First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Updated - 4/1/2021>

What a marvelous day we had this past Sunday celebrating our Risen Lord! We look forward to Sunday and being together in worship again. There will be a little change in our class schedule after morning worship. The adults will continue to meet in the Fellowship Hall. The kids will be divided for music with preschool through second grade having music from 10:15 to 10:30 and grades 3 – 6 having music from 19:45 – 11:00 a.m. Classes will meet in their usual rooms.

Sunday night April 11th will be the ABW Soup Supper. We will eat at 6 and then move to the church for a concert by “The Believers.” Everyone is welcome for this!

We start a new Wednesday evening group study on Wednesday, April 21, at 6 p.m. This will be “Imago Dei” and will be a look at our lives from the perspective of how they should look since we have been created in the image of God.

Sunday night, April 25, will be our Spring for Missions! We hope many of you will sign up to sing – it has been a bit since we have had our music celebrations! Sign up sheets are at the church. An offering will be taken that will go to support our various mission recipients. Mission agencies have had struggle along with everyone else over the past year = thank you for your continued support and don’t forget mission giving! Remember that your gift needs to be designated for missions to be used for mission support.

We are planning VBS this year for June 7 – 11. We have just one major slot to fill in our staff needs – we need teachers/helpers for either the Kindergarten/5 year-old class or for 1sr/2nd grade. We have folks who will take whatever class is not covered in this scenario. Contact the church office or Brooke Wolf. Thank you! More on VBS to come.

The Trustees want to give an update on our sign project. We have found a sign that is much more in accordance with the design we want and much more affordable than the original estimate of $25,000 plus. The cost for an LED sign the size that would best fit our property will be $15,000 installed. While still a significant amount, one-third of this total has already been received. We still plan on waiting until the full amount is received, and there is no timeframe for this, we will proceed when the money is there.

Pastor Steve

Pastor Steve Willis

Wednesday April 14, 2021

Well, I know I sound like a broken record when I say this (I can make this statement safely now since vinyl records have made a comeback), but I am having surgery today. It will be an outpatient procedure as I have a basal cell carcinoma on my face that needs to be removed. Normally, this is something that is not all that involved and is done in a doctor’s office. I have had this experience before. However, I waited too long before getting this thing removed and now the work has to be done in a surgical facility. Carle Hospital in Urbana, Illinois, is the scene of the removal. I have been a surgical patient at Carle twice before for back procedures.

Anyway, my lax attitude led to a scenario that should not have been. This can be the case with issues in our lives, can’t it? Putting off what needs to be done can lead to difficult circumstances. One suggestion I convey is to not put off medical decisions that need to be made. In my case, it is not a great issue. In other scenarios, it certainly could be.

This is also an important issue when it comes to many other decisions and actions, including one’s decision to become a follower of Christ. This is not a decision that should be set aside for a later time. Proverbs 27:1 warns us about thinking that we will always have tomorrow, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” So, don’t put off what needs to be done, especially when it involves your relationship with the Savior.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 13, 2021

What do you want to do for the Lord today? Many of you may be saying, "Well, I really haven't given that much thought." Therein lies the problem. Often, we spend way too much time on trivial pursuits and not enough time on really important considerations.

Do you remember Everybody Loves Raymond? It was popular around the turn of the century (I just couldn t resist saying that). In one episode, Debra confronts Raymond about his lack of desire to do something worthwhile. One of her statements is, "You said the church carnival really wasn't your thing because you didn't think the Lord wanted you to try to fleece other people for money." Her complaint is that Raymond really didn't want to do anything.

We are often like that in our service for God. We have a number of excuses and reasons why we aren't doing anything. We want to do what we want to do and are not concerned about what God wants us to do. We have "Raymond excuses" and I really don't think God wants to hear them. This is not right, and it is an attitude that needs to be eliminated.

Moses tried this - he had "Raymond" excuses when it came to doing what God wanted him to do. We read in Exodus 3:13-14, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has sent me to you.'" God eventually said to Moses, in effect, "Quit making excuses and do what you know you should!" He says that to us as well. We need to quit making excuses and do what we know we should.

Pastor Steve
Monday April 12, 2021

David had a problem. For years, Saul pursued him and wanted to kill him. Twice David had the opportunity to end the conflict by taking Saul's life, but he wouldn't do this. He knew he needed to rely on God and his wisdom. At a confrontation just after David spared Saul's life for the second time, David said, "The king of Israel has come out to look for a flea--as one hunts a partridge in the mountains." (I Samuel 26:20)

How did David cope with this prolonged struggle? By continuing to rely on God's presence and his love. He knew there was no other recourse but to continue to place himself in God's hands and trust his promises. He brought his problems to the Lord and registered his complaint with him. He asked, "How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" (Psalm 13:1) However, he proclaimed his faith in God's plan and proclaimed his understanding that God knows best. "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord s praise, for he has been good to me." (Psalm 13:5-6)

Facing protracted difficulties is not easy. When we do, we need to bring our complaints to God and give them to him. God interacts with his children and will help bring us to a place where we come back to certainties: He loves us in spite of what we experience. God will not leave us alone and will help see us though the conflict. David had a problem and sometimes so do we, but there is no problem we have to face alone.

Pastor Steve
Sunday April 11, 2021

It has been a week since the resurrection and what a week it has been! We know that sometime during the evening a week ago Christ appeared to his disciples in the room where they were staying (hiding?) They were overjoyed by his appearance. Perhaps there were other times during the week when they had encounters with him. Well, all of them except one.

John gives us the best outline of the week - "Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.' A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" (John 20:24-29)

Thomas was absent of the first Sunday, and when he heard about the appearance of Christ, he was a little incredulous in his response. I don't know what all Christ did the next week, but obviously he was never where Thomas was, until the next Sunday. Then comes one of the most fascinating meetings recorded in the Gospels. When Thomas sees Christ, his recognition is immediate. Christ really did not chide him for his "unbelief," but it was almost as if he said, "You need to believe whether you see me or not."

Many often remark, "Oh, if only I could actually see Christ!" To those who say this, Christ's response is like that to Thomas - believe me whether you see me or not! Christ is alive - don't use not seeing him as an excuse for not believing. It won't work.

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 10, 2021

I begin my article today with a statement that I could not have made this time last year: We are a week into the MLB season. As we exist in the present and look to the future, let me tease you with a name from the past - Bernie Carbo. Now, unless you are a Cincinnati Reds or a Boston Red Sox fan, or maybe some Cardinals fans will remember him, you probably won t recognize this name. He came up with the Reds in 1969 and had a great rookie year in 1970, hitting 21 home runs.

Carbo didn t fit the "conservative" mold of the Reds because of his flamboyance, so he was traded to the Cardinals, but eventually ended up with the Red Sox. There, he did some things in the 1975 World Series (against the Reds, as many of you remember) that has made him the answer to a couple of sports trivia questions: "Who holds the record for the most pinch-hit home runs in a series?" (Carbo, 2. actually shares this record) and "Who hit the home run which tied the game and set up Carlton Fisk's famous game winning home run in the 6th game of the 1975 series?" (Carbo).

What I think is more interesting is what Carbo is doing now - he is an evangelist who travels and speaks at churches across the nation. In a TV interview sometime back, he told of how he wants to impress on as many people as he can that God loves them and wants to have a relationship with them. He also speaks in schools on anti-drug themes and positive self-image emphases. It is interesting to see the impact he is having on folks now. Carbo had a substance abuse problem, but eventually became sober and credits his decision to turn his life over to God as what helped him get things straight.

I was a Carbo fan, and was disappointed when the Reds traded him in 1972, but it is nice to see the direction he has followed. As many people as he might have influenced as a professional baseball player, more are being influenced by his current ministry. And the message he now conveys has a greater impact - we can live forever with God if we make the right decision.

God asks the question in Isaiah 6:8, "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I (Isaiah) said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" It is good that Bernie Carbo answered God's call. But we don't have to be a former professional ballplayer to be used of God - he wants to and can use you, if you say yes to him. I hope that you do because it is indeed time to "play ball!"

Pastor Steve
Friday April 09, 2021
Twenty-five years ago, we did a renovation to our church. There were two phases to this update - one was to expand our fellowship hall and the other was to build a balcony in the church to provide more seating. A member of the church drew some plans for the project and we contacted a local contractor to do the work.

As the contractor began the construction, he came to me and said, "Come with me. I want to show you something." We walked into the church and he said, "You see that back wall? Well, we have discovered that it doesn't go straight across. It has a slight curve. This was the way it was built. Now, that will not pose a big problem. We will just adjust our work accordingly, but I just wanted to point that out."

I thought this was rather interesting. No one, not even the person who drew the plans, had noticed the curve. It was an architectural feature that went unnoticed until you placed a "straight edge" on the wall. Then it was obvious that the wall did not go straight across.

This can happen in our spiritual lives as well. We can experience curves that are imperceptible to the "naked eye." That is why we need to constantly depend upon the "straight edge" of God's Word and the leadership of the Holy Spirit to make sure we keep going the right way.

In the matter of the wall in our church, that was not a great problem, but it did require some adjustments for the alterations. In our lives we can experience curves that are of greater consequence and need to be avoided. That back wall looked so straight to us when we were looking at it. So it is with our spiritual walk. We think we are proceeding along a path that is as straight as can be, but in reality there are dangers and difficulties that we don't perceive. Proverbs 3:6 advises us, "In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight." Don't just "eyeball" your spiritual walk; let God direct you through His Word and through His leadership.

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 08, 2021

Samuel DiPiazza was CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers from 2002 2009. He wrote a book about building integrity, trust, and believability in relationships in the business world. He wrote, "either you have it or you don't." He promotes a culture of transparency and accountability.

A good question is: Can you acquire integrity if you are a person who has demonstrated that you are less than believable at times? Certainly, you can by demonstrating character and trustworthiness. DiPiazza contends that you cannot acquire this characteristic if you aren't a person with inherent integrity. I disagree.

With the work of God within you, a fundamental change in character is indeed possible. David asked God "teach me your statutes." (Psalm 119:124) Proverbs 11:3 says, "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them." Such integrity is something that comes from within, but is a trait that can be acquired and developed. Through turning our lives into the hands of the Lord and trusting the work of the Spirit, we can see our character transformed and our hearts made right. Develop integrity through trust in God's hand. He will guide your ways.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday April 07, 2021

One of the common characteristics we see among those who had an encounter with Christ after the resurrection was that they were changed. Mary Magdalene was changed from a sorrowing mourner into an energetic informer. "Mary stood outside the tomb crying." became "Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: 'I have seen the Lord!'" (John 20:11 & 18) Thomas went from a questioning skeptic to a professing believer. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands" became "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:25 & 28)

Perhaps one of the greatest changes came within a person who had been a close ally of Christ before the crucifixion, then went through a period of doubt and turmoil because his actions brought him shame. Some might say he even displayed cowardice at a time when strength was needed. This all changed when he encountered the resurrected Christ. Peter was transformed from issuing disclaimers to a powerful proclaimer. "I am not" became "Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: 'Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.'" (John 18:17 & Acts 2:14)

Having an encounter with the Resurrected Lord brings change. Some may contend, "Well, of course there was change for them, they saw him face to face." But there is more to the change that just a reaction to what they saw. An encounter with the resurrected Christ changed more than just their mental attitude about Christ; there was an inner change brought about by the Spirit of Christ that transformed them to the very core of their being.

This transformation takes place in all who have an encounter with the Resurrected Christ. Seeing him is one thing, but even Christ said, "Blessed are those who have not seen, yet have believed." (John 20:29) An encounter with the Resurrected Christ does change our mental attitude. It also changes our outlook. We are changed to the very core of our being. Being changed by Christ brings hope and brings assurance that permeate our being even at the darkest moments of our lives. There is a release because we have been freed from the bondage we endured during our days as unrighteous people.

When we encounter the Resurrected Christ, we are new people with a new outlook, a new hope, and a new sense of purpose. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (II Corinthians 5:17) I hope you have been changed through an encounter with the Resurrected Christ. Allow Him to help you make the change.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday April 06, 2021

Perhaps many of you have sponsored a child through one of the several organizations that exist to try to help provide a better world for children. I read a story about a lady who was sponsoring a child in an impoverished nation. She made arrangements through the organization to visit the child. The visit was facilitated and the woman met the young girl who was living in conditions that were hard for her to describe. She decided to take the little girl to a restaurant - perhaps the first time she had ever visited one. The girl ordered a hamburger and french fries along with a drink. Her sponsor ordered a salad.

When the food came, the girl looked at the food before her, maybe the most food she had ever seen at one time, and then looked at what the woman had ordered. She must have thought the small salad the lady had before her was not going to be enough to eat because she took her knife, cut her hamburger in two, and offered it to her benefactor, asking, "Hungry?"

Can you imagine that? This little girl who had next to nothing was willing to share what she had so that someone else might have something too. The child serves as a reminder to us of what we need to be willing to do - share what we have with others so that those who have nothing may have something.

This was a characteristic of the early church that helped to set them apart from the standards of the world. "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need." (Acts 4:32-35) We need to continue to make this a priority in our lives today. When we take care of the needs of others, we reflect the character of Christ.

Pastor Steve
Monday April 05, 2021

The first person to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection was Mary Magdalene. John wrote, "Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means 'Teacher')." (John 20:16) Mary had come to the tomb with two other ladies to properly dress Christs body after his burial. Mary was a follower of Christ who had been delivered from demonic oppression - "Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out." (Luke 8:2)

Christ appeared first to Mary for a reason, of course. Actually, there were a number of reasons for this, and one that comes to mind is that Mary was where she needed to be when she needed to be there. Her love and devotion and a desire to do what she could for Christ, even though he was dead (or so she thought), put her in a place of special blessing and acknowledgment. I realize there are other thoughts that we might consider to be more profound as to why she was first, but this is one that just seems to jump out at me.

I make an observation from this. If we are where we need to be when we need to be there in our relationship with the Savior, we put ourselves in a position of blessing and ministry. We receive blessings from the hands of Christ because of our obedience and we are able to minister more effectively to others because we are in the right spot at the right time, so to speak. I often close our services with the phrase, "Be where you need to be when you need to be there." The way this thought is phrased may be original with me, but the idea certainly isn't. Mary is a good example of putting yourself where God wants you to be.

Pastor Steve
Saturday April 03, 2021

During the week of the crucifixion, today is a day of mixed emotions and reactions. There must have been a widespread amazement to the events of the day before - the darkness, the rending of the veil between the Holy Place and the Holiest of Holies, and the resurrection of many dead people. The followers of Christ are confused, devastated, and afraid. The apostles have found a retreat in a room somewhere in Jerusalem. Most of the soldiers involved probably went about their lives - they had done this before, although Matthew 27 tells us that some of them were deeply moved by the events.

I don't know what was going through the minds of Pilate and Herod - neither were strangers to crucifixions - but this one was different. Pilate had to think about the events of Friday as the religious leaders wouldn't let him alone even though he had done there bidding. They were worried. The scripture tells us they were worried that Christ's followers would come and try to take the body. So, "The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 'Sir,' they said, 'we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, After three days I will rise again. So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.' 'Take a guard,' Pilate answered. 'Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.' So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard." (Matthew 27:62-66)

What about Christ? That is a good question. Many teach that he "descended into hell" to release captive saints that were waiting his deliverance. This is based on Ephesians 4:8 and I Peter 3:18-20. I take these verses to refer to his descent to the earth and his ministry there, not a descent into hell. We do know that he went to paradise - remember his promise to the dying thief? (Luke 23:43) As to what else he did during this time - well, we don't know everything about him, do we? Oh, but we know what he will do tomorrow! My, what tomorrow will bring!

Pastor Steve
Friday April 2, 2021

What happened on this day, Friday, during the "last" week of Christ's life should go without saying. However, we need to say it; we need to rehearse the details to remind us of the incredible path that God chose that would lead to redemption for those who choose to follow. After the arrest in Gethsemane, there was a night of interrogation and abuse through the trials of the Sanhedrin.

As dawn broke, Jesus was taken to Roman courts before Pontius Pilate, then Herod, then back to Pilate. Pilate gave the people a choice - Jesus or Barabbas. We know whom they chose. Events raced forward like a flood - the scourging, the crucifixion, the darkness, the earthquake, the veil of the temple torn in two, the graves of dead saints opened, the seven statements from the cross, the spear, Christ's death, and, of course, the burial. All in one day - a day we call Good Friday.

Christ was born at night and it became day; he was crucified during the day and it became as dark as night. A divine exchange took place - he bore our sins upon him so that we may have freedom from sin. "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (I Corinthians 5:12; 18-19) This is why we call today Good Friday.

Pastor Steve
Thursday April 1, 2021

Today is Thursday, Maundy Thursday, as we sometimes call it. The term "maundy" comes from the Latin word "mandatum" which means "command." This is a day when we reflect on Christ's final commands. Christ gave his disciples some pretty definitive instructions on Thursday before his crucifixion. Matthew 26 tells us how he told the disciples where to go and what to say in finding a location for them to celebrate Passover. Verse 18 says, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'"

Before celebrating the Passover, he washes their feet and later tells them, "A new command I give you: Love one another." (John 13:34) During the Passover observance, he gives them bread and tells them "Take and eat; this is my body." (Matthew 26; 26) After the supper he gave them the cup and said, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (26:27-28) He tells them to "do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19) Later, they would leave the room where they shared this last Passover and go to Gethsemane. There he would talk with His Father, chide his disciples for falling asleep, come face to face with his betrayer, be arrested, and taken before the Sanhedrin.

We need to remember his final commands as they tell us how we should relate to ourselves, our fellow believers, and our marvelous Savior. Made every day a "maundy" day by choosing to live by the commands of Christ. Pastor Steve

Wednesday March 31, 2021

Wednesday of the week of Christ's crucifixion was a very significant day. Of course, all of these days are significant. Wednesday is significant as it is a day of planning and plotting. According to John 12:47-50, "Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. 'What are we accomplishing?' they asked. 'Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.' Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, 'You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.''

There it is - minds are made up, a decision is made, now the only thing left to do is to determine how to implement the decision. And as this is being debated, in walks a man with just the ticket to put the scheme in motion. Judas "went to the chief priests and asked, 'What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?' So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over." (Matthew 26:14-16)

All is coming together for the religious leaders. What they do not realize is that they are setting in motion a plan that had been put together long before their present meeting. What happened on "Spy Wednesday", as some call this day, is not going to be a surprise to Christ. Still, when you think about it, all the diabolical plotting gets to you, doesn't it? How could they be so blind? A good question, but their actions will have consequences they would never expect.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 30, 2021

Monday night of the week of Christ's crucifixion was, once again, spent at the home of Jesus' friends - Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He returned to Jerusalem on Tuesday morning and spent the day in teaching, in confrontations with the religious leaders, and in preparation of his disciples for life without him. He told the story of the talents. He wanted to remind his followers that they had only one life and they should choose to spend it wisely. They had an opportunity to determine how they would live; they should choose to live for the Lord. We have the same choice. He also spoke of paying taxes - I just had to mention that in light of the time of year that it is. How are you doing on your taxes, by the way? None of my business – sorry I asked.

On Tuesday evening, Jesus and his disciples left the temple area, crossed the Kidron Valley, and made their way up to the Mount of Olives. As they were leaving the temple area, his disciples called to his attention the buildings they saw. To this, Christ replied, "'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'" (Matthew 24:2)

When they arrived at the Mount of Olives, they asked him when these things would take place. There, Christ spent some time talking about a future time and what would take place. He gave signs that indicate when future things would occur. He emphasized the need for readiness by telling the parable of the Ten Virgins. Then, they walked back to Bethany to spend the night.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 29, 2021

Today is Monday of Holy Week. Mark 11 tells us that after his grand entrance into Jerusalem the day before, Jesus went to Bethany with his disciples to spend the night. Why did he do this? Well, Bethany was close by – just across the Kidron Valley on the other side of the Mount of Olives. He had friends there – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And he needed rest. Sunday had been a rather eventful day (see yesterday’s post), and today was going to be eventful as well. Two rather deliberate events took place on Monday.

On his walk to Jerusalem that morning, Christ saw a fig tree that had no fruit even though it was time for it to have fruit. Mark tells us that he cursed the fig tree. We are known by the fruit that we produce. We should not try to pretend to be outwardly what we are not inwardly. I think you now the word for this, so I will not belabor the point.

His second activity was a face-off with some temple occupants. Christ was not happy with what he found in the temple – people using the worship system for financial gain. Folks coming to the temple needed sacrifices, and there were those willing to provide them at a price. So, what was wrong with this? Those doing the selling were “fleecing” (pardon the pun) those who were in need. So, Christ took care of this by clearing the temple.

Now, it seems obvious why Christ did this. God wants purity in our worship, and Christ stated this in no uncertain terms. (Mark 11:17) What I find interesting in this action is, why did Christ wait until now to do this? Now, I wasn’t back there then, but it would seem to me that this practice would have been there pretty much all during Christ’s ministry. Actually, we can pretty much be assured that it was because we can read that Christ had cleared the temple just after the start of his ministry. John 2:15 tells us, “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts.”

Why did he wait so long to do this again? I think it was a testimony to grace. This illustrates the idea that God wants to give folks a chance to respond to what they know to be right – to respond to Him. Christ had cleared the temple about three years earlier, demonstrating the desire of God for purity on the part of those who want to follow Him. John 2:17 tells us ““Zeal for your house will consume me.” God wants to give people time to come to this way of thinking. II Peter 3:15 says, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation,” Christ is patient, He is willing to wait, just don’t try his patience.

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 28, 2021

Just a few days before his crucifixion, Christ rode a donkey into Jerusalem and was greeted by a large crowd that proclaimed, “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord!” (Mark 11:9) We traditionally commemorate that event today, Palm Sunday.

Three ideas come to me as I think about what took place. The first has to do with the planning. Mark records the instructions given by Jesus to the disciples about the preparation for his ride into Jerusalem. This reminds me that the details of the week ahead were planned long before they took place. Christ planned the details of his death, burial, and the resurrection long before these events took place. Acts 2;23 tells us, “(Jesus) was handed over to you by God's deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” He planned for His own pain.

A second observation I made has to do with the people. A mass of people lined the “parade route” as Christ entered I mentioned earlier what they shouted as he rode into the city.. Mark records the response of another crowd four days later, a crowd that may have included many of the same people. Hear their words: “’Crucify him!’ they shouted. ‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ (Mark 15:14-15)

The final note I make has to do with the presence of Christ. Mark says this, “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.” (Mark 11:11)

What was Jesus thinking as he “looked around at everything?” We don’t know. He may have been thinking about all that would take place in the next few days. He may have been thinking about all that had taken place and all that was ahead. He may have been thinking about you. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:3) Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame.” Yes – He could very well have been thinking about you.

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 27, 2021

We have many opportunities in our lives to show whether we are acting wisely. We face situations and circumstances that call for correct thinking and good decisions. We can always make bad decisions and apply faulty thinking, but we would rather not do that. We have the option to choose wisely when we face events that are potentially life-changing.

At times, we have opportunities to make decisions that go against the grain of what is usual and common, but more accurately reflect the mind and attitude of God. We need to order our lives and make choices that reflect our obedience to God and honor him. Sometimes the choices are not easy choices, so we need to proceed wisely. We need to act in agreement with the wisdom of God. Pray for that wisdom.

James 3:17 tells us, "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." Ask God for that wisdom so that you might act wisely when you face a difficult decision.

Pastor Steve
Friday March 26, 2021

Today is Monday of Holy Week. Mark 11 tells us that after his grand entrance into Jerusalem the day before, Jesus went to Bethany with his disciples to spend the night. Why did he do this? Well, Bethany was close by – just across the Kidron Valley on the other side of the Mount of Olives. He had friends there – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And he needed rest. Sunday had been a rather eventful day (see yesterday’s post), and today was going to be eventful as well. Two rather deliberate events took place on Monday.

On his walk to Jerusalem that morning, Christ saw a fig tree that had no fruit even though it was time for it to have fruit. Mark tells us that he cursed the fig tree. We are known by the fruit that we produce. We should not try to pretend to be outwardly what we are not inwardly. I think you now the word for this, so I will not belabor the point.

His second activity was a face-off with some temple occupants. Christ was not happy with what he found in the temple – people using the worship system for financial gain. Folks coming to the temple needed sacrifices, and there were those willing to provide them at a price. So, what was wrong with this? Those doing the selling were “fleecing” (pardon the pun) those who were in need. So, Christ took care of this by clearing the temple.

Now, it seems obvious why Christ did this. God wants purity in our worship, and Christ stated this in no uncertain terms. (Mark 11:17) What I find interesting in this action is, why did Christ wait until now to do this? Now, I wasn’t back there then, but it would seem to me that this practice would have been there pretty much all during Christ’s ministry. Actually, we can pretty much be assured that it was because we can read that Christ had cleared the temple just after the start of his ministry. John 2:15 tells us, “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts.”

Why did he wait so long to do this again? I think it was a testimony to grace. This illustrates the idea that God wants to give folks a chance to respond to what they know to be right – to respond to Him. Christ had cleared the temple about three years earlier, demonstrating the desire of God for purity on the part of those who want to follow Him. John 2:17 tells us ““Zeal for your house will consume me.” God wants to give people time to come to this way of thinking. II Peter 3:15 says, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation,” Christ is patient, He is willing to wait, just don’t try his patience.

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 25, 2021

Ah, the good old days of seminary. I remember at the start of each semester looking at the syllabus for each class, wondering how in the world I would ever be able to cover all the assignments. Learning Greek, memorizing Hebrew vocabulary, writing papers, reading hundreds of pages, all while working forty to fifty hours a week was daunting and at times overwhelming.

I learned early on in my seminary experience that what helps to make the impossible possible is to break down big tasks into small tasks. Someone once said, "It doesn't matter how big the rock is, just keep pounding. Sooner or later it's gonna bust."

How big is the task you have in front of you? Are you overwhelmed by some big problem? Do you feel yourself "under the gun" because of some daunting circumstance? Break it down! The same advice can help us in our spiritual lives as well. We can sometimes feel overwhelmed when we are faced with discouraging troubles, a nagging temptation, or a worrisome burden. What helps is to break things down. Keep pounding and you will see those imposing obstacles become manageable bumps.

Psalm 121:1 says, "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from?" The hills were a problem for the traveler to Jerusalem - how could one get over them safely? God can help the traveler break down big mountains into little molehills. This allows for safe passage, and helps us break down a big problem into a little inconvenience.

Pastor Steve
Wed March 24, 2021

When I taught my two daughters how to drive, I emphasized the importance of on-going maintenance of their vehicle. I told them to watch the mileage so they would know when it was time for service. As someone once said, "Oil is cheap but engines are expensive." I also told them to keep an eye on the fuel gauge and not let the fuel get too low. I don't like letting the fuel get below a quarter of a tank. I just do not understand the concept of running out of gas. Cars need gas to provide the power to go - why tempt fate with letting the gas get too low? I have run out of gas only twice in my life, and that was because of faulty fuel gauges. Believe it or not.

The same can be said about Christians letting their "fuel tanks" get dangerously low when it comes to spiritual matters. Why do we neglect opportunities to fill up our tanks on knowledge of the Lord when we know we need this to grow and develop spiritually? I Peter 2:2 tells us "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,"

Why do we neglect interacting with other believers at study events and gatherings when we know the benefits of helping to keep each other sharp in issues of discipleship? I know personal interaction has been a little difficult over the past year, but we have seen creative means arise that can helps us in this area.

Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Colossians 3:16 reminds us to "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

Don't let your tank get low! Running out of gas in your car takes place because of neglect and the same can be said about running out of gas as a follower of Christ! Keep your tank full!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 23, 2021

The story was, unfortunately, all too familiar. Two people in a church got into a disagreement. The argument escalated without resolution. Soon, others in the church were being affected by the controversy. Some became involved in the give and take, others were "innocent bystanders" but were still involved as they felt uncomfortable in the wake of the tension brought about by the difference of opinion. So, where was this? It was in the first century church of Philippi. Even before the church finished the first century, there were church fights and church splits.

An argument between two ladies in the church had escalated to the point where even Paul was aware of the fight and how it was shaping the experience of the church in Philippi. He wrote, "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:2-3) Their disagreement had become a distraction to the entire church. And unless one of them would make the decision to break the cycle by confronting the other with an apology and a genuine plea for reconciliation, then the battle would continue to inform the lives of others.

When you are involved in conflict, be aware that the conflict affects more than just you and the "other person." Be concerned about what the Scripture says about conflict and dealing with conflict. Be committed to take the steps necessary to resolve the issue and heal the strife. Conflict will take place, but we should be committed to resolving conflict so that the church can continue with the spread of the message of Christ's peace.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 22, 2021

One of my pet statements when I get a little impatient, especially when I am behind a slow-moving car where a driver seems to be hesitant in making a decision, is "Do something even if it is wrong." Of course, I don't mean this literally and I don't propose that anyone should apply it in reality. I certainly wouldn't say this in a face-to-face conversation. Actually, I should work on my patience. We shouldn't do things haphazardly, and we certainly shouldn't do something wrong just for the sake of doing something; however, there are times when action is mandated.

Christ told a parable that encourages action from His followers. In Matthew 25:14 - 30, we read the story of a man who entrusted three of his servants with differing amounts of his personal wealth. One man was given five bags of gold; a second man was given two bags of gold, and a final person was given one bag of gold. The master went on a journey and upon his return asked for an account from his servants as to what they had done with their allotments.

The first two reported they had invested wisely and doubled the amount they had received. The final servant who had received one bag replied, "'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'" (vss. 24 - 25)

The master was not pleased and told the servant that he should have at least invested the money in an interest-bearing account and received some gain. Since he didn't act at all, what was given him was taken away and given to the others.

God wants us to be good stewards of that with which we have been entrusted. His expectations are not unreasonable and He is generous with what He gives. but He does expect us to do something with what we have been given!

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 21, 2021

In his book "Comeback," Dave Dravecky speaks of his struggle trying to find the higher purpose of God when he lost his left arm to cancer. Dravecky, a successful Major League pitcher, tells his story in his book of how he faced a diagnosis of cancer, underwent surgery and treatment, then returned to the game. The cancer came back and his arm was eventually amputated, thus ending his professional career.

Dravecky speaks to the idea that although it was a good thing that the pathologists had an arm with cancerous tissue to study after his loss, it would have been an ultimate cruelty for God to intend for him to contract cancer just so he could provide an arm for study. Dravecky s ultimate conclusion is that there are times we simply do not and cannot know the higher purposes of the God we serve, but we know we can continue to trust Him through the circumstances that are bringing confusion to our lives.

Paul writes about the ways of God, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:33-34) We cannot know the mind of God, but we can know that God's mind is always on us. He does not lose His focus when it comes to dealing with His children, even though we, as His children, often struggle with our focus because of what we experience. We know that God does not do things to be cruel, and we need to leave our lives in His hands.

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 20, 2021

Well, today is the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring. Have you tried to balance an egg or a broom? Did it work? According to theory, because of the alignment of the earth in relation to the sun at the time of the equinox, either vernal or autumnal, you should be able to stand an egg, or perhaps other objects.

In actuality, it has never been proven that trying to stand an object on its own is any more successful on these particular days than any other day. Attempting to stand an egg on its end is no more successful on any one particular day. The universe was no more harmonious today than any other day, in spite of the what the 5th Dimension sang. Children of the 60's, you remember, don't you? "When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars; then peace will guide the planets, and love will fill the stars. This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius."

Ah, yes, the eternal quest for peace and harmony. Well, this quest will not be satisfied by the correct alignment of the planets and the proper position of the sun. It will only be satisfied by the proper alignment with the Son. The only way to bring peace and harmony into your life is through a proper correlation with God's Son, our Savior. And the only thing that will bring universal peace and harmony is the return of the Son at a time that has been determined by the Father.

We long for balance and harmony in our lives, but we often are looking for this is the wrong way. The only search that will prove fruitful is one that involves following the Savior. Christ himself said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me." (John 14:6) Don't worry so much about the alignment of the sun, moon, and the stars. Instead, focus on the One who is responsible for the alignment of the sun, moon, and stars.

Pastor Steve
Friday March 19, 2021

John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, died on March 18th in 1845. Chapman was a rather eccentric individual, known for walking around barefoot with his long hair tucked up in a mush pan. He was the son of a Revolutionary War Hero and started a practice of collecting apple seeds from cider mills in Pennsylvania then giving them to settlers heading west. He also traveled throughout Ohio and the Alleghenies delivering apple seeds to residents there. During the war of 1812, he ran 30 miles from Mansfield to Mt. Vernon, Ohio, to warn people there of an impending attack by the Indians.

Appleseed had a rather unconventional but deep devotion to nature and the Bible. He never was anywhere without his Bible, and read to people wherever he was from the pages of his well-worn copy of the Scriptures. He called the apple blossom "a living sermon from God" and quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes were his favorite. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5) certainly seemed an appropriate description of his life. Poet William Henry Venable penned these words about Johnny, "Remember Johnny Appleseed, All ye who love the apple, He served his kind by word and deed, In God's grand greenwood chapel."

Appleseed left a legacy of faith and devotion to God and His work. We do not need to be as eccentric as was Chapman to leave such a legacy. We don't need to wear a pot on our head to create the correct memory. Proverbs 13:22 tells us, "A good person leaves an inheritance for their children s children." This is not just money, Chapman left very little of that, it refers to a character of godliness, integrity, and trust. These are what we want folks to remember. Pastor Steve
Thursday March 18, 2021

This is a period of insanity for the National Football League. This is the Free Agent Signing period. A player in the NFL can become a free agent when he has completed his contractual obligation to the team for which he currently plays and wishes to "test the market" to see if there are other teams who may pay him more money for his services. This is a feature of all major sport leagues.

This period is a little muted this year because of the effects of trying to do business in a COVID 19 environment. This led the league to decrease the salary cap that restricts team spending, but many dollars are still changing hands. For example, two weeks ago Dak Prescott signed a four-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys that will pay him up to forty million dollars a year. One-hundred twenty-six million dollars of the total amount are guaranteed, the highest guaranteed amount in NFL history. Now, mind you, I am a football fan, and I don't begrudge players in their desire to make a living, but that is still a lot of money.

There are a number of players seeking to sign free-agent contracts so they can make more money. Often, there is a bit of "swagger" involved on the part of the players as they watch teams compete for their services.

Sometimes we live as if we are in the same position when it comes to our spiritual lives. We live with a bit of "swagger" as we contemplate how valuable our services are to God or to our church. When it comes to our spiritual position with God, we should never forget that God was indeed willing to pay a high price for our ransom, but that it was only through His grace that we have the opportunity to be ransomed.

As far as our attitude of our value to God and to our church, we need to keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote, "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you." (Romans 12:3) We are where we are only through the grace of God, and we need to allow the graciousness of God to motivate us in our interaction with others and in our service for Him. This results in true Free Agency.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 17, 2021

Patrick was a young man living with his family in Britain during the fourth century A.D. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by a band of Irish raiders and sold as a slave to an Irish chieftain. He wrote about his experience in "Confession". He also wrote of his conversion, ""But after I came to Ireland--every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed--the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain. There the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God who...comforted me as would a father his son."

He spent several years there before escaping back to him homeland. After his return, he trained for ministry and eventually returned back to the island of his captors and introduced Christianity to the largely pagan population. By the time of his death, there were 120,000 Christians in Ireland and over 300 churches. In the next century, Irish missionaries went to Europe and evangelized hundreds of unbelievers there. This was the result of one man who took to heart and put into practice the words of Paul found in Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." We need to do the same. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 16, 2021

From 1967 until 2001, Fred Rogers walked through the front door of a house on the set of "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," changed into a sweater and put on a pair of sneakers, all the while singing, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. . .won't you be my neighbor?"

When Rogers was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in Public Television, he wore his trademark sweater. In an interview afterwards, he was asked about winning the presentation and what he considered to be important. His response was that there was no one big thing that determined importance. He said neither fame or wealth determine importance, but the little things that we can do for others; things such as helping someone financially, or rearranging a schedule to give a friend a ride, or interrupting plans to spend time with folks that just received some bad news.

What do you consider important? Christ told a story to highlight what he considered important when he detailed how a man lying beside a road bleeding to death was ignored by two prominent passers-by and received help from an unlikely source. The helper described by Christ sacrificed his time, his lodging, and his money to make help a fellow person in distress. Christ said, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? (Luke 10:36) You don't need to go far to see where help is needed. You don't need to look far to see where you can be a neighbor. Spend time on the little things and you won't miss the important things.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 15, 2021

Viktor Hovland has his mother to thank for watching out for him. Hovland is a professional golfer from Norway who was competing this past weekend in The Player's Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. He unwittingly committed an error when he made a putt on the 15th hole during the first round of the tournament. Hovland had moved his ball marker out of the line of his playing partner. When it was Hovland's turn to putt, he didn't move the marker back to the right spot before putting his ball. This infraction is a two-stroke penalty; but, because he finished the round and signed his scorecard, he could have been disqualified. Enter his mother, who had been watching the tournament at her home in Norway.

She called Viktor and told him what she saw. Hovland was able to correct the mistake before it was too late. He was assessed a two-stroke penalty, but could continue playing. He was saved from disqualification through his mother's intervention. /p>

Three things I took from this. First, his mother, though half a world away, was watching out for him. Secondly, her knowledge helped her to recognize that there was a problem. Finally, she intervened. She might have said, "If I say something, it's going to cost him. Maybe others didn't see what happened." This was not her mindset, as she knew that her intervention would prevent a more damaging consequence. She did what was best for Viktor.

Our Heavenly Parent does this for us. Our Father watches us at all times and with Him, we are never half a world away. He sees us wherever we are. Proverbs 15:3 says, "The eyes of the Lord are in every place." God knows all about us and knows about any circumstance in which we might find ourselves enmeshed. God will never say, "I don't understand." He understands everything. Psalms 139:1 - 2 gives us this promise, "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar."

God will always do the right thing for us. This means that, at times, He allows His children to experience struggles in the present because it will prevent a greater problem in the future. We don't have the ability to see what lies ahead, but God does. This is where our faith comes to bear. We trust God because we believe that He has our best interests at heart, and will not allow harm to come to us. "And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you." (Psalm 9:10)

Hovland's mother took the course of action she did because it was the best thing to do. God does the same for us, even though at times it does not seem clear to us what is taking place. He sees us, He understands what we face, and He will always act in our best interest. Be sure to thank God for watching out for you!

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 14, 2021

Recently, I read an article that had appeared in Doctor s Health Press entitled Three Health Problems Caused by Smartphones." I was aware that sleep can be affected by smartphone usage and the problems smartphones can cause with socialization, but the third was one that was new to me. Did you know that excessive cell phone usage can cause problems with your spine? Looking down continually at your phone, you create more pressure on your neck.

The article read, "This added stress on the back and neck causes wear and tear on the discs that hold you upright. As a result, posture problems arise and it can lead to back problems. People with poor posture also tend to experience more headaches and neurological problems, while having a higher risk for heart disease. All of these are very important things to think about when using your smartphone, because there's a good chance you'll never hold it up at eye level." Well, there you go, another issue caused by our increased use of technology. The suggestion to improve this problem is to make sure to look up.

That's good advice in more than the area of smartphone utilization. We can become bowed down by the cares and problems of our lives. Struggles in our lives and the lives of our loved ones can bring excessive stress that can lead to other issues. When this happens, it is good to look up.

I Peter 5:7 tells us to "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." A psalmist wrote, "He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous." (Psalm 146:6 8) When you feel that you are bowed down, make sure to look up. God is there and will provide the support you need to handle the stress.

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 13, 2021

In II Corinthians 7, Paul defines his relationship with the Corinthians by calling them "dear friends" and telling them, "I am glad I can have complete confidence in you." (vs. 16) What is ironic about this is to remember how confrontational Paul was with them in his first letter, especially when it came to a rebuke for a sexual sin among them that was being ignored (read I Corinthians 5).

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Friday March 12, 2021

"Trapeze" is a 1956 movie starring Burt Lancaster. He plays Mike Ribble, a permanently injured trapeze artist who is one of only six people to ever perform the dangerous triple somersault. He meets Tino Orsini (Tony Curtis), a brash young trapeze artist who wants to learn how to do the triple.

Lancaster agrees but only on one condition - he will be Orsini's "catcher". Ribble can no longer fly, but he can still be the catcher in the trapeze routines. Orsini agrees and then learns to do the triple. Along the way, he learns that he needs to trust Lancaster as his catcher in order for him to be successful.

Folks usually would consider the "flyer" as the star in trapeze shows, but, without the catcher, there would be no show. And the flyer must be able to trust that the catcher, with outstretched arms, will be there ready and able to grab him.

We must learn that we can trust God as we move through the events of our lives. Sometimes we may feel as if we are flying aimlessly because of what we are facing, but we need to remember that God is always reliable and will be there to catch us. We should not do things to test God, but we know that as we live our lives for him, he will not let us down. Life is a risky business, but if your faith is in God, you know he will not let you fall down completely.

Psalm 37:23-24 tells us, "The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand." You can, and you should, trust in God. He will catch you!

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 11, 2021

This past Monday in a home in Queensland, Australia, a small red-bellied black snake was found coiled up inside a teenager's asthma inhaler. No, there is no real idea of how it got there. It may have been brought in with some clothes that were drying.

Now, for those of us in North America, finding a black snake would not be a really big issue. The black rat snake with which we are familiar is non-venomous; however, the red-bellied black snake commonly found in Australia is one of the most venomous snakes in the world. That is a problem. So, a serpent that posed a real threat was found in a place where one would least expect and at a time when one would least expect.

Please forgive me for being a bit too obvious with this analogy, but I am going to state the obvious. There is another "serpent" that we need to remember will show up in places where we least expect and at times when we least expect. Our spiritual enemy Is "that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray." (Revelation 12:9) He is real, he is venomous, and he is certainly good at being where we are not looking and showing up when we least expect.

We are told, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him." (I Peter 5:8) To avoid being surprised by our enemy, remember the resource we have. Rely upon the power and the help of our Lord to be protected from the influence of Satan. Count on God s help because greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. (I john 4:4)

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 10, 2021

I have always found the migratory habits of birds, fish, insects, and other creatures one of the most fascinating aspects of God's Creation. Last week, Scherry and I were driving to see Megan and family and came across a field that was almost completely white because of the number of snow geese. On their way to somewhere, they stopped to forage for food. In recent weeks, I have spoken with a number of folks from the Robinson area, a town east of where I live, who commented on the copious numbers of Canadian geese that were "visiting" their fine city.

Watching geese fly in the familiar "v" pattern is simply a marvel. I never tire of that sight. Honking to make sure they keep up with each other, it is just a fascinating display of the creativity of God.

How in the world do the geese know when it is time to move along? They listen to God's voice, so to speak. Listening to the "voice" that God puts within them allows them to perform activities that help them live more successfully.

We need to take a lesson from the geese. God speaks to us and lets us know when it is time for us to move to do things, to make plans, and to perform activities that will enhance our lives and help others. If the geese don't listen to the voice telling them to move, they would jeopardize their survival. When we ignore God's voice, we jeopardize our survival. We jeopardize our ability to be more effective for the glory of God.

Moses told the people, "Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life. . ." (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) Listening to God's voice will enhance our lives. Listening to God's voice will preserve our lives. The geese have it right!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 09, 2021
p> In 1961, Del Shannon had a pretty big hit with "Runaway." In the song, Shannon laments losing his love because his love is a runaway. You can feel the pathos as he sings, "I'm a walking in the rain; tears are fallin' and I feel the pain."

In 2018, Casting Crown released a song about a runaway, Love Moved First. The story of this song is told from the perspective of the runaway. Here's a few of the lyrics:

This is the story of a runaway With no way home and no way out. I threw the best of me away. I had my chance, it's too late now. Too far gone and too ashamed to think that you'd still know my name. But love refused to let my story end that way. You didn't wait for me to find my way to You. I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to. You came running after me. When anybody else would've turned and left me at my worst. Love moved first

We may not be able to identify with Shannon, but we all can identify with the "runaway" in Mark Hall's song. The reason we can is because we are the runaway. We are the ones who, at one time, had "no way home and no way out." This song describes the plight of those who do not have Christ in their lives. This is the state of all humankind, as we read in scripture that "all have come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) We are all runaways.

So, what did God do? He came after us. God knew humans would run away from Him and would not be able to find the way home, so He had a plan to come after us. "All we, like sheep, have gone astray" the scripture declares. (Isaiah 53:5) But God did not leave us. You didn't wait for me to find my way to You I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to. You came running after me. When anybody else would've turned and left me at my worst. Love moved first.

I have always marveled at this. God didn't wait for me to find Him - He doesn't wait for anyone to find Him - we can't do it. He came after us. Jesus came "to seek and to save those who were lost." (Luke 19:10) His love moved first. If we respond to His love, we won't be left crying in the rain.

Pastor Steve
Monday March 08, 2021

If you were asked to draw a crooked line, what would it look like? If you compared it to one drawn by someone else who had been asked to do the same thing, do you think they would look similar? Probably not, and if you were to be asked to draw another crooked line, would it look the same as your original line?

Now, what if you were asked to draw a straight line? How would it compare with the straight line of another person? I would imagine the straight lines would match up more closely than the crooked ones.

There are a multitude of ways to draw a crooked line, but only one way to draw a straight line. The same can be said about our lives. There are many ways to be crooked in our behavior, but only one way to be straight. Wickedness seems to prevail in our world - this led Jeremiah to ask, "Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?" (Jeremiah 12:1) That is a good question, but God reminds us that we should not be so concerned about the way of the unrighteous.

God responds to Jeremiah by saying "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?" (vs. 5) God tells Jeremiah he needs to be concerned with what is important. Our concern should be to live straight lives so that we may please him and give him glory. It is easy to be crooked, and many are, and there are many ways to be crooked. Living God s way requires effort, focus, and an unswerving dependence upon God. This should be important to us and should be a priority regardless of what we see going on elsewhere. Do what it takes to live God's way!

Pastor Steve
Sunday March 07, 2021

A rancher from Texas went to England to do some consulting. He engaged an English farmer in a conversation about the size of their property. The farmer said, "My land extends for a square mile." The Texan replied, "Well, if I get in my old truck at dawn and start from one side of my ranch, I will still be on my property when the sun sets." The farmer replied, "Yes, I had a truck like that once."

I think this story relates a circumstance of differing perspective. This happens on occasion. One person views something one way, and another person views the same thing in a different way. This may or may not be a problem. In Revelation 2 - 3, John records a number of scenarios where differing perspectives was a problem. He writes to seven churches, and to each he gives a commendation; however, along with the commendations there are also condemnations. These condemnations are because the churches, although obedient and insightful in many regards, also had faults they were ignoring. For example, the church at Laodicea had that perspective that they were rich because they had accumulated a great deal of things and felt they was nothing they needed. The church said, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." (Revelation 3:17a) In reality, they were poor. God said, "But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17b)

We need to pray for correct perspective. We need to see our lives through God's eyes, not our own, so that we can have an accurate picture of our lives. Don't make a Laodicean mistake. Pray for the perspective of God and be willing to see what he sees, not what we want to see.

Pastor Steve
Saturday March 06, 2021

There is a Toyota commercial that features folks riding in a 2021 Toyota Sienna, which is a cross-over minivan. You never see who is in the vehicle, but you hear their voices. Concern is being expressed by a couple of occupants regarding their tardiness tor a concert. The van goes through a gate, and makes its way to a tunnel, arriving at a privileged backstage parking place and entrance. Voices are heard saying, "Hey, we can't do this!" A reply comes, "Oh, yes we can!" The idea is that driving the right vehicle gives you special access.

Left to ourselves, we do not have the hope of "making the concert on time." We are hopelessly separated from God. Through the provision of Christ, this problem is solved and we have access into His presence and hope for the future.

The scripture tells us, "For through Christ we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father." (Ephesians 2:18) We read further, "In whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Christ." (Ephesians 3:12) Our access to God does not depend upon driving the right vehicle, or any other means for that matter. It depends upon trusting the right Person.

Pastor Steve
Friday March 05, 2021

On February 21, 2000, Cathy Guisewite, who created the comic strip "Cathy," was one of several who spoke at the memorial service for fellow cartoonist, Charles Schulz. Schulz was the creator of, in my opinion, the greatest comic strip of all time, "Peanuts."

Guisewite said Schulz sought her out from time to time for reassurance. One day, he called her when he could not think of anything to draw. "I said, 'What are you talking about, you're Charles Schulz!'" she said. "What he did for me that day he did for millions of people in zillions of ways. He gave everyone in the world characters who knew exactly how we felt, who made us feel like we were never alone."

All of us need that reassurance at times. We need to know that we are not alone, that there is someone who knows how we feel and is with us at a time when we are struggling. When we feel alone, as if there is no one who understands us or can help us, when we are in the midst of this conflict, our minds can turn to Christ. We can be reminded of the words Christ gave just before he left the earth, "And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)

The book of Hebrews tells us we have someone who stands with us and stands for us in the person of Christ Jesus. Hebrews 2:17 tells us, "For this reason he had to be made like them; fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God." We should remember "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:17) Schulz may have created characters that remind us that we are not alone, but Christ our Creator gave Himself to assure us that, in Him, we will never be alone.

Pastor Steve
Thursday March 04, 2021

You perhaps have heard of the Battle of Thermopylae. This battle has been made famous through what actually happened and through the many books and films about the battle. For three days, a force of 300 Spartans, along with a few hundred others, held off the advancing Persian army. This force was led by Xerxes I and numbered in the thousands. The Spartans were able to do this because the pass at Thermopylae was very narrow. Ultimately, there were just too many Persians for the Greek army to overcome. Still, it was a remarkable display of courage and fighting skill for such an overmatched force.

We read in the Scripture about a group of 300 prevailing against overwhelming odds. Gideon was preparing to lead a force of 32,000 against the Midianites. That seemed to be a logical number, but God told him, "You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, 'My own strength has saved me.'" (Judges 7:2) The force was first whittled down to 10,000, but that was still too many. Through a "drinking water" test (you need to read the whole story in Judges 7), only 300 were left. Led by the power of God, Gideon and his 300 were victorious.

I find that the operative words in this story are "My own strength saved me." God wanted to show Israel what could be done when He is trusted. He wants us to learn the same lesson. One of the issues we face in a world where we have many resources to accomplish tasks is remembering our need to trust God. Physical, financial, and intellectual strength should not be a substitute for faith. Conversely, we should not let what we perceive to be a lack of resources become an excuse for not attempting ministry for God.

William Carey said, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." When you feel overwhelmed, remember the 300. Not the 300 of Thermopylae because even though they were brave and valiant, they were ultimately defeated. Remember the 300 of Gideon who accomplished great victory because of their faith in God.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday March 3, 2021

A few years ago, summer road construction projects were in danger of not being completed. The reason for this was a shortage of the special paint that is used for road striping. To be more accurate, there was a shortage of the additives that give the paint its special reflective properties. Consequently, since the striping couldn't be done when the roads were completed, the projects were in danger of being shut down as it would be dangerous for folks to travel on unmarked roads.

We need to make sure that we don't have a shortage of reflective properties in our lives. As followers of Christ, we need to reflect the character of Christ in our lives. Sometimes it seems as if we have a shortage of that which helps us reflect Christ to others.

Make sure you don't have a shortage of these properties in your life. People need to see Christ. The way they see Christ on earth is through our lives. Paul speaks of living in Christ in Philippians 1:20-21, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ." I hope you live for Christ, and I hope that for you to live is Christ. In this way, you will reflect his life for others with no danger of a shortage!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday March 02, 2021

Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi because they had released an evil spirit from a young girl that had allowed her to be clairvoyant, thus eliminating her ability to make money for her master. They had been beaten severely, put in chains, and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-24). At midnight, they were singing praises to God when an earthquake was sent that opened all the doors and released all the prisoners from their chains. The jailer was about to take his own life when Paul intervened, telling him no one was gone. Not one prisoner had left his cell. All these events - the singing, the earthquake, the fact that no one ran - had an effect on the jailer because his question was, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved (Acts 16:30)?" Paul's response was, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved - you and your household (vs. 31)."

Those of us who are followers of Christ know the truth in this statement, yet we often allow the idea of belief to grow a little stale and cold. We almost take this act for granted. We take for granted the impact that our belief in Christ has on our lives. We don't allow our belief to grow and we forget what our belief means for us - we are saved! We are saved from a fate worse that what the Philippian jailer would have experienced at the hands of the authorities should the prisoners have escaped. We have become a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17).

A Bible translator working in Africa was having a problem translating the word "believe." He achieved a breakthrough when his assistant from the tribe suggested he use a word that translated "the heat in my heart." This is how belief should translate in our lives - the heat in my heart. There should be a constant burning because of what our belief means for us, because we have been freed from sin and the chains are gone. There should be a burning to do God's will and to walk more closely to him. There should be a burning to see others come to Christ. There should be a passion for the Savior and for his ministry. There should indeed be "heat in our hearts." We need to be like Jeremiah when he said, "his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jeremiah 20:9)."

Let the fire of belief burn brightly in your heart - so brightly that you cannot hold it in but need to let it out! Others need to feel heat in their hearts!

Pastor Steve
Monday March 1, 2021

Behind every great discovery there is usually a story of great persistence, even when the discovery is "accidental." How many light bulbs did Edison make before he got it right? How many formulas did researchers go through before finding the most effective propellant for rockets? Did the Wright brothers fly on their first attempt? WD 40 is called WD 40 because it took 40 attempts to develop the right "water displacement" lubricant for aerospace applications. Persistence is an important quality when seeking the right result.

Another area where persistence is important is in our life with Christ. There are a number of examples of Christ honoring persistence among those seeking his aid. Some examples are the woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5:25-29); the centurion who sought aid for his servant (Matthew 8:5-13); and the Canaanite woman whose daughter was afflicted by a demon (Matthew 15:22-29).

Christ also spoke of persistence in our prayer life. Luke 18:1 says, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." The story that followed was of a widow who continued to pursue a decision from a judge about someone who was giving her trouble.

Christ tells us to continue to pursue him with regard to matters about which we are concerned. The process of asking, seeking, and pursuing provides benefits for us. Often, we don't understand the process or the need for such persistence, but we need to remember that Christ is working with us through this time. What is being accomplished in our lives through our persistent prayer is in our best interests. Never forget that Christ will always deal with us through grace and mercy in our time of need.

Christ asks for persistence as we seek him. We demonstrate this trait in many areas of our lives - make sure we demonstrate persistence in our pursuit of Christ's will.

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 28, 2021

I have had the opportunity to speak in both Costa Rica and Peru on a few occasions. My Spanish is not good enough to allow me to speak publicly without a translator. Let me share a story that shows my need for one.

During a visit to Peru, I was speaking with some residents and was asked a question. I responded with, "Soy muy guapo," as I wanted to tell them "I am very fat." They almost exploded with laughter. Now, I intended to be humorous, but I didn't think I was that funny. Some of you already see my issue.

A conversation with my brother later that evening explained why their response was so robust. I told him about my experience. He said, "Steve, they laughed so hard because you told them you were very handsome, not very fat. The word for fat is 'gordo,' not 'guapo.'" Yep, a translator would have been good.

On a more serious note, this illustrates one aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Romans 8 directly speaks to the idea of the Holy Spirit being a translator for us when we don't really know what to say to God as we pray. Romans 8:26-27 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God s people in accordance with the will of God."

When we are in situations where we absolutely do not know what we should say to God in prayer, the Holy Spirit translates our feelings for us and intercedes on our behalf. When we experience circumstances that make it difficult to even convey what we need, the Spirit speaks for us.

In addition to this, the Holy Spirit works within us to help us understand the mind of God. I Corinthians 2:11 & 14 tells us, "In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us."

The Holy Spirit is always at work within us, helping us to communicate our thoughts to our Father, and communicating the thoughts of God to us. We should be grateful for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. With his guidance, the meaning will not be lost.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 27, 2021

In 1982, Phil Collins released a song entitled "I Don't Care Anymore." It was on his album "Hello I Must Be Going," and earned him a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year. I have always thought the song was rather bleak and, of course, the bleakness of the song is reflected in the title.

I hope you have never been in a position where you could truthfully say, "I don't care anymore" about anything. I hope you have never had the experience of being in such a desperate place.

As followers of Christ, there are many things about which we need to care. The scripture says, "Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name." (Psalm 74:12) James writes "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) Isaiah 1;17 tells us to "Learn to do right; seek justice."

We are to care about living for God and honoring Him with our lives. We need to care for others with the attitude of Christ - "In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude as Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5)

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

Pastor Steve
Friday February 26, 2021

In recent years, crime dramas have been pretty popular on network television. Many times on these shows, we see computer experts commandeer surveillance cameras to try to get pictures of crime scenes. Of course, they are looking for clues that would help solve the mystery. From these shows, you almost get the idea that there are "eyes" on you no matter where you are.

Hagar felt that the opposite was the case in her situation. She didn't think anyone could see her plight. Her story is found in Genesis 16.

Hagar was the handmaid of Abram's wife, Sarai. Sarai could not get pregnant, so she gave her handmaid, Hagar, to her husband for the purpose of bearing a child. When Hagar became pregnant, friction developed between Sarai and Hagar that eventually led to Hagar fleeing from Sarai because of the mistreatment she endured.

No doubt, Hagar felt very alone as she fled into the desert, not knowing what the future held for her. Her life had suddenly become very uncertain and frightening. In the desert. She felt as if no one could see her and the struggle she faced; however, the eyes of God were upon her. God spoke to her. He told her go back to Sarai and promised her and her yet-to-be born son a secure future.

In Genesis 16:13 we read, "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'"

"El Roi", the God who sees, had eyes on Hagar, and He has eyes on us. He knows our past, our present, and our future. We may feel uncertain about what is to come next and we may feel frightened at times because we don't know who cares, but remember El Roi sees us and knows about us. He is the God who sees you and cares for you now and forever. And He doesn't need a surveillance camera to do this.

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 25, 2021

I really enjoy the music of Mercy Me. I would imagine many of you are familiar with this group. While their best-known song would be "I Can Only Imagine," Mercy Me provides a number of powerful statements through their music. This includes the message of their 2017 recording, "Even If."

"Even If" presents the perspective of an individual who is struggling with life issues and is seeking God's help. Huh - doesn't that sound familiar? What is so compelling about the song is the declaration that "Even If" prayers aren't answered as requested, trust in God will be unaffected.

Here are some of the lyrics: It's easy to sing When there's nothing to bring me down But what will I say When I'm held to the flame Like I am right now I know You're able And I know You can Save through the fire With Your mighty hand But even if You don't My hope is You alone I know the sorrow I know the hurt Would all go away If You'd just say the word But even if You don't My hope is You alone It is well with my soul It is well It is well with my soul

Bart Millard, lead singer for Mercy Me, said in a CBN interview: "The whole point of the song for me is the change that Jesus made in my life is so real and so life-transforming that if He went dark, if He went silent from now on, He would still be my greatest hope because of what He has already done, Basically, there's not a single circumstance, I pray, that can derail me from what Christ is to me and who I am because of Christ."

Now, God will not go dark, or go completely silent, but often His path for our lives is not the path we would choose. At those times, our faith needs to remain strong, knowing that God is taking us the right way. And there are times when the crucible of our lives gets a little warm, and answers don t seem to be readily forthcoming. These are the times we need Even If faith.

Millard reflects a great biblical truth in the lyrics he penned. They come from Daniel 3:16 - 18, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty's hand. But EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'" Trust in God, so that you can sing "It is well with my soul" during those "Even If" scenarios.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 24, 2021

My dad never paddled me when I was a kid. I don t say this to open up a debate about paddling, I am simply stating a fact to introduce the focus of my comments today. My dad never paddled me because he was afraid that if he paddled me (or my brothers), he might come on a little too strongly He exercised restraint. Now, I must say that Dad never had to paddle me to get my attention. His look was enough.

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

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

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

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 23, 2021

In 1994 in Rwanda, a violent genocide broke out when the Hutu majority began attacking people of the Tutsi minority in the capitol city of Kigali. Atrocities and violence spread throughout the country as the movement gained the support of the government. Before the violence was stopped by a revolt led by Tutsi rebels, more than 800,000 people were murdered.

Out of the ashes of this horrific event, a symbol of hope and redemption has emerged. The Light House, located in the Southern Province of Rwanda, is a hotel/conference center that was built on the location of a residence of one of Rwanda's political leaders during the time of the genocide.

The Light House is more than just a hotel. This complex provides ministry, humanitarian aid, training events, and much more for the Huye people in southern Rwanda. According to the website, "The hotel is named 'Light House' because of the traditional use of lighthouses around the world to guide ships to safety in times of tumult. Just like a traditional lighthouse, the Light House hotel serves as a symbol of hope and safety for the Huye-Butare community. The Light House hotel supports two important local initiatives: empowering female entrepreneurs through sustainable farming, and building houses for Huye families in need." This complex was designed and constructed by followers of Christ to provide a place of hope and healing.

We really have no adequate response to horrendous events such as the violence that took place in Rwanda in 1994, but we know that the hope Christ provides can bring peace and redemption.

During his earthly ministry, Christ visited the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. He read from the scroll of Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18 19, quoting Isaiah 61)

The passage in Isaiah continues to say, "to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:3 4) God is able to provide hope and healing even in the darkest of situations. Christ came into the world to bring redemption. Christ came to comfort those who mourn and provide for those who grieve. He is able to bestow the oil of joy instead of mourning. In a world where redemption is desperately needed, the message of Christ provides garments of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Pastor Steve
Monday February 22, 2021

H. B. Reese was an employee of the Hershey Company in the early years of the 20th century. He eventually left the company to start his own candy business, with the blessing of Milton Hershey and an agreement to use Hershey chocolate in his candies. Eventually, he developed the Reese Peanut Butter Cup and the rest is history. His beginnings with and support from Hershey helped him to become effective himself.

As followers of Christ, this is what we need to do. Not start a candy company, but become effective in ministry to others because of our beginning with Christ and with the support of Christ. Christ wants us to "strike out on our own" and continue the ministry He began. Christ said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father." (John 14:12) He is saying to us that we will do great things if we continue in our ministry for Him. This is what He wants us to do.

In addition, we are to encourage others and support others in the ministry of Christ. Paul encourages Timothy to bring others along in the faith. He wrote, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." (II Timothy 2:2) Following the leadership of Christ and helping others follow in the steps of Christ is a really good combination.

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 21, 2021

In recent years, there has been a renewal of interest in sending people back to the moon. There have been no visitors to the moon in almost 50 years. Up to now, the only people to have visited the moon are the astronauts of the Apollo program of NASA. Between 1969 and 1972, twelve people from the USA actually walked on the surface of the moon. During the age of Apollo, going to the moon had become so mundane in the collective consciousness of the nation that there was no network television coverage of the launch of Apollo 13. This was famously documented in the film of the same name. The appreciation for the complexity and difficulty of these endeavors had been lost.

In an address at Rice University in 1962, President John F. Kennedy outlined the determination to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. He acknowledged the difficulty this posed. This would not be an easy task, but as President Kennedy pointed out, difficult challenges are often the means to great accomplishments. At one point Kennedy said, "William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage."

If folks failed to follow through on their desire to pursue important goals because of the difficulty of the task, think of how many accomplishments we would not celebrate. We would probably still be cooking our meat over open fires, walking would still be the dominant form of transportation, and we would be living far different lives than we are now. There may be something to be said about a simpler way of life, but there is much to be said about embracing the challenges of life.

Paul wrote that following Christ can at times be difficult, but that should not dissuade us from our pursuit of living to please him. Paul wrote, "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair." (II Corinthians 4:8) Progress in life does not come easy. Neither should we expect progress in our lives in Christ without experiencing difficulty. The thing to remember is that Christ walks with us every step along the way.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 20, 2021

I know you have heard the phrase, "Their heart was not in their effort," or perhaps you have even had to admit, "My heart is just not in this." When your heart is not in something, it means you have a loss of interest or enthusiasm about that something. If there is an effort that needs to be accomplished, it could result in a lackadaisical attempt that does not bring about the desired consequence because "your heart is not in it."

There are many scenarios that this idiomatic phrase may describe, but one of them should not be your walk with the Lord. Our whole heart should be in our efforts for our Lord because His whole heart was certainly in His effort for us. Remember the words of John 3:16, "for God so loved the world."

God honors those who serve Him wholeheartedly. He honored Caleb "because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly." (Joshua 14:14) God urges His followers to serve Him with their whole heart - "And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart." (I Chronicles 28:9) Hundreds of years after God encouraged Solomon, Jesus told His followers to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart." (Matthew 22:35) When it comes to living for the Savior, we should do so wholeheartedly.

Pastor Steve
Friday February 19, 2021

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

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

Paying attention to details is a characteristic that can help us in a number of areas. It will help us with our personal lives, and it will help us in our spiritual lives. Paying attention to how we do things can help us grow spiritually and do things we know that are pleasing to our Father.

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

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 18, 2021
A number of years ago, Foundation for a Better Life produced a commercial that featured a young boy wandering onstage at a concert and playing a song accompanied by the pianist who was to perform the concert. "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" was the tune, and, with the addition of the master pianist's notes, this made for quite an event. What made the commercial even more compelling was that it was based on an actual happening.

The caption at the end of the commercial was "Encouragement - pass it on." This is, of course, a good thought. Something we should always consider is how we can encourage others. Hebrews 10:24 - 25 tells us, "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, but encouraging one another." Another thing to remember is that God wants to encourage us.

God loves nothing better than to stand behind us as we are attempting to play a tune with our lives and add to our performance so that we can experience the full joy of what He intends for us. II Peter 1:3--4 tells us, "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature." God wants to encourage us and help us to experience the life he has for us. When we make sure we are playing the same tune for our lives that God is playing, we can make some beautiful music together.

Pastor Steve
Wed February 17, 2021

After getting about twelve inches of snow in the recent winter storm that has affected so many, it was good to see sunshine and blue skies yesterday. This was a reminder that there are warmer days ahead. I know there are many who would benefit from this thought as millions have been affected. There are many without power. We need to pray for days of blue skies for them and for those who are working so diligently to clean up the problems that this storm has created.

I understand that pilots have a number of terms for perfect flying weather. One is that the sky is so clear "You can see to tomorrow." In reality, we are unable to "see to tomorrow." Just as with our present predicament, we struggle enough with what is happening today. James addresses this in his letter. He writes, "you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14) Now, James writes this not to bring about a pessimistic outlook on what tomorrow may bring, but to remind us how much we should depend on the One who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Not knowing tomorrow is not a reason to despair; it should be a reminder that we trust in the Lord who knows what tomorrow will bring and will be there waiting or us. He will provide what we need to face the issues we encounter as those tomorrows turn into our todays. We don't see, and that is why Paul wrote, "we live by faith, not by sight." (II Corinthians 5:7)

Continue to trust in Him who can help us at all times, especially when our visibility is such that we can't "see to tomorrow." He is always there to help clear the skies. Ara Stanphil wrote a song in 1950 about our trust in an all-seeing Lord when we are unable to see. It was introduced to a new generation of folks by Alison Krauss and the Cox Family. Here are some of the lyrics:

I don't know about tomorrow

I just live for day to day

I don't borrow from the sunshine

For its skies may turn to gray

I don't worry o'er the future

For I know what Jesus said

And today I'll walk beside Him

For He knows what lies ahead

Many things about tomorrow

I don't seem to understand

But I know who holds tomorrow

And I know who holds my hand

Let's trust the One who holds our hand, and let's pray for those who need the touch of His hand right now.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 16, 2021

Did you ever feel as if you need to be better in order to talk to God? Did you ever think you need to get things in order before you come before him to speak to him? The reality is that you will never be "better." We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) and because of that sin we need to come before God. While it is true that sin hinders our prayers - "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened." (Psalm 66:18), our sin does not disqualify us from talking with God. If there is a problem, then we come to God and confess (I John 1:9); but we don't do it on our own. We can ask for God s forgiveness and his help with that which we feel is hindering our relationship with him. We can't make ourselves "perfect" enough for him to listen. He knows our imperfections and wants us to bring them to him.

Jesus Christ has the right to speak to the Father, and he does so on our behalf. Christ intercedes for us. Hebrews 7:25 tells us, "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."

So, we should not use our issues as an excuse not to come to God. We have a mediator in Christ (I Timothy 2:5), so we can approach the Father with what we need. Hebrews 4:18 says, "Let us then approach God s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Don't feel you need to be better to come before God, come before him to ask him to help you with your need.

Pastor Steve
Monday February 15, 2021

At the height of their popularity, the Beatles produced an album that was at once both controversial and prophetic. "The White Album" featured songs that were produced and performed by all four of the Beatles, but the works were very individualistic. John Lennon wrote a song entitled "I'm So Tired." This song reflected Lennon's state at the time - it is pessimistic and almost desperate.

One might wonder why in the world a performer of Lennon's stature, wealth, and place in the entertainment world would be struggling in the way he seemed to be. There was no contentment in his work, and it seemed there was a great deal of discontent in his life. How in the world could this be? Well, as John sung in an earlier song, "Can't Buy Me Love". You also can't buy happiness.

Happiness comes from an inner peace that is developed through finding what brings true peace - a relationship with our Heavenly Father. We are in a position to obtain this true peace when we accept what God has for us through his Son. The Apostle Paul wrote, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7) This takes place when you yield yourself to the plan of God, starting with placing your life in God's hands through accepting his Son. Failing to do this will leave you saying "I'm So Tired."

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 14, 2021

The Heart Bandits is a firm based in Los Angeles that helps clients plan the perfect wedding proposal. Among its most elaborate was a New York City affair that took place in a rooftop garden complete with 9- foot orchid arrangements, designer shoes, a string quartet, and a custom monogram of the couple's initials at the bottom of a swimming pool. The total cost of this event was $52.000. That is quite an elaborate means of expressing your love to someone else.

You and I know Someone who went to even greater lengths and paid an even greater cost to express His love for us. Many years ago in the city of Jerusalem, Jesus showed His love for us in an event complete with an illegal trial, a thorough beating, mockery by his captors, a crown of thorns, and concluded with being nailed to a cross on a hilltop just outside the city.

The reason for this expression was His great love for us. "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13) The wedding proposal plans mentioned above may seem over the top, but God's expression of love to us is absolutely amazing. We did not deserve it, are not worthy of it, but Christ did this for us. "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:9).

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 13, 2021

Every January, health club and gym memberships increase dramatically. The clubs and gyms fill up with "resolutioners" trying to fulfill their New Year's promise to lose weight. After a great start, attendance and participation drops off dramatically. This is attributed to the folks finding out that the extra pounds don't just come off because they spent some money on a gym membership. This requires hard work, discipline, and a fair amount of time. When these factors reveal their presence, the effort to fulfill the resolution goes by the wayside.

This is often true in our spiritual lives. Committing one's life to Christ is a decision based on what Christ has done for us. Showing our true commitment in our life in Christ requires hard work, discipline, and time. To be clear, our eternal life is based not on works but on our decision to trust the finished work of Christ; however, true discipleship means a willingness on our part to expend some effort to grow in Christ. We live in a culture that loves speed and efficiency. In our life in Christ, we want efficiency but the desire for speed needs to be eliminated.

There are many things that still require time, and becoming a true disciple means a willingness to spend time with Christ. Paul tells the Philippians to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (2:12-13) Our Father is completely committed to us; are we completely committed to him?

Pastor Steve
Friday February 12, 2021

Today is Lincoln's birthday. The day before his 52nd birthday, he addressed a crowd in Springfield, Illinois, as he prepared to travel by train to Washington, D.C., to assume the office of President of the United States. He would return to Springfield on a train a little over four years later, only this time he would not be alive. The train returning to Springfield would contain a casket with his body inside.

Lincoln said, "I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."

Lincoln's statements reflect two things: One, his dependence on God for guidance in the tasks that were ahead, and, two, his acknowledgement that the future may not turn out as he desired. He said, "not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return."

His statements remind me of the comments made by three followers of Yahweh who said, "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Our reliance on God should not be predicated on whether things go our way or not. Lincoln expressed his desire for God's leadership in spite of where that might lead. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were determined to follow God even if it cost them their lives. People of strong character and principle reflect their strong character in their decisions, especially the decisions that are fraught with gravity. Both Lincoln and the three young Jews did just that. May our faith in the Lord help us to do the same.

Pastor Steve
comment end --> Thursday February 11, 2021

The x-ray machine was a big step forward in medical diagnostics, as well as other applications. X-ray machines came about through a series of discoveries and innovations during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Clarence Dally introduced the first fully-functional unit at the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904. Of course, there have been many advances to medical imaging, but it started here. Well, actually, that statement is not entirely correct. No one knows any better about what is going on inside a person than does God.

God goes right to the heart. He is interested in and sees right through to the core of our being. We are usually caught up with externals and you really can't be too hard of us because we are - that is all we can see. But what you see on the outside is not who we really are. God sees right through what we see to what is actually going on with us and what we truly are. The heart is what guides us to be who we are.

A cursory glance at the Bible shows this to be true. God doesn t look at external appearances but at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He despises religious acts devoid of worship from the heart (. 29:13). God searches our heart (Psalm 139:23) and wants us to trust Him (Proverbs 3:5). Christ said that where you find our treasure, there you will find our heart (Matthew 6:21). The essence of His law is to love Him and others with all of our heart (Matthew 22:37-39).

Jesus most scathing rebuke of the Pharisees involved their hearts - what they were really like on the inside. He said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but, on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:27-28)

Guard your heart so that you will not be like the Pharisees. Make sure that the beautiful part of you is your inside. This is what is pleasing to God and makes your truly beautiful.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 10, 2021

I am going to keep on a Super Bowl theme again today. I am doing this because the game was just this last Sunday and I need to strike while the iron is hot. In addition, I always am in a little bit of withdrawal this time of year as there will be no football for about eight months.

Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, Tampa Bay won the game and there are a number of interesting aspects of their victory. I'm not boing to bore you with all of these little tidbits, but rather focus on one particular reality that helped make victory possible for Tampa Bay. In my humble opinion, they won because of their defense.

Are you surprised I said this? "But what about Brady's effort?" you may ask. "And what about the play of Gronk and Brown and Fournette?" Of course, they had to score points to win, but what was really significant was that they held one of the most potent offensive attacks in the NFL to just three measly field goals, i.e., nine points. Mahomes had nowhere to go and nothing to do. Defense was the star. Someone once said, "The best offense is a good defense" and Sunday's game did a great deal to support this statement.

The same can be said about our lives as followers of Christ. We need a good defense as we are faced with a formidable foe that is much stronger and much smarter than we are. Satan has at his disposal a variety of methods and means to cause us problems with our walk with Christ.

Paul must have agreed with the statement above because when he wrote Ephesians, he included a lengthy segment on how to defend ourselves against Satan's offense. He wrote, "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:11)

We are to equip ourselves with the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, sandals of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." (read Ephesians 6:10-17) Many have pointed out that the only offensive weapon in this armament is the Sword of the Spirit. Seems as if he is emphasizing defense, doesn't it? Sounds like good advice.

You may say, "Well, I am not that competitive." You have no choice. Satan will bring the conflict to you. That is why Paul writes, "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." (6:12)

Tampa Bay's defense helped them to prevail. Our defense that is provided by our Heavenly Father will help us to prevail as well.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 09, 2021

All of us have had "Oh, I did not see this coming" moments. For example, Andy Reid, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, was asked about the poor performance of his team in Sunday night's Super Bowl. He replied, "I did not see this coming." I agree with him. I was not so much surprised by Tampa Bay's victory as I was how dominant they were in their win. Hence, along with Reid, I say, "I did not see this coming."

Given our inability to predict the future, it is not surprising that we have these moments. But, what about the incident when Christ had a "I did not see this coming" moment? We find this story in Matthew 8.

A Roman centurion, a commander of troops, approaches Christ about his sick servant. Christ asks, "Shall I come and heal him?" (8:7) The centurion tells him not to come as he feels unworthy, but states that he knows Christ has the power to heal the servant. The centurion declares, "but just say the word, and my servant will be healed." (8:8) Matthew 8:10 gives us Christ's reaction, "When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, 'Truly I tell you; I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.'"

Since we know that Christ is God, and God is omniscient, this raises a question, "How could Christ have been amazed?" This goes to the fact that Christ was also fully human and does not let his humanity and his deity compete against each other. Matthew 8:10 says that he was "amazed," and so he was. In one sense, it was a "I did not see that coming" moment.

The focus of the scripture here is what caused the amazement more so than the reality that Christ is amazed. What caused Christ to be amazed? The faith of the centurion is the focus. Christ said, "I have not found anyone is Israel with such great faith."

Do you have the kind of faith that would amaze Christ? Now, the goal of having strong faith should not be to bring amazement to Christ, but we should have faith that mirrors what is seen in the life of the centurion. He said to Christ, "You don't need to come to my house to heal my servant I believe you can do this with your word from right here." And after Christ expresses his amazement, that is what he did.

We need to develop our faith. We don't do this to make Christ have a "I did not see that coming" moment (really couldn't do that now anyway), but to show Christ that we love him and we want to obey him We need to develop our faith so that we can stand strong in the struggles and challenges of our lives. We need to develop our faith so that we can see what God wants us to see. Developing our faith helps us cope with, and maybe even avoid, those "I did not see that coming" moments. As did the apostles, let's ask Christ to "increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5)

Pastor Steve
Monday February 08, 2021

Sometimes, I am surprised by the wisdom you can glean from TV shows. For example, I was watching a show the other evening that had a storyline about two couples heading off on a weekend excursion in an RV. One of the couples is a "regular" on the show, and the other couple is making a "guest" appearance. The "regular" couple has a relationship where they get along, for the most part, but still exhibit a fair amount of sarcasm and negativity.

While on the road, an issue arises between the four that requires interaction between the partners. The "guest" couple respond to each other in a positive, upbeat manner, while the regular couple interact in their usual way, which means sarcasm coupled with some negative statements.

The guest husband mildly chides the regular husband and says, "You know, if you would show some appreciation, it might be better." "What do you mean?" asks the regular. "Well," replies guest guy, "At least once a day, I try to tell my wife something I appreciate about her. And she tries to do the same towards me."

The body language of regular guy indicates this makes him feel awkward and is not something with which he feels comfortable. But, after some encouragement, he manages to make an affirmation of appreciation to his wife. In turn, the wife makes a positive statement about the husband. The reaction of both makes it evident that they are pleased with what just took place and that they have learned something.

Back to my opening statement, I am sometimes surprised. . . This was the case with what I just observed. The little piece of advice given by the guest husband was very wise. All kinds of good can take place if we regularly say good things about someone else to that someone else. This is a great exercise that would be good for all of our relationships. </p.

Malini Bhatia would say that Appreciation is just one of the Three A s in any healthy relationship. The other two are Acceptance and Acknowledgment. Let me just stick with Appreciation for the time being.

If we focus on appreciation in our relationships, it does a lot of good things. Allow me to point out a couple benefits. First, actively stating our appreciation for someone else gives the recipient positive reinforcement that all of us need. Secondly, expressing appreciation for someone else helps the "giver" to keep a good attitude about the receiver. These are simple, yet important, elements of any healthy relationship.

Proverbs 25:11 reminds us, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Do you recall what is said concerning the benefit of the daily consumption of an apple? And another thing to remember is that golden words build strong bonds. This one is original with me, but it still rings true.

Pastor Steve
Sunday February 07, 2021

In their 1997 hit "A Promise Ain't Enough," Hall and Oates sing "Promises, promises, promises". Of course, a little sarcasm is involved in this proclamation. The musical duo is expressing the idea that there is a feeling of unbelief in the "promiser" actually making good on what is being promised. They express the idea that there are times when "a promise ain't enough."

Sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we express a lack of faith in what is being said to us. That may be all well and good when it comes to people, as we know people can let us down, but we need to be careful about allowing this sarcasm to infiltrate our relationship with God. At times, we let circumstances affect how we feel about God's provision in our lives. Doubt about his promises finds its way into our thinking.

Normally we consider Abraham a man of great faith, and he was, but there were times in his life when it was evident that he was struggling with the promises God made to him. In Genesis 12:2, we read that God promised Abraham, "I will make you a great nation;" however, more than 25 years would lapse before a son was born. In those 25 years, there were some lapses of faith on Abraham s part: lying to Pharaoh about Sarah (Genesis 12); lying to Abimilech about Sarah (Genesis 19); questioning God about his promise ("O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don t even have a son?" Genesis 15:2); and even fathering a son through his handmaid (Genesis 16). All of these events showed a lack of faith in God's promise and all of these events brought trouble for Abraham. God reminded Abraham to remain faithful and trust him - "Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants." (Genesis 17:2)

As we look at God's promises for our lives, we need to continue to have faith that he will do as he says. Sometimes we are tempted to go our own way and leave his promises in the wake of our unbelief; however, continued faith in him is always the best option. With apologies to Fleetwood Mac, "you can go your own way" (please forgive my pop music bent today), but you shouldn't. Trust in the promises of God. People may let you down; God never will.

Pastor Steve
Saturday February 06, 2021

Francis Chan once wrote, "Our greatest fear in life should not be of failure but at succeeding in life at things that don't really matter." We place emphasis on many things that are ultimately inconsequential. One of our greatest emphases in prayer should be to ask for a discerning heart so that we may know what is truly important and be able to let go of things that do not really matter. So often we get this turned around.

Jesus met several people like this when he was on earth. Once he encountered a man who asked him to solve a dispute between his brother and him over an inheritance. Christ said, "'Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?' Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'" (Luke 12:14-15) Christ then told the story of a man who built more barns to contain all that he had while he ignored tending to his own soul. Christ concluded this story by saying, "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:21)

Often we are guilty of following the example of the barn builder. In so doing we are succeeding in life at things that don't really matter. Success in life does not depend on what we own, our accomplishments, or our status. We achieve true success when we live to please God. Are you succeeding in life at things that don t really matter?

Pastor Steve
Friday February 05, 2021

I am sure you are familiar with the phrase "going viral" or "gone viral." This refers to a post on some social media outlet that experiences a plethora of shares and spreads rapidly through the social media community. I have wondered if it would not be a good idea to come up with some other term for this phenomenon in light of the pandemic, but this is tangential to the point I want to make. So, I will leave this be for now.

There is an on-going project at Northeastern University in Boston entitled The Viral Texts Project. The purpose of this research is to map networks of reprinting of articles in 19th century newspapers and periodicals. They track down articles that "went viral" in terms of 19th century criteria. If a piece was reprinted 50 times or more, it is considered to have gone viral. According to one statement, an article about how many followers of Jesus were executed was reprinted in 110 different venues. In other words, this article went "viral," at least by 19th century standards.

As I read this, I thought two things. One, I wondered how an article of this nature would perform in the 21st century. Secondly, I thought that we, as followers of Christ, have a message that needs to go viral.

You may have considered this concept before, but I think it would be a good idea for us to realize how important it is that the message of the Good News about Christ goes viral. Actually, Christ, just before his return to heaven, said the message needs to go viral. He said, "and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) I don't know about a Viral Texts Project, but I do know this is one text we need to help go viral.

Pastor Steve
Thursday February 04, 2021

A blanket policy is a type of insurance policy that covers a variety of objects, things, and issues all at the same time. A homeowner's policy is an example of a blanket policy, as this type of policy usually covers the structure, the contents in the structure, and other issues that might relate to the home (such as your dog trying to have someone's leg for lunch). This is a good thing, and can bring some peace of mind to one who owns a home.

In our relationship with God, we find that God s love is a blanket policy that covers a number of issues and things. He covers over a multitude of disgraced, shameful people and the wrongs they have done with his great Love. I don't know why I spoke in the third person in that last sentence - one of those shameful people is me. And God loved me so much that he wants to cover over my shamefulness and impart to me his righteousness.

Psalm 103:4 says, "who redeems you from the pit, and covers you with love and righteousness." II Corinthians 5:21 tells us, "od made him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that in him we might become his righteousness."

We, in turn, need to reflect this blanket policy as we interact with others. This is what Peter tells us in I Peter 4:8 where he says, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." Peter spoke from experience. He was the one who had denied his relationship with Christ, had cursed when asked if he knew him, and lied to protect his identity. How did Christ respond to Peter in light of this? With love and encouragement you can read about this in John 21.

If we let love for God and love for others "above all" guide our involvement in the lives of others, then we are applying the correct blanket policy. Love "blankets" a multitude of sins.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday February 03, 2021

Some time ago, I changed medications in order to better control my atrial fibrillation. One of the side effects of the medicine is a metallic taste I have pretty much all the time. This is mildly annoying, but as I experience the metallic taste, I ask myself, "Which is worse, a metallic taste in your mouth or your heart beating like a runaway freight train?" I think I can live with the metallic taste. The taste also is a consistent reminder of my dependence on the medicine so I have an alert to help me take the medicine as directed.

Paul talks about a circumstance that he faced that was a perpetual reminder to him of his current state of dependence. He writes, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ s power may rest on me." (II Corinthians 12:7-9)

It sounds as if Paul had more than just a metallic taste in his mouth that served as a constant reminder of his dependence on the grace of God. The "thorn" was there to help him remember that his power came from the hand of the Lord. This led him to exalt in his status of weakness and put his experience in perspective. He was driven to a place where he knew he could not continue without God's help.

God often gives us reminders of our status. We need to gain perspective and appreciate them from a positive point of view. These reminders are contributors to our spiritual development. Let God use the "thorns" to shape our character!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday February 02, 2021

Today is Groundhog Day - will the dear old furry critter see his shadow or not? If he does, then we've got six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, well winter is supposed to be ending sooner. What will it be?

The origins of Groundhog Day go back into European history insofar as the belief that the weather on February 2nd is a predictor of the ending of winter. An old Scottish poem says, "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, There'll be two winters in the year. If Candlemas be fair and bright, Winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, Winter will not come again."

The first reference to "Groundhog Day" in America is found in a diary entry from 1841: "Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow, he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy, he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." Regardless of what happens today with the groundhog, we do know that winter will end and spring will come.

This is something we can be sure of when it comes to God's care for us. We know His care will come, regardless of the circumstances. Regardless of what other distractions are there; regardless of what other "celebrations" may be going on; we can be sure that the provision of God will come. Just as there really is no causality between the groundhog and winter, there is no causality in situations we experience and God's presence. God does not say, "Oh, my, I can't step in here, the logistics are simply not right. The predictors are against me. I can't do it." This will simply not happen.

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, "'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?'" Shadow or not, God will not fail us.

Pastor Steve


Weekly Schedule

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


Our Pastor

Pastor Steve Willis

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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.


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