge of this. Tomorrow we can look forward to a time when there will be no conflict. Our duty now is to live for Him.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 10, 2020

It has begun. It is taking on a different form this year because of the pandemic, but it is taking place nonetheless. What is it, , you may ask? The big Christmas push to purchase stuff so that you can celebrate Christmas rightly. Online advertisements proliferate encouraging the consumer to get things now before there are no things to get! Oh, goodness, break out the Visa card quick!

Christmas is a day that has been manufactured from day one. Christmas was first celebrated on December 25 in AD 336 at the behest of the Empower Constantine. December 25 was chosen because of the time of the winter solstice and some pagan holidays. The church recognized this day as the day when the birth of Christ was to be observed because it seemed to be just as good as any other day. The true day of Christ's birth is not known.

What was set as a day of church observance has become a staple for commercial survival. The day has evolved into a time for economic gain and, in some cases, economic survival. The dependence of business on Christmas for profitability is unreal.

We really need to remember that Christ came into the world to be the Savior of souls, not the savior of sales. Keep that in mind as you progress through this Christmas season. I do not have a problem that we have set aside a time to celebrate, but we need to keep our celebrations in perspective. As I just said, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10), not to seek and to save to avoid a bust. Celebrate Christ as we approach Christmas!

Pastor Steve
Monday November 09, 2020

One of the most helpful books I think I have ever read is Charles Hummel's "Tyranny of the Urgent." In this little book, Hummel addresses the issue of letting life's demands and pressures become our boss. He outlines some thoughts on prioritizing and organizing our life in a way where we don't feel like we are under the gun all the time.

David Branon writes of a man in New York City who sold magazines and newspapers. He had the habit of collecting the printed copies of what he didn't sell. They were stacked up all over his apartment. One day, they collapsed, and he was trapped for two days until finally rescued by emergency workers. This is almost comical as he was unhurt, but the story could have had a tragic ending.

Often this is the story of our lives - we feel trapped beneath a mountain of demands upon our time. These crush of obligations and the burden of demands press upon us. We would be wise to take steps to alleviate this. The mountain can be very real, and it can be very dangerous. We don't want an alternate ending that proves tragic rather than comical.

Make sure you involve the Lord in your everyday burdens and circumstances. Let him help you shoulder the load. Ask for help from others when the weight of stressors is bearing down upon you. Ecclesiastes 4 speaks of the advantage of having someone to help. I encourage you to read the entire chapter, but verse 9 tells us, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor." Seeking assistance can help you with the "Tyranny of the Urgent."

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 08, 2020

In 2004, French and U.S. astronomers found a planet about 40 light years from earth that appears to be almost totally composed of diamond. The planet was dubbed 55 Cancri e and is about 3 times the size of the earth. 55 Cancri e moves so quickly around its host star that its year only lasts 18 days.

To rate this planet as we do diamonds on earth, the carat value would be in the billions. By comparison, the largest diamond ever found on earth is the Cullinan diamond and was a little more than 3,100 carats. After the Cullinan diamond was cut to produce jewelry quality stones, the value was in the billions of dollars. Can you imagine what a diamond planet would be worth?

God is not impressed by this, of course. He considers something else far more valuable - us. David wrote, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor." (Psalm 8 3-5)

God considered us to be so valuable that he allowed his Only Son to give up his life for us. Since God considers us to be so valuable, we need to place a high value on the people God brings into our lives. To God, they are worth more than diamonds. They should be to us as well.

Pastor Steve
Saturday November 07, 2020

Do you know Morgan Smith Goodwin? She is the perky redhead who is the actress in the Wendy's commercials. I remember one of the first commercials she made - I don't know why I remember it. She was conversing with a couple of friends at a garage sale. </p One of the fellows sat down in a recliner with a Wendy s burger. "Wendy" said to him, "Living large my friend."

I don't know if I would call eating a single with cheese while sitting in a used recliner living large, but it made for an interesting commercial. What is living large? Well, one usually thinks of living large as living a luxurious lifestyle filled with all the goodies one can think of. That is one way to "live large." Except it really won't get you anywhere meaningful.

As followers of Christ, we need to have a clear definition of what "living large" really is. Forgive me for being a bit trite, but let me quote you a familiar statement that I have heard ever since I was a small boy - "Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." We are to live large in another way. II Corinthians 6:11 says, "O you Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged."

We need to live large when it comes to living for others. As followers of Christ, our hearts should be inclined towards others and our desire to help and encourage others should be large. If you really want to live large, live for others.

Pastor Steve
Friday November 06, 2020

A man jogged by a corner donut stand every morning and tossed in fifty cents, the price for a donut, but never took a donut. This went on for several months. One day, the owner of the donut stand stopped the jogger after he tossed in his usual fifty cents. The jogger said, "You probably want to know why I jog by here every day and toss in fifty cents without taking a donut, don't you?" "No," replied the owner, "I want to tell you that the price for a donut has gone up to sixty cents."

Often our attitude towards God is like that of the owner. We have expectations to receive things without expressing gratitude for what we have, and then we want more. We are surprised when we face adversity and not abundance. We are surprised what we face struggle rather than safety. We feel God owes us good health, a comfortable lifestyle, and freedom from adversity. God owes us nothing, yet he has given us everything.

Don't forget to thank him for the blessings of each day. The psalmist said, "This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:25) Each day is a gift from God. Give thanks for what we have are realize all we have is a blessing from God.

Pastor Steve
Thursday November 05, 2020

On January 21, 1930, King George V of England delivered the opening address at the London Arms Conference. The address was to be delivered worldwide by way of radio. Just before the king was to give his speech, a CBS worker tripped on an electrical line and broke the wire. The address would not be heard in America unless a repair could take place immediately, but there was not enough time. Without hesitation, Chief Control Officer Harold Vidian grabbed both ends of the cable allowing the current to pass though him and complete the connection. He withstood the pain long enough for the words of the king to be heard in the United States.

We need to allow ourselves to be conduits of God's power to others. We should look at our lives as a channel of God's message to others who need to hear what God has for them. Sometimes this may involve sacrifice and endurance, but the stakes are high and the results can be glorious. The question is: Are we willing to grab both ends of the cable in order for the message to be successfully transmitted?

Paul said to the Thessalonians, "The Lord s message rang out from you." (I Thessalonians 1:8) Can this be said about you?

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 04, 2020

A pastor was asking for prayer requests at a service of the church. After a request was made, the pastor would say, "Lord, in your mercy", to which the congregation would respond "Lord, hear our prayer." A 4-year-old boy became more intense in his response with each request until he shouted out, "Lord, hear our prayer!"

The little boy probably expressed what many in the church were feeling, and what many of us feel at times. We want to shout out at God, "Lord, hear our prayer." But, we know we don't need to shout at God for him to hear us. We believe that God hears our prayers not because we are loud or that we deserve to be heard, but because Christ has opened up our way to be heard by God by offering his life on our behalf. We offer our prayers in confidence knowing God hears us and will respond. Our prayers are statements of praise and expressions of hope, and often pleas for intervention at times when we experience circumstances that bring anguish and duress.

David called out to God at a time of great stress and pain, and he expressed his faith in God's answer, "The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:9) We know this to be true, so we can pray with great confidence. We know that God hears our prayers, and we don't have to raise our voice!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday November 04, 2020

A pastor was asking for prayer requests at a service of the church. After a request was made, the pastor would say, "Lord, in your mercy", to which the congregation would respond "Lord, hear our prayer." A 4-year-old boy became more intense in his response with each request until he shouted out, "Lord, hear our prayer!"

The little boy probably expressed what many in the church were feeling, and what many of us feel at times. We want to shout out at God, "Lord, hear our prayer." But, we know we don't need to shout at God for him to hear us. We believe that God hears our prayers not because we are loud or that we deserve to be heard, but because Christ has opened up our way to be heard by God by offering his life on our behalf. We offer our prayers in confidence knowing God hears us and will respond. Our prayers are statements of praise and expressions of hope, and often pleas for intervention at times when we experience circumstances that bring anguish and duress.

David called out to God at a time of great stress and pain, and he expressed his faith in God's answer, "The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:9) We know this to be true, so we can pray with great confidence. We know that God hears our prayers, and we don't have to raise our voice!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday November 03, 2020

There is an organization named "Procrastinator s Club of America." The club was founded in 1956 by Les Waas and boasts a membership of about 6,000. Monthly they produce a publication entitled "Last Month's Newsletter" that presents articles about past events as if they are about to transpire. One writer said that communications to the club for information elicited no response. The group's motto is "to promote the philosophy of relaxation through putting off until later those things that needn't be done today." Some of the group's activities include celebrating Christmas in June, Fourth of July in January and National Procrastination Week (the first week in March) late.

While we can laugh at this as funny, there are times when procrastination is not a laughing matter. Consider the actions of Lot found in Genesis 19. When confronted with the news of the impending doom of Sodom, he said to his family, "Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!" (vs. 14) However, when the time came to leave, he procrastinated and almost had to be dragged away from the city before God leveled it, "When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them." (vs. 16) And most of us know what happened to his wife.

Yes, there are times when procrastination is the stuff of jokes, but there are times when action is demanded. When it comes to our service for God, don't hesitate. Don't put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today!

Pastor Steve
Monday November 02, 2020

We are told that we should wash our hands frequently as a deterrent to Covid-19. According to the Mayo Clinic, a good rule of thumb when washing your hands (please pardon the pun) is to wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. I understand that is legal now since a judge declared the "Happy Birthday" song public domain. That is, of course, another story altogether. Back to hand washing. In order to make sure your hands are clean and as free from bad microbes as possible, wash them to "Happy Birthday." And then later on, wash them again because they are dirty once more. That is the reality of life. Hands that are washed will need to be washed again.

In the Old Testament, sacrifices had to be made over and over because of sin. That is why we need Christ so desperately. Hebrews 10:4 tells us, "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Christ died once for all so that sins can be forgiven for good. Verse 10 tells us, "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

Through Christ, we are made clean forever, and we don't even have to sing Happy Birthday.

Pastor Steve
Sunday November 1, 2020

Today is All Saints Day in the Western Church. This day is observed differently in churches, some do not observe the day at all. There is a difference as to how saints are viewed, and even in the definition of a saint, among those in the church, but one aspect of agreement is that we should observe the lives of those who have gone before and learn lessons from their lives regarding faithfulness and service.

This is the reason for such passages of scripture as Hebrews 11. After the writer of Hebrews gives us a definition of faith, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (11:1), he proceeds to give examples of faith by citing the faithful, "This is what the ancients were commended for" (11:2). One example follows another and he lists one person after another who demonstrated how faithfulness should appear.

You may or may not observe All Saints Day in your worship, but you should not forget the examples of the saints. We can learn so many valuable lessons about the spiritual life by studying the lives of those described in Hebrews 11. We know we should life by faith; studying the lives of the faithful can give us insight as to how we can do this.

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 31, 2020

You know, it's a shame that we aren't able to remember the experience of learning to walk. I certainly don't. I remember watching my two daughters learn to walk. First came the experience of pulling up to something and using that object as support as they would carefully take some steps. Then, they let go of the object and took a couple of feeble steps before crumpling into a heap on the floor. Of course, when this happened, they made the decision that on the basis of their performance, they would never be good at this "walking" thing, and they moved on to something else, never learning to walk.

Can't you just picture my tongue in my cheek as I was writing the last sentence? Of course they didn't give up! They, as do all human beings, continued to try and try until, after countless falls, stumbles, and several appearances featuring many unsure steps, they mastered this thing called walking. What helped them to learn to walk was an inner persistence that allowed them overcome all of the early failures - the tumbling, the tripping, the "lack luster" attempts at taking steps. Eventually, walking became second nature to them. This would not have occurred unless they continued to try despite failures and attempts that looked rather, well, not good.

We are prone to give up too easily. We attempt something and then because we aren't able to show great proficiency early on, we give up. Why do we do this? Somehow, we need to channel this persistence that we all have - we have shown it is there in our "learning to walk" phase - and apply it to other areas. I know you don't remember your "learning to walk" experience, but tell yourself that you do still have that persistence. Sometimes we use this "I can't do that" attitude when it comes to our service to God. We use the excuse of "I can't do that" to keep us from stepping up and filling ministerial needs.

Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to be persistent in our efforts, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

Tap in to your "inner child," especially when it comes to persistence at learning a new task, a new ministry, a new experience. Remember you didn't just start out running when you learned to walk - you had to take baby steps! Be persistent!

Pastor Steve
Friday October 30, 2020

None of us have a perfect memory, so most of us have had the experience of struggling to come up with a name, a date, an event, or some other tidbit of information. Does the following scenario sound familiar? You are with your spouse in a restaurant and by chance you meet an old classmate. You would really love to introduce them but, what is the name? Oh, you say you can't remember this or something similar ever happening to you? Uh huh, my point exactly. My mother told me of a friend of hers who used to say "you aren't forgetful you just have so many things stacked on your head they just run off."

God has to deal with us and our forgetfulness. He knows we are forgetful. He knows that we are prone to forget him, especially if we have a little prosperity in our lives. That is why he reminds us in Deuteronomy 8:18, "But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth." He gets a little more stern in the next verse, "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed." He knew how we are. We forget so easily.

Forgetting a name is one thing, but forgetting our dependence upon God is another. We need to follow the advice of Psalm 103:2, "Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits." Don't "have too many things stacked on your head" when it comes to your relationship with God. This will prove more than just embarrassing.

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 29, 2020

What do you say to a friend who has lost a loved one? This is a universal experience, yet we often struggle with what we should do for our friend when a loved one dies. We wonder what to say - we wonder how we can be helpful.

Job's friends give us some examples of what to do and what not to do in a circumstance of loss. After Job experienced his great loss, 3 of his friends came to him and, at first, just sat with him as he grieved. Job 2:11-13 tell us, "When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 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."

What we see them do here is instructional for us - they simply went to be with their friend. This was a good thing, and would have continued to be a good thing except they began giving all sorts of advice. What Job needed was for them to continue with their presence in a non-judgmental, non-invasive way. Our presence is the most important thing we can offer at times when others are suffering. Listening with compassion is what our friend needs. Helping with practical things is another beneficial offering. Words of assurance, words and acts of kindness, simple expressions of sorrow, statements of assurance are welcome. Lectures and advice are not.

When you want to help a friend, think of Job. Remembering what was helpful for him can help us when we don't know what to say.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 28, 2020

Several years ago I received a unique and rather challenging phone call from my youngest daughter. She was in New Haven, Connecticut, and needed directions to Yale University. Now, I was in Illinois, so why did she call me? For one thing, her GPS died and she didn't have a smart phone. More importantly, I am her dad and over the years I have done all I could to let my kids know I would never steer them wrong. She knew I would do everything in my power to get her going the right direction. She knew I would probably be sitting in front of a computer and could look up directions for her. Yes, I was able to help her. It was an interesting experience, but I was happy that my daughter trusted me enough to call me when she needed help.

Trust is one of the things parents need to build in their children. As my girls were growing up, I wanted to let them know they could trust me. I wanted them to have the confidence that they could come to me at any time and know I would do all I could to be there for them and to help them. Of course, parents aren't infallible and aren't omnipotent, so at times there are limitations to what we can do. Still, they know I will be there as much as I can.

Our children need to know that we will do our very best to steer them in the right direction at all times. God calls upon us to steer our children in the right direction. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." God is also a role model to follow when it comes to building trust in our children and letting them know we will never steer them wrong. We know God will never steer us wrong.

Proverbs 3:4-5 tell us to "Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." We know we can and should do this because God would not lead us the wrong way - it simply is not in his character. It should not be in our character to misguide our children - or anyone else for that matter. Let your children know that when they call you and ask for directions (even if they are in another state!), you will do your best to lead them right!

Pastor Steve
Monday October 26, 2020

Many of you enjoy candles. Candles are one of those items that were at one time an item of necessity but now are used optionally. Candles provide light and warmth and even though we have more effective sources of light and warmth, candles are still popular. Although candles may have more of a "decorative" function now, you still need to exercise caution when you use them. Many home fires are caused by candles that are left burning. Candles need to be used correctly.

As it is with candles, so it is with our lives. We need to take care of our lives and not allow them to burn improperly. We sometimes get caught up in so many things and activities we "burn the candle at both ends." Even as with a real candle, we need to exercise caution with how we allow our lives to "burn." We want to be able to burn for God, not burn up.

A candle that burns the way it should does so slowly, providing a source of light, warmth and, with most candles today, pleasing aroma. The candle enhances the atmosphere around it. If misused and allowed to ignite its surroundings, the candle becomes a destructive force, even to itself, as it will probably be destroyed in the ensuing maelstrom.

Guard your lives and how you "burn." Be an influence on your environment, not a destructive force. Avoid useless, self-caused, stresses that cause burnout. Work to provide a consistent, productive, helpful influence. Paul refers to burning your candle wisely in II Corinthians 12:15, "So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well." Allow your lives to burn correctly and be careful so that you don't burn out!

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 25, 2020

Don Hewitt was a pioneer in television journalism. He started at CBS in 1948. His early years were spent directing the Edwin R. Murrow newscast. He was the first executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. He directed the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy presidential debates. However, all of this did not prevent him from being demoted in the early 60's. I am sure he was angered by this move, as I know I would be. Many of us would simply quit, pout, or seek something else. Not Hewitt. He didn't let this setback deter his creative juices.

In the late 60's he came up with an idea for a news broadcast that would focus on three stories in the span of an hour. This broadcast would present the news from a "you are there" perspective, and focus on the people, not just the issues. He pitched his idea to the network execs, Mike Wallace was hired as the main newsman, and the first segment of "60 Minutes" was put on the air on September 24, 1969. In case you didn't know, "60 Minutes" is still on the air, making it the longest-running television series in television history by about a mile or so. This says a great deal about Hewitt's character. What a legacy he left!

How do you respond when things don't go your way? This does happen in our lives, doesn't it? Jonah is an example of someone who pouted when he didn't get his way. What makes his story ironic was he had met with great success on his mission - the people responded! God s response to the pouting of Jonah is found in Jonah 4:10-11, "But the LORD said, You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city? "

A positive example of how to respond when we don't get our way would be the life of the apostle Paul. Countless times his plans were changed. He was mistreated, abused, stoned, thrown into prison, but he never lost his desire to go forward and do something new. He certainly got discouraged, but he never quit. At the end of his life he was able to say, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day (II Timothy 4:6-8)." I think this says something about Paul's character. What a legacy he left!

When things don t go your way, are you a Jonah or a Paul?

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 24, 2020

There is a commercial on one of our local TV channels for a roofing business named "Honest Abe's Roofing." A Lincoln impersonator is seen in a variety of circumstances that all play off the well-known honesty of our 16th president. Two of my favorite stories about Lincoln's honesty took place when he was a clerk in a store in New Salem, Illinois. One story relates how he walked to a customer's home after closing to return a few cents in change that he had held out inadvertently. Another involved Lincoln taking tea to a customer when he found he had weighed her request incorrectly.

Honesty is a character trait that should be desired and displayed, especially by those who call themselves followers of Christ. However, you can be honest and still not very nice. God wants us to be both.

In Exodus, the character traits of honesty and kindness are brought together as principles that should be practiced by the people of God. Exodus 23:3 says, "If you come across your enemy s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it." Straying animals are to be returned to rightful owners, even if the animal belongs to an enemy. In verse 4 we read, "If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it." Kindness is to be expressed to those in distress, even if we don't care for the person experiencing the problem.

Honesty and kindness are a good pair that should be on display in the lives of God's people. We can be honest but mean, and we can be kind but dishonest. Put them together and you get a formidable partnership.

Pastor Steve
Friday October 23, 2020

In a strip of "Peanuts" a number of years ago, Lucy belittles Charlie Brown for his attempt at a building project. Charlie Brown tells her, "It's a birdhouse for sparrows." "For sparrows?" Lucy replied. "No one builds a birdhouse for sparrows." "I do," says Charlie Brown, "I build birdhouses for the underbird."

Sparrows may be considered "underbirds" of little worth, but God considers them important enough to watch their movements. "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7) Christ spoke of the degree of care God has for his children by using the example of sparrows. Apparently, even at the time of Christ, sparrows were not considered very valuable or desirable birds. Yet, even these "underbirds" were kept under the watch care of God himself.

God builds houses for underbirds. God is concerned about the details of your life. He is aware of all that happens and is always concerned about your welfare. He has nothing but your best interests at heart. Therefore, you need to trust him with the details of your life. With God, you are never an underbird!

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 22, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 21, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 20, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday October 19, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 18, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 17, 2020

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Friday October 16, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 13, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday October 12, 2020

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

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

Pastor Steve
Sunday October 11, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 10, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Friday October 09, 2020

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

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

Pastor Steve
Thursday October 08, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Pastor Steve
Wednesday October 07, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday October 6, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Pastor Steve
Monday October 05, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 03, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Saturday October 3, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Friday October 02, 2020

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

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

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

Pastor Steve

Our Pastor

Pastor Steve Willis

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

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

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

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

Invitation

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

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

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

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

Activities

Weekly Schedule

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

November Schedule


Our Church

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

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

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

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

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

Deacons

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

First Baptist Church
Reopening

June 1, 2019

Folks -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update effective Sunday 9/13.

Our worship this Sunday will be as follows: A - I will meet at 9 a.m., and J - Z will meet at 10:30 a.m. Join us as we meet to celebrate the Savior! The services will be on YouTube, Facebook, and our Webpage. God is good, and we want to celebrate the goodness of our Father!

Update effective Sunday 9/20.

Folks - Worship this Sunday! J - Z will have service at 9 a.m., and A - I will have worship at 10:30 a.m.! By the way - I am home now and thank you for your prayers - hope to see you soon! Operation Christmas Child has begun - you can pick up your box at church - packed boxes will be due on Sunday, November 15!

Update effective Sunday 9/27.

Worship this Sunday! A - I will meet at 9 a.m. and J - Z will meet at 10:30 a.m. Join us in person, or worship with us as our worship time will be on Facebook, YouTube, and our web page!

ALSO - The churches of Jasper County are planning a prayer event for our nation this coming Saturday in the parking lot at Scott Avenue Christian Church, at 8:30 AM. This is in conjunction with a national prayer event to be held in Washington that day.

Update effective Sunday 10/4

Join us for worship this Sunday - J - Z will meet at 9 a.m.; A - I will meet at 10:30! We will celebrate communion this Sunday - so those of you who plan to worship at home, you can share with us - just have your own elements ready! We will be looking at Matthew 5:13 - "You Are the Salt of the Earth" - what does this mean? Come or watch along to find out!
Operation Christmas Child has begun - you can pick up your box at church - packed boxes will be due on Sunday, November 15!

Update effective Sunday 10/11

Hey Folks - Worship This Sunday! Still following COVID protocol of spacing and cleaning - so hope you will join us! A - I meet at 9 a.m; J - Z meets at 10:30. We will talk about "Learning from a Disaster" - Luke 13:1 - 8. Services will be on YouTube, Facebook, and our website that day.

ALSO - remember that we are hoping to hold a Trunk or Treat event on October 30 - are you interested? We have had some folks respond and we hope to have some more! Call the church office or respond to this email!

Update effective Sunday 10/18

PARENTS - Please watch for your weekly mailing from the church - there is a letter inside that details plans for a weekly Kid's Activity to be held between our services - details in the letter! This will start Sunday, October 25! Call the church or Pastor Steve @ 618/553-4264 if you miss the letter!

Worship This Sunday! Still following COVID protocol of spacing and cleaning - so hope you will join us! J - Z meet at 9 a.m; A -I meets at 10:30. We will talk about "An Encounter with God" - Matthew 6:5 - 8. Services will be on YouTube, Facebook, and our website that day.

ALSO - remember that we are hoping to hold a Trunk or Treat event on October 30 - are you interested? We have had some folks respond and we hope to have some more! Call the church office or respond to this email!

Update effective Sunday 10/25

See you in worship this Sunday! ! ! A - I at 9 a.m.; J - Z at 10:30! "What? Me Worry?" will be our focus from Matthew 6:25 - 34.

Parents - we start our Kid's Worship Time this Sunday! This will be from 10 - 10:30! If you come to early service, just plan on staying a bit longer. If you are in the later worship time, come early!! We have things set up for a safe worship experience for kids through 6th grade! Call the church if you have questions!

Trunk or Treat! ! ! Friday, October 30, 5 - 7 p.m. We can still use more cars! !

BLESSINGS TO ALL OF YOU!
Pastor Steve