First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Worship News - 9/16/2021

Worship services this Sunday at 9 a.m.!  Our services will appear on Facebook, YouTube, and our webpage.

Sunday is a special day for our kids.  This is Fishing for Missions Celebration Sunday.  They had set a goal of $2,000 for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and they have eclipsed that mark.  Did they make it to $3,000?  You will need to come Sunday to find out!  We will be presenting the gift to the FCA in our morning service, and then right after the service, the kids will attempt to dunk members of the FCA in a dunking booth!  We know this will take a little bit -- so we probably will not be having classes this Sunday.  Kid's Choirs will be starting back up on Sunday, September 26th!  

Sunday afternoon we will continue the celebration with a Fishing Derby at Sam Parr.  We will meet at the White Oak Picnic area at 4 p.m.  After the derby, we will enjoy porkburgers - bring something to share with the porkburgers.  The porkburgers and drinks will be provided.  A couple of games will be played after we eat.  This is for everyone! ! !

Saturday, October 2, there will be a Men's Golf Outing at Oak Glen Golf Course in Stoy.  We will eat at 11:30, then play a round of golf.  Come and have fun!  

Blessings to you all!   Pastor Steve


Devotionals
Pastor Steve Willis

Saturday September 18, 2021

I would imagine many of you have read the book "In His Steps," written by Charles Sheldon. Maybe you have seen the 2015 movie. This book is a collection of twelve short stories based upon a sermon series Sheldon preached at the First Congregational Church of Topeka, Kansas, in 1896. The series was turned over to Chicago Advance, a Christian publishing house, for their weekly periodical. Unfortunately, the magazine failed to properly register the publication for copyright and Sheldon never received any royalties even though the book was printed by a number of companies. It became an international best-seller, selling millions of copies.

Commenting on this years after the first publication, Sheldon said, "I am very thankful that owing to the defective copyright, the book has had a larger reading on account of the great number of publishers."

We often struggle with loss of some sort in our lives. Joseph is an example of a person who gives us a biblical perspective of dealing with loss. Because of the mistreatment he experienced at the conniving hands of his brothers, Joseph lost his home, his parents, time with his family, and a great deal more. He experienced further deception and spent a great deal of his adult life unjustly imprisoned. He continued to remain faithful to God, and declared his feelings about his loss when he was reunited with his brethren, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance." (Genesis 45:4 7)

As we experience loss in our lives, we continue to trust God, knowing that he can work with us through loss to bring about His divine plan. At times, our losses may be caused by choices that we make, and we need to rely upon our Father to help us be strengthened through what circumstances may come our way because of this. Joseph knew what he experienced was in the hands of God. We put our lives in God s hands, and know He will guide us through. God can turn our loss into great gain - rely upon Him at all times, especially when things don't get registered correctly.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 17, 2021

Since our grandkids live in different cities, we use Messenger or Facetime quite a bit. This means we get to see them when we talk with them. I would imagine there are a number of you grandparents out there that appreciate this technology. Whenever we are speaking with Edie, our youngest who is not quite two, she likes to hold the phone on her own. Well, all our grandkids do, but she is the most adamant about this. This sometimes makes for some creative viewing, but she does like to demonstrate her independence.

Wanting to do things on your own is not a real problem for children, and you want to foster independence. As we grow older, though, we find that the "I can do it myself" mentality is something that needs to be tempered. Independence is commendable to a certain extent as it is good we are motivated and want to get things done, but we need discernment so we don't get ourselves in trouble. Whether you are a young mother with children, or an executive in an office, or a contractor on a project, or a board member in a church, there are times when the exercise of delegation is a good thing.

Moses learned this concept. We read in Exodus 18 that his father-in-law, Jethro, visited him and pointed out that he was trying to do too much on his own. He asked Moses, "What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening? (vs. 14) He suggested that Moses appoint others to handle some of the judging duties so that Moses was free to do other things and people would not have to wait so long for their disputes to be settled. Moses "listened to his father-in-law's advice and followed his suggestions" (vs. 18), and things began to run more smoothly.

We would do well to do the same. If you feel like your many tasks are pulling you in too many directions, consider how you could do some delegation. This will be better for everyone.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 16, 2021

Yesterday I wrote about gas prices in my hometown being lower than at other places I had recently visited. I made the comment that this probably wouldn t last long, and it didn t. As I drove to my office Tuesday morning, I realized that my article was already negated. Well, the statements about cheaper gas were incorrect, but what I said about contentment with what you have still applies. That is a timeless truth which will never go out of commission.

There are some things like that, you know? Many times, change comes into our lives so rapidly. Sometimes change can make us feel as if we are going up and down, much like rising and falling gas prices. I remember the words I heard from a sermon preached by Jerry Bruce (some of you may remember him) almost 60 years ago, "We move so fast in life zip, zip, zip!," and yes, we do. So, it is good to know that some things do not change, and there are some things that remain the same no matter what.

Our Savior never changes. He is always there, and his provision for us will never diminish. Hebrews 13:8 tells us, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Jesus declares, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13)

For many years, Chevrolet used the Bob Seger song, Like a Rock, in their commercials for their pickup trucks. They wanted to convey that the trucks were solid, strong, dependable, and had unchanging quality. The scripture declares that our Savior goes well beyond that He is a Rock upon whom we can always depend and will never fail to provide for us what we need. Acts 4:31 says, "This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone." Psalm 62:6 tells us, "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken." II Corinthians 3:11 talks about the sure foundation we have in Christ, "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." So, although our lives may go, "zip, zip, zip," Christ provides a strong anchor that will never be moved.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 15, 2021

Upon returning from a short trip the other day, I made an unusual observation. Gas prices were cheaper in my hometown than anywhere else I had been. This does not happen very often, and I am sure will not be the case for long. To paraphrase and distort an old adage, I can say that "the gas is not cheaper on the other side."

And the grass is not greener on the other side either. Although, we often think that, don't we? Why is that? It comes from not being content or satisfied with what we have. Now, it is not an issue to have realistic desires or goals to improve ourselves and make reasonable acquisitions, but when we have elevated expectations and begin to obsess over getting more and thinking what we don't have can create issues. That is why we are warned in the scripture about coveting, and that is why we need to take into considerations advice we see about this concern.

James tells us that the source of many of our conflicts is because of inordinate desires for what we do not have, "You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight." (James 4:2) Paul gives some positive admonition: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

An inordinate obsession with wanting more and attaining what we do not have can bring frustration, distress, and conflict. We need to get our desires under control, and find the key to being content so that we experience true joy and happiness, rather than frustration and confusion. No, the grass is not greener on the other side. Take the advice of scripture - contentment is a good thing.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 14, 2021

I remember reading about a hiker who got in trouble with park rangers for a celebration that took place on Mount Katahdin in Maine after he had completed the Appalachian Trail. He had just set the speed record for the trek. Most of you perhaps are familiar with the Appalachian Trail. The trail winds through 14 states from Georgia to Maine and is 2,189 miles. This particular hiker had completed the journey in 46 days. The rangers didn't take too kindly to the celebration, although admitting it was a subdued event. It is just that any sort of activity of this nature is pretty much forbidden along the trail. The hiker was fined a small amount and no criminal record would be recorded.

I wonder if angels in heaven would warrant a fine when they celebrate after the conversion of a soul? Jesus tells us, "I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10) He made this statement just after his story about a lady who had found a lost coin and just before the story about the prodigal son. These stories were told as a response to the criticism that Christ was welcoming sinners and spending too much time with them. These folks totally missed the point of Christ's ministry - this is exactly what he came to do. He came to provide a way for sinners to come to the Father. Later he said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10)

When one whom Christ is seeking receives the gift Christ provides, this brings about a celebration over the person who repents and is now given a place in heaven. And, of course, this celebration is free from harassment. Have you caused angels to celebrate? If not, why not give them cause for a celebration?

Pastor Steve
Monday September 13, 2021

As with many of you, I have been on the receiving end of criticism on more than one occasion. I have always realized that, with the position I have, this is not unexpected. So, I am never surprised by this. As I experience times of criticism, I try to look at what is being said and what is taking place as objectively as I can. I do this because, frankly, criticism is a positive tool in many instances. If I am not doing what I should, or if I have committed a faux pas, either intentionally or unintentionally, then criticism is warranted. I need to take what is said and make changes.

Not all criticism falls along this vein, though. There are times when criticism is leveled because people can be critics in a negative way – they just want to criticize with no particular interest in mind except just to make themselves look good and make others look bad. We need to be honest in our evaluation of criticism that comes our way; but sometimes it is obvious that the criticism coming our way is not intended to be correctional, just destructive. What do we do?

Nehemiah faced a time of criticism that was unjust and unfair. He needed to rebuild a wall, and his efforts were met with opposition by some who didn’t want to see it happen. Nehemiah 4:1 – 2 records the confrontation, “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”

What was Nehemiah’s response? He prayed, and then he did what he knew needed to be done – built the wall. “Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (verses 4 – 6)

When we face unfair criticism, ask hard questions to objectively determine the character of the criticism, pray for God’s wisdom, and then go about doing what you know needs to be done in spite of what is said. Now, of course, this is not an easy path in many instances, and often the “path of least resistance” would be to just give in to the criticism – you will need to be the one to decide which way to proceed. In a speech from years ago,

Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; . . . and who, . . . if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” In the face of unfair critics, do what you can to do what you know is right. Let it roll off your back as best you can, and make sure you don’t “return the favor” by being overly critical yourself. Work to be a builder and not a destroyer.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 12, 2021
Hugh Richard Sheppard, better known as Dick Sheppard, was an Anglican clergyman who served as a chaplain during World War I. In 1936, he founded the English Pacifist movement known as the Peace Pledge Union. He was appointed rector of Glasgow University just prior to his death in 1937. In one of his publications, Sheppard recounts an experience he had during WWI. One night he was hiding in no man's land, close to enemy lines, when he heard someone approaching. He wanted badly to call out "friend or foe?" but he knew this could mean his death. Years later, as he was experiencing a dark emotional experience, he looked to God and was tempted to call out "friend or foe?"

There may be times in our lives when we find ourselves involved in just such an emotional struggle. In the blackness of our experience, we may be tempted to cry out to God, "friend or foe?" We struggle with the “why” of his intentions for our life and at times even his goodness. What we can do at times like these is to realize we can trust our loving God. We already know the answer to the question "friend or foe?"

One person in the scripture who had many occasions to make this cry to God was Joseph. He was mistreated by his family, falsely accused, forgotten in prison. But he never forgot God. He knew God would not forget him. His faith remained strong, and God honored his faith. His faith is seen in one of the statements he made to his brothers when they came to Egypt, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God (Genesis 42:10)." In spite of what happened to him, he knew God would turn his darkness to light.

God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has proven himself faithful. Continue to remain faithful to him in spite of what comes along that tempts you to do otherwise – God is a “friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).”

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 11, 2021

All who are old enough to remember events from two decades ago know exactly where we were on September 11, 2001. Twenty years have passed since that fateful day when jets plunged into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, another crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, and a fourth jet wrecked in a field in Pennsylvania. The events of that day rattled the collective consciousness of our nation and made an already frightening world even more terrifying.

In the time that has passed, so much more has taken place to remind us of just how volatile our world is. Conflicts have claimed lives, natural disasters have taken place that destroyed property and brought about more deaths, and atrocities have occurred all over the globe reminding us of the evil that exists on our planet,.Now we find ourselves engaged in a struggle with a virus that continues to claim lives and create controversy. It seems that, over the past twenty years, just as one might be settling in to a “steady state” existence, another event took place that reminds us of our vulnerability and the precarious nature of life.

Now, many of these other events may not have had the same effects as did the events of 9.11.2001, but they are still reminders of the unsettledness of our world. They are all glaring statements of the broken nature of our world and the great need we have to look elsewhere for a source of answers, hope, stability, and confidence. I know we often wonder, “when will all this stop?”

It stops when the Lord chooses to intervene and step into the events of our world. We know that will take place; we just don’t know when it will take place. Until that time, we continue to look to Him for strength and guidance; live for Him knowing He is our answer; and let our love for Him and others continue to motivate our steps day after day. Isaiah 12:2 tells us, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense, he has become my salvation.”

There is a 19th century hymn entitles “Day by Day” that reminds us of the need to place trust in God daily as we live in a world of unrest and uncertainty. It was written by Lina Sandell after she had witnessed the tragic drowning death of her father. “Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear. He whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best. Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.

“Help me then in every tribulation. So to trust Thy promises, O Lord, That I lose not faith's sweet consolation Offered me within Thy holy Word. Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E'er to take, as from a father's hand, One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land.” Trust God to supply you with strength for each day as we look forward to That Day.

Pastor Steve
Friday September 10, 2021

When I am working on my laptop and my battery is running low, I will get a message that reminds me that I need to plug into a power source. I have another laptop that, for some inexplicable reason, when I plug the laptop in, sometimes I get this message: "Power source unrecognized. Check adaptor to make sure it is correct." What the computer seems to be telling me is a power source is detected, but it is not the right kind to use with my computer and the computer will not charge properly.

We often refer to plugging into a power source in our Christian lives. Is so doing, we need to make sure that we are plugged into the correct power source. Satan likes to play counterfeit, and if he can do anything to make us think we are doing the right thing when we aren't or not doing something when we should be taking action, he will. He will employ all means possible to make us think we are plugged into the correct power source when in actuality he is masquerading as God. It would be good if we would have some sort of message pop up at these times to warn us of his fakery.

The best prevention is to have a solid relationship with the Father and be able to recognize falsehood when it comes along. Knowing God's character and his heart keeps us from plugging into the wrong power source and thereby disabling our effectiveness as followers of Christ. We need to be able to recognize and distinguish God's power "so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." (I Corinthians 2:15) Make sure the power source you are plugged into is the One that will actually give you power!

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 09, 2021

Recently, I wrote about having a properly stocked first-aid kit, and I came across this story the other day. A lady enthusiastically shared with some friends her account about the benefits she derived from first-aid training. “I witnessed a wreck as I was driving down 52nd street last Friday. A car was going really fast and ran right into a utility pole. I stopped and went over to see what I could do. When I saw the injured driver, it was terrible! He was hurt really badly. My knees buckled, and I thought I was going to faint. Then I remembered what I had learned in my first-aid class! Immediately, I bent down and put my head between my knees, and it worked! I didn’t pass out!”

You probably weren’t expecting that, were you? Unfortunately, our response to others and the outworking of our spiritual training can, at times, resemble the response of the lady. We study the Bible, we know what we should do when it comes to helping others with physical and spiritual needs, but we never act on what we know.

According to James, true religion is more than just a love for sound doctrine and correct worship. He writes, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) James gets a little more pointed in his comments later in his epistle: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14 – 17)

So, make sure all that training you are getting is working out in your life. Don’t just apply what you learn to you – make it work as you minister to others. Show God that you love Him and love others – don’t go about in such a way as to make God have to put his head between his knees if he saw some action on your part.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 08, 2021

Thirty-eight years ago I finished seminary and was looking for a church. I sent my resume to a number of churches, and one contacted me that really seemed to be a good fit. I was excited as this church, in my initial assessment, appeared to be the one that had the greatest potential for a successful ministry. I had an interview and came away feeling that we would be getting a call from the church. Well, we did, but it wasn't the call I was expecting. "We are sorry to inform you, but we feel another candidate was the one that would best fit in our church." I was greatly disappointed, but knew I had to trust God's wisdom.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a church that I didn't even remember sending a resume. Well, thirty-eight years later we are still at that church, and I thank God daily for the turn of events that led us here, rather than to the church I felt was "perfect." My disappointment led to a joy that I have celebrated for thirty-eight years.

When you face what seems to be a setback that results in disappointment, remember to allow God to be involved and to consider the fact that he knows what he is doing. There are times when it is hard to see the good in a situation. We will face experiences where the answers will not come until later, maybe not until we get to heaven. Continue to exercise faith in God and trust him to bring joy to you in the midst of disappointment. Isaiah 26:3 - 4 tells us "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal." Developing trust in God throughout all of life's circumstances brings a peace at heart even at times of disappointment.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday September 07, 2021

In a number of his writings, Paul tells us to offer encouragement to each other. This is usually not a difficult thing, as we know others who need encouragement, and we know we appreciate supportive words and deeds when we are in a position of need. However, Paul also tells us to offer words of correction when necessary. This is a little bit stickier. For a great many reasons, corrective encounters can be difficult. Still, they can be helpful and can be a form of encouragement.

In I Thessalonians 5:14-15, Paul tells us, "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else." Here we see Paul giving instructions to offer words of correction where correction is needed and words of support where support is needed. He also tells us a little about the spirit in which this should be accomplished, "Be patient with everyone." In other words, don't withhold correction, but don't rush to judgment either, and make sure you do this in the right way.

When correction is needed, three things need to be kept in mind: 1) The nature of the problem must be considered; 2) Our motive and approach for correction must be thought through, and 3) God needs to be involved from start to finish.

Galatians 6:1-2 offers further comment on this, "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." In both of these passages, we see Paul's comments on not only what should be done, but how it is to be accomplished.

Correcting others is usually more difficult than encouraging others, but in Paul's mind they are linked. Both should be done with a view to helping someone else grow in their faith. We all have times when correction is necessary because we all are prone to mistakes. When we find ourselves on one end or the other of this scenario, remember to make room for God's involvement. In this way, correction can be corrective without causing controversy.

Pastor Steve
Monday September 06, 2021

The argument of whether or not to wear white after Labor Day has always amused me. Wearing white after today is considered by some to be a fashion faux pas. I got on the internet and found there is a good bit written about this issue.

A couple of articles discussed the history of the phrase "You can't wear white after Labor Day." Where did it originate? There really is a good deal of uncertainty about this. One writer said it can be traced back to fashion people in California during the 1890's that wanted to demonstrate their elevated status in society. I found one article that listed eight ways to wear white after Labor Day. There you go. I am sorry, but I am less than enthusiastic about promoting this fashion guideline. I just don't think it is that important.

There is an area where followers of Christ need to consider the importance of wearing white. In actuality, scripture states that we should wear white all the time. Ecclesiastes 9:8 tells us to "Always be clothed in white," Now, I probably don't need to state the obvious here, but I will. This is not referring to the literal clothing you wear. It is telling us that our lives need to demonstrate obedience to God and righteousness of character. Those of us who follow God should live godly lives. We need to demonstrate the character of Christ. We have been cleansed according to the scripture. Isaiah 1:18 tells us, "'Come now, let us settle the matter,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'"

As you can see, in our spiritual lives, this matter of wearing white is settled. We should live our lives to reflect that we have been cleansed. Now, when it comes to wearing white after Labor Day, I am really not the person to ask. I don't have any problem with wearing a brown belt with black pants, so you are on your own.

Pastor Steve
Sunday September 05, 2021

"All You Need Is Love," as I would imagine most of you know, is a song by the Beatles. They released the single in June of 1967. It is not one of my favorite Beatles' songs, but that is irrelevant to the intent of my article. The song has a rather interesting distinction of being featured on "Our World," the first live global television link. This took place in 1967 and was seen by more than 400 million viewers in 25 countries.

If the Apostle John had been still around and heard the song on this broadcast, he would have probably said, "That's what I said 1900 years ago! Are you still trying to get this message?" John did write a lot about love. The gospel he wrote, and especially his three epistles, feature prominently the theme of God's love. There is an old legend which says that one of John's young disciples once came to him complaining, Why don t you talk about anything else? John replied, "Because there isn't anything else."

John wrote about love because the love of God was at the center of the ministry and message of Christ. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Paul reminds us that, "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38 39).

As we focus on God's love, we find a source of help when we feel helpless, strength when we feel weakness, courage when we feel afraid, and assurance when we feel uncertain. God's love for us is what motivates His actions towards us. We need to appreciate that, and reflect His love as we interact with others. Yes, all we need is love - the love of our Father who "loved us with an everlasting love." (Jeremiah 31:3)

Pastor Steve
Saturday September 04, 2021

During a recent trip to Ohio, my son-in-law, Jimmy, asked me to follow him so that he could take his car to a repair shop and leave it there. As I was following him, it hit me that I hadn't asked him exactly where we were going. I had a general idea, but I didn t know for sure. Now, this didn't bother me, I knew I could trust my son-in-law and that as long as I followed his lead, all would be well. There were no "Well, what if he does this?" Or "What if this happens?" I didn't even think twice about staying on course right behind him. I knew we wouldn't go anywhere we didn't need to be. I didn't call him on my cell phone and ask, "Well, why did we go this way?" or say, "Shouldn't we have done this differently?" I just followed without hesitation.

You know, it would be good if we adopt this line of thinking about following God. None of us know exactly where our lives are headed, but one thing we do know is that as long as we follow God, we will get where we need to be. Often, we question and wonder why the path goes a certain direction. I know that it is hard not to do this; but our trust needs to be in the Driver of the lead car. We need to realize He is not going to lead us anywhere we don't need to go. As I have said a number of times, God has our best interests at heart and following Him faithfully IS the best path we can take.

Deuteronomy 13:4 tells us, "It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him." Psalm 37:28 gives this promise, "The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him." Paul tells us to "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children." (Ephesians 5:1) There is a chorus that has been around for a while that says, "Where He leads me I will follow. I'll go with Him all the way." Is this true for you?

Pastor Steve
Friday September 03, 2021

I first read about acoustic cloaking many years ago. Researchers were working on a device or devices that would essentially block sound waves and bring silence where needed. This technology has a number of applications in homes, concert halls, and auditoriums. I don't know how far we have come in this field of development - maybe some of you have some knowledge about where we are. I think this could be a useful tool in a world where there is a lot of noise.

What would also be useful is to develop some sort of acoustic cloaking for all the noise that comes from within us. You know - the worries that blast away at us, the fears that scream at us in our thinking, the doubts that sometimes nag and us and create a lot of noise. Wouldn't it be good if there would be some sort of cloaking device to help us with all of this noise? Actually, there is.

God has provided a means of silencing the noise and thwarting these issues - developing a heart that listens to Him. Psalm 46:10 tells us, "Be still, and know that I am God." Philippians 4:6 - 7 gives us some thoughts as to how we can go about developing an acoustic cloak for all of this inner noise, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Let God help you with some acoustic cloaking - the sound of silence can be a very good thing.

Pastor Steve
Thursday September 02, 2021

I have told this story before in a number of settings, so forgive me if you have head it. It is quite fictional, as you will see. A certain fellow died and went to heaven. When he arrived, St. Peter gave him a tour. They came to a room that was full of what appeared to be wall clocks. The hands on the clocks were all moving, but at different intervals and different speeds, and most were moving inconsistently. Peter explained that they were life clocks. Everyone on earth had one.

The rate and consistency of the movement of the clock hands moved mirrored the person's life. A clock that moved slowly and steadily meant the person was living as he should. Inconsistent and rapid movement meant an aberrant life - the ornerier the life, the faster the hands moved.

The person asked to see my clock. Peter said, "Steve Willis'? Oh, we have a special place for his. Follow me." Peter then ushered the fellow into the very throne room of God. "There is Steve's clock - the hands move so fast that God uses it for a fan."

What if we really did have "life clocks?" How would yours perform? Our spiritual lives can be quite erratic, but we should work to be "slow and steady." We are encouraged to live godly lives. Paul writes, "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation--but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Romans 8:12-14)." Don't let your life produce a fan - God does not need any more "hot air."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday September 01, 2021

I would imagine that many of you who have traveled on interstates through mountainous areas have seen truck escape ramps at places where there is a steep descent. Well, any vehicle could use these if needed, but the primary intent is for the big trucks that may have the misfortune of losing brakes. On the way to the beech in North Carolina this summer, we saw a number of these as we traveled through the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia. I've made this trip a number of times and, thankfully, never witnessed one actually being used. I hope any of you truck drivers reading this have never had an experience with one. It is just good they are there if needed.

There are times in our lives when we need to have a "way of escape." When out-of-control temptations come at us with the threat of causing spiritual wreckage, we need to have, as Bob Dylan put it, "someway out of here."

In order to keep a wreck from happening, God has made a provision. Paul writes about this in I Corinthians 10:12, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

Please do not brush aside the reality of temptation. We put ourselves in bad situations through making bad choices. And remember that Satan will do what he can to get you rolling downhill out of control. If he had the audacity to tempt the very Son of God (read Matthew 4), he has no problem with helping you lose your brakes. That is why God planned escape ramps. A trucker would not think twice about using an escape ramp when needed. Don't think twice about using the resource God provides when we need a way of escape from a troublesome circumstance.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 31, 2021

The driver of one of the vehicles involved in an accident grabbed his first aid kit and ran to the other vehicle to see if he could be of any assistance.  When he got to the other car, he saw that the driver had a cut on his forehead.  However, he wasn't going to be of much help.  When he opened the first aid kit, most of what he needed was not there - he had failed to maintain the contents of the kit.  He was grateful that the emergency personnel arrived quickly to render aid.

Too many of us treat our faith like a first aid kit - we only pull it out when we think we need it and when we do we find it inadequate because we have failed to maintain it properly.  Faith is built through daily exercise.  We spend time with God each day, and our faith is built through our time with him.  Our faith should not be treated like a first aid kit to be used only when needed.  Our faith is more important than that.  If we wish to "move mountains" as Christ said we could, we need to allow our faith to grow. 

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." This type of faith is developed through a daily walk with the Faith - Builder, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  If your first aid kit needs some attention, take care of it!  And it is certain our faith needs attention - so take care of this as well!

Pastor Steve
Monday August 30, 2021

I really don't know what to make of this, but I just read that researchers have been able to make chickens sound like quail. Tissue from the "vocalization" area of quail brains was implanted in chicken embryos. When the chickens hatched, they looked like chickens, but sounded like quail. A scientist's comments gave a reason for these experiments, "We made a chicken sound like a quail, proving that the way the birds vocalize is not affected by learning. They are born with a song in their head." Well, there you go.

This sounds like something you would see in a sci-fi movie, but rather than going off in a sarcastic direction with my comments, I did some thinking. You know, this is sort of what takes place in the life of an individual who comes to faith in Christ. Psalm 40:3 tells us, "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord." This is what happens to those who choose to follow the Lord. We are able to sing a new song because of what has been implanted in us by the Spirit of God a new heart.

When we are "born again," (John 3:3) a new song is given to us, and we are able to proclaim the good things God has done for us. We are able to sing praises to Him who has given us new life. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" Because of this, we are able to "sing to the Lord a new song, For He has done wonderful things," (Psalm 98:1) We certainly need to "sing out" about what has taken place within us. The work of the Spirit has enabled us to sing a new song let's make it heard!

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 29, 2021

Bill Crowder tells of a sobering experience he had during a speaking engagement in Jakarta, Indonesia. The elders of the church came to him before he was to speak and asked for his Bible. They said that they would return his Bible to him in front of the entire audience just before he spoke. They explained that, as elders, they were responsible for the message to the congregation and giving him the Bible in view of the congregation was a tangible expression of their role as guardians of what the church would hear. This act would symbolize that the elders were entrusting to him the teaching of God's Word for that service. I have spoken in dozens of churches and have never experienced this.

Do we give this kind of respect and honor to God's Word in our worship? For several years now, I have asked my congregation to stand as God's Word is read and I usually do this when I am speaking elsewhere. Now, I am not suggesting the adoption of this little exercise, it is just something we do that I hope enhances the importance of what is about to take place.

Each time we open the Bible to study, we need to remember that we are looking at the very words of God. Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:16 that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Some translations render the word translated "God-breathed" here as "inspired." This is an accurate translation, but the literal "God-breathed" emphasizes who gave the inspiration. As we read and study God's Word, we are handling the very breath of God. Keeping this in mind should cause us not to take lightly what we are doing when we open God's Word. You aren't reading Shakespeare or Mark Twain or even Chuck Swindoll, you are reading what God has written.

Don't lose sight of what you are doing when you read God's Word whether publicly or devotionally. Don't lose sight of the importance of the study of God's Word whether you are at church or in your home. The Creator of all that is communicates with us through what He has written. Handle with care!

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 28, 2021

"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is almost the hymn that wasn't. The hymn was written by Joseph Scriven. Scriven was born in Ireland in 1820 and immigrated to Canada when he was 25. There, he faced a good deal of sorrow, as did many immigrants, along with his mother, who had also immigrated.

One incident that caused great pain was the accidental drowning of his fiancé. just hours before they were to be wed. Out of his experiences, he wrote the words to this now well-known hymn of comfort. However, he really never intended for it to be used in a public way. A neighbor who was sitting with him during an illness discovered the poem. When he asked Scriven about it, he was told it had been written for Scriven's mother to comfort her at a time of trouble. The neighbor encouraged him to publish the song, which Scriven did, and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" became one of the best-known hymns of solace of the past century.

Scriven did not at first see how his thoughts could be of any benefit to others, and therefore did not pursue sharing his words with others. However, they are. The words are a marvelous statement of God's care and Christ's friendship that are so helpful at times of great distress.

Those who have experienced times of duress have been given resources to cope with life's struggles. Sharing these struggles and these insights with others can be of great benefit to individuals who are caught in the grip of a heart-wrenching circumstance. Perhaps you can be a friend to bring help to a soul in need.

In Christ, we do have a special friend. Proverbs 18:24 tells us, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." This is what Christ will do for us. Indeed, as Scriven wrote, "What a Friend we have in Jesus."

Pastor Steve
Friday August 27, 2021

Upon occasion, I watch some of the renovation shows you find on HGTV. There are a number of shows where a older house is chosen and then modified to"bring it into the 21st century." I just get a kick out of hearing them say something like, "Oh, this house is so dated, it is stuck in the 70's (or 80's or even 90's)." Grief - wasn't that just yesterday?

I am glad I am following a Savior whose name will never go out of date. Revelation gives us his timeless name. John writes, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." (Revelation 22:13) The timeless name ascribed to the Savior reflects his timeless nature. We know that our Savior and his provision will never be out of date. His provision is current, his help is never late.

Jesus is not bound by time and his provision is always what we need at just the time we need it. And, by the way, he doesn't need impressive music and graphics to announce his presence in our lives. He is real and he is always there for us when we need him.

Pastor Steve
Thurday August 26, 2021

The fear of flying is a wide-spread phenomenon. There are millions of folks who would not step on an airplane for love nor money, despite the fact that air travel is statistically safer than riding in a car or even taking a bath. According to research, the issue here is not the fear of crashing, but the idea of relinquishing control of one's life when you are in the air.

A similar crisis of faith occurs at times among those of us who are followers of Christ. We struggle with issues and experience fear because of circumstances not because of the issues themselves but because of the need to leave the "solid ground" of what we know and trust in an invisible God. This is not a new occurrence. Many who followed Christ when he was on the earth had a "crisis of faith."

Just after Christ fed the 5,000, he continued to teach them and tell them what following him would truly mean. I encourage you to read John 6 to get the entire story. I want to emphasize the size of his audience - thousands. At the end of his teaching, which centered around the need to trust him and not rely on what they had previously known, they replied, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" (John 6:60) As a result, ""From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (John 6:66) Only the Twelve remained from a crowd of thousands.

Christ asked the remnant this question, "You do not want to leave too, do you?" (vs. 67). Peter's response was, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:68-69) Even as Christ is the One who provides for us the way of eternal life, he is also the One who provides for us assurance and help through the difficulties of life. We need to relinquish control of our lives to help conquer our fears. We need to say, as did Peter, "We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 25, 2021

Church camp was an important part of my spiritual life and spiritual development. I went to church camp as a kid, was a counselor as a college student, and then served as camp director for several church camps when I became a pastor. I was saddened many years ago when the camp kids from our church attended closed because of financial concerns. I remember that campground with a great deal of fondness.

One feature of the rustic chapel located at that camp was a sign that hung up front that read, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple." (Habakkuk 2:20) Now, from a human perspective, the chapel was, as I said earlier, rustic. Does God inhabit such a building? Of course he does! When God's children were in that building, God was there! I can attest to his presence as I saw many responses of faith in that place. God used that place to touch lives, challenge followers, and change people. God is where his people are.

It is fine that we want to have nice places to spend time in worship, but we need to remember that it is not the building that brings about the worship, it is the people that bring about the worship. God inhabited the temple in the Old Testament, now he inhabits his followers. Wherever we gather we can worship God. That marvelous little chapel at the south end of that camp was a beautiful place - not perhaps so much in its appearance, but because of the marvelous experiences of worship that took place there. Right there, in that very spot, indeed, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple."

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 24, 2021

I would imagine that most of you have seen signs at some businesses that state you need to have the exact cash amount needed for your purchase, or use a card, as no change will be given. There is a shortage of coins, it seems, as the mints have not kept up production because of Covid-19. So, some businesses have adopted this policy.

One thought that has been put forward to help alleviate the shortage is a call for folks to relinquish their "change jars," or whatever they might use where they collect their change. Most folks collect change - Scherry and I do and tell our grandkids it is for an "ice cream fund" that we use on summer trips.

This might be a viable solution to the shortage. According to one article I read, the average household has about thirty dollars "socked" away (pun intended). That may not sound like much, but collectively that amounts to $7.7 billion dollars. So, you can see that a point may be made for contributing to the cause and turning our coins into paper.

I think this is a good picture of the family of Christ. There is a great deal of need in our world, both spiritual and physical. As we look at what we have to offer as individuals, it may not appear to be very much. However, when we pool our resources, well, you can see what the results can be. This needs to take place in our local assemblies, and I hope that it is. We need to understand that by working together, we can accomplish so much more than when we work alone.

Thirty dollars isn't all that impressive, but $7.7 billion is. I Corinthians 12:12 tells us, "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ." Let's work together to see what we can accomplish.

Pastor Steve
Monday August 23, 2021

When a substance is poured into a container to the point that the container can no longer contain the substance being poured in, the substance that overflows is the same as the substance being poured. I know this statement doesn't surprise anyone because this is simply natural law. What about if I told you of a time when what overflows is different from what is being poured?

This can happen in our spiritual lives. Often, we find ourselves in situations where it seems that suffering is being poured in in abundance. Paul reminds us that when we find ourselves experiencing an abundance of pain, comfort can be the overflow as we trust in the grace and provision of God.

We read in II Corinthians 1:5, "For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ"s. We look to the Lord during our times of struggle, He will provide an overflow of help through those times of struggle.

This is not only for our benefit, but Paul, just one verse earlier, tells us,"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" (II Corinthians 1:4 - 5) In other words, the overflow of comfort we receive during our times of trouble is not only for us, but so that we can be of comfort to others who are also facing hard times. This defies the logic and the principles of the natural world, but when we place our lives into the supernatural care of God, we experience what we would not expect. Trust God for the overflow!

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 22, 2021

I have always enjoyed mysteries. When I was young I enjoyed reading "The Three Investigators" and "The Hardy Boys". These mystery series enthralled me with the "whodunnit" or the "what happens next" genre.

Following God can sometimes seem like a mystery as we do not know what is coming next. This can be frightening at times as we struggle through some of the events we encounter and some of the circumstances we face. We can't see the whole picture from our current perspective. This means we need to make a choice - continue to live in fear or live confidently as we trust God for the outcome. As I would read the mysteries, even though I did not know all the particulars along the way, I always knew the outcome would be positive. That was just the nature of the mysteries I read. We can have the same confidence with the "mystery" of our life with God.

Even though we don't know all the particulars, we know what the outcome will be. Paul writes, "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed." (I Corinthians 15:51) We know that whatever we face, whatever the struggle, following God means that our mysteries will have a good outcome. The ending of our mystery is a life with God and a resolution of the struggles we face. The last page of the great mystery we face is a glorious ending.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 21, 2021

This year, gardens have been tremendously productive because of the very favorable growing conditions. Our garden was not so good, but not because of the weather. We don't have a garden because of a deer problem. Deer also have a way of knowing when gardens are good. So, thanks to all who have shared their bounty with us.

Crops are doing well because of the consistent moisture and the moderate temperatures. Gardens and crops are reaching their full potential because of the optimal growing conditions. We are seeing what plants can do when they are provided with the right ingredients.

As believers we need to provide the right environment and the right conditions in order to make sure our spiritual gardens are able to grow and thrive the way they should. Peter tells us what we need to do to have an abundant harvest. We need to "make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1:5-8)

Make sure your garden flourishes by providing the right environment. You can't control the elements that influence the growth of your vegetables, but you can provide the right environment to enhance your faith. Let the garden of your soul reach its full potential by providing what is needed for growth.

Pastor Steve
Friday August 20, 2021

Over the centuries, thousands of tourists have visited the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. This citadel located on a hill in Athens was the site of many religious debates, perhaps even visited by the Apostle Paul, as it is situated near the location of his debate with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers recorded in Acts 17. There are chips of marble lying around that many have taken as souvenirs over the years.

There never seems to be a shortage of these pieces, even though many visitors carried a piece with them as they left. How can this be? Vernon Grounds gives the explanation, "Every few months a truckload of marble fragments from a quarry miles away is scattered around the whole Acropolis area. So, tourists go home happy with what they think are authentic pieces of ancient history."

We need to be careful to not be deceived by imitations. It is so easy to be deceived. One needs to be careful to not be deceived by groups claiming to be followers of Christ, when actually they are following a false doctrine. How can you tell when a group is false? The simplest, and most important test, is ask, "What do you believe about Jesus Christ?" If they do not believe that Christ is the perfect, eternal Son of God, fully God and fully human, who died and rose again for our justification, then what they are saying and teaching is just as false as the chips of marble trucked to the Acropolis.

Don't be confused by imitation "chips." Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) Follow the One who is genuine!

Stephen
Thursday August 19, 2021

Sometimes we view a setback or an adverse circumstance as some sort of failure on our part. Many teach that if we are faithful as followers of God, we won't face adversity. If we are struggling, it is because of a lack of trust in God. I don't agree with this and I think folks who have this point of view are ignoring Hebrews 11. This passage outlines the lives of many great people of faith. It speaks to their commitment and their unrelenting trust in God. However, it also addresses the negative consequences many faced because of their great faith.

We read in Hebrews 11:35-37, "There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated." This description follows that of many who were much more victorious in their lives and experiences. So, does that mean that those who didn't receive deliverance were not blessed and were less faithful? Not hardly. Hebrews 11:39 tells us, These were ALL (emphasis mine) commended for their faith." They all asked for help, all asked for victory, but not all received the same answer. This was not because of their lack of faith; it was because God had different plans for all of them. Remember Paul's request to be delivered from a "thorn in the flesh?" (II Corinthians 12:7)? He wasn't, because God gained glory through Paul's affliction.

Don't view affliction or a failure as a statement of a lack of faith. Continue to be faithful and know that God knows your heart!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 18, 2021

In 1911, Bobby Leach was the second person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls. He did so in a specially designed steel barrel. He had a few scrapes and bruises, but no broken bones or serious injuries. He was able to accomplish this because he knew of the dangers ahead of time and was able to prepare to face the dangers and survive.

In 1926, while on a publicity tour in New Zealand, Leach slipped on an orange peel and broke his leg. Infection set in the leg, leading to gangrene, and the leg had to be amputated. Two months later, Leach died from further complications involving the leg. He was unable to see the dangers that were ahead when he slipped on the orange peel. As a result, he lost his life in a trip on a slick sidewalk while surviving a fall over raging falls.

We can do our best to prepare for future trips over raging waterfalls, only to find ourselves being tripped by the unseen orange peel. We can try all that we can to prepare for future events, but there will always be situations and circumstances that arise from the realm of the unexpected. It is good to prepare as best we can, but we cannot eliminate the need for trust. We just cannot prepare for every eventuality or possibility. That is why faith is an important aspect of our lives as followers of Christ.

Psalm 20:7 tells us, Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 27:13-14 contains a marvelous affirmation of faith, I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Building strong barrels has its place, but we still need to trust God because of the possibility of orange peels.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 17, 2021

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
Monday August 16, 2021

Many years ago I attended a drag race featuring some Top Fuel dragsters. The fuel used in Top Fuel racing is 90% nitromethane and 10% methanol. Please don't try to use this fuel in your family car to improve horsepower. Your car wouldn't last very long with this in the tank. Engines in the dragsters are specially constructed to use this mix and, as you would expect, the car goes really fast. Another property about the fuel mix is when it burns, you can't see the flames. That can be dangerous. I remember watching a driver fly out of a car and start swatting himself all over. At first, it looked a little comical until you realized that he was on fire and could have been seriously hurt had the pit crew not reacted as quickly as they did and extinguished the invisible blaze.

Someone mistakenly said once, "What you can't see can't hurt you." Whoever said this ignored a great deal of harmful things that cannot be seen. Bacteria and viruses are not detectable with the naked eye, yet can cause a great deal of harm. In the spiritual realm, we know that our adversary is invisible and can cause us great harm if we are not vigilant. Satan and his allies cannot be seen, yet we know they are there and are bent on our destruction. Ephesians 6:12 informs us: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

So how can you keep from being harmed by an unseen foe? Being aware that he is there is one help. Trusting in our powerful, yet invisible, Father is another. Paul proclaims trust in the invisible God in I Timothy 1:17, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." We depend upon our invisible God to help us against our invisible foe. Constantly lean upon him and declare your confidence in God's hand of protection. He will keep you from being harmed by Satan s invisible flames.

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 15, 2021

This is the time of year when there is a scene being repeated thousands of times all across the United States - parents giving their child one more hug before they drive off and leave them at college for the first time. Are you one of those parents? If you are, I can appreciate how you must be feeling. We went through this rite of passage with our two daughters. It is a time that is both exciting, yet a source of fear; happy, yet a cause of sadness; necessary, yet a breeding ground for uncertainty. Have I covered all the bases?

I would imagine Jochabed might have experienced many of these same ambivalent feelings as she placed her infant son in a pitch-lined basket and set him to float among the reeds that grew along the banks of the Nile River. Can you imagine the amount of faith it must have taken to follow this course of action? She knew she needed to have faith in God to protect her son. This faith continued to be evident when she took Moses to Pharaoh s daughter to join Pharaoh s household. "So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, 'I drew him out of the water.'" In order for Moses to become the person God wanted him to be, Jochabed had to place him in God's hands.

As parents, there comes a time when we do the same thing. We do all we can for our children, and one of the most important things we can do is place them in hands of God. One thing is for sure, we know he is capable of taking good care of them.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 14, 2021

I know you are familiar with, and probably have used at some point, phrases using animal references to describe human behavior or character. Someone who is deceitful is a "snake in the grass;" someone demonstrating greed is a "hog;" a coward is a "chicken, or a grouch is an "old bear." We also talk about being "hungry as a wolf," or being an "old sly fox."

This practice has been around a long time; we even see examples of this in the Bible. Jesus, referring to Herod, said, "Go tell that fox, 'I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'" (Luke 13:32)

Another reference in scripture that is not quite as direct is when Paul describes followers of Christ as "new creatures." In II Corinthians 5:17, we read "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature:" We are indeed new "creatures," but we need to beware of old "animal instincts."

As followers of Christ, we are forgiven people, but we still have the ability to manifest some undesirable traits. We still struggle with deceit, with bad attitudes, with bad habits, and other bad behavior. That is why we need to rely upon God s presence to control the beast within.

This is a constant, daily struggle. Paul tells us, "do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." (Romans 6:12) These desires don't give up easily; but through dependence upon the power of the Spirit of God, and a focus on His provision, we can find what is needed to "soothe the savage beast."

Pastor Steve
Friday August 13, 2021

In his book, "Love as a Way of Life," Gary Chapman uses a pointed metaphor for words. He says that words can either be "bullets or seeds." Words can be used as bullets to inflict wounds, instill poisonous thoughts, and cause injury to others. This can happen in a random setting when personalities are brought together to interact in some matter. This can happen in relationships where people who should be demonstrating caring, loving behavior allow circumstances to warp communication.

Rather than bullets, words should be used as seeds to grow health in relationships Words should be used as seeds to build bridges and restore good will. Words should be used in positive and life-affirming ways wo build relationships.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Proverbs talks about words that heal and allow for growth, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." (Proverbs 16:24) Seeds are much more preferable that bullets.

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 12, 2021

In my job with Design Resource Group when we lived in Dallas, I worked with a plethora of different products from various office systems design companies. My favorite was Herman Miller. Herman Miller has been around since 1905 and produces office furniture and products for the home. The company is credited with inventing "office cubicles," a line of products called Action Office that revolutionized office design. They are the ones who produced the famed Eames office chair.

Herman Miller products always seemed to be constructed with the user in mind. Now, I know all companies would have this aim, it would seem, but for some reason Herman Miller does it best. I much preferred installing their product over against all the other companies that produced similar items. Their design philosophy extended to ease of installation as well and this was really helpful. Keeping others in mind greatly enhanced what they were trying to accomplish.

This would seem to be a good thing to consider for all of us walking through life together. Keeping others in mind is a good thing to do and greatly enhances our life experiences. For those of us who are followers of Christ, this is an essential philosophy. This is what Christ wants us to do and our efforts as followers of Christ are greatly strengthened with this outlook.

Philippians 2:3-4 tells us, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." I don't know if Herman Miller got their attitude from this scripture reference, but I know we should.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 11, 2021

One of the topics that pops up in my writings on a fairly consistent basis is the importance of listening. I have often said that I think listening is becoming a "lost art," and we need to reverse that trend in our lives. This is true in general, and is often all too true when it comes to our listening to God.

William Barclay wrote in his book, "The Plain Man's Book of Prayers", "Prayer is not a way of making use of God; prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest, we wait in silence for God's voice to us." This is a practice that we need to develop. Listening to others is so very important; listening to God is absolutely essential.

Isaiah 50:4 5 speaks to the importance of listening, "The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away." Turn towards God's voice; listening to Him is never a bad idea.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 10, 2021

I have been to Chicago many times, but I have only made to the top of the Willis Tower once. The building was known as the Sears Tower and was, at the time, the tallest building in the United States. We went to the observation floor in anticipation of a beautiful view of the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. Well, what we saw didn't quite meet up with our expectations. Because of fog, our view was very short-sighted. In spite of the fact of our elevated position, we were unable to see more than a few feet.

Sometimes we have this problem in our spiritual lives. God has raised us up to an elevated position, but we often allow things to fog up our vision to the point where we are limited in what we see. We put our own agendas ahead of God's, we let sin creep into our lives that brings barriers to seeing God's path, we fail to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in our lives, or we simply disregard what we know to be true. We need to eliminate what keeps us from seeing God's plan for our lives. We need to develop our vision by concentrating on his leadership. We need to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that our vision is clear.

Our prayer should be that of the psalmist, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (Psalm 119:18) Clara H. Scott wrote, "Open my eyes that I may see; glimpses of truth thou hast for me." This should be our greatest desire.

Pastor Steve
Monday August May 09, 2021

A man was talking with his pastor about an upcoming trip to the Holy Land. "You know, pastor, I am looking forward to going to Mt. Sinai, or at least where they believe Mt. Sinai is. I plan to climb to the top of that mountain and read the Ten Commandments out loud." The pastor said, "That's a good thing - but I can think of something even better. Make sure you follow the ten commandments when you get home."

The scripture says a number of things about hearing and doing. While it is a good thing that we want to hear what God has to say to us, what is more important is doing what God wants us to do. James 1:21 - 24 tells us, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

There is another reference in James that emphasizes the need for doing in an even stronger way. James 4:17 tells us, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them. "Don't forget what you look like - make sure you do what needs to be done more so than just hearing what needs to be heard!

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 08, 2021

When I was a youngster, I really liked to stand on top of a bridge that crossed a creek near my grandparents' home and drop stones into the water below. The water tended to pool a little bit at that point, so I was able to create a great ripple effect. I would stand there for ages doing this. I enjoyed watching the ripples spread out to the surrounding shorelines and I would imagine that I was changing the shorelines with the ripples I created.

Although my efforts probably didn't have any effect on the shorelines in my youth, our lives do produce ripples that have an effect on us and on others. We always need to remember this as we make decisions and interact with others. Who we really are and who we are becoming show up in the choices we make.

Paul encouraged believers to make good choices. He wrote, "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ," (Philippians 1:9-10) We will make ripples make sure they are good ones.

Pastor Steve
Saturday August 07, 2021

On August 7, 1801, 25,000 came to a meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky, to hear Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian ministers preach. According to American Minute, the largest town in the entire state of Kentucky at that time had a population of only 2,000. What was going on? This was part of what became known at the Second Great Awakening. This great revival started in the frontier of the fledgling United States and served to strengthen the spirits of those who were working to build a new country. Fresh from the conflict that led to American independence and on the verge of a yet unknown new conflict, this movement of the Spirit of God encouraged the citizens of this new country and bolstered their spirits. This movement fostered a tremendous growth of denominations, enhanced women's rights, and paved the way for the abolitionist movement. Reports from this meeting at Cane Ridge include the following, "The power of God seemed to shake the whole assembly...the cries of the distressed arose...No person seemed to wish to go home." No one wanted to go home? Oh, my, that would be different!

How did the Awakening start? Was it out of some great convocation of churches or the result of some evangelism committee? It began on the Kentucky frontier when James McGready and his small congregation agreed to "bind ourselves to observe the third Saturday of each month for one year as a day of fasting and prayer for the conversion of sinners in Logan County and throughout the world." The revival spread from there as this little church also agreed to "spend one half hour every Saturday evening, beginning at the setting of the sun, and one half hour every Sabbath morning at the rising of the sun in pleading with God to revive His work." (American Minute)

Have you ever thought what might happen in our time should some small group or church start praying? Most great revivals - the Great Awakening of the 18th century, the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century, the Laymen's Prayer Revival of the mid-19th century, had small beginnings. They were not engineered from some mass movement or plan. They started because a group of people obeyed the leadership of the Holy Spirit. We are in a time when a revival would be a marvelous event. Let's obey the Spirit and see what happens. Let's agree with the psalmist who wrote, "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation." (Psalm 85:6-7)

Pastor Steve
Friday August 06, 2021

I enjoy shopping for groceries. I am not a great cook, but I like to cook, and I also like to eat, so you need stuff to cook to eat. In addition, I think my enjoyment is somehow tied to memories I have of going with Mom when I was a little kid to get stuff. It may also arise from thoughts I have about being sent over the hill from where we lived to Lawrence Baker s store to get food items. Going to Baker's was always an enjoyable experience; I know some of you remember Mr. Baker.

Whatever got me started on the right foot in this vein, it has continued. Of course, one thing I always try to avoid is going to a grocery store on an empty stomach. Oh, that can be bad. My stomach says "Feed ME!", so I start cramming my cart with goodies for my growling inside.

Now, really, this isn't bad in and of itself. It is good that I get hungry to let me know that I need nourishment; but it could be rough on the wallet. Still, wanting to eat well and taking care of my hunger is a good thing.

We should have a spiritual hunger, you know? We should have a heartfelt desire, an actual craving, for the things of God. We have a deep, spiritual longing for what God can provide, and we should allow this longing to guide actions that lead to satisfying this longing. Jesus tells us, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6) There is no problem with going hungry to God s "grocery store!"

Pastor Steve
Thursday August 05, 2021

Memory is a funny thing. We all struggle with remembering things. According to Karen Bolla, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, these are the things we forget the most: Names (83%); where something is (60%); telephone numbers (57%); words (53%); what was said (49%); faces (42%). and whether you've just done something (38%).

Followers of Jesus Christ often have a problem with memory. We forget what he has done for us. We forget the power he has for us. We try to deal with temptation in our own power. We forget what we should be doing for him. We forget our responsibility to others. We forget what our lives should be as believers in Christ.

We need to turn our lives into his hands and allow his power to guide us so that we can be solid followers of him. Psalm 103:2 encourages us to Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits. Don't forget to walk in the power of Christ! David wrote, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." There are times we cannot trust our memory because we are forgetful. There are times we cannot trust our own abilities because we are unable to stand on our own. We need to trust "in the name of the Lord our God." Don't forget!

Pastor Steve
Wednesday August 04, 2021
Sometimes we hear the phrase "fight fire with fire." As I imagine you know, this phrase is based on the practice of lighting backfires to create a barrier that helps prevent a threatening fire from spreading. I have used this term before in a previous post, but I want to go in a different direction with it today. Instead of fighting fire with fire, what about learning how to "fight fear with fear?"

Right now, we have a great number of things that produce fear - ominous terrorist threats, frightful weather-related issues, tensions among societal groups, rising crime rates, and if that is not enough, we have experienced a new cause for fear over the last year and a half in the form of an invisible bug. So, what can help?

We are encouraged by the scripture to fight fear with fear. The source of strength and help in fearful times is our Lord whom we are called upon to fear. Proverbs 14;26-27 tells us, "Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death." I don't think I need to belabor the point of the meaning of "fear" in this verse, but let me remind you. It is not used in the sense of being afraid or being terrified. It is referring to faith and trust that is centered on God and His presence in one's life. Proverbs 29:25 tells us, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."

When we fear God and trust his provision, the fear of what is there diminishes. David tells us that walking with God prevents walking in fear, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." (Psalm 23:4). So, fight fear with fear. Doing so brings peace to our lives in the midst of problematic times.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday August 03, 2021

Well, today is my birthday. Birthdays are interesting things. They provide you with a reason to celebrate and be the center of attention for a little while. Birthday parties are always nice and offer a chance for folks to get together. This year, I am getting to spend time with my kids and grandkids. We tend not to take these times for granted anymore, don t we? Those of us with birthdays this month can make the claim that we are the reason for celebrations in August, as there are no official holidays.

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Monday August 02, 2021

Some time ago, I walked into a store looking to buy a certain item and was greeted by an employee who asked, "May I help you?" I told the clerk what I needed, but was greeted with an expression that made me realize the person had no clue about what I was asking. So, I went to the area where I thought I might find the item, and there it was. I walked into the same store recently and was greeted by a different employee who asked, "May I help you?" I told them what I needed, and was greeted with a "Follow me." The person took me to the item, actually items. The employee pointed out the choices that I had and then gave a description of the differences in my options. Which of these two experiences do you think I found most helpful?

We who represent Christ are not trying to "sell" anything, but this sales experience demonstrates that a person who knows something about the product that is being offered can provide a more helpful experience than one who does not. We who are called to be representatives of Christ to others need to know about what we are representing, and need to live in such a way that we accurately portray the benefits of a life in Christ. We need to know what the scripture says about walking with the Savior and what is expected from a follower of Christ so that we can speak to others in an informed and an effective way.

II Timothy 2:15 tells us, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." This should be our desire so that we can help others who want to know about him make the right choice.

Pastor Steve
Sunday August 01, 2021

Karl Barth was exiled to Switzerland during World War II. Upon his return to the University of Bonn when the war was over, his began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. As believers, it is an affirmation that is assumed, however we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

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

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

Pastor Steve

Activities

Weekly Schedule

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

Schedule


Our Pastor

Pastor Steve Willis

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

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

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

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


Invitation

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

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

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

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

Our Church

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

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

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

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

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