First Baptist Church
Newton, IL

Updated - 2/24/2021>

Our small group study continues to night at 6! "Seamless" and "Horizontal Jesus". This Sunday, we meet at 9 a.m. for worship - and we also want to let teenagers know that the Jr. High/Sr. High Class will meet this Sunday following worship. In addition, CIA will be starting to meet more frequently - listen to announcements and watch for notices about this. CIA is for all Junior High and Senior High students.

The Kid's Choirs Will be working on their Easter Presentation during the time after morning worship. Parents, we ask that if you are attending morning services, join us for our adult study time and have your kids join the activities in the Fellowship Hall. Watch for a letter in the mail that will have some information about upcoming events and schedule changes!

We will observe communion Sunday, so those of you who worship at home, have your elements ready!

Pastor Steve


Devotionals
Pastor Steve Willis

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
Monday February 01, 2021

I remember building a bookshelf several years ago. Actually, I have built several bookshelves over the years, but this particular unit was a good bit wider than what I usually constructed. When I got it finished, I loaded it up with books.

After some time, I noticed that the shelves sagged a little bit because of the weight of the books. I hadn't done anything out of the ordinary or unusual with the shelves. This is what bookshelves are for. But the cumbersome load produced extra stress and caused the shelves to sag. So, to take care of the problem, I reinforced the shelves and the issue was solved.

Often, we find ourselves sagging under the pressures and weight of life. There may not be anything unusual or out of the ordinary going on; but the day-to-day cares and typical problems are combining to weigh us down. When this happens, we need to be reinforced. That reinforcement can be found in the relationships we have with others and through the help that others can give.

I want to make two observations here. First, unlike the bookshelves, we are able to ask for help, and we should when we find ourselves beginning to sag. Just don't wait too long to do this as waiting can make the resolution more difficult. Secondly, look for evidences of "sagging" in others. When you see this, do what you can to help.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." This verse demonstrates the principle of reinforcement. Don't try life alone; you will start to sag under the weight.

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 31, 2021

I used to do a little exercise with youth groups (although adults can benefit from this as well) called "Pass the Picture." The group would sit on the floor in a straight line, everyone facing one direction. I would give a simple drawing to the person at the back of the line. This person would look at the drawing and then, as best as they could, draw the picture with their finger on the back of the person in front of them. This person would then draw what had been passed to them on the back of the person in front of them. This would continue until it reached the person at the head of the line. That person would draw the picture on a piece of paper.

This drawing would be compared to the original drawing in view of all the participants, enabling them to see how well, or how badly, they had been able to "pass the picture." You can imagine the result. I have done this dozens of times over the years, and have yet to see a group replicate the drawing even remotely.

No doubt the purpose of this little exercise is obvious to you - it shows what can happen to an idea as it gets passed along from person to person. A story is shared and by the time it runs its course through usual channels ends up quite different from the original.

Garbled communication is not all that unique in our lives. It happens far too frequently and is the cause of many hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and damaged relationships. Even in our churches, this phenomenon occurs. It fuels the fires of gossip that can lead to many unwanted consequences. We need to follow the advice of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:15 where he says, "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ."

Watch how you "draw your stories." Remember the importance of truth and the destructiveness of falsehood. Be careful what you share and how your share it!

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 30, 2021

Our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, took the oath of office four times as he was elected president four times. Roosevelt was president during two of the most significant events in United States history - the Great Depression and World War II. In one of his inaugural addresses, he stated: "We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation, without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic...Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity."

Did you notice the cause-effect principle stated by Roosevelt in the last sentence above? Obeying the precepts of the Bible leads to contentment and prosperity. We receive blessings from God when we obey him. When we don't obey him, we hinder what he wants to do in our lives.

Consider the example of the children of Israel in this regard. In Exodus 33:1-3 we read God's words to Moses, "Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, `I will give it to your descendants.' I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way."

God tells the people it is time to leave Mt. Sinai and go to the land that will be their home. He tells them he will send some help for them, but he is not going to go with them. Why? Because of their sin and disobedience.

There are consequences to disobedience, and one of the greatest is missing the blessing of the continued presence of God. God has promised to never leave us, but when we walk away from him, we diminish his effectiveness in our lives. Have you noticed that the Israelites always seemed to be a group of malcontents? FDR stated that when you obey God's Word, you attain "the greatest measure of contentment." Hmmm. Wonder if there is a correlation here?

Realize the truth in Roosevelt s words, "Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying the Bible, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity." God wants to walk with you. Do you want to walk with him?

Pastor Steve
Friday January 29, 2021

I went out early yesterday evening to pick up some Chinese take-out for dinner. Please, no comments such as, "Oh, was it your night to cook?" If I had wanted to cook, I would have, as I am a good cook. Chinese just sounded good to us. Anyway, on the way to pick up dinner, I could not help but notice the moon. It was absolutely beautiful.

It was the first full moon of the New Year, often called the Wolf Moon" or "Cold Moon" or "Snow Moon." The latter two appellations were certainly appropriate as it was cold and we had snow. Wolf Moon? Well, I just think that sounds cool. Anyway, the moon was full and was shining brightly.

You know, as I looked at that impressive sphere, not once did I think, "Moon, in reality, you are not actually shining on your own. You are nothing more than just an orb of clay reflecting light from the sun." I didn't think that at all as the moon was casting light so splendidly on our world. All I could see was the brilliance of the light.

As followers of Christ, we need to be as splendid at reflecting the light of the Son as the moon is at reflecting the light of the sun. We want others to see the brilliance of the Light. Christ tells us, "You are the light of the world. . .let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14 & 16) In reality, Christ is the light (see John 1:4 9) and we reflect His light, but he doesn't split hairs on that distinction here. He says, "YOU are the light." So, BE the light - shine brilliantly for others!

Pastor Steve
Thursday December 24, 2020

Today is the 35th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. On January 28, 1986, the Challenger disintegrated in a massive explosion just seconds after lift-off killing all seven astronauts, including Christa McAuliffe. Christa was a teacher who was to conduct science experiments in space to be watched by millions of students in schools across the United States. That never happened.

As I reflect on this, I find it hard to believe that 35 years have passed. This incident is one of those moments that seem to be frozen in time. Didn't it just happen? This incident is also one of those moments where, if you are old enough to remember the event, you most likely can recall where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news or, in this case, saw what happened. I was at a meeting at the First Baptist Church in Centralia, Illinois.

Events such as these bring about many reactions. First of all, we mourn the loss of life. Secondly, we wonder how this could have happened. I mean, aren't we supposed to be careful and aren't we so technologically advanced that things like this just don't take place? This tragedy awakened us to the reality that no matter how advanced we think we are, we certainly are not infallible. We can never lift ourselves to the plateau of being totally error-free.

What made this incident more tragic was the failure was caused by defective "o" rings. These "o" rings cost no more than a few dollars to produce but were unable to withstand the temperature changes. This allowed fuel to escape which was ignited by the thruster flames, and an explosion ensued. It would have been a simple fix.

We are not mistake free in our spiritual lives either. We can never be "mistake free" enough to be able to please God on our own. Even as a failure of one little part caused a tremendous tragedy in the case of the Challenger, a failure in one little area in our lives makes us guilty of breaking all of God's commands. James 2:10 tells us, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." As a result, we stand before God with no defense.

That is why we need Christ and his provision. Through Him, we can be forgiven and become blameless in God's sight. The Challenger tragedy could have been avoided if the right part had been used. A tragedy in our lives can be avoided if we do the right thing and trust Christ. Avoid spiritual tragedy place your life in the hands of Christ. Because of what Christ has done, the problem can be fixed. Just don't miss the repair!

Pastor Van
Wednesday January 27, 2021

When I was a kid, my brothers and I cut down a fairly good-sized tree that stood beside a creek which ran through the hills in back of our grandparents' house. It fell across the chasm and made a bridge for us to cross. I never really felt good about crossing that "bridge" - I always used caution and took my time so I wouldn't fall into the creek below. My fear led me to be careful and focus on my steps so that I wouldn't fall. I have no idea how many times I crossed that bridge, but I never lost my fear of falling.

We need to apply the same principle in certain situations in our lives. We should never lose our fear of falling into a chasm when it comes to temptation to sin. We should always realize we could fall, and allow this awareness to sharpen our focus and fuel our caution.

We never lose the ability to fall into the trap of immorality or deception or other inappropriate behavior. Our fear of falling helps us to be cautious and walk carefully at times when we are tempted. Given the opportunity and the circumstances, any of us are capable of falling into sin, so we need to take care.

Paul warned the Corinthians, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls." (I Corinthians 10:12) Don t lose your fear of falling!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 26, 2021

A dad took his family to see a stage production of "The Lion King." By the way, if you ever have a chance to do this, you should seize the opportunity. Just getting to see the costumes is worth the price of admission. Anyway, a dad took his family to see "The Lion King." As you may know, the saddest part of the story is when King Mufasa is killed by his evil brother, Scar. Little Simba stands beside his father, alone and afraid, and cries, "Help! Help! Help!" When this scene unfolded as the family watched,, the 4-year-old son stood up in his seat and cried, "Would someone please help him?"

Throughout the scripture, we find folks calling out for God s help. At times, the circumstances are because of the foibles of those who cry for help. Even at these times, we see God intervening and bringing help to those who call upon Him.

The message of Isaiah is mainly one of warning and a statement about future judgment. Yet, in the midst of this proclamation God says, "the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, he will rise up to show you compassion. . .. How gracious he will be when you cry for help!" (Isaiah 30:18 - 19) God does not exist just to be our helper, but He will provide help when we need help. Psalm 46:1 tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in the time of trouble."

God may not exist just to provide help for us, but we cannot exist without the help He provides for us. Let's be thankful for the help He gives to us, and let's do what we can to be His feet and hands of help for others when help is needed. If you hear someone calling for help, don't just stand in your seat and cry out, "Would somebody please help him?" Be grateful for God's help in our life, and do what you can to let God use you as a means of help.

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 24, 2021

I will never forget my driver's ed instructor and his tips on how to parallel park a car. He led me through a number of steps that I still use to pull my vehicle in an available space. I even used the tips to parallel park a 22-foot bobtail truck in downtown Dallas when I worked there several years ago.

As I think about parking cars, I recall a statement I have heard, "God cannot steer a parked car." I am not sure where this statement originated. It is a well-meaning attempt to motivate followers of Christ into action. We do need to be active in our walk with the Lord, but there are times when we need to park it. There are times in our lives when God wants us to stop and listen rather than run and do.

We see this principle demonstrated throughout scripture. There are times when the cloud leading the people of Israel stopped and let the folks stay in one place for a while. "At the Lord s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord s order and did not set out." (Numbers 9:18-19)

We see example after example in the Scripture of God's people being put in a position where all they could do was wait. Even Christ spent times of waiting, talking with his Father, rather than moving among the people to teach and to heal. Christ often withdrew to solitary places and "parked it" for a time. Luke 4:42 tells us, "At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place."

Yes, we need to be active as Christ's followers, but there are times we need to stop and wait for his direction. There are many reasons for down times, and we should not be afraid of waiting. Psalm 27:14 reminds us to "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart." Learn to park!

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 23, 2021

The month January is named after a god in the Roman pantheon named Janus. Janus was depicted as a being with two faces - one to look ahead, one to look back. Janus was the god of beginnings.

Looking ahead to new beginnings and new possibilities is a good thing. Being two-faced is not. Folks that speak one way and act another and cannot be trusted because you really don't know what "side" they represent are frustrating. James reflects the attitude of God about two-faced folks, "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." (James 1:8)

Now, we have no control over others who manifest this undesirable characteristic; however, we do have control over our own behavior. We must make every effort to present ourselves as someone who can be trusted and is not two-faced. We want others to know that we don't speak out of both sides of our mouth.

Proverbs 19:3 says, "Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool." One face is enough - don't try to keep up two at the same time. You don t want to look like Janus.

Pastor Steve
Friday January 22, 2021

Ambidexterity is an interesting physical characteristic where an individual is able to perform tasks using either hand with an equal level of skill. Only about 1% of the population are truly ambidextrous. Usually, if one wants to become proficient at performing a task equally well with either hand, a good deal of work needs to be put in to strengthen the "weaker hand."

Most people tend to ignore their weaker hand and utilize their dominant hand in the preponderance of circumstances. Some state that they are not able to utilize their weaker hand to do anything, and that is because they don't use it. Working to strengthen your weaker hand often proves beneficial. Basketball players work on the ability to use either hand to dribble, pass the ball, or shoot.

I never put in a great deal of time "strengthening" my weaker hand, but I did some, and this has proved useful. Nerve damage has left profound weakness in my right hand, so being able to use my left has proven quite helpful.

Scripture talks about a group of people who worked to achieve a balance in their "handedness." I Chronicles 12:2 says, "they were armed with bows and were able to shoot arrows or to sling stones right-handed or left-handed; they were relatives of Saul from the tribe of Benjamin." This turned out to be a good thing for the Benjamites.

Working on areas where we are weak usually is a good thing. This is true not just in our physical endeavors. We may have areas in our lives where we have weakness. Perhaps we feel stronger in areas of gifts we utilize in our spiritual walk. What about working to strengthen those areas where we don't feel as strong? Sometimes we have weakness in our behavior, such as a problem with anger or patience. Working to strengthen these areas would be a good idea. Perhaps we have a struggle in other areas such as trust or faith. These would-be good places to do some strengthening. It would be good to do strengthening in all of these areas ahead of actual circumstances where strength is needed. Remember my hand problem? We never know when circumstances arise where our "weaker hand" needs to be used.

Paul had areas of weakness, and he thanked God for them because they brought about greater dependence on God. He wrote in II Corinthians 12:9 10 "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ s sake, I delight in weaknesses." He did not ignore his areas of weakness. He realized these areas drove him to God, and drove him to do what was needed to become more "ambidextrous." We need to do the same.

Pastor Steve
Thursday January 21, 2021

Well, I missed something interesting about yesterday s date. I didn t find it out until I got a text from my brother, Kevin, about the uniqueness of the date. If you used the form 1/20/2021, yesterday's date is a palindrome date, meaning that it is the same forwards and backwards. This happens occasionally; actually, 2021 will have two more palindrome dates: 2/02/2021 and 12/02/2021. The next time this will happen on January 20th will be 1,000 years from now, 1/20/3021. I don't think I ll be around for that one.

One way to think of a palindrome is something that looks the same no matter from which direction you look. There is no difference. Something, or rather someone, else that looks the same no matter from which direction you look is the Lord. God never changes in who He is, what He does, or how He appears to us. He is always the same. He is always there for us, Because of this, we know we can always depend on Him to be there for us, to provide for us, and not be a mystery.

God declares about himself, "I the Lord do not change." (Malachi 3:6). Hebrews 13:8 tells us that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." We know we can trust God because He always looks, acts, and provides the same. He is always a palindrome, not just every thousand years.

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 19, 2021

In the final scene of "The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King," Frodo and his friends are gathered to watch Bilbo and Gandalf prepare to sail to a place that has been accorded to them by the elves, their "eternal home," so to speak. Then, just before the boat sails, Gandalf turns to Frodo and says, "It's time, Frodo." Frodo's hobbit friends learn that he, too, will be leaving for his final home. They are distressed by this, but realize it is what has to be. Frodo hands a leather-bound book to his closest friend, Samwise Gamgee; a book that was started by Frodo's uncle, Bilbo, and then continued by Frodo. Frodo says, "The last pages are for you, Sam." The question this implies is: "Sam, what will you write and how well will you write?"

The same question may be posed of followers of Christ. We have been given pages to write - what will we write and how well will we write? There is always the need for times of evaluation in our lives, times when we take stock as to what we are doing and how well we are doing.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that God has given us the task of continuing the work of Christ in the world. We need to take time to reflect and ask ourselves "How well am I doing?" Lamentations 3:40 encourages us to "Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!" I Corinthians 11:28 & 32 says, "Let a person examine himself, then. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged." The last pages are for you - how well will you write?

Pastor Steve
Monday January 18, 2021

There was a time when I didn't see the point of texting. I thought, "If you want to communicate with someone, why not just call them and talk with them?" Then, I began to text some. Then, I began to text more, and soon I found many helpful aspects to texting. You can send messages that can be seen more than just once because they are there in print. This is helpful if you are sending something such as directions. You can send pictures. You can make sure the message is sent to a single individual. You can send a communication to a group. You can send messages at a time when other forms of communication might be disruptive. I have found there are a number of helpful features in texting.

As I reflect on texting, it reminds me of how significant it is that God has "texted" us. Through his text, we are reminded of his power that is at our disposal. We are reminded over and over about his power and provision as we are able to read his text over and over. As we read his instruction again and again, we can see how his power can direct our lives. We are reminded of his presence. We have something we can hold in our hands and see with our eyes that is a description of his desire and design for us and is representative of his person. Though his text we are reminded of his promise. There it is - right before our eyes - something we can revisit whenever we want.

Since God has written to us, we can proclaim, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies." (Psalm 119:97-98) Yes, indeed, there are advantages to texting!

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 17, 2021

Operation Smile is one of the many mission organizations that fund surgeries for children born with cleft palates. This condition makes it difficult for the little one to eat, and obviously affects speech development. It is common in the U.S., but in Third World countries is especially prevalent because of insufficient care during prenatal development. A marvelous smile is important for more reasons than aesthetics. So, this program helps families in developing countries solve one of the problems they face when a child is born with this condition. Having a good smile is a marvelous thing.

Do you have a good smile? Smiling is something we need to practice on a regular basis. There are so many benefits from smiling. Smiling is contagious. When one smiles, others tend to smile along with them. Smiling lowers stress and anxiety. Smiling releases endorphins that promote a sense of well-being and contentment. Smiling strengthens your immune system. There are many other benefits of smiling, not the least of which is that you simply look better when you smile. We do experience circumstances that make it difficult to smile, but working on our mood and our inner self through a variety of means including focusing on the development of a smile can help us face those problems in realistic, positive ways.

Proverbs 15:13 & 30 tells us, "A glad heart makes a happy face. . .A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health." Even though he was speaking sarcastically, Job knew the benefits of smiling when he said, "I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile." (Job 9:27) Do what you can to turn that frown upside down and smile! As the song says, "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you!"

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 16, 2021

Yesterday, the following article came up in my timeline as a "Your Memories on Facebook." I thought this a little ironic. As I wrote this article last year, I had no clue about the "gray days" that were ahead of us in 2020. I consider the ideas presented in this post worth repeating, so here it is again.

In spite of the many "gray days" we have experienced, I have noticed that the days are getting longer. Of course, this is as it should be as we are on the upside of the winter solstice. This is just fine with me.

I don't know if I truly have seasonal affective disorder or not, but I do know I really don't care for the shorter days. It seems the older I get, the more going back to "regular" time in the fall bothers me. I have a real aversion to darkness at 5 p.m. However, that is just the way it is, and I adjust. Still, it leaves me feeling a little blue.

How does one cope with blueness? Well, there are many good things to think about to help me cope with the blues. God has given abundant blessings on which to focus that helps ward off the blues. I read an article some time back that gave these suggestions: Problem: Things seem impossible. Answer: All things are possible with God (Luke 18:27).Problem: Life is often exhausting. Answer: Jesus offers rest for your soul (Matthew 11:28-30). Problem: You can't forgive yourself. Answer: The Lord forgives all who confess their sins to Him (1 John 1:9). Problem: You are afraid. Answer: God will strengthen and help you (Isaiah 41:10). Problem: You are worried and anxious. Answer: Cast all your cares on God, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Problem: You feel alone in this world. Answer: The Lord promises never to leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

When we feel a little down, know that God can help us with the woes that are bringing us down. Put your problems in the palm of God's hands. He knows how to deal with the blues.

Pastor Steve
Friday January 15, 2021

A father was helping his young son with spelling words. They came across the word, "unique." The little boy asked, "Dad, what does unique mean?" The father replied, "Well, it means something or someone that is not like anything or anyone else. For example, bats are unique." "Are they unique because they can't see but still fly?" asked the boy. "Well," replied the dad, "they actually aren't blind. They just don't see very well. They are unique because they are the only mammals that can fly." The little boy thought for a moment and said, "I guess God is unique also." The dad had to agree.

He had to agree because God's uniqueness is really unique. As we think about examples of entities that are unique, such as the aforementioned bats, they have the unique characteristic of being the only flying mammals. Yet there are many bats. Snowflakes are unique as no two snowflakes are alike. Still, there are a lot of snowflakes that fly around and come to ground, especially this time of year. Humans are unique, of course, but there are a lot of humans. God is unique as there is only One God.

Isaiah 45:5-6 tells us, "'I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.'" This means that God should occupy a unique place in your life. He should be where no one else or nothing else is in your life. This means that God can and will provide for you in a unique way. This means that God can and will do for you what no one or nothing else can. He is the One with the power, the knowledge, and the wherewithal to help us with whatever we face. He is the Lord and there is no other. Don't let anyone or anything else take the place that the unique God has in your life!

Pastor Steve
Thursday January 14, 2021

Many of us have used the phrase "acid test" in our conversation. We know that an "acid test" is any kind of test that produces undeniable results. It may be some sort of activity or exercise to demonstrate the truthfulness of something that has been said, or something to demonstrate true identity. The idea originates from a practice used during the gold rush days of the 19th century. Needing a way to distinguish genuine gold from other metals, nitric acid was poured on the substance in question. Gold withstood the dissolving properties of the acid, and thus passed the "acid test."

Many times God allows an "acid test" to be applied to our faith in order to prove it to be genuine. Why? Well, Peter has something to say about this. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (I Peter 1:3-7)

The acid test is applied to dissolve what is false and leave the truth. The test is like a refiner's fire that dissolves the impurities and leaves what is best. We often struggle with this, but he need to understand God does know what he is doing, and only does it for our good. Remember God works as a divine Refiner, not an arsonist, when he applies the purifying flames to our life. Trust him, and you will indeed benefit from the "acid test."

Pastor Steve
Wednesday January 13, 2021

Many who experience a life-threatening situation often say they "saw their life pass before their eyes." Folks who have these experiences often speak of how their brush with death caused them to develop new priorities and new outlooks on how they are living their lives. John Connally was the governor of Texas and was riding in the limousine when President John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Connally was critically wounded in the shooting. Afterwards he said, "As far as Nellie and I are concerned, . . . it inevitably brought into sharper focus what s really important in life. . . . We try not to participate in things that are shallow or in the long run meaningless."

I don't know what the Connally s considered important in life, but I know what we who are followers of Christ should consider important in life. And it should not take a life-threatening situation to bring this into a position of significance in our outlook. Psalm 39:4-7 says, "'Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man's life is but a breath. Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and from: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.'"

The writer here comments on the brevity of life and his focus during his brief life: The Lord. "My hope is in you," he declares. Make sure your focus in on the Lord! Don't wait for a life-threatening experience to formulate this priority. Life is too short the way it is without needing an alarming reminder!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 12, 2021

There was a popular song released in 1972 by the group "America" entitled "Horse with No Name." The song was rather mysterious, but it spoke of traveling in a desert and some of the strangeness of a desert journey. I don't think many others would have thought of this when they heard the song, but every time I heard it, I would think of the desert wanderings of the Israelites during their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. The song spoke of the need for water in the desert.

Water is a concern at all times for all people, but it would be of special concern if you find yourself traversing a desert landscape. The scarcity of water was an issue for the people of Israel, and often led to confrontations with Moses. God always came through and provided for them, even when they grumbled and complained.

In one instance, God miraculously provided water by turning poisoned water into good water (Exodus 15:22). Another time, he led them to abundant springs (Exodus 15:27). On one occasion he had Moses strike a rock and water gushed out (Exodus 17:1). On another occasion he asked Moses to speak to a rock (Numbers 20:8). In disobedience, Moses actually struck the rock. Still, God provided water.

When we feel we are wandering in the desert; we need to continue to trust God. At times, life can seem like a dry, barren wasteland. However, God is there, He has not left us, and He will provide for us at all times. Even when we grumble and complain, God still stands ready to work for us when we come to our senses and cooperate with Him. God provides for us in unexpected and sometimes miraculous ways. Psalm 81:10 tells us, "I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it." Do not ignore His provision. Be grateful for His provision. When we trust God, we will experience rivers of continual provision and grace for every need.

Pastor Steve
Monday January 11, 2021

Do you often think about theological questions? I read once about a 5-year-old who asked her father, "Daddy, do angels sleep?" After a little bit of thought, the father replied, "Well, honey, I think they do." The girl said, "Then how do they get their pajamas over their wings?"

We need to be inquisitive and ask questions about things that are theological in nature. Now, we don't need to go overboard and obsess on items that are of little consequence, but we should be curious about circumstances of a spiritual nature. God wants us to know about his presence in our lives and his ministry in our lives. We should have a natural curiosity about his dealings with us. Just don't get sidetracked by pursuits that lead us away from really understanding him. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels." (II Timothy 2:23) Avoid those things that are pointless and only lead to controversy. Focus on the important issues and truly coming to know Christ.

Many years ago, there was a group of "scholars" who debated really important issues such as "How many angels can dance on the head of a needle?" If you read this question and say, "I don't get the point of this," then you get the point (pardon the pun). Pursuits such as this are a waste of time. Focus on issues that are beneficial to our spirituality. Don't try to find a needle in a haystack!

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 10, 2021

I remember watching "The Incredible Shrinking Man" when I was a kid. The movie fascinated me then, and still fascinates me. The story is about a person who gets covered by a mysterious dust while on a boat off the California coast. This causes him to shrink, presumably eventually to nothing, although the film ended with him still alive but very tiny. The last lines of the film are delivered through a voiceover by the main character. He laments, "And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears locked away and in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God there is no zero. I STILL EXIST!"

At times we perhaps feel like the "Shrinking Man". We feel as if we are not important, or as if our opinion counts for little, or as if our absence would not be noticed. Yet, the last lines from the fictional work are so true, "To God there is no zero!" We are known to God and as his child, we are important and significant.

The words of David in Psalm 139 reinforce this reality: "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful." (vv. 1 & 14) God has created us and knows all about us. And when we come to him by faith in His Son, we become his child and are placed in his care. We are important and significant because of what he does for his children and because of our relationship with him. In His eyes, we most certainly are not a zero.

Pastor Steve
Saturday January 09, 2021

In 1966, The Beatles were riding a wave of unprecedented popularity worldwide. During an interview by a journalist in the United Kingdom, John Lennon proclaimed that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus Christ." The remarks were met benignly in the United Kingdom, but when they were published in the United States, the reaction was profound. I remember thinking, "Oh, why did you have to say that? Now my mom will never let me listen to your records." Over three decades later, Liam Gallagher of the group Oasis made the same claim regarding his group.

These remarks do indeed warrant a strong response and criticism; however, at the risk of sounding heretical, could these gentlemen be right? Sad to say, among many, Lennon's and Gallagher's comments may be accurate. But we know that Christ is not involved in a popularity contest and there are consequences to this line of thinking.

As followers of Christ, we need to make certain this is not true in our personal lives. I am not referring to our opinion of Gallagher or Lennon, but to anything that we allow to vie for the attention we should be giving to Christ. It is one thing to say you are a disciple of Christ, but another thing to truly give Christ the place he deserves in your life.

We may be appalled by the statements of Lennon and Gallagher, and we should be; but examine yourself carefully to see if this is true about other matters. Is there anything that keeps you from placing Christ first in your life? Is there anything to which you devote more time and attention than to the matters of Christ? Nothing in our lives should occupy the place that belongs to Christ.

Our desire should be that of the apostle Paul who declared as his primary goal: "I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." (Philippians 3:10) Who or what occupies the principal place of popularity in your personal life?

Pastor Steve
Friday January 08, 2021

Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China, scrawled this note as he neared the end of his life: I am so weak that I cannot work; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God s arms like a child, and trust.

When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, we need to remember that childlike faith is what we need. As a child, I don't remember worrying about too many things, except for maybe the amount of chocolate milk that was in the refrigerator. I trusted that my folks would take care of me. Actually, I really don't remember having a conscious thought about trusting my folks, I just did. That is the essence of childlike faith, which is what we should have.

We read in Matthew 18:2 4: "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" We need to learn to trust. Actually, we know how to trust, we just need to get back to that level of trust we had as kids when it comes to our relationship with Christ. Faith like a child is what we need to have. It takes the worries away!

Pastor Steve
Thursday January 07, 2021

Psalm 122:6 encourages us to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." This is a good thing to do. I do not intend to change scripture here, but we certainly need to pray for the peace of the United States. Scenes that came from Washington, D.C., yesterday were shocking and frightening and remind us of the divisions that characterize our country.

We need to pray for cooler heads to prevail. We need to pray for our leaders to take steps towards establishing more solidarity and for a recognition of their accountability before God. We need to pray for healing and a move towards unity. Abraham Lincoln declared in a speech he delivered on June 16, 1858, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." These were words he took directly from scripture, as we find that Jesus said, "every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:" (Matthew 12:25)

Among us all, there needs to be less pointing of fingers and more folding of hands. We need to pray that our nation finds the right spiritual direction. Continue to look to God as your source of stability and assurance. What we witnessed yesterday can be unnerving, to say the least, but we can be confident since we know Who is actually in control. Tony Evans tells us, "The answer to saving America is not in the White House - it is in the church house." That's a good thing to remember as we go forward with God.

Pastor Steve
Wednesday January 06, 2021

Upon occasion, when I am visiting in southern Ohio, I make it a point to drive by a certain house located in Possum Holler. I have written about his house a few times. The house was a place where I spent a great deal of time when I was growing up - it was my grandparents home. In the front yard, there is a large cedar tree. I remember well when my grandfather planted it over 50 years ago. It was a small slip of a thing that looked as if it needed to be pitched rather than planted.

My grandfather had dug it up from a wooded area in south-central Kentucky near the home where he was raised. Although it looked as if the journey to southern Ohio had pretty much done it in, once it was planted, it began to thrive. Drawing in nutrients from the soil as well as needed moisture, the tree put down roots, took in carbon dioxide and put out oxygen, and grew. It is now a stately, impressive tree that is something to behold, all because my grandfather took the time fifty years ago to plant it.

We should never forget this basic concept - before something can grow it first needs to be planted. Nothing will grow unless planting takes place. Christ refers to the act of planting on many occasions. Paul says about planting, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." We are to be involved in the act of planting the seed of the Gospel. That impressive cedar would not be there had my grandfather not taken the time to put it in the ground. God uses us to plant the seed of the Gospel and then he brings about the results. Put you planting tools to work!

Pastor Steve
Tuesday January 05, 2021

As a youngster, one of my favorite things to do was to skip stones on bodies of water. There was a creek near my grandparents' home where water would pool in a number of areas that made great places for this purpose. When I skipped stones, I had two goals: First, I wanted to get the rock all the way to the other side. Secondly, I wanted the ripples to spread out to all the land areas around the water. I would imagine that I was changing the shorelines with the ripples I created.

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

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

Pastor Steve
Sunday January 4, 2021

I remember reading an article where the author stated that what we do with the old year is more important than what we plan for the New Year. We should make the end of this year be a time of self-evaluation to see what we might have lingering in our lives that needs to be managed. I Corinthians 11 points out the importance of self-examination.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:28: "Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup." His advice of looking at one's self before taking communion is advice that is applicable to any time of our lives. An honest look at one's heart is helpful to correct any issues that we may be harboring. Self-examination and self-evaluation is good in many areas of our lives. It is helpful to look at what we have been doing, what we have accomplished, and what needs to be done. Then we can make a plan to bring about change where change is needed or make plans to help us reach a goal we have for ourselves.

An honest look at ourselves in nowhere any more important than looking at our spiritual lives. The problem of unconfessed sin should not be ignored. Moses knew the danger of allowing sin to reside in his life. He knew that "secret sins" could cause real problems and should be confesses. Psalm 90:8 tells us: "You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence." Don't let this happen! Practice self-evaluation at all times, and use this time of year to do some serious soul searching.

Pastor Van
Friday January 01, 2021

This is the time for New Year's resolutions. The change in the number of the year brings about a desire to change something in our lives, hence we have resolutions. I don't know how you feel about resolutions, and this is not an article defending them nor decrying their ineffectiveness. I am simply acknowledging the practice of making resolutions. Making resolutions is based on an important reality - there are times we all need to make changes in our lives. Those changes vary in significance, but change is necessary. Not change for change sake, but in all of our lives, there are times when we need to make a change, with the operative word here being "need."

What changes do you need to make? Do you need to make lifestyle changes to improve your health? Do you need to make diet changes because of things going on inside of you? Do you need to make changes in how you treat others? What changes do you need to make to improve your walk with the Lord? Do you need to spend more time with the Scripture? Do you need to be more active in your church? Do you need to give more?

No doubt, most of us do need to make some change in some area. Frankly, there are very few people alive who can honestly say they don't need to make a change somewhere. The only person who does not need to change is God. I Samuel 15:29 says, "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind. However, we are not God, and we do need to make changes. Happy New Year!

Pastor Steve

Activities

Weekly Schedule

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

Schedule


Our Pastor

Pastor Steve Willis

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

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

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

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


Invitation

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

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

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

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

Our Church

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

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

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

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

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

Deacons

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