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.


Our Staff

Pastor
Dr. Steve Willis

Deacons

John Dryden
John Dryden Jr.
Rein Schmidt
Eric Schmidt
Brad Tarr

My Favorite Bible Verse

Dr. Steve Willis

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Sam & Karen White

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14

 

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10
Friday November 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 20, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 19, 2017

God's timing is always perfect. When we say this, we are usually referring to an incident or a situation where we have experienced God moving in our lives in a unique way for our benefit; however, it could also describe a circumstance where you are the benefactor rather than the beneficiary. Sometimes a phone call to a colleague, friend, or family member can turn out to be God's sovereign timing when you learn through the call about a problem they are facing. Maybe you have received this information for a reason. As you hear about the circumstance, you may learn you have the means to help with the problem, or maybe they just need a willing listener. Maybe the situation asks for a reminder of a biblical principle or examples that can allow them to gain some insight that would be helpful. It might be a financial concern that you have the means to remedy.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 18, 2017

A church organist was practicing a new piece. The practice was not going very well. The piece was by Felix Mendelssohn and was a little tricky to play. After a while, the organist became a little frustrated and decided to call it a day. He hadn t noticed that someone had entered the church and was sitting in the back row.

"Could I try the piece?" the man asked. "No," replied the organist, "I do not allow anyone to touch the organ." After a couple more polite requests, the organist finally gave in and allowed the stranger to play. And play he did - magnificently and flawlessly. When he finished, the organist asked the man, "Who are you?" "I am Felix Mendelssohn." said the man. The organist almost denied the composer the right to play the music.

Make sure you are not preventing the Composer from playing the music. God's plans will not be ultimately thwarted, but we can really mess things up when we try to do things on our own and don't allow him to work in our lives the way he wants. We need to remember what Paul said in Philippians, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) He also states that "we are his workmanship." (Ephesians 2:10) Let the Person who wrote the work complete the work! If you do, you will make some beautiful music!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 17, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 16, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 15, 2017

One of the things you notice in the ministry of the apostle Paul was his commitment to building the lives of others. He wrote much about character development, godliness, perseverance, and modeling in his letters. We see him working directly with others in Acts and in his writings. He wrote to Timothy "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) Building into the lives of others should be part of our commitment. There are others that need our encouragement, our teaching, our modeling, and our guidance.

Much has been said and written about the benefits of mentoring. This is actually what we see Paul doing. He was willing to be a mentor to others. Now, this requires time, effort, patience and care. Being a mentor does not come without a price. However, the benefits are worth the investment.

Many of you are mentors to someone else. Mentoring programs in schools, businesses, and other organizations are important. We need people who are willing to invest in the lives of others.

We need this in the church also. Who do you see that might benefit from mentoring? Make a conscious choice to do something about this. Those who are mentored benefit tremendously from such a relationship - those who mentor benefit as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 15, 2017

One of the things you notice in the ministry of the apostle Paul was his commitment to building the lives of others. He wrote much about character development, godliness, perseverance, and modeling in his letters. We see him working directly with others in Acts and in his writings. He wrote to Timothy "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) Building into the lives of others should be part of our commitment. There are others that need our encouragement, our teaching, our modeling, and our guidance.

Much has been said and written about the benefits of mentoring. This is actually what we see Paul doing. He was willing to be a mentor to others. Now, this requires time, effort, patience and care. Being a mentor does not come without a price. However, the benefits are worth the investment.

Many of you are mentors to someone else. Mentoring programs in schools, businesses, and other organizations are important. We need people who are willing to invest in the lives of others.

We need this in the church also. Who do you see that might benefit from mentoring? Make a conscious choice to do something about this. Those who are mentored benefit tremendously from such a relationship - those who mentor benefit as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 13, 2017

Stores are now focusing on the next big money maker for them now that Halloween is a distant memory - Christmas. It seems they zip right past Thanksgiving and onto this more commercially creative season of spending. My response to this is - don't do this!

I will be saying more about Thanksgiving as the days get closer to that holiday. What I want to say something about right now does have something to do with Christmas.

Have you thought much about your spending for Christmas? Many of you as parents are thinking about what to spend on your children. This isn't actually a bad thing at all, if you go about it the right way. But you should remember that there are some things you need to spend on your kids that have absolutely nothing to do with money.

Spending time with your kids is a biggie. This is something that is so important, and is something that no amount of monetary spending can replace. It really is nice if you are in a position where you can spend some dollars on your little ones (or bigger ones, as the case may be), but don't use spending money as a substitute for spending time.

Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Implied in the use of the word "train" here is the idea of time. If you wish to train your children effectively, you will need to spend some time with them.

You shouldn't let anything come between you and spending time with your kids. You shouldn't use money or anything else as a substitute for spending time with your children, or with anyone else for that matter. You will never regret the time you spend with those gifts from God. Invest wisely and not just at Christmas!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 12, 2017

Do you know Morgan Smith Goodwin? She is the perky redhead who used to appear in the Wendy's commercials. I remember one of the first commercials she made - I don't know why I remember it, but I do. She was conversing with a couple of friends at a garage sale. One of the fellows sat down in a recliner with a Wendy s burger. "Wendy" said to him, "Living large my friend!" I don't know if I would call eating a single with cheese while sitting in a used recliner living large, but it made for an interesting commercial.

What is living large? Well, one usually thinks of living large as living a luxurious lifestyle filled with all the goodies one can imagine. That is one way to "live large." Except it really won't get you anywhere that is meaningful.

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

We live large by living for our Lord. We live large by to living in a way that our lives benefit others. As followers of Christ, our hearts should be inclined towards our Lord and others. Our desire to serve God and help and encourage others should be large. This is truly "living large, my friend!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 11, 2017

Today is Veteran's Day. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed a document setting aside November 11 as Armistice Day, a day to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I, or the Great War as it was then known. Observances are usually scheduled on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, as this was the date and time of the signing of the documents in 1918. Following World War II, the commemoration was expanded to include veterans of World War II. In 1954, it was renamed Veteran's Day. By then, there were even more veterans as the Korean War had recently concluded.

This year marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the involvement of the United States in World War I as we joined the conflict on April 6, 1917. There are no living veterans from World War I. The last surviving World War I veteran, Florence Green from Great Britain, died in February of 2012. The last surviving veteran from the United States, Frank Buckles, died a year earlier in February of 2011.

As we observe this day, we need to be grateful for all who have served and for those who are serving even now. Thank you so much for your sacrifice. Obviously, a special tribute needs to be paid to those who gave their lives in the service of our country.

World War I was supposed to be a war to end all wars but it wasn't. There have been many wars since that time, including the greatest conflict the world has experienced to date - World War II. Our prayer continues to be for an end to all conflict. Humans just can't seem to get along with each other, and that is a shame.

At some point, we know that God will intervene and cause wars to cease. He promises this in his Word. Micah 4:3 tells us, "He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Today as we honor those who have served and those who are serving even now, let's pray for the time of peace God has promised for us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 09, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 08, 2017

At times we are disappointed by other's unfaithfulness or failure to keep commitments. Someone tells us they will take care of your yard while you are away but doesn't. A family member says they will come by but doesn't. A friend says they will call to take you fishing but you never hear from them. A member of your church family promises to visit during a time of bereavement but never comes by. These situations happen, and we have no control over them.

We have no control over the actions of others, and we cannot do anything about the lack of faithfulness and commitment of others. We can do something about our own actions. We do have control over our faithfulness and commitment. Proverbs 20:6 tells us, "Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?"

We need to make sure that others find us a faithful person. When we make a promise, make sure to keep it. When we tell someone we will do something for them, let your actions match your speech. Others may be a disappointment to you, do your best to keep your commitments so you won't be a disappointment to others.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 07, 2017

Albert Schweitzer was an interesting individual. He was trained as a musician and was a church organist. Then he studied philosophy and theology and became a pastor and a professor. At age 30, specifically so that he could go labor in Africa, he entered medical school and became a physician.

He lived in Africa for decades, building clinics, developing treatments, and working among a people so poor that they were barely able to stay alive. When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952, he used the proceeds to build a leper colony in Gabon. He wrote, "The only ones who will be really happy are the ones who have found how to serve." His life was certainly an embodiment of this statement.

Have you found how to serve? So many folks seem to express discontent with their lives and unhappiness. The remedy to this lies in finding how to serve. When you determine to live the life of your servant, you find that you have no work of your own, no worth of your own, but you also find that you have no worries of your own as your life is dedicated to others.

Christ is the supreme example of this and calls us to be servants not only through his statements, but through his example. In Mark 10:45, we read his words, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Often, we fail to see the emphasis on service in the life of Christ. This failure means we don't place a premium on service in our lives and find ourselves missing the mark of living for Christ. Schweitzer said, "The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others." Let's demonstrate our purpose by living to serve.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 06, 2017

I remember as a young boy using the "flower test" to determine if a girl loved me or not. You remember doing this, don't you? You pick a daisy, then begin plucking off the petals one a time while alternately saying "she (or he) loves me" or "she loves me not" with each petal plucked.

Oh, my poor little heart was broken many times when the last petal was accompanied by the definitive "she loves me not." Then, of course, there were times when I would jump for joy because the last petal would come off while I was saying "she loves me"! Of course, you soon learn this is really not a good indication of someone's affection for you.

We sometimes do this with God. We allow circumstances in our lives to inform us about God's love towards us. We experience difficulties and setbacks and say "God loves me not." This is really just as foolish as thinking the petals on a daisy actually have anything to do with how someone else feels about us.

The next time you begin to question God's affection for you, remind yourself of what the scripture says about his love. I John 4:9 tells us, "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him." Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And don't forget the powerful words of Paul in Romans 8:37-39, "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." God's love for us has nothing to do with petals on a flower or circumstances in our lives. His love for us has everything to do with who He is!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 04, 2017

Leadership Today writes: "Great men and women of faith are people of prayer. Prayer deepens our connection with our Heavenly Father, and leads to spiritual power and action. In prayer we seek God, worship Him, humble ourselves before Him, and receive His wisdom. As we spend time with Him, our lives increasingly reflect Him to those around us."

Great men and women of faith devote a great deal of time to prayer. They understood that they could not hope to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished without spending time in prayer. We see examples in the Scripture and examples in history of God's servants spending time with God in prayer.

Hannah prayed fervently for a son. The result was Samuel, a man who almost single-handedly preserved the nation of Israel (read I Samuel 1). David was a man of prayer. Many of his prayers are seen in the psalms he wrote. Daniel was a man of prayer. Even in the face of the threat of death, Daniel continued his custom of praying three times a day. We read in Daniel 6:10, "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." Jesus himself regularly spent time in prayer.

The history of the Church is filled with examples of people who understood time spent in prayer was time well spent. John Wesley rose at 4 a.m. each morning so that he might spend at least two hours in prayer before the day would start. Corrie ten Boom never stopped praying even after her incarceration in a Nazi death camp. Later she wrote about prayer, "Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"

How is your life being shaped by time with God? We have many biblical and historical examples of people whose lives made a difference and there is an important common denominator - they understood the importance of prayer. Do you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 04, 2017

Leadership Today writes: "Great men and women of faith are people of prayer. Prayer deepens our connection with our Heavenly Father, and leads to spiritual power and action. In prayer we seek God, worship Him, humble ourselves before Him, and receive His wisdom. As we spend time with Him, our lives increasingly reflect Him to those around us."

Great men and women of faith devote a great deal of time to prayer. They understood that they could not hope to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished without spending time in prayer. We see examples in the Scripture and examples in history of God's servants spending time with God in prayer.

Hannah prayed fervently for a son. The result was Samuel, a man who almost single-handedly preserved the nation of Israel (read I Samuel 1). David was a man of prayer. Many of his prayers are seen in the psalms he wrote. Daniel was a man of prayer. Even in the face of the threat of death, Daniel continued his custom of praying three times a day. We read in Daniel 6:10, "Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." Jesus himself regularly spent time in prayer.

The history of the Church is filled with examples of people who understood time spent in prayer was time well spent. John Wesley rose at 4 a.m. each morning so that he might spend at least two hours in prayer before the day would start. Corrie ten Boom never stopped praying even after her incarceration in a Nazi death camp. Later she wrote about prayer, "Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?"

How is your life being shaped by time with God? We have many biblical and historical examples of people whose lives made a difference and there is an important common denominator - they understood the importance of prayer. Do you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 03, 2017

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!" calls Mark Antony during his oration at the funeral of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's play. Antony had something to say and he wanted others to listen.

Maybe you know someone who has something to say and you need to listen. It might be a confession of an error, an old joke, a comment on the weather, a piece of important information that needs to be passed along, or just a comment on an article of clothing. Listening to others is such an important part of life. This is especially true in our relationships with those we love, but it is also true in many other circumstances. We should express our care for others and the best way to do so is to "lend them our ears."

Paul tells us that we "should have equal concern for each other." (I Corinthians 12:25) We do this by exercising the gifts that God has given us to benefit others. This needs to be accompanied by open ears. Above all else, we need to listen to God.

Listening is something all of us need to do. It is a privilege and responsibility for all of us. Someone out there has something to say to you - are you listening? Lend them your ears!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 02, 2017

One of the hardest things I believe I ever had to do was to help restrain my 18-month-old daughter while an emergency room physician worked carefully to extract a pearl from her ear. The pearl was from a necklace that had broken. Scherry and I thought we had picked all of the pearls up, but obviously we hadn't.

Stephanie found a pearl we had missed and placed it in her ear. She wanted to "put on an earring" like she had seen her Mom do many times. When we discovered what she had done, we had no choice but to take her to the emergency room as we realized we could not get it out of her ear safely.

The hospital staff wanted one of us to assist in an attempt to keep our daughter calm. This didn't go so well, but I stayed until the doctor completed the task. As difficult as this was, I knew I needed to trust the doctor's skill. He knew the anatomy of the ear and was trained to accomplish this procedure without doing permanent damage to my little girl's ear. As much as I wanted to jump in and help, I knew this would not be a good idea. My patience and restraint were rewarded when the pearl came out and Stephanie was fine.

We need to trust our lives to the Savior who knows what is needed to deal with our brokenness and our deficiencies. Too many times we take matters into our own hands rather than allow the Lord free rein to accomplish the procedures that would enhance our lives. Sometimes the procedures are uncomfortable and hard to bear, but as with my little girl, our Lord knows what is needed to make us whole and bring us restoration. Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." As the Great Physician, he knows exactly what we need. Put your life in his hands, he will take good care of you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 01, 2017

Some time ago, I read that archeologists have uncovered a plate in Spain with an image of Jesus on it. Jesus is depicted as beardless and with short hair. Here is an excerpt from the article, "Archaeologists have uncovered one of the earliest-known images of Jesus in the town of Cástulo in Andalusia, Spain. The image, engraved on a glass plate known as a paten, shows a beardless, short-haired Jesus. The archaeologists estimate the 8.6-inch paten is from the fourth century C.E., and they suspect it was used to hold Eucharistic bread. The image shows Jesus in a philosopher's toga, along with two other - also beardless - male figures, whom researchers suspect are Peter and Paul, two of Jesus' apostles. All three of the men are depicted with halos. 'The scene takes place in the celestial orb, framed between two palm trees, which in Christian iconography represent immortality, the afterlife, and heaven, among other things,' the archaeologists said in a statement."

Now, I find this to be interesting, but my favorite portrayal of Jesus is not found in any artist's rendition in any known medium. My favorite portrayal of Jesus is found in Philippians 2. There we read, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross! (2:6-8)

This image reflects his humility, his obedience, and, perhaps most importantly, his willingness to do what was needed to secure redemption for humanity. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us about the image he became in order to make us righteous, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

I find the archeological discovery of a plate depicting Christ's image interesting, but what I find important is the image of Christ given in Scripture. This is the image on which we should focus.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 30, 2017

Recently I read an ad for a program that said you could pick up a new language in as little as ten days. I didn't go for this, as I have studied a few languages and I don't think ten days is enough to learn how to understand and speak in a different tongue.

Language barriers are not impossible to overcome, but they have caused difficulties in both personal and political relationships for almost as long as humans have been around. Differences in languages have posed a problem ever since the differences arose. You can read this story in Genesis 11. God "confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth." (vs. 9)

There have been situations when a difficulty in translation has proved to be beneficial. In 1917, the British General Allenby was leading an assault on Turkish-held Jerusalem. Upon reading Isaiah 31:4-5, he discovered a plan to win the battle. These verses say, "As birds flying, so will the LORD of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it. Allenby decided to fly small scout planes over Jerusalem and drop notes in the Turkish language instructing the Turks to surrender Jerusalem. Having never seen an airplane, many of the Turks became fearful. In addition, the note was signed "Allenby." In Arabic, the phrase "Allah Nebi," which means "God's Prophet," is similar to "Allenby." When the Turks read a note about the Lord defending Jerusalem as "birds flying" that had been dropped by "flying birds" and was signed by "God's Prophet," they gave up Jerusalem without firing a shot. The British took control of the Holy City.

Someday all the confusion will be over. And we know that now, whatever language we speak, God hears and understands. Psalm 18:6 tells us that he hears and answers, "I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice;" Nothing is lost in translation in our communication with God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 29, 2017

Dr. Paul Brand was a world-renowned orthopedic specialist and leprosy surgeon who worked primarily in India with people affected with leprosy. In the 1940 s, he solved a riddle that had plagued the world for centuries; "Why do the hands and feet of leprosy-affected people fall off? What causes the terrible deformities of leprosy? Can anything be done to prevent them or restore the damage?" He discovered that it was infection and injury that caused the loss of digits and limbs among lepers. Both problems were treatable if discovered in a timely manner.

Typically, a person with leprosy loses sensation in fingers, hands, feet ant toes. Since they do not feel pain that would warn of a dangerous circumstance, many would suffer severe injury through cuts and burns leading to infection and loss of limbs. Dr. Brand developed a machine that would beep when the person would be near fire or some other potentially harmful situation. His invention helped by warning of potential harm.

Like physical pain, our conscience serves to warn us of potentially harmful situations. However, it is possible to develop a lifestyle where we sear our conscience to the point that we no longer feel "pain" and therefore are prone to continue with harmful behavior. To keep a clear conscience, we need to respond to the pain of appropriate guilt and make changes.

Paul writes that it is possible to sear your conscience, "Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." (I Timothy 4:2) We need to avoid allowing our conscience to be seared. We need to follow Paul's example, "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." (Acts 24:16) Keep your conscience clear by maintaining godly character!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 28, 2017

The submarine lied disabled on the ocean floor with little chance of being rescued. The communication equipment had failed and the crew was unable to transmit their location to ships that had the potential of reaching them in time. The oxygen supply began to run out. The commander suggested they sing a hymn. They sang "The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide."

A weakened sailor passed out and lurched against the lifeless controls that determined whether the vehicle was to dive or to surface. The force of the sailor falling against the faulty mechanism caused it to start working. The submarine made it to the surface with no casualties.

With the world trapped in the deep darkness of sin, God sent his Son to make a way that sinking humanity could surface safely. Through Christ's provision, we who were trapped at the bottom could rise to the top through the grace of God. When we trust in Christ's provision, we can escape the waters of death and enjoy the sunshine of God's love.

David wrote, "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him." (Psalm 40:1-3) This is God's promise for those who follow him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 27, 2017

We often hear it said, or perhaps even say it ourselves, that we are our own worst enemy. Many of you are facing challenges at work, in your marriage, in your family, at school, or in your church, and the reason for these challenges may very well be you. Your attitude or your actions, or both, are at the root of your trouble. We can be our own worst enemy when we fail to have significant insight into our own behavior and fail to see that our choices are the cause of the struggle we are facing. We need to hold a mirror in front of us, literally and figuratively, and ask ourselves hard questions as to who really is to blame.

I remember an incident that gives a somewhat more objective view of this principle. Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods were neck and neck in The Player's Championship, a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Garcia hit a bad shot and put the blame on Tiger Woods saying that Woods' actions during Garcia s swing caused him to mishit the ball. Later in the competition, Garcia had a few more bad hits that could not be blamed on Woods, and he lost the tournament. We all have a tendency to do this - blame others or blame outside circumstances for troubles that really are caused by our own shortcomings or mistakes.

Paul reminds us that we have the ability to be our own worst enemy. In Galatians 5:16 - 17 he writes, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want." He then goes on to contrast the attitudes of the flesh with the attitudes of the Spirit. The bottom line is that we have it within us to be a problem to ourselves. We need to guard against this possibility. Don't be your own worst enemy!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 26, 2017

Dr. Joyce Brothers was a pretty influential person in the twentieth century. Perhaps you are familiar with Dr. Brothers. As the first "TV psychologist" in the 1950's, she pioneered "pop psychology" through her roles on TV, as a columnist, and frequent appearances in movies and talk shows. She was a guest of Johnny Carson more than 100 times on "The Tonight Show." As well as a daily column syndicated in more than 350 newspapers, she wrote 15 books that dispensed advice on a broad range of topics.

Dr. Brothers paved the way for "Dr. Phil" and others. When asked about why she was so successful, she replied "because you were hungry."

People are hungry for advice on how to live the right way and what to do in certain situations. This is fed by a desire to be correct and to look good in the eyes of others. We who are followers of Christ should be more concerned about how we appear in the eyes of God than how we appear to the eyes of others; therefore, we should be hungry for knowledge of God's desire and designs.

With all due respect to Dr. Brothers, seeking her counsel will not help us to know the mind of God. Following what God has given us in His Word is the way to gain understanding of God's plans.

We read in Psalm 119:10-11, "I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Following Dr. Brothers advice might be ok for a little problem you have encountered, but if you truly want to know how you should order your life, go to the source of life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 25, 2017

In 1983 Steve Jobs challenged John Sculley, then CEO of PepsiCo, with this statement, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" What happened after that is history. The story of Apple computers along with the success of IPods, IPads, and the IPhone is a part of our current culture. Of course, it took some people making hard decisions and stepping out into areas where no one had ventured before. Their decision brought about technology that has made our lives different that what they would have been.

We need this visionary outlook when it comes to the message of the Gospel. We have news that has changed the world in a much different way than did the efforts of Sculley and Jobs, yet we often are lackadaisical about our role in spreading this news. Christ called the early disciples with these words, "Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people." (Matthew 4:19) When the power of the Holy Spirit came upon these followers on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), they boldly began to proclaim a message that did change the world. Later, they were accused of turning the world "upside down" (Acts 17:6).

Wouldn't that be great if we were accused of doing just that? We have the same Power as did those early disciples. The Holy Spirit is still resident in those who follow Christ. We should yield to the leadership of the Spirit and quit selling sugared water. We should work to change the world.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 24, 2017

A bricklayer had a brother who was a world-famous violinist. The bricklayer was talking one day with the head of the construction company for whom he worked. "It must be something having a brother who is so talented and is known the world over for his ability on the violin," remarked the executive. He added, "Sometimes the way that talent is distributed in families just doesn't seem fair." "That's for sure," replied the bricklayer, "It's a good thing my brother can afford to hire people. He doesn't know the first thing about building a house."

The attitude of the bricklayer is a great point of view to possess. Different people are given different abilities. There is no one person who is capable of doing everything well and everybody has an ability to use in some capacity. This is true in life in general, and is true in our churches.

Exodus 31 records that there were people who were given special skills in different areas to be able to construct the tabernacle and to make the items used in the tabernacle. God said, "I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills." (Exodus 31:2) In various passages, Paul talks about the variety of gifts that have been given by the Spirit to followers of Christ. We read in I Corinthians 12:7, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."

We should honor God with the jobs we do that help to support our lives and our families. We should honor God through exercising the gift he has given us as followers of Christ so we may benefit others and be of benefit to our church. Putting our abilities in action helps us, helps others, and gives glory to our Father.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 23, 2017

I have always found it fascinating to realize how quickly the new aeronautical technology developed by the Wright Brothers in the fledgling days of the Twentieth Century was altered to be used in military applications. Many of the early developments in flying were results of research done to develop flying weapons. The speed at which flying advanced can largely be attributed to research and development for military applications.

One of the most successful early war planes was the Sopwith Camel used by the Royal Air Force during World War I. Sopwith Camels were responsible for the destruction of 1,294 enemy aircraft. One of the engines used in the Camels was a Gnome Rotary engine that was designed without a throttle. The engine was meant to run full speed at all times. I am not sure of the advantage of this, except to allow the aircraft to go full speed at all times.

What may have been an advantage for an airplane is certainly not an advantage for us. If we run full speed at all times, we can be sure that we are heading for a crash landing. Unlike the Gnome engine, we are not built to run full-throttle. God did not build us to race from one activity to another with no heed for our well-being.

As you observe the life of Christ, you see that he took time to slow down, focus on his Father, and allow for opportunities for renewal. We need times likes these as well. We need spiritual refreshment so that we don't "crash and burn". Christ invites us to "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31) Sounds like good advice to me.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 22, 2017

Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it s over." On June 7, 2013, Calidoscopia, a thoroughbred running in a race at Belmont Park in New York, took this advice to heart. At the halfway point in the race, Calidoscopia trailed the field by 22 lengths. Then, he kicked into a higher gear. On a rain-soaked track he made up the difference over the last half of the race and ended up winning by a length. Indeed, "It ain't over 'til it s over."

We often get discouraged by events in our lives that leave us feeling hopeless and trailing behind others. Sometimes we are working on a project or some other event and we just can't seem to get things together. Just remember, it isn't over until it s over.

Paul wrote, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9) There are many reasons why we often give up in circumstances. Fear of failure, skepticism, feelings of inadequacy, not enough help to finish the task, and other concerns often keep up from pressing on. When we face discouragement because of a struggle, remember the words of Paul and the example of Calidoscopia. Keep pressing forward and do what you can. "It ain't over 'til it s over."

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 21, 2017

Something that is fun to practice but difficult to do in reality is demonstrate common virtues in uncommon circumstances. When we demonstrate Christ-like characteristics in situations that normally would elicit a more vengeful response, we are truly displaying the love of Christ.

I know of a young mother who was with her children in a drive-up line at a fast food restaurant. As she was placing her order at the screen, for some reason the woman in the car behind her began to honk and gesture rudely. When the mother drove around to the window to pick up her food, the lady continued using her horn and the rude gesture. Her young son asked, "Mommy, is something wrong with the lady in the car behind us?" "I don't know," said the mom, "Maybe she is just having a bad day." She then did something most of us would not do, let alone even think of doing. She asked for the amount of the lady's order and paid for her food. This is an example of demonstrating the common virtue of courtesy in an uncommon situation.

Christ spoke of this often and showed us how to live this principle in so many ways, including his death. He tells us, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." When we show love, kindness, patience, goodness, and other virtues in situations that normally demand the opposite, we show Christ. Be an uncommon Christian!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 20, 2017

As I said in my post the other day, my recent hiatus from Facebook was created by my presence in an area where I had no cell service or internet connection. Some of you thought I must have been in some deep wilderness area. Actually, I was not all that far from "civilization" we were at a campground in Shawnee State Park near Portsmouth, Ohio. I wrote that some of you were not that far from me and, as you can see, you weren t.

Also not far from our campsite was a place that has some neat memories for me Camp Oyo. Camp Oyo is a Boy Scout camp that was built in the 1930's on some land that had been set aside for a camp in 1926 by Governor Alvin Donahey. My brother Phil recently sent me an interesting article from portsmouthmetro.com about the renovations of the camp facilities. It was good to see that the camp is still going strong.

I enjoyed my time in Boy Scouts and, in particular, my experiences at Camp Oyo. Besides being a lot of great fun, I learned a number of skills that I have used from time to time throughout my life. Seeing Oyo again reminded me of this, and made me grateful for what I acquired there that has helped me in life situations I have encountered.

We need to be grateful for the experiences we have had in the past that bring us help in the present. There are many instances in our lives when past experiences prove helpful in present circumstances. When we are faced with a problem, a crisis, or some other puzzle, what we have learned from past experience can be very beneficial.

Recalling how we have seen God provide faithfully in a past circumstance is a source of strength for a current trial. At a time when David faced a crisis because of the pursuit of his enemies, he said "I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done." (Psalm 143:5) Yes, I am grateful for the benefit I derived from my experience at Camp Oyo, but of much greater benefit is what I experience from a relationship with the ever-present God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 19, 2017

I have heard that there is a website that monitors world events and presents a "snapshot" of world events each hour. I have tried unsuccessfully to locate this website - any of you know about it? I would be interested in hearing from you. Anyway, this would be a compelling site. Of course, there are the news pages from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and others, but supposedly this website is right on the cusp of events as they are unfolding.

If there were a website that monitored the events and activities of your life, what would it reveal? What would it look like over the past 24 hours? What about the last few days? What patterns would emerge from looking at your life over a period of time? We each have only a certain amount of time to live, and how we live during this time is important. Are we showing commitment to Christ? Do you display kindness and compassion to others? Are we interacting with our family in the way we should? What would such a website reveal?

There is so much in the scripture about how we should live, but one verse that particularly comes to mind is Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." Let's strive to make these characteristics a regular part of the record on the website of our lives.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 18, 2017

For the past few days, I have been in an area where cell phone and internet service was not readily available. Hard to believe there are areas like that anymore, but there are, and I wasn't even all that far away from many of you. So, I haven't published an article for a bit on Facebook; please forgive my absence. My web administrator published articles for me on our church website. I know a few folks tried to contact me as my message retrieval sites loaded up. When I returned to where I could get them, my alerts went crazy.

It is frustrating when we are unable to get in touch with someone. I think that in our day, frustration levels have increased with the growth of communication technology. We are so used to immediate contact with others that when this does not happen, well, need I say more?

We often think this is the case with our communication with God. We feel that our prayers just seem to be "not getting through" because of a perceived lack of response. The operative word here is "perceived." Rest assured, there is nowhere we can go that we are out of God's presence and there are no times when God is "out of earshot."Psalm 139:7 - 8 tells us, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there."Actually, a good thing to do at those times when we feel as if we are not being heard is to read Psalm 139.

Whatever you are facing, whatever your circumstance, God is there and he is not oblivious to what is taking place. If you feel as if you are struggling to be heard, focus on God's presence, remember his promises, and pray for his power to help in your time of weakness. Romans 8:26-27 reminds us, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God."

There is never a time when you cannot communicate with God, and there is never a time when God will not communicate with you. He has his cell towers in all the right places.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 16, 2017

Why is it that we just can't seem to resist the lure of the message when it pops up on our phone? When we hear the phone ring, we feel as if we have to answer it. When our text signal goes off, we need to read to find out who is trying contact us. This lure causes some problems. We need to ignore the lure when we are driving, but often don't, and this can lead to bad consequences. Theaters, churches, and other venues have messages asking folks to turn their cell phones off. We are so anxious to get those messages that are most often pretty inconsequential.

So why is it that we are not as anxious to get God's messages? God has information for us that is vital and yet we are casual with retrieving his messages. We are all too willing to "put him on mute" or even turn him off altogether when we feel his message may be interfering with things we want to do or places we want to go. Or maybe his message may be asking us to go somewhere we don't want to go or do something we don't want to do. "Sorry, God, my cell was turned off, so I didn't get that." Don't do this. Those cell messages you are so anxious to retrieve are the ones that can wait. Your connectedness can come down a notch and you won't suffer for it. However, if you are not taking care of your connectedness with God, that can be a problem.

We need the attitude of Samuel when it comes to the messages from God, "Speak, Lord, for you servant is listening" (I Samuel 3:9) Make sure you are keeping the lines open.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 15, 2017

Do you believe that God is all-knowing? "Well, of course I do!", you might reply. If this is the case, then why don't you do what he asks you to do? If you believe he knows everything, why do you not answer his call to work for him? Why do you do things you shouldn't do right in front of his face? When we do this, it shows that we really don't think God is all-knowing, that he really can't see what we are doing. When we don't answer his call to do something he wants us to do, it reflects a lack of trust in him. Our disobedience says, "I really don't think you can take care of me and I don't think you will help me do what you have asked me to do." Is this really what we want to say to God?

Our disobedience, whether it is doing something we shouldn't do or not doing something we should do, reveals a lack of trust and a lack of belief that God is who he is and will do what he says. Paul proclaims, "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." Show that you believe in the faithfulness of God. Show that you believe that he is indeed all-knowing. Answer his call and be obedient. Live before him a life that shows you trust his care.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 14, 2017

Corrie ten Boom lost a great deal. She lost her family, her possessions, and many years of her life to people who were motivated by hatred. When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, she and her family were taken captive as they had been helping Jews escape the terror being spread by Hitler's followers. She was eventually placed in a concentration camp and subjected to inhumane treatment. Her sister, Betsie, and her father died during the detention. Although she lost what many would consider all she had, she later wrote, "I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I placed in God's hands, that, I still possess."

We need to pray for the same attitude towards that which we have and realize we should put all we have in God's hands. We may suffer loss of a number of things during our lives, but God knows what we really need and will not let these essentials escape our possession. Christ had an encounter with a person who had a problem with entrusting what he had to God. Christ told him, "'One thing you lack, Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Mark 10:21-22)

Don't confuse what you have with what your really need. Entrust what you have to God and allow him to do with what you have that which needs to be done. He will ensure you get to keep that which is truly valuable.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 13, 2017

I have always enjoyed reading the book of Philippians. There are many reasons for this. One reason is the pleasant memories it brings to me of church camp when I was a teenager as we used this book for the basis of Bible quiz games one year. I enjoy it because of the description of Christ found in chapter two. I also enjoy the book because of the positive nature of the book and Paul's references to joy and rejoicing found throughout the book. Paul refers to rejoicing in every chapter, culminating with this statement in 4:1, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

When you read Philippians, you get the picture that Paul must be on a beach somewhere, taking in the sun, and really loving life. When he wrote the book, he was indeed loving life, but certainly not on a beach. He was in jail. He was being kept in house confinement under guard. Even under these circumstances, he wrote about joy in the Lord and rejoicing. He encouraged his readers, "So you too should be glad and rejoice with me." Rejoice? While you are under arrest? Paul could do so because he had learned an important point in serving the Lord which he expresses in another place in Philippians, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (4:11)

Developing this attitude can help us to have an attitude of well-being, joy, and peace whatever we may encounter. This attitude is not developed overnight, but as we grow in the Lord and learn to experience more of his grace in our lives, we learn the joy of contentment whatever we face. Along with Paul, I say "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 12, 2017

Fences can be looked at in two ways. They are there to keep something or someone in or they are there to keep something or someone out. Well, there is a third point of view. The fence could be there for both reasons. The bottom line is, for the most part, fences are there for protection. The boundaries they delineate are provided to allow a place of safety for those confined by the boundaries whether they are on the inside or on the outside. Now, this is not a completely fool-proof system, but for the most part, it works.

As much as society doesn't want to admit it, if God's boundaries were followed, life would improve. The idea of conforming to God's boundaries is usually looked down upon by our modern society. It is looked upon as an infringement on our rights. Yet the denial of the need for boundaries shows a great indifference to the rights of others. Our society is certainly not improved by the denial of boundaries. That is why we have boundaries. For the most part, those who adhere to the boundaries of God are intent on taking care of their lives and the lives of others.

A blessed life is one that delights in the boundaries of God. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night." God puts up boundaries with our best interests in mind, not to mess with our mind. Observing those boundaries leads to a bountiful life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 12, 2017

Fences can be looked at in two ways. They are there to keep something or someone in or they are there to keep something or someone out. Well, there is a third point of view. The fence could be there for both reasons. The bottom line is, for the most part, fences are there for protection. The boundaries they delineate are provided to allow a place of safety for those confined by the boundaries whether they are on the inside or on the outside. Now, this is not a completely fool-proof system, but for the most part, it works.

As much as society doesn't want to admit it, if God's boundaries were followed, life would improve. The idea of conforming to God's boundaries is usually looked down upon by our modern society. It is looked upon as an infringement on our rights. Yet the denial of the need for boundaries shows a great indifference to the rights of others. Our society is certainly not improved by the denial of boundaries. That is why we have boundaries. For the most part, those who adhere to the boundaries of God are intent on taking care of their lives and the lives of others.

A blessed life is one that delights in the boundaries of God. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night." God puts up boundaries with our best interests in mind, not to mess with our mind. Observing those boundaries leads to a bountiful life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 11, 2017

A recent study has demonstrated that dogs are able to see in color, not just black and white as was previously believed. What I took away from this is, well, how nice for dogs. How wonderful it is to be able to see all the brilliant colors that God has used to paint our world. It is wonderful to look upon our surroundings and see what God has given us to appreciate. I am glad that man's best friend can see the variety of God's offerings as well.

We need to open our eyes to what God has in store for us. Too many times we are only seeing in black and white because we don't take the time to look closely or we allow too many other things distract us from seeing the full picture God has for us! Don't miss what God has for you because you are too busy looking elsewhere or simply don't see all that he has for you.

A familiar hymn says, "Open my eyes that I may see." That should be a perpetual prayer for us. The Lord says to us, "Give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways." (Proverbs 23:26) When we do that, we are seeing in full color.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 10, 2017

I was a big fan of Superman when I was a kid. I have probably mentioned this a time or two in previous columns. I never wanted to miss "Superman" on TV. I had a Superman outfit and I even made a cape for my dog, Blackie, so that he could accompany me on my adventures. The problem was, he never seemed quite as enthusiastic about these endeavors as was I.

I knew that my costume could help me fly, and I was determined to prove it. I developed a plan to climb up on our roof and jump off. Somehow, Mom figured out my plan and thwarted my attempt, no doubt saving me from a variety of injuries, and probably saving my life. I understand that Superman costumes come with a warning label now: "Warning! This costume does not enable the wearer to fly." This, of course, should be obvious.

Isn t it amazing how many things come with warning labels these days? The labels state what should be obvious, but the concern over lawsuits, because many people people miss the obvious,makes the labels necessary. This has led to a problem with the labels. Many researchers have shown that, because of the proliferation of warning labels, the warning labels have become less effective. </->

The scripture contains many warnings for us; however, we sometimes ignore the scripture and don't take time to find out what it says. As a result, we miss these important messages. Ezekiel 33:7 tells us, "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me."

God gives us warnings on what we should do, what we shouldn't do, and the consequences of ignoring his statements. He does it for our benefit and our protection. So heed the warnings! Don't try to fly with a costume!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 09, 2017

The rubber band was patented by Stephen Perry on March 17, 1845. No, not the Stephen Perry of "Don t Stop Believin'" fame. He's not that old. Although, over the years there have been many who have wished he would snap back to Journey.

Rubber bands have always amazed me. I guess I get amazed by simple things. You stretch them out, and they just snap back to their original shape just like that. Because of this property, rubber bands can be quite useful. They can bind letters, documents, packages, and things of all shapes and sizes. The can be used as book marks and can zing paper clips and paper wads amazing distances yep, I am speaking from experience on these latter exercises..

Anyway, rubber bands are certainly amazing, resilient, and useful. Except if they are stretched a little too far. Then, they snap and provide a moment of pain. Of course, once that happens, they aren't quite as resilient and useful as before.

We get stretched in life. And, we are pretty amazing, resilient, and useful. Just don't allow yourself to be stretched too far. It is so easy to become so over-committed and busy that we are in danger of stretching too far. Stress can do some bad things to us, so we need to be careful and we need to be smart about how we manage stress.

God is good at helping us with our lives in general, and stress in our lives in particular, if we allow him to be a part of what is taking place. The first part of Psalm 23 says, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

Don't get stretched to the breaking point. Make good decisions about what you are doing, and be sure to include God in whatever is going on. He can help you "snap back" to normal when you become "stretched out."

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 08, 2017

One of the things I loved to do when I was young was help fix fence. Whether is was with my Papaw Mayfield, or my Uncle John, or my dad, I liked to help fix fence. The farm wasn't large and there weren't that many cattle, but they still needed to be kept in the pasture. There was nothing more frustrating than to get a call from a neighbor, or simply find out for ourselves, that the cattle had gotten out through a bad part of the fence. To try to keep this from happening, every so often we would walk the fence line to check for weak spots. Keeping the fence repaired in advance saved a great deal of headache.

This is what we need to do with our lives. We need to "keep a check on things." First, it doesn't hurt to do this by getting a regular physical exam. God only gave us one body and we need to be good stewards of our bodies. So, take care of yourself. I Corinthians 6:20 reminds us, "What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." Also, Romans 12:1 tells us, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."

Secondly, make sure to make regular spiritual checkups. Maintaining a healthy spiritual life is a good thing as well. Paul speaks of praying for other's spiritual development, "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding." (Colossians 1:9)

Take care of all of you - the physical and spiritual. They are both gifts from God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 07, 2017

One of my pet peeves is a bad habit I have of laying things down and then forgetting where I put them, especially my car keys. Sometimes I have to almost hire a private detective to find what I am looking for. There s only one item and I can't find it!

I am glad God never has that problem. He never misplaces anything. He never "misplaces" people. He knows where we are at any given time. Isn't that amazing? There are times I can't even keep track of one thing, but God never has trouble keeping up with millions of people, a multitude of details, and innumerable needs and concerns.

David writes in Psalm 139:1-3, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways." Deuteronomy 31:8 gives us God's promise that he is able to keep us because he never "loses" us: "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

Yes, I am glad God never loses track of me. He is always aware of what is taking place with me, and he is always with me. Now, if I could just find my keys.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 06, 2017

One of the characteristics of artists is the ability to see what can be rather than what is. A painter looks at a blank canvass and sees a brilliant landscape or a tree-lined road rather than a plain piece of material. A woodcarver looks at a piece of wood and pictures an old man sitting on a stump. A sculptor looks at a piece of granite and pictures the features of a person. When you are in the realm of creating, it is important to be able to see what will be rather than what is.

God does that with us. I remember someone asking during a Bible study, "How does God put up with us?" The answer is that God is able to see what can be rather than what is. He chooses to focus on what he can see rather than what now exists. God is able to exhibit patience when he deals with us because he sees the finished product not just the rough draft. God has the ability to see what will be with complete detail.

We don't have this ability in the same way as does God, but looking at potential is an exercise in which we should engage. We need to focus on what will be rather than what now is. This helps us to keep the right perspective and keeps us from being discouraged as we face the struggles that repeatedly come our way.

Paul tells us, "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (I Corinthians 13:12) We need to keep this in mind as we continue in our lives here and now. We do not have full understanding and we do not see completely what will be. It is helpful to remember this and focus on what can be and what will be at times when the "what is" is giving us fits.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 05, 2017

One of my favorite movies is the Coen brothers' "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" The storyline of the movie is loosely based upon Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey." In one scene of the movie, the three main characters are enticed by three young ladies who are washing clothes in a stream. This harkens to the event in the Odyssey where Odysseus knows his ship is going to pass by some coastal waters inhabited by "sirens." Sirens were mythical creatures that enticed sailors with their alluring songs, causing them to jump overboard and drown.

To keep his men from being affected by the "Sirens' Song," Odysseus commands his men to tie him to the mast, and then stuff wax in their ears. The ship passes safely by the sirens as the sailors are oblivious to their song of enticement. In "Oh Brother," the characters are not so fortunate as they hear the songs of the "sirens" and find themselves in quite a predicament.

We are constantly being enticed by the "songs of sirens" meant to tempt us to follow our desires and disobey God. Temptation is always there; however, Paul assures us that "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (I Corinthians 10:13).

Are you facing some temptation which seems to be constantly wooing you to do something you know you shouldn't? Is there a "song being played" that is hindering you from doing what you know you should? Tie yourself to the mast! Put wax in your ears! In other words, do what is necessary to avoid the temptation. Remember the words of the scripture - God has provided a way out. Find the way out and stick to it! Follow the example of Odysseus, not that of Ulysses S. McGill, and avoid the "song of the sirens."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 04, 2017

David Branon writes about an experience he had with his then 4-year-old son, Stevie: "It was a Sunday afternoon several years ago. The whole family was gathered around the table for dinner. Stevie led off our pre-meal prayer: 'Dear heavenly Father, thank You for this nice day. Thank You that we could go to church and Sunday school today.' Then, to our surprise, he said, 'And we ll see You again next week.'"

This should resonate with many of us. If it doesn't, then let me explain. Many of us reflect an attitude towards God in our lives that is described in this young boy's prayer. The only time we spend with God is that one time a week when we gather at our local church for worship. And then the time we give to God is often punctuated with complaints and grumbling: "Why was the preacher's sermon so long?" or "We need different songs in worship!" or "Was it ever too cool (or hot) in church today!"

Our worship of God should not be dictated by the times of our church services. We need to "see" God more than once a week. We should have a great desire to spend time with him at all times.

Psalm 42:1 gives us an idea of what our attitude should be, "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" We need more than a weekly encounter and God deserves more than "We'll see you again next week."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 03, 2017

I remember my first train ride vividly. The conductor learned that, along with my brothers, I had never been on a train before. So, when we came to a tunnel through a mountain, he turned the lights out in our car. That was quite an experience.

I once heard a story about a little girl's first train ride. She looked out the window and saw cars, telephone poles, fences, and other objects whizzing by as the train rolled along. As they approached a river, she cried out, "Momma, we are going to go into that river!" But a bridge carried the train safely across the river. As they approached a mountain, she said, "Momma, we are going to run into that mountain!" But a tunnel allowed for safe passage. Then the little girl said, "I guess someone must have gone ahead and made a way for us."

Yes, someone did. And someone has gone before us in life to prepare the way. Hebrews 2:17-18 tell us how he has "paved the way," "For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

Christ has gone before us so we know we do not have to face life hazards alone or without help. He has provided atonement for our lives so that we can live in him. He is there for us, and he will carry us safely over the rivers and through the mountains as we follow him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 02, 2017

A father and son went fishing. They put their gear into a boat and headed to a promising spot. The dad prepared his son's pole, rigged the line, baited the hook, and then turned over the pole to his son. The son threw his line into the water with hopes of landing a big one. By the time the dad was ready to fish; his son had put down his pole and started munching on the donuts they had brought with them.

The dad decided to use the son's pole rather than taking the time to rig his own. On his second cast, he reeled in a largemouth bass that measured 21 inches and weighed over 5 pounds. His son looked at him and asked, "Dad, why do you always catch all the fish?" The father replied, "Well, son, I guess because I keep my line in the water. You can't catch fish eating doughnuts."

Why is it that it always seems that Dad catches all the fish? Maybe it's because he keeps his line in the water. In order to accomplish a goal, work through a problem, deal with an issue, or complete a task that needs to be done, you need to keep working towards a solution. Paul wrote, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Are you facing a problem or a difficult situation that needs a solution? Do you have some task or job that needs to be finished? Stay with it - sooner or later you will get a bite.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 01, 2017

Someone once wrote, "One of our responsibilities as children of God is to give God credit for who He is and what He does. It is a careless Christian who stands under the showers of God´s blessings without recognizing them. It is an irresponsible Christian who recognizes God´s blessings and does not give God the credit."

Some folks who did well at giving God credit were Daniel and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (otherwise known and Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). We find them constantly giving God credit, even when they realize that God might not take them in the direction they would like to go.

They started by refusing to eat food that God has asked them not to eat (Daniel 1:11-16). Daniel acknowledged God s involvement when he was preparing to interpret a dream for King Nebuchadnezzar, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries." (2:27-28)

Daniel's three friends acknowledged God's hand in their lives in the statement they issued just before they were thrown into the fiery furnace, "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." (3:17-18) They acknowledged God's blessing, even though he may not choose to bless them by sparing their lives.

Don't fail to give credit where credit is due. We must always be alert to the blessings of God in our lives, express our gratitude to Him, and give Him public credit. Praise God openly for the blessings He provides.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 30, 2017

My morning routine has changed a bit. I used to get up, fire up my computer, post my article to our church webpage and to Facebook, then check out what Dan Smith had posted. If you read my article last Sunday, you know why my morning routine has changed as Dan's passing means his articles no longer appear. His illness had progressed to the point where, for the last several days of his life, he no longer was able to post as he once did. His marvelous wife, Virginia, helped him with this during this time. As I wrote last Sunday, I know not all of you knew him or were friends with him on Facebook so you didn t have the chance to read his posts. For those who did, I know you will miss them.

Yesterday, we celebrated Dan's life at a service at the White Oak Church of God in Casey, Illinois. The service was a fitting tribute to a life that had touched countless other lives because of his commitment, his creativity, and his decisiveness. These were the qualities of his character that I used to frame my comments about Dan.

Three other pastors shared their thoughts about Dan Pastor Tom Toner, Pastor Kenny Inman, and Pastor Rick Emrich. Rick's comments were especially, well, let me say revelatory, as he was a classmate of Dan. Nothing really ornery - there isn't anything that could be shared that was really ornery about Dan's life. But the comments led to much laughter as Rick shared of experiences and thoughts that added to our celebration.

We also wanted to celebrate the life that Dan now has through his faith in Christ. Dan himself reminded us of that when he sang for us the closing song. Some time ago, Dan recorded a song he wanted to share at his memorial. The song was "When We See Christ," but was re-titled "Since I've Seen Christ" as he rearranged the wording to declare his present reality - that he is indeed in the presence of Christ and has seen him. I won't attempt to share all the words as I know I can t do it accurately, but it was a marvelous presentation that made a powerful statement of the nature of Dan s life now. Let me remind you - Dan "did not die, he just moved on high, to live with Christ the King." This is the hope for all who receive God's Gift.

This was not the article I intended to share this morning, but my thoughts turned to Dan as I turned on my computer. I imagine they always will. Along with all of you who knew him, I will miss Dan. We will miss his wonderful inspiration, but we know we will see him again. This morning my thoughts and prayers are with Dan's family. They are the ones who will feel this loss most acutely. We need to keep them in our prayers.

Dan's last full post contained the following hymn - let me share it as it says as it speaks about the reality followers of Christ have in store for them. This song reflects the statement of Paul found in I Corinthians 15:55 & 57, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

"Let us then be true and faithful, trusting, serving every day; Just one glimpse of Him in glory will the toils of life repay. When all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we'll sing and shout the victory."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 29, 2017

After some visitors left their family home, a little girl said to her mother, "Mommy those were the best people we have ever had here! They really enjoyed us!" Being with people who enjoy your company is, well, enjoyable. We want to be around folks who want to be with us. When it is evident we are with folks who want to be somewhere else or with someone else, it is just not good.

Do we make it evident to God that we want to be with him? The Westminster Catechism says "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." Do we make it plain to God that we enjoy him?

We should make Psalm 22:26 a reality in our lives, "All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy." Let's make sure the Lord knows how much we enjoy his company. Let's make sure we let him know that we enjoy being with him. God wants fellowship with his people; we should let him know we want fellowship with him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 28, 2017

"I'm afraid of dying, for it could be painful. But I find death a nuisance. I object to it... I'm terribly curious. I'd like to live forever." These are the words of Sir Isaiah Berlin, one of the most prominent intellects of the 20th century. They were given in an interview with Newsweek not long before he died.

Berlin was an imminent philosopher, teacher, and researcher. He was an Oxford professor who was widely known for his academic endeavors; however, when it came to the most crucial issue that faces every human being, he had no real answers. I find his statement "I object to (death)" especially compelling. One may object to death all one wants, but that does not change the fact that "People are destined to die once." (Hebrews 9:27)

When it comes to facing the inevitability of our own demise, we need certainty. God gives us certainties in his Word. We are given the assurance that we need not fear death when we place our hope in the provision of God.

David declared, "Even though I walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil." (Psalm 23:4) Paul makes a strong assertion in Romans 8:38 39 that we do not need to fear death, "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." As William Gaither wrote in a song that has become so popular, "Because He lives, all fear is gone."

We have this assurance through what God has done for us through his Son. Trusting in the provision of our Father gives us hope in the face of our greatest enemy. Living forever is possible through God's wonderful Gift.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 27, 2017

Taking a trip with my Papaw Mayfield was always neat. He loved to sing he was always singing. If we were on our way somewhere, there would be singing. Singing while traveling helps pass the time and lightens the mood. It also helps to take your mind off the heat on a hot summer day when you were traveling in a car without air conditioning. Remember those? I imagine some of you do. Anyway, the songs give you a focus while you experience the mundanity of travel.

The idea of singing while traveling is not unique to my family - I am sure many of you have done this. Many of you know there is even biblical precedent for this practice. Psalms 120 - 134 are called the "Songs of Ascent." These psalms were grouped together to form a "songbook" of sorts for pilgrims in Israel to use during their travels to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. Perhaps the best-known of these psalms is Psalm 121. This psalm begins, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?"

This song reminded the travelers that as they were making their way to the City of God to celebrate, they could count on the protection of God. On their way, there was the potential of danger from a variety of sources - bandits, wild animals, treacherous paths. God tells them he would be with them as they travel, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip-he who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep. . .The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life." (Psalm 121:2-3;7)

You don't have to be taking a trip or traveling to Jerusalem to experience the presence and protection of God. We know that God is always there for us to go alongside of us in the journey of life. Knowing God is there to help us in life's travels should be music to our ears.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 26, 2017

Contrary to what the temperatures might tell us, "the times they are a-changin'." There is evidence from another source that summer is giving over to fall. The leaves are changing. Green is giving way to a variety of golds, browns, reds and other hues.

Have you ever wondered why this happens? To make a long story short and to simplify the explanation, the leaves don't actually "change" color; they more or less lose color. The leaves are green because of the presence of chlorophyll. A number of factors that occur in the fall cause the chlorophyll to go away, exposing the pigments that are already there. The leaf's "true colors" shine through, and that is not bad in the case of leaves. The result is the cacophony of colors we get to see and enjoy in the autumn.

What are your true colors? If your outer layer were stripped away, what would be revealed under the surface? Hopefully, what would be revealed is an inner person that is true to God, reflecting his character and ideals. What should be revealed is a brilliant display of color that mirrors God's design and desire for your life.

We should not be afraid to reveal our true colors, and if we are, that means some changes need to take place. We should be able to offer a display of colors that reflect God's creative wisdom as brilliantly as the leaves do in their autumn glory.

II Peter 1:5 - 7 tells us what should be seen in our lives, "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love." These true colors are really worth displaying.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 25, 2017

Holding a grudge against someone is really not a good thing to do. It is not a good thing to do from an interpersonal standpoint, and it is not a good thing to do from a health standpoint. I don't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that "holding a grudge is like drinking poison and then expecting the other person to get sick." This just doesn't work.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:26, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." Now, I know he is referring specifically to anger here, but holding a grudge is simply being mad at someone over a period of time. The anger does no harm to the person with whom you are angry, but it will eat away at your insides emotionally. You know, even the word sounds bad "grudge" it just sounds ugly.

I always get a kick out of "grudge matches" in "professional" wrestling. Two wrestlers have a feud over a period of time. This is meant to heighten the entertainment and the interest level. Then, they have a "grudge match" to "settle things once and for all." One person wins, and they both walk away to other pursuits. Did you get that? They "settle things once and for all and then move on."

That is exactly what needs to be done in the case of a grudge get things settled and then move on. This is what Christ meant when he taught about forgiveness. It is why he said in his model prayer, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." This idea of forgiveness is so important that Christ said if you don t forgive others, you won t be forgiven yourself: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)

If you have a grudge against someone - don't budge on a grudge - get rid of it! If you are the object of the ill will of someone else, do what you can to alleviate the situation. If this doesn't work after you have done all you can, do your best to move on. Leave their feelings to them. A grudge helps no one and it is best to leave it behind.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 24, 2017

Dr. Bob Pierce was the founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, two marvelous ministries. Dr. Pierce died of leukemia in 1978. David Jeremiah shares a story of Dr. Bob's great heart and compassion. Dr. Bob kept traveling as much as he could, even though he was in great pain from his disease. A doctor prescribed some medication for him to help him sleep.

Once he was on a trip to what is now known as Indonesia and visited the ministry of "Borneo Bob" Williamson. While there, he noticed a young lady lying in the mud by a river. He asked Borneo Bob what was wrong with the lady. "Leukemia," was the reply. "Then why isn't she in one of the beds in the clinic instead of down by the river?" Borneo Bob told Dr. Pierce that this was the girl's wish - it was cooler there.

Dr. Piece went to talk with her. He asked how she was feeling. "Not well," she replied through a translator, "I do not sleep because of my disease." Dr. Pierce thought of his pills. He gave them to Borneo Bob and said, "See to it that she takes these so she can sleep."

It was many days before Dr. Pierce was where he could get some more medicine, so he suffered. When he returned home, a letter was waiting from Borneo Bob. He told Dr. Pierce that the young lady had died, but one of her last statements was "be sure to thank the man who gave me the medicine so I could sleep."

Who have you helped today? We may never be in a situation where we feel led to make as great a sacrifice as did Dr. Bob Pierce, but we have opportunities to help others at every turn in life's road. It is just that sometimes we are not willing to make even the smallest sacrifice to help others. What was it that Christ said? "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40). When you have a chance, be sure to help someone else.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 23, 2017

Last night my wife, Scherry, and I went out to eat at a local restaurant. We were seated by the host who asked us if we preferred a booth or a table. We told him our preference and then were seated. I don't know why, but I had a "flashback" to an event that took place years ago. We had gone out to eat, but our youngest daughter was with us for this experience.

After being asked by the hostess our seating preference and then being seated, my daughter made the remark that when she used to work as a hostess, she never asked the preference, she just lead folks to the best available location. I asked her if anyone ever asked for a different place, and, of course, they did upon occasion. Megan's remark was, "You should always trust your host or hostess because they will know the best seat - where you will be served the fastest, where the view and atmosphere will be the best. At least, that is how I always worked to seat people."

Now, I don't know much about the restaurant business or if this is true at all times, but it did get me thinking about something. When you are being seated at a restaurant, you should trust the host or hostess because they know the best place for you. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

Proverbs 3:4 & 5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." You may not be able to say that restaurant hosts or hostesses know what is best for you, but it certainly is true of our Lord. He will always lead us to the best places, he always has our best interests at heart, he will always do the right thing for us, and he (with apologies to hosts and hostesses everywhere) is never wrong!

We sometimes ask to "be seated" elsewhere, but God does know the best place for us! We need to rely upon his guidance. Whether or not your trust your host or hostess, that I will leave up to you. However, trusting God is another matter! Let him seat you where He wants!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 22, 2017

When I was a small boy, I enjoyed playing church. We would come home from services on Sunday evenings and my two brothers and I would "set up church" right in our living room. We had hymnals, a piano, a TV tray served as the pulpit, and, of course, we had our Bibles. We would sing hymns, have testimonies, prayer time and I would preach. We would even take up an offering!

We did this not to make fun, but we really enjoyed our church and we enjoyed mimicking the services in our home. The genes to do this must be strong because my two girls would do this when they were small. Often they would be at the church with my secretary's two younger children, and one of the things they would do was have services. They had quite a choir!

Playing church is all well and good when you are kids, but too often we as adults are doing the same thing - playing church. We go to church because we think it is what we are supposed to do, but we don't spend any time preparing for our worship. We don't think about what we are doing when we are involved in worship, and we are here only for what we see as a benefit to us. We forget that our worship is God-centered, not us-centered.

When we are in worship, we are here for God, not for us. We are here to celebrate our Father, to offer sacrifices of praise through our songs, prayers, testimonies, our giving, and time spent in his Word. Don't just play church when you go to church - remember what you are doing and why you are there.

God's Word invites us to worship. Psalm 95:6&;7 tells us, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care." Psalm 96:9 tells us to "Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth."

The next time you go to worship, give some careful thought as to what you are doing. Spend some time thinking about why you are going and what you are going to do for God during the time you are there. He is worthy of our worship!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 21, 2017

My grandkids are doing just what my kids did - growing up too fast; but it is fun to watch them grow and develop. I especially love to watch the kids go from the crawling stage to the walking stage. Not long ago, my little grandson just did that. Just try to keep up with him now! This is always such a big change - it is certainly a significant milestone for the child, the parents, everyone!

I find it interesting that, as the child is making this transition, you don't see the little one sitting around debating the advantages of walking. They don't ask, "Do you really think walking is superior to crawling?" "Do you think there is truly any merit in walking?" "What is in it for me to move from crawling to walking?" "You know, I am just not sure I want to head that direction." "What if I fall?"

I know, I know, toddlers can't actually verbalize their thoughts in this way, but I think their actions communicate eloquently. There is no debate - the kids just simply display their determination to learn to walk! They don't let what might be "concerns" keep them from doing what they want to do - walk! They especially don't let the last concern stop them. Yes, they will fall, but they get back up and go at it again.

Don't let "fear of falling" keep you from moving into a new stage in your spiritual development. Sometimes you will find that you will stumble - but don't let that be an excuse for not trying, for not growing, for not moving ahead. Psalm 37:24 tells us, "though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand." Are you still crawling when you should be walking? God is there for us - so walk! Run! Jump! Grow! Go forward with God - and just watch and see where those steps take you!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 20, 2017

Little Timmy was really troubled. He had broken his Grandpa's reading glasses, and he didn't know what to do. No one had seen him take them from the table by his Grandpa's favorite chair. He had been told not to bother the glasses but he enjoyed pretending he was Grandpa, and the glasses added to the effect. Now, he didn't know what to do because he had dropped them and watched helplessly, as both of the lenses popped out. What was he going to do?

He could put them back on the table and say he didn't know how they got that way. He could hide them, and then Grandpa would just assume he had laid them somewhere else (he was always losing them anyway). But he knew the right thing to do was tell his Grandpa what he had done and tell him he was sorry. If he did this, he knew his conscience would be clear. That is what he did and Grandpa wasn't too mad after all. Of course, the best part was the fact that he had a clear conscience.

There is something to be said about a clear conscience, isn't there? When we do things we shouldn't, and then try to cover up our error, there is always something inside of us saying, "Hey, you know better!"

In the scripture we read of folks who were stricken in their conscience because of something they had done. After an ill-advised accounting of his fighting men, we read of David, "David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, 'I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing'" (II Samuel 24:10). David did the right thing by confessing to clear up his conscience. Job 27:6 says, "I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live."

Keep your conscience clear! Do the right thing, and if you fail to do the right thing, ask for forgiveness. If you break Grandpa's glasses, own up to it! You will feel better, and you certainly will be happier!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 19, 2017

Last week we spent a few days visiting our kids in Ohio. We went to watch our granddaughter play soccer and also get introduced, along with other Youth Soccer League players, at a high school soccer game. That was really neat; but any time we can spend with our kids and grandkids is always neat.

The morning we were to leave I followed my usual protocol and made biscuits and sausage gravy. Years ago, I learned how to make sausage gravy and my kids always enjoyed this breakfast. Now, my grandkids have taken to it as well.

One of the things I was taught about making gravy was that it is important to stir the gravy continually while it is cooking. This makes it nice and smooth and prevents it from being lumpy. It is what helps the gravy become gravy. All the ingredients get mixed together really well - they "get happy together" as Emeril Lagasse would say.

Something that can help our lives be less "lumpy" and run more smoothly is constant stirring, that is, consistently focusing on activities and endeavors which sharpen our relationship with God and with others. Hebrews 10:24 tells us, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." This verse addresses the benefits of constant stirring - consistent attention given to the desires of God for us and working with others to bring about his desires.

We need to look toward endeavors that would benefit our lives and would be of benefit to others. God tells us what is necessary to "prevent lumps" in our lives. We should do what we need to do to fall in line with God. Life is lumpy enough - don't beg for more by allowing your attention to sway from following God! Keep stirring!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 18, 2017

We tend to allow the bad to overshadow the good when we look at others' lives. This is true even when they are 95% good and only 5 % bad. Now, of course, there are times when the bad is simply so bad it can't be ignored; however, usually our tendency is to focus on the bad and allow it to block out the good.

Consider a referee or an umpire that makes one bad call over the course of a game when multiple calls were made correctly. The focus is on the bad call. Of course, a referee s calls don t have much effect on our lives, but this is a tendency that really can create problems when it comes to lives of people who matter to us. When it relates to folks with whom we work, go to church, and certainly our family, we need to focus on the good. Unless the wrong is so egregious it cannot be ignored, avoid allowing the foibles of others to take center stage.

This tendency can have another consequence as well. When we focus on the faults of others, we often say, "Well, what I did is not nearly as bad as what they did." We use this reasoning to justify our bad behavior. That is not a good thing.

Paul told the believers at Philippi to focus on the good things they saw in his life and in the lives of others who had been there when the church was started. He wrote, "Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do." (Philippians 3:17)

If we focus on what others are doing wrong, then we miss what we are doing wrong. If we focus on what others are doing wrong, then we become judgmental and negative. If sin is there, then it needs to be addressed. But when the problems are simple mistakes that are of little consequence, don't dwell on them. Look for the good.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 17, 2017

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 and talk with them?" Then, I began to text some. Then I began to text more. Soon, I found many helpful aspects to texting.

When you text, 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 or you can send a message to multiple recipients. 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 protection 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 he directs 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 Willis
Saturday September 16, 2017

The opposite of hope is despair. Despair robs your vitality, your energy, and your realistic outlook of the future. Despair brings about fear and doubt, causes questions with no answers, and challenges our faith. Some of you might remember the silly ditty sung by some of the characters in the 70's show "Hee Haw" - "Doom, despair and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. Doom, despair, and agony on me." Grief, what an outlook on life! But, this can be the outlook of those operating in the realm of despair when they feel there is no hope.

Paul writes in II Corinthians 4:8-9, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." What helped Paul as he faced situations that brought despair? He focused on the power of the resurrection. In 4:14, Paul says, "Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself."

Doubt, fear, and despair are all around us. To rise above what brings us down, focus on the hope that Christ gives to us. Knowing what Christ did, is doing, and will do for us can bring us hope in even the darkest of times.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 15, 2017

When I was young, I loved to explore things - old houses, caves, the woods surrounding our home or my grandparent's home, or any other interesting areas. Something you encounter when you enter an area where no one else has been for a while, or maybe have never been, are cobwebs. Whoever is leading the way in these exploratory adventures gets to encounter them and has to deal with them. Don't you just love those cobwebs and the mess they make? I just love how they feel as I try to extricate myself from the gooey mass.

This is why we need to let God be our leader as we go on adventured in life. As we walk through the "old houses and caves and woods" of life, we will encounter cobwebs. If we let God take the lead, he will deal with the cobwebs. Now, this is not the only reason why we should follow God. We should not follow him for the sole purpose of letting him deal with all the "sticky situations" we may encounter. But not following God s lead means dealing with struggles and issues that may not have been a problem had we not tried to take the lead.

Paul tells us we should follow Christ - "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (I Corinthians 11:1) This is very good advice, and not only because he will take care of the cobwebs.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 14, 2017

Bill Engvall has made quite a living from a comedy routine that features "Here's your sign" jokes. We often ask for signs to help us make decisions and point us in the right direction in life. A good number of folks ask God for a sign to prove he is real. They have a "to do" list for God they contend will theoretically prove his identity.

This is not a new thing. There was a large group of people seeking a sign from Jesus when he was on the earth. "What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" (John 6:30-31)

This was an ironic request on many levels. They asked for a sign and he had just fed them, along with thousands of others, with a little boy's lunch. They used the example of their ancestors being miraculously fed in the wilderness as a sign they would accept. They had just been miraculously fed along the shore of Galilee. Christ could not have done more even if he had said to them, "Here's your sign."

God has given us the sign we need, and if we miss it, that's our problem, not his. Instead of waiting in doubt and disappointment for God to do the one thing we are demanding of him, open your eyes and see what he has already done. Look around and pay attention to what he is doing even now as we are blindly asking "Where's the sign?"

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 13, 2017

Which is worse - telling someone you will do something and then not doing it or telling someone you will not do something and then doing it? Christ told a parable about this that gives us the answer.

In Matthew 21:28-32 we read, "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? 'The first,' they answered." Christ went on to say that tax collectors and prostitutes were entering into the kingdom ahead of those to whom he was speaking, the Pharisees, because they were acting and not relying on words.

Words can be powerful, but only when they are backed up with action. It is so easy to say we are going to help someone, but the proof of our intent is when we actually go help them load up their truck, or whatever. The same is especially true in our relationship with God. We can tell God how much we love him and how much we want to serve him, but we need to remember that the person who truly does his will is the one who actually does his will, even if he at first says he won't.

Which gets to you the most - people who tell you things but never back up what they say with actions, or people who help you, even if they at first said they couldn't? Remember your response to this the next time you make God a promise.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 12, 2017

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

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

When you face what seems to be a setback that results in disappointment, remember to allow God to be involved and to consider the fact that he knows what he is doing. There are times when it is hard to see the good in a situation. We will face experiences where the answers will not come until later, maybe not until we get to heaven. Continue to exercise faith in God and trust him to bring joy to you in the midst of disappointment. Your disappointment can lead to tremendous joy. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:4-5)

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 11, 2017

We are far enough removed from the events of September 11, 2001, that there are millions who have no recollection of that date as they are either too young to remember or were not even born yet. For them, the knowledge of that date comes through history books, images and stories on TV or the internet, word of mouth, and other sources. This is the way of time events, even traumatic ones occur and then are eventually left to secondary sources with regard to the perpetuation of their memory.

There are only a few alive today that can recall what took place on December 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy," as President Franklin Roosevelt declared then. Even though the existence of first-hand witnesses passes away, effects of these happenings are still felt. The world is a different place because of what happened on these dates. And we would do well to recall what occurred.

The same can be said about traumatic events that are caused by other forces. Even as I am writing this article, there are people in Texas and Louisiana still trying to put things back together in the wake of the recent Hurricane Harvey. And Hurricane Irma is right now battering the state of Florida with such force that millions of lives are being affected. We need to continue to pray for all of those who were in harm's way of these devastating storms.

Memorials exist to the former events I described above that are testimonies to those events; on the one hand, just a simple reminder of their occurrence, but on the other hand a powerful statement about the ability of humans, with God s help, of rebuilding and going forward. This is a strong reason why we should remind ourselves of the past events - being reminded of them speaks to the hope of recovery and healing that will take place.

God's words in Isaiah 46:9 are, "Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other." As the people of Israel faced the daunting task of building their lives again in the land that God to which God had brought them, he says "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years." (Deuteronomy 8:2)

One very practical response that "remembering" should evoke is the recollection of the intervention of many that lead to the healing and rebuilding after these past events. Let me repeat something I wrote just a little over two weeks ago "Like the smashed flower, we know that the affected areas will rebound, rebuild, and be restored. There have been massive changes that will bring about great differences, but we know the future can bring new beginnings and restored foundations. We have seen it done before." Yes, we have, and let's do what we can to help others do it again.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 10, 2017

Have you ever been in a position where you feel that you just can't do anything right? In Matthew 26, we read about a lady who probably felt that way because of the criticism she faced for anointing Jesus. "While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table." (Matthew 26:6-7) As a consequence of her actions, she was roundly criticized by the disciples who wondered why she didn't sell the expensive contents of the bottle and give the money to the poor.

The response of Christ is mildly surprising, as we know he was a champion of the poor. Instead of joining in the criticism, he defends her actions and said, "When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (vss. 12-13)

Among the lessons Christ wanted to teach from the actions of the lady is the idea of taking advantage of the living while we still have them with us. The disciples needed to become aware of the fact that they were not always going to have Christ with them. Not long from that very moment, Christ would start the events that would lead to his departure. They needed to take advantage of his presence while he was still on earth.

As we think about the application of this for us, we should not only be thinking of the great gift we have through the continued presence of the Spirit in our lives, but we need to take advantage of the people whom God has placed in our lives while we have the opportunity to do so. As we think about these people - a family member, a friend, a teacher, a co-worker, or perhaps a mentor - are there things we need to say to them? Are there expressions of appreciation we need to show them while we have the chance?

Take advantage of their presence and make sure we learn what we can, say what we should, and demonstrate our care while we still have the time. Life is too short and too uncertain to live any other way.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 09, 2017

How do you live when you think no one is looking? What do you do when you think that no one is going to see you? If no one is going to see you, why not do as you please? Who will know if you don't report that extra income you received? Who is going to see you visit that website you shouldn t be on? And no one will be aware of where that money came from, will they?

I could go on and on with hypothetical scenarios, but all of us have times when we need to choose to do right or wrong. We may be in a position where choosing to do wrong is tempting because we think no one will know. If you find yourself in such a position, think Daniel.

Daniel and his three young friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, aka Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, had been taken captive and transported hundreds of miles from their home country. There, in the courts of the Babylonian leader Nebuchadnezzar, they were given sumptuous food to eat and wonderful beverages to drink. The problem was the food given to them was not kosher. So, what to do? Who would know if they ate the food? They were far away from family, friends, and religious leaders. Besides, they didn't ask to be in this position. They didn't want to leave their families and be uprooted to another culture. Why not enjoy the amenities and provisions of their new home?

Well, they didn't want to. They had a higher allegiance - an allegiance to God and his teachings. So, when offered things that were not allowable for them, they took this stand: "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." (Daniel 1:8) Goodness, what courage! This is called proven character.

May we demonstrate the same character when we are presented with a situation where we think that no one is watching. Daniel showed us how to live when we think no one is looking. Let s follow his example.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 08, 2017

Did you every play "Follow the Leader" when you were a kid? I always enjoyed playing that game, whether I was the leader or not. It was fun thinking of things to do for others to mimic when I was the leader, and it was fun to see what others would come up with when they were the leader. This made for some rather interesting situations.

I have a question for you: what would the world look like if you were the leader and everyone followed your example? What if they used your tone of voice and the words you use? What if their responses echoed your responses? What if they acted in the way that you do? What if they adopted your values and attitudes?

If folks followed you as "leader," would they look more like Christ? Would they exhibit the same compassion, care, and willingness to forgive? Would they work through problems and deal with others with patience and a desire to understand? If we honestly ask these questions, we may want to make some changes.

In John 13:15, we find these words of Christ to his disciples, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." So, are we doing for others what Christ has done for us? How well are we following his example? What would the world look like if everyone followed your example? Ask this question often and at various times. You may not like the answer in some circumstances, but the reason for the asking is that you might make an honest evaluation of you. This will result in meaningful changes. Live so that others can follow your lead!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 07, 2017

Fritz Kreisler was a world-famous violinist whose life spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He made thousands of dollars from his concert appearances; however, he gave most of his money away. So, after his discovery of an exquisite violin for sale during one of his trips, he was unable to purchase it. He began saving the necessary funds for the violin and when he had what was needed, he returned to the shop to make the purchase. Sadly, the violin had already been sold.

Kreisler got the name and address of the buyer and traveled to talk to him about buying the violin. The man was a wealthy individual who did not play, but had already placed the violin in his collection and was unwilling to sell. Kreisler was broken-hearted and asked if he could just play the instrument one more time. After his performance, the owner was moved to say, "Mr. Kreisler, after hearing you play that instrument, I know I do not have the right to keep it. The violin is yours."

As followers of Christ we have something to share that is far more valuable than a violin. We have the priceless message of the good news of Christ. We no more have business keeping this news to ourselves than the wealthy collector had to keep the violin. We need to give it away to those who need to hear the message of God's grace.

Psalm 96:3 encourages us to "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." Don't "collect" Christ's message of hope for yourself - give the message away that others may know the blessing of life in him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 06, 2017

A statement that has always bothered me is "I don't go to church because there are just too many hypocrites there." You could look at this as simply an excuse to not go. Of course there are hypocrites in the church - the church is made up of redeemed sinners! So, it is easy to dismiss this statement as what I have already stated - an excuse to not go to church.

Although it may be easy to simply dismiss this statement in this way, there is something that we should remember. We are people who, although redeemed, at times still struggle with our sinful nature. But we shouldn't use this as an excuse for shabby Christianity.

Live in a way that reflects your redemption, not your sin. It is easy to fall into the trap of living in a way that mirrors our sinfulness instead of our redemption. Maybe this is why we sometimes are criticized as being "hypocrites."

We should strive to reflect Christ in our lives. Paul speaks of the struggle we have with sin in Romans 7:14-25. He makes what sounds to be a resignation to failure in verse 24, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" But this is not a statement of resignation, it is a segue to the statement of victory he makes in verse 25, "Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Through Christ we can live victoriously. There are some who are looking for hypocrites - don't give them something to see!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 05, 2017

Peter's journey from fisherman to disciple is filled with fits and starts. His walk can be characterized by the saying, "Three steps forward, and two steps back." Of course, this describes most of our journeys along the pathway of faith. We make progress towards Christ-likeness through obedience, and then we mess up.

The overriding factor in the case of Peter, that is, a factor that really couldn't be questioned at any time, even at the times of his failures, was his love for Christ. This may be the reason for Christ's questioning found in John 21 when he asks Peter three times, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" (vv. 15, 16 & 17)

Some contend that Christ's questioning is a reminder of the three denials, as Christ asks the question about love three times. This may be true, but another consideration regarding the questioning relates to something within Peter that Christ wished to emphasize as a means of affirmation - Peter's love for him. Perhaps Christ was saying: "Peter, you indeed have goofed, but let me point out something about which there can be no doubt - your level of love for me."

It is our love for Christ that should be strong and above question regardless of our shortcomings in other areas. We are prone to mistakes and unfaithfulness, but let's not be wishy-washy when it comes to our love. Let our love for Christ be above question. It will be our love that will draw us to a place of obedience when we step outside the lines in our behavior. Love is the primary qualification for followers of Christ. What are you doing to show your love for him?

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 04, 2017

Today we celebrate the conflicted holiday of Labor Day. I call it conflicted because many folks get a day off from work on a day set aside to celebrate work. Of course, that is as it should be. Whether you are working or have the day off, I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day.

Recently I read an article about some of the more dangerous occupations. Jobs such as underwater welders, pilots, and loggers are very high on the list. Farming is also listed as a hazardous occupation as there are many dangers associated with this job. My wife, Scherry, lost her father in a farming accident. So, those of you who are laboring, please be safe out there!

As I think of being conflicted, I think of the life of Christ. Christ came as a peaceful man, yet there have been many who have given their lives for Christ. Christ died for us, and now many are dying for him. This is the way it has always been and will always be. Christ speaks of the division he causes. Matthew 10:34 says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Think of those who are giving their lives for him and pray for the persecuted. We must put this in his hands, and know that he is in control. Serving Christ is a hazardous occupation for many. Let us continue to offer prayer for them and know that God has their lives in his hands.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 03, 2017

Simply put, an advocate is someone who takes up for someone else. We sometimes think in terms of lawyers when we hear the term "advocate," but an advocate doesn't need to be a lawyer. We can take up for others in many circumstances without possessing law degrees.

I am not referring to going to court, I am referring to other times when folks simply need someone to stand by them or with them or for them - times when people are hurting because of grief, times when people are hurting because of financial problems, times when people are hurting because of abuse from other people, times when someone is needed to help resolve a dispute. There are many times in our lives when we need an advocate; there are many times in our lives when we could be an advocate.

We know that God is our advocate in so many circumstances. Job 16:19 tells us, "Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high." Christ is also portrayed as our advocate. We read in I John 2:1-2, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." The Spirit is spoken of as our Advocate, "But I will send you the Advocate-the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me." (John 15:26)

Be grateful for the advocacy of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit. Be willing to be an advocate for someone else if you see someone who needs a willing person to stand by them and take up for them. Be an advocate!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 02, 2017

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me." If only this were true. Sticks and stones inflict wounds from which you more than likely will heal. Words can inflict wounds from which you may never heal. That is why we are warned in the scripture to watch our mouths - watch our words.

David cries out to the Lord about people who are speaking against him, "They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows." (Psalm 64:3) Our words can be used as deadly arrows. Our tongue can be a very effective sword.

James has a good deal to say about our misuse of our tongues. We read in James 1:26, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."

James writes further in 3:3-8, "When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire. . .It corrupts the whole person. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison."

So, don't throw stones, don't use sticks, and, please, watch your tongue! Your tongue is the most dangerous weapon you have if you use it the wrong way!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 01, 2017

A man picked up a penny that was lying on a sidewalk just outside a bank where he and his wife had just signed papers for their first home. "Look, honey!" he said to his wife, "We are on our way to paying off our loan!" Well, they did start saving pennies and, decades later, hauled in more than 60,000 pennies into the bank to finish paying their mortgage. A small act repeated over and over led to a big result.

A wise man gives us an example of how consistent, diligent, small acts can lead to important consequences. We read his words in Proverbs 30:34-35, "Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer." Ants go about their work diligently, consistently, and energetically.

The example of the ant shows how things can get done without great fanfare, shows of power, flashiness, or displays of greatness. They just work and work and work and work. It takes them many acts to accomplish what other creatures might be able to do with a single effort. We should learn a lesson from the ant. Of course, that is the purpose of the wise man using them as an example.

This is wise thinking at all times, and is certainly prudent thinking as we view our efforts towards those in Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Events of this magnitude are overwhelming on many levels. There is such great need. How can we respond adequately? Well, many of us contributing what we can through our "small acts" can make big differences. Our combined efforts over and over can help bring some relief to those who are suffering. Continue to pray and give and do what you can. Those "pennies" add up.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 31, 2017

I get a kick out of T-shirt I have seen advertised for sale on Facebook recently. No doubt many of you have seen it as well. It features a picture of Christ sitting among a number of "superheroes" including Superman, Batman, Flash, Spiderman, Ironman, and a few others. Good to see they included characters from both the DC and Marvel comic groups. Yes, believe it or not, I know my super heroes. Well, some of them. Let me get back to my point.

The heroes are pictured listening attentively to Christ as he says, "And that's how I saved the world." Isn't that great? And isn't that so true? What Christ did gives hope for reconciliation and a life with him forever for those who follow him. Because of what Christ has done, the world will one day be made new. Revelation 22:1 says, "Then I saw a new heaven and new earth, for the old heaven and old earth had disappeared." This is made possible through Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.

We may think that God's plan for redemption is strange and unusual, but that doesn't negate the fact that it is the plan. Many folks struggle with the message of Christ and the methods of God. They do not understand God s design for the redemption of people and the renewal of the world. "Why did he do it that way?" some ask.

Paul speaks to this in his first letter to the Corinthians. He describes how folks wrestle with the provision of God through the cross of Christ. He concludes his comments by saying, "This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength." (I Corinthians 1:25) We may not fully understand God's plan, but we know what he has done is the best way to provide hope for us.

Included in the musical we are singing at church this Christmas is a song entitled "Strange Way to Save the World." 4Him and Rascal Flatts both have recorded this song. Some lyrics from the chorus are:

Why me, I'm just a simple man of trade

Why Him with all the rulers in the world

Why here inside this stable filled with hay

Why her, she's just an ordinary girl

Those questions may be asked, but the fact remains that God's plan is the best way to save the world. That is the conclusion reached in the song, and should be the conclusion reached in our lives. Christ indeed can say, "And that's how I saved the world." The superheroes' response should be, "Hey, you really did save the world!" Yes, he did.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 30, 2017

Do you ever desire a scenario where you would be granted three wishes? What would you ask for if given this opportunity? The story of being granted three wishes is found in a number of old tales. One includes "The Monkey's Paw", which is actually a horror story that ends up badly for the person who has been granted the three wishes. The wishes come with an enormous price for messing with fate.

We certainly need to be careful what we wish for. Obviously, we will never be in the fantastical situations found in "The Monkey's Paw" or "1001 Arabian Nights", but there are often times when we have choices that need to be handled with discernment. We should pray that we would have the attitude of Solomon. When God presented Solomon with a "three wishes" moment, Solomon displayed great discernment and insight. God told Solomon, " Ask for whatever you want me to give you." (I Kings 3:5) Solomon's response was surprising and revealing. He asked, "Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours." (3:9) This is a very wise request, and this request served Solomon well most of his life until other pursuits took him in directions he should not have gone.

Pray that God will give you a heart of discernment and understanding so that you can make good decisions and be helpful to yourself and others. Jesus tells us to "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) Doing this shows we are handling our wishes the right way.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 29, 2017

The other day Scherry said, "Come here, I want to show you something. Do you remember the flowers that got smashed in the storm? Take a look at them now." We had a wind storm in our area a few weeks back that caused a bit of damage. What she showed me was a marvelous display and strength and resiliency in the face of devastation. The flowers came back in spite of a brutal event.

There is a part of our country that is facing a time of devastation and brutality because of a climatic event known as Hurricane Harvey. The pictures and video coming from the southeastern coast of Texas are heart-wrenching and almost unbelievable. The loss of life is sad, the damage is extensive, and the results will be experienced for years to come, but we know from past experience there is great potential for recovery.

There is no way to compare what took place in our area to what is taking place in Texas, except perhaps in the symbol of the resurrected flower. Like the smashed flower, we know that the affected areas will rebound, rebuild, and be restored. There have been massive changes that will bring about great differences, but we know the future can bring new beginnings and restored foundations. We have seen it done before.

We need to pray for the folks of Texas and Louisiana, and other areas that have been affected. The storm is not over yet. We need to offer financial support and other assistance through the channels that have already appeared to bring needed resources to the area. Some of you may even have the opportunity to go and participate in restoration efforts. Time, determination, resiliency, creativity and hard work will turn what is a terrific loss into a tremendous gain. For now, pray for God's intervention and provide help as you can.

Pray for Houston and other affected areas that they may realize the hope reflected in Isaiah 54:11, "Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires."

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 28, 2017

I do not quite understand the phenomenon of time passing more quickly as one ages, but I am definitely in the throes of that experience. Life just seems to pick up speed with the passing of years. Now, of course, time does not literally become shorter. A second is still a second, a minute is still a minute, an hour is still an hour, and so on.

I realize this is simply a matter of perception, but it just doesn't slow things down. Life seems to happen at a faster rate, Of course, the reality is that life is short, and I don't want to waste time on unnecessary things. For example, fretting is one activity that robs us of valuable time.

What is fretting? Well, one way to define it is the focus on the insignificant, the unimportant, or the irrelevant. This activity robs us of time and valuable effort. Fretting can sap our energy, our productivity, our creativity, and so many other positive exercises. When we fixate on things that really have no significance, we take away from important experiences and contributions.

A story was told about an American lady who was realizing her dream of traveling in the English countryside by train. On the trip, she became frustrated by the temperature, the rattling windows of the train, where she was sitting, and even how her luggage had been handled. When the ride was over, she remarked, "If I had known the ride was so short, I would not have spent so much time fretting."

Moses writes, "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12) We need to spend more time enjoying, contributing, experiencing, and appreciating what we have in life rather than fretting about what we do not. Focus more on the good things with which God has blessed us. Life goes to fast to fret our days away!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 27, 2017

Because of her fear of flying, my mother, like millions of others, never stepped on a jet in her life. Despite all the statistics showing that flying is much safer than driving, the fear of going up in the air aboard a jet keeps many folks grounded. The thoughts of putting themselves in a position where they are suspended high above the earth for an extended period of time is more than many want to handle. Researchers say that the real fear is not that they may crash, but that they lose control of their lives once the jet leaves the ground.

We experience a similar crisis of faith when we put our lives in the hands of God. The issue is one of control - we do not like to relinquish control of our lives. Living by faith means letting God have the right to do with our lives as he pleases, and that is a struggle. The apostles struggled with this when Christ spoke to them about levels of service and forgiveness that they had not heard of before.

In Luke 17:1-4, he warns them to not cause others to stumble and to forgive others unwaveringly. Their reply to this is "Lord, increase our faith." (Luke 17:5) Christ asked them to step out into the thin air of ultimate trust in him, and, at first, they reacted in fear as they began to grasp what Christ was asking of them. What we do know from looking at Acts and early church history is that they responded in a positive way and "got on board."

We need to so the same. As we encounter circumstances that bring fear because we are aware what Christ is asking of us, we need to ask him to increase our faith so that we will not shrink back from what needs to be done. We need to take that first step of obedience and he will give us the strength to do what is required. Faith in the provision of God will help you "fly the friendly skies!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 26, 2017

I have always been amazed at the capacity of many to see good where there seems to be nothing but bad. I am equally amazed at the capacity of many to see bad where good is prevalent. In which camp are you?

The people of Israel give us an example of seeing bad in the good. Just a few days after they had witnessed the power and provision of God by way of the Red Sea experience, they were grumbling because of a lack of water. We read in Exodus 15:22-24, "Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What are we to drink?'"

Like the Israelites, some have a tendency to be pessimists and forget what good things can happen and have happened when a little trouble comes along. We need to develop the perspective of Joseph. You can find his story in the latter chapters of the book of Genesis.

Joseph is perhaps the prime example in the scripture of one who sees good where bad is prevalent. It seemed that every time Joseph turned around, something bad was happening that was not brought about by any of his choices or actions. His brother's betrayal, the accusation of the wife of Potiphar, and the deceit of the jailor are all negative experiences that were not of his doing. What was his conclusion? "God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)

What is your perspective? Do your best to filter your outlook through the lens God provides. He can certainly turn the bad into good!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 25, 2017

As a student, young Leonardo da Vinci was encouraged by his elderly teacher to finish a painting that the teacher had started. Out of respect for the teacher, and actually not feeling he was up to the task, da Vinci declined at first. However, his teacher would not take no for an answer and told da Vinci that he trusted his ability. So, with fear and trepidation, da Vinci began his work.

At first, his strokes were timid and limited. Then, his confidence began to build. As the strokes became bolder and the colors flowed da Vinci's genius began to manifest in the work. Soon the painting was done. The teacher looked at the painting and said, "I paint no more." What a statement of endorsement!

Many of us are like da Vinci when it comes to sharing our gifts and talents with others. We downplay our abilities and opportunities to contribute because we don t feel as if we have something to offer. Don't make excuses for not contributing in organizations, in your job, and certainly in your church.

Talent levels do vary. Certainly not all of us are "da Vinci s," but we need to realize that all of us have talents and abilities God has given us. God does not hold us responsible for using the talents he hasn't given us - he holds us responsible for using the talents he has given us.

We need to be good stewards of what God has given us. Paul tells us in I Corinthians 4:2, "It is required in stewards that one be found faithful." Are you a good steward of what God has given you? Use what he has given you! Don't make excuses for what you can't do. Work with what you can do! Using your gifts enhances the lives of others and brings glory to God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 24, 2017

One way that firefighters attempt to extinguish a wild fire is by setting back fires. The strategy is to use these controlled fires to burn out the areas ahead of an uncontrolled blaze so that when this latter blaze gets to the already burned out area, it too will burn out because of a lack of fuel. Now, this idea of "fighting fire with fire" might be a good thing to do when trying to control wild fires, but it is not a good idea in other areas.

If we try to fight "fire with fire" in our relationships, we will do more harm than good. When we use anger to counter anger, or answer an unkindness with an unkindness, or answer hatred with hatred, we make matters worse and are ignoring what Christ taught us.

In Luke 6:27-31, we read Christ s words, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

Fighting fire with fire has its place, but not in our relationships with other people. Treat others as you want to be treated, Christ said. This is a much more desirable means of handling interpersonal "fires" that often come up. Use your reservoirs of grace to put out the flames of anger when there is a flare-up. This is a better way of "fire-fighting."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 23, 2017

Each time I have had surgery, I was asked more than once on what part of me they were to operate. Usually I was given a marker and asked to mark the body part that was to be the focus of attention during the operation. This took place even when they fixed my broken leg that was laying at a weird angle.

This precaution has become standard practice because of incidents where mistakes were made and the wrong part of the anatomy was worked on and, in one case, amputated. One may ask, "How can this happen?" The answer may be found in the lyrics of The Human League's 1986 song, "Human" - "I'm only human." Oh, I can't believe I actually just cited a song from the 80's. Let me get back to the point.

Humans, even highly trained professionals, make mistakes. What is important is that we try to learn from our mistakes in order to keep from repeating them. Hence, the practice of allowing the patient to mark the target body part before surgery.

We need to look for ways to avoid repeating mistakes. Repetition of some things are good - a repetitive swing in golf is good, repeating good deeds is good, and even repeating good recipes is nice. However, the repetition of mistakes is not good and needs to be avoided.

In II Samuel 6, we find a story of learning from mistakes. Uzzah died when he touched the Ark of the Covenant to keep it from slipping off the cart on which it rested. David was not happy with God about this, but God set things straight. The ark was to be carried by priests using handles that were slipped through rings on the chest, not on a cart and not by non-priests. They made a mistake when they first tried to move the ark. So, when it was moved from the house of Obed-edom, they did it right.

We read in II Samuel 6:13, "When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf." They learned from a previous mistake and took precautions so that an undesired consequence would not be repeated. We need to learn from mistakes to keep from repeating mistakes. Don t be afraid to use that marker!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 22, 2017

The other day I witnessed one of those events that sort of makes you say, "I can't believe I just saw that." No, it wasn't the eclipse, that was just yesterday. And I didn't exactly "witness" the eclipse - after two eye surgeries over the past nine months and numerous trips to five different eye doctors, I wasn't willing to risk it even with glasses. Anyway, what I observed was one of those things that is a little more common than an eclipse and actually not a positive situation.

We were in Ohio visiting my oldest daughter, Stephanie, and her family. I went to the store to pick up some items. On the way there, I encountered some road construction. It was one of those areas where two lanes are reduced to one. Traffic was reduced to a crawl, and as I approached the merge area, a couple of cars appeared to my left. I stopped to let the cars go in front of me.

The trailing vehicle of the two moved over and then, instead of allowing the lead car to move over as well, accelerated and prevented the merge. I couldn't believe it. I let the "blocked" vehicle move in front of me and we went on our way. As I said, it was one of those things you see, but you just shake your head in disbelief at what you just saw. Obviously, the driver of the "trailing" car had a memory lapse. This would explain why they would not have extended the same courtesy to another driver that they had just received. They simply forgot that they had been allowed to move ahead in line by another driver. I have no other idea how to explain this behavior.

We need to take care that we don't have similar "lapses of memory." And I am referring to more than just driving incidents. Extend to others patience as you have experienced the patience of others. Avoid being critical of others' shortcomings as you, no doubt, have a few shortcomings of your own. Show kindness to others as you have received kindness from others.

I could go on with many other examples, but let me conclude with a few that are close to the heart of Christ. Forgive others as you have been forgiven, both by Christ and by others, love as you have been loved, and give as you have received. We should not forget that we have been forgiven, that we are loved, and have been given a great Gift.

Ephesians 4:32-5:2 tells us, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Don't have a lapse of memory when it comes to these blessings!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 21, 2017

Finally we are here, the day of the Total Eclipse! Somewhere Bonnie Tyler is singing away sorry, just couldn't resist that. Unless you have been living on a deserted island somewhere, I know you have heard about the eclipse. This phenomenon has made a fairly big splash where I live, as an eclipse of this nature, i.e. a total eclipse, has not been observed in Illinois since 1869. The optimal viewing area, where the eclipse will indeed be total, is in the southern part of the state, and I have heard they are expecting quite a crowd down there. Wherever you are, take precautions as you view!

As you know, a total eclipse takes place when the New Moon passes between the sun and the earth, effectively blocking out the sun for a brief period of time. The duration of this eclipse, according to NASA, will be about two minutes and forty seconds.

An eclipse is a totally natural event, but that didn't prevent folks in earlier cultures from attaching negative meanings to the happening. At one time, folks viewed an eclipse as an omen of bad things to come. Recently I read some contemporary accounts that the eclipse could be a "sign from Satan" or a warning from God about future things. I don't agree with these viewpoints, but I do think we can use the events of the eclipse as an object lesson of some spiritual truths.

I think the eclipse can give us a positive, encouraging message. As in an eclipse, we have dark times in our lives. Often, those dark times take place because the light in our lives is blocked through our actions as we do things that obscure our relationship with God. Well, we can do something about that, can't we? At other times, the circumstances of life block out the light and make things look bleak. As we trust God in these experiences, we can rest upon the hope that in our lives, as with the eclipse, the darkness will pass. The sun will return and shine brightly.

Paul speaks of "eclipse moments" as, well, let me let Paul speak for himself, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (II Corinthians 4:17-18) David wrote about the promise we have, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

The eclipse of the sun will pass, and light will return. This will happen in our lives as well. We need to apply caution as we view the eclipse, and we need to apply faith as we view our experiences!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 20, 2017

My great-great-grandfather was a Methodist Circuit Rider in central Kentucky in the 19th century. He had followed in a long line of circuit riders, perhaps the best known being Francis Asbury. Asbury was born on this day (August 20), 1745, in England. He came to America in 1771. When the Revolutionary War started, he refused to return to England because he felt his ministry was in America. For 46 years, he crisscrossed the colonies, and later the states, from the Appalachians to the Atlantic and from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. In his career, it is estimated that he traveled more than 300,000 miles on horseback. The Methodist church in America grew from a few hundred to over 200,000 in his lifetime. His tireless efforts (he would go to bed at 12 a.m. and rise at 4 a.m.) for Christ had few parallels either in his lifetime or since.

We may not be able to compare our efforts for Christ with Asbury - few can. However, we can use his life as a model of dedication and commitment. We should do what we can and what is within our capabilities and gifts. We may not travel from Maine to the Gulf, but we should be willing to go across the street to share the love of Christ with someone who needs his touch. Hebrews 13:16 tells us "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."

We may not be called to make the same sacrifices as did Asbury, but we should be willing to do what we can, and sacrifice is sometimes part of our ministry. Giving of ourselves is part of our service to Christ. Each of us has a "circuit" of ministry. And you don't need to ride a horse to cover your circuit - just do what you can!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 19, 2017

I just read that a reality talent show on television will be welcoming back a former judge and a "newbie" judge during the next season that starts this September. This means that two judges who were on the show during this past season were "booted" from the proceedings. So, a show that excludes contestants until there is only one left will once again exclude judges that were involved in the process of excluding others. Rather ironic, isn't it?

Aren't you glad that God's kingdom is not mutually exclusive? Aren't you glad that when one person becomes part of God's kingdom that it doesn't mean someone needs to drop out? We need to make sure our churches reflect God's openness. James refers to this when he writes, "My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?'" (James 2:1-4)

God accepts all of those who come to him through faith in his Son without respect of person based on "social acceptability." The church is not a social club with arbitrary criteria used to determine inclusion. Reflect God's attitude towards others and don't give them the boot!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 18, 2017

I have heard they may be making a sequel to the 1942 classic "Casablanca". Apparently, there is a screenplay available for a sequel that was written by Howard Koch, the author of the script for the original "Casablanca". This sounds intriguing, and a sequel has been bandied about for years. There are many pros and cons to this. The ending of Casablanca left many unanswered questions and it almost screamed for a sequel. I am sure there are many folks who would love to see a sequel, but I am not one of them. In my opinion, "Casablanca" is one of the best movies ever made. How can you improve on perfection?

This applies to the spiritual realm as well. There are those who seem to think that they can improve on the ministry of Christ and what has been recorded in the Scripture about his life. There are many who want to add to the teachings of Christ and make him say things he didn t say. They want to add to what he did, who he was, and how he fits in our lives. Why do folks want to try to improve on perfection?

What I said earlier about "Casablanca" being perfect is obviously an overstatement; however, speaking about the perfection of Christ is not. Hebrews 5:8-9 says: "Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him." Thinking you can add something to his perfection is a dangerous misstatement.

When someone claims something about Christ that is not in the Scripture, don t accept it. Christ is perfect. You cannot improve upon perfection. "Here's looking at you, kid."

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 17, 2017

I have read on more than one occasion that William Shakespeare helped translate the King James Version of the Bible. To verify this, many cite evidence from Psalm 46. In the King James translation, the forty-sixth word from the beginning of the psalm is "shake," and the forty-sixth word from the end of the psalm is "spear." Dr. Dennis Hensley of Taylor University wrote, "It just seems too coincidental to think that it was by fluke circumstances that the 46th Psalm would be translated around the time of Shakespeare's 46th birthday and that the 46th word from the start and the 46th word from the end would be 'shake' and 'spear.' My professional opinion is, Shakespeare translated that section of the King James Bible and he slipped in a secret byline to prove it was his work."

I do find this fascinating, but I really don t know what to make of it. One thing I do know is that this has little bearing when it comes to validating the Scripture. Scripture is validated because it came from God. II Timothy 3:16 tells us, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." Scripture is from God and was written by people moved by the Holy Spirit of God. We need do nothing to validate the Scripture any more than it has been validated. Shakespeare added nothing more to the Scripture than was already there.

Any attempt to add something or to change something in Scripture is dangerous. As Peter says, "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (I Peter 1:21)

In his play "Hamlet," Shakespeare wrote, "to thine own self be true." The Bible stands as true all on its own and doesn't need our help. What we need is the help the Scripture gives.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 16, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 15, 2017

Yesterday I passed a church sign that read "Today's missteps may become tomorrow's regrets." Before I turned to some serious thinking about this statement, my mind wondered to a TV commercial that reflected this theme on a more humorous level.

In the commercial, a lady tattoo artist is seen putting the finishing touches on some artwork on a man's arm. The tattoo read, "No Regerts." When the client saw the finished product, he loudly exclaims, "No Regerts?!" The artist replies, "Sorry, I was eating a Milky Way!" Well, there you go, the key to living in order to prevent regrets is eliminating Milky Way candy bars from our diet. Wouldn't it be nice if it was that easy?

There is no way we can live without producing some regret. We cannot live perfect lives. In addition, we may encounter some circumstances beyond our control that produce regret. But living thoughtfully and prayerfully can help us avoid the major missteps that will produce rough regrets. Following the advice of our Father, focusing on the lives of others, and ferreting through the details in order to make good decisions are some paths to follow to prevent regret.

Proverbs gives some advice about avoidance of regret, "For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to (wisdom) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm." (Proverbs 1:32-33) Wise thoughts to live by so there will be "no regerts."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 15, 2017

Yesterday I passed a church sign that read "Today's missteps may become tomorrow's regrets." Before I turned to some serious thinking about this statement, my mind wondered to a TV commercial that reflected this theme on a more humorous level.

In the commercial, a lady tattoo artist is seen putting the finishing touches on some artwork on a man's arm. The tattoo read, "No Regerts." When the client saw the finished product, he loudly exclaims, "No Regerts?!" The artist replies, "Sorry, I was eating a Milky Way!" Well, there you go, the key to living in order to prevent regrets is eliminating Milky Way candy bars from our diet. Wouldn't it be nice if it was that easy?

There is no way we can live without producing some regret. We cannot live perfect lives. In addition, we may encounter some circumstances beyond our control that produce regret. But living thoughtfully and prayerfully can help us avoid the major missteps that will produce rough regrets. Following the advice of our Father, focusing on the lives of others, and ferreting through the details in order to make good decisions are some paths to follow to prevent regret.

Proverbs gives some advice about avoidance of regret, "For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to (wisdom) will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm." (Proverbs 1:32-33) Wise thoughts to live by so there will be "no regerts."

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 14, 2017

Perhaps you have heard of Stephen Wiltshire. He is a British artist who has been dubbed "The Human Camera" because of his ability to draw detailed landscapes from memory after only a single glance at an area. Wiltshire can draw entire cities from memory based on a single pass over the city in a helicopter. His nineteen-foot-long drawing of 305 square miles of New York City is based on a single twenty-minute pass over New York. He has a gallery on the Royal Opera Arcade in London and has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. His memory is truly amazing.

Something I find more amazing are the references in the scripture about a lack of memory. Isaiah 43:35 tells us, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Hebrews 10:17 says, "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." God gives this promise, "You will again have compassion on us; and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19)

To me, this is an amazing reality. Our omniscient God chooses to have no memory of our sins when we ask his forgiveness for what we have done. I don't know exactly how he does this, but I am glad he does

When I was a kid, we sang this little chorus: "Gone, gone, gone, gone, yes, my sins are gone. Now my soul is free and in my heart's a song. Buried in the deepest sea, yes that's good enough for me. I shall live eternally, Praise God, my sins are G-O-N-E, gone!" Now that's really amazing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 13, 2017

"The hurrieder I go the behinder I get" said the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." At first glance, this actually sounds a bit contradictory. But any of you who have lived any length of time at all know the truth in this statement. When you get in a big hurry, you take the risk of losing time rather than gaining time in your endeavor. In most situations, a little bit of time spent in planning and forethought offers a much greater advantage over plunging ahead with no strategy.

Planning helps to avoid mistakes and prevents the need for "do-overs." If you don't have time to do something right the first time, when in the world are you going to have time to do it over? Take some time to lay out a procedure - you will be glad you did. Taking some time to lay out strategy keeps us focused and helps us to be more productive.

If we want an example of someone who plans before he acts, we need look no farther than our Heavenly Father. Throughout the Scripture we find God setting out plans for how something is to be done. He does this for many reasons, not the least of which is the idea that when things are done with purpose, it allows for productive time for worship and service.

An example of this is found in Numbers 1:50-51, "Appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony--over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it."

God laid out some plans for how things were to be moved when the Israelites would set out during their journey. Mapping out strategy ahead of time meant there would be less time spent "spinning their wheels." It caused them to concentrate on an activity given to them by God that would remind them of where their focus should be. It would keep them from random activities that could bring about frustration and cause them to look elsewhere. An old adage goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Which is your preference?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 12, 2017

When I was a kid, I always thought the music and the grand graphic that appeared at the beginning of a Twentieth Century Fox production was so cool. The fake spotlights and the blaring trumpets just really caught my fancy. When I see this now, I wonder if it being "outdated" is really a good idea. I remember reading that having a twentieth century logo in a twenty-first century world is not such a good concept from a marketing standpoint. Obviously, that is the problem of Twentieth Century Fox and not mine. I still think the music and the graphics are cool.

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

Jesus is not bound by time and his provision is always what we need at just the time we need it. And, by the way, he doesn't need impressive music and graphics to announce his presence in our lives. In Matthew 28:20 Christ says, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He is real and he knows just what we need in our 21st century world.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 11, 2017

I don't know why, but I seem to be fixated on office machines. Yesterday I wrote about the copy machine. Today let me talk about the fax machine.

Actually, I do not use the fax machine in my office nearly as much as I used to. It is not that I send fewer documents to other places electronically; I just have found that scanning the document into an email is more advantageous. This procedure allows for a transmission of an image that is much closer to the original, including the color. With the fax machine, I have trouble remembering whether the page goes in "face up" or "face down." With email, I don't have to put up with those crazy electronic sounds and receive messages such as "Interference on line" that prevents the fax from going through.

Often our communication with God is inhibited by interference. A lack of focus can keep us from communicating with God in the way we should, and can keep us from hearing God's messages to us. We let interference from improper behavior, a lack of concern, and other distractions keep us from "sending" and "receiving" the way we should. We really need to upgrade to newer technology by honing our focus, improving our response, and clearing up our service.

Christ proclaimed, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mark 4:9) We need to make sure that we do away with the interference on the line so we can hear clearly what God has to say.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 10, 2017

I often marvel at how easy copying things has become. None of us remember this far back, but making a duplicate of a document used to mean sitting with the original and laboriously copying by hand. Then, along came the copying press, carbon paper, and other methods. Remember the days of cutting stencils and mimeograph machines? The copy machine was a great invention. First introduced in 1959, the "Xerox" machine has certainly revolutionized paperwork of all sorts. Now, we have mono copiers, multi-function copiers, color copiers, and even 3-D copiers. At the church we have a machine that copies, sends fax messages, prints, sorts, collates, and staples. Things have gotten easier and faster.

This is great when it comes to making copies, but there are some areas where easier and faster may not be better. This is especially true in the development of our spiritual lives. We are so used to putting an original in a machine and receiving a great quality copy in just a few seconds that we sometimes mistakenly think other things should be just as fast.

Time needs to be spent when it comes to our spiritual growth. We need time in God s Word, time in prayer, time in fellowship with others, time in reading things that will benefit our inner person.

God told Joshua in Joshua 1:8, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Psalm 119:97 says, "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." Both of these verses speak to time being involved in the process of our inner growth.

Don't use the "Xerox" method of spiritual growth! Take time with the Lord - allow him the time to help you develop the kind of relationship with him that you should have. There is something to be said for copying things by hand.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 09, 2017

Even though we have speed dialing and contact lists, I still try to memorize phone numbers. I don't do as good a job as I once did and I attribute this to the fact that the technological advances in our phones have made me lazy. Still, I like to use my brain when I can and retrieve the number from memory. This actually saves more time, and exercises my brain.

Oral tradition at one time was an important part of the preservation and dissemination of knowledge. We need to make sure that we still give our brain the work-out it needs to function well. And one of the best ways to strengthen your thinking is through memorization.

As followers of Christ, we should not lose sight of the importance of scripture memorization. Sure, we have copies of the Scripture all over the place. We have the scripture available on our electronic devices, but we should not let advantages take the place of the important practice of placing God's Word inside of us. Let me share with you an incident that occurred just recently that highlights how significant scripture memorization can be.

In an August 6 post to Facebook, Phil Boyd, a fellow pastor here in our county, related an experience he had during a visit to our local care center. Many of you read the post. Phil, if you are reading this, I hope you don t mind that I share a bit of your experience.

Ruth Spraggins is a resident of the care center and a very dear lady who struggles to communicate because of health issues and her age. Phil spent some time with her during his visit. He wrote, "With some older folks I like to read something and have them complete the sentence. A lot of times the memory is there, it's just recalling it that's difficult. I started reading the 23rd Psalm, and she would fill in the blank. I would say the Lord is my........she would say Shepherd. I would say He leads me beside......she would say still waters, and so on."

Psalm 119:11 says, "I have hidden your word in my heart." Apparently Ruth had done this. Don't simply put God's Word on speed dial - take the time to memorize the Scripture. This is a life-long exercise that will most assuredly enhance your life!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 08, 2017

Sometimes we just need to step up to the plate and get the job done - no excuses, no trying to get someone else to do it, no slacking off, just get things done! This could be the case in a job situation, a business situation, a situation in an organization, a family situation, or even a circumstance in our church.

God called Moses to get a job done - lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses had a number of reasons why he wasn't the one for the job. You can read about this in Exodus 3 & 4. At one point he said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it. (Exodus 4:13) This was the last straw with God - he got a little angry and basically said, "Moses, you ARE going to do this and this is how it is going to be done. . ."

We can be like this, even though we know we shouldn't. We sometimes fall into the trap that is described in a little story I read once. You perhaps have seen it at one time or another, but it is one of those little gems that bears repeating every now and then:

There is a story about four people. Their names are EVERYBODY, SOMEBODY, ANYBODY and NOBODY. There was a very important job that needed to be done. EVERYBODY was asked to do this job. Now ANYBODY could have done this job but NOBODY was willing to do it. Then SOMEBODY got angry about this because it was EVERYBODY'S job to do it. Well, EVERYBODY thought that ANYBODY could have done it! But NOBODY realized that EVERYBODY blamed SOMEBODY for not doing the job. Still NOBODY done it. The arguing got worse and finally NOBODY would talk to ANYBODY and EVERYBODY blamed SOMEBODY. What a shame that ANYBODY could have done the job and EVERYBODY could have helped SOMEBODY but yet NOBODY did it!"

I will conclude - don't be a NOBODY! Be that SOMEBODY who gets busy and does the job ANYBODY should do so that EVERYBODY will benefit!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 07, 2017

In 1942, with the nation embroiled in World War II, the United States was looking for a way to develop a code that would not be easily broken by the enemy and allow for accurate and safe communication. Phillip Johnston, a missionary among the Navajo, suggested using the Navajo language as a basis for such a code. Originally, 29 Navajo men were recruited for this project and a code was developed. This effort proved remarkably successful and by the end of the war, over 420 Navajo were involved in the program. The code was never broken and was kept secretive decades after the end of the war in case it was needed again. A film about this effort, "Windtalkers", was released in 2002, 60 years after its inception.

God does not speak to us in code. Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us, "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things." Through the revelation of His Son and through the Word he has sent us, God has made plain to us what we need to know and what he expects from us. If there is any difficulty in communication, it is not a problem with the Sender, it is a problem with the receiver.

We owe a great debt to the Windtalkers, but we owe a greater debt to our Heavenly Father who has communicated to us plainly and openly. He does not speak to us in code and he does not hide his desire and intentions from us. Our obligation is to respond to what he has said.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 06, 2017

The South End Grounds was a magnificent stadium built in Boston in 1888. The outside was fashioned like a medieval castle. Both the Boston Braves and the Boston Red Stockings played baseball there. In 1894, in a game between the Boston Red Stockings and the Baltimore Orioles, a fight broke out between two of the players. Soon both teams were involved in the fracas. To make matters worse, the spectators joined the conflict as well. Someone started a fire in the right field bleachers. The blaze destroyed the ballpark and many other surrounding buildings. All this started with a fight between two players.

We are told in scripture of the need for self-control. Proverbs 26:21 reminds us that "As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife." We need to learn to control our anger and handle conflict in a positive way. Conflict that is left unresolved and allowed to go uncontrolled can lead to big problems. Minor conflicts can lead to major problems. This is true in our personal relationships, our business relationships, our jobs, and it is certainly true in the church. This is why we need to exercise control and work through our conflicts in godly way. Conflict is inevitable. We see this in our lives and throughout scripture. Conflict that is damaging is avoidable when we allow God to control our lives and help us to deal with conflict.

So, be careful to not start fires with unresolved conflict or anger that continues to grow unchecked. Be determined to handle arguments and disagreements with godly character.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 05, 2017

Did you ever threaten to run away from home when you were a kid? When I got mad at my parents I did - the problem was I could never come up with a good place to go. We lived too far out in the country to have a destination that would work.

David, the author of Psalm 139, asked a provocative question: "Where can I flee from Your presence?" (v.7). He answered his own question with two parallel responses. He first replied, "If I ascend to heaven, You are there" (v.8). It doesn't take a theologian to figure that out. After all, where else would God be?

David's second response is quite interesting. "If I make my bed in hell, you are there." Hell? Yes, that is what he wrote. The point David is making is that you can't go anywhere where God isn't. He is everywhere.

This truth is both convicting and comforting. It is convicting because it means God is present when we are exhibiting our worst behavior. However, it is comforting to know he is present when the worst is being piled on us. He is there.

So, don't make plans to run from God - you will not be successful. Yogi Berra once said, "No matter where I go, there I am." And no matter where you are, God is there..

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 04, 2017

There are situations and circumstances that arise in our walk with the Lord where all we seem to be able to do is say "I don't know." We face health issues, emotional crises, financial issues, and other life events that cause us to ask, "What is going on?" and cry out to God for intervention.

As we struggle through these times when we say "I don't know", it is helpful to focus on what we do know. We know that God loves us. We know that God has not forgotten us. We know that God is aware of what is taking place. We know that God has nothing but our best interests in mind. We know that God directs events for his glory. As we focus on our points of knowledge, we may not find concrete resolution to the "I don't know", but we can develop confidence and attain contentment through continuing to trust in what we do know about God.

Korah cried out in Psalm 44:9-10, "you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us." He continued to trust and knew that God would not ultimately forsake his people.

Korah's hope was expressed several centuries later when Paul used his statements as he proclaimed the confidence we can have in the provision of God. In Romans 8:36 Paul wrote, "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered" which is a direct citation of Psalm 44:22. God does know about our lives and our future, so even at times when we say "I don't know" we know we can trust him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 03, 2017

August is the only month of the year with no major holidays. I make this statement because it does have a minor holiday, well, minor for me my birthday. I guess in one sense I should consider this a major holiday, and today is the day.

Birthdays are good reminders of some important truths. For one thing, if you didn't have a birthday, you wouldn't be here. Now, isn't that profound? Still, birthdays are a reminder of life the life we now have.

Birthdays can serve as a reminder of the helpful exercise of self-evaluation. As we experience these milestones, we can take the time to examine what is going on in our lives and determine if we need to make some adjustments in some areas. Lamentations 3:40 encourages us, "Let us test and examine our ways."

Birthdays also serve to remind us of the transitory nature of this life. Now, I don t want this to be a "downer" aspect of birthdays. We shouldn't look at it as such, but we should be realistic as we think about our lives. We are not going to be here forever, at least not in this life. Psalm 90:12 tells us "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

In one sense, on the day of our birth, a timer was set in motion. None of us know for sure how much time is placed on the timer, but we do know that it is running. A realistic understanding of this truth should bring about wise living, not panic-filled hysteria. We only have so much time in this life, and we should live to please God through following Christ and and letting God guide our lives from the moment of that decision.

James 4:13-15 makes a statement on how we should view our lives, "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, 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. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" Birthdays are good days for many reasons. Celebrate yours well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 02, 2017

In the movie "Braveheart," William Wallace is betrayed by an opportunistic Robert the Bruce, who was a friend of Wallace. In reality, this probably didn't happen the way it was depicted in the film. Actually, Robert the Bruce was a true hero himself, winning battles over the British against incredible odds. He was eventually proclaimed King of Scots.

While this betrayal of Wallace may not have been historically accurate, it does portray a circumstance that occurs in real life - being betrayed by someone whom you thought you could trust - a friend, a business partner, maybe even a family member. This is an event that is hurtful in many ways. It is hurtful because of experiencing the consequences brought about by the betrayal. It is hurtful because of the betrayal itself.

The psalmist David writes about this in Psalm 41:9, "Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." David had experienced this type of betrayal. Christ alluded to this passage when he spoke of Judas' betrayal. The betrayal of Christ by Judas was obviously a very prominent part of the whole plan of redemption for man.

When you face betrayal from someone close, remember that even Christ experienced this. Remember how you felt because of the betrayal. Determine that you never want someone else to feel the way you do because of your actions. Determine that you don't want to ever make Christ feel as if you have betrayed him. Be a true friend to others and to Christ and live in such a way as to show that you are a true friend.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 01, 2017

"It is no longer enough that we pray that God may be with us on our side. We must learn to pray that we may be on God's side." Isn't that a great statement? Do you wonder who made it? Think it might have been some well-known theologian or a popular preacher? Well, actually it was one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century - Wernher von Braun. He developed the V-2 rocket for Germany which was used in warfare in WWII. That was not his intent, but others seized his technology for use in war.

Dr. von Braun later immigrated to the United States where he became the father of the space program. He had a profound effect on the history of a large part of the 20th century. While his intelligence is obvious from his accomplishments and contributions, equally obvious is his profound understanding of his relationship with God.

Many times we pray to try to "change God's mind" and to ask him to cause something to happen in a way we think is best. Instead, we need to be praying that we learn to come into conformity with what God desires and what he has designed. We need to let him act in the way he knows is best. Praying in this way shows that we trust him and that we understand his concern and commitment to our well-being.

Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" Von Braun understood this. He knew we should trust God and get on the same page with God, instead of trying to convince God to get on the same page with us. This isn't "rocket science" (oh, I couldn't resist that). It is just a matter of trusting God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 31, 2017

When I was in Israel a few years ago, we stopped along a road that allowed us to take in the view of the wilderness area through which the Jerusalem to Jericho road passed. I would imagine you are familiar with the story Christ told of the Good Samaritan. This is found in the scripture in Luke 10:29-37. A traveler going from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by a band of robbers. When one sees the area, it doesn't take much imagination to see how this story played out. This road was called the Way of Blood during the time of Christ as the lay of the land offered hiding places for robbers and thieves who preyed on travelers. As you recall the story Christ told, the man who was beaten and robbed was ignored by a priest and a Levite before finding help through the efforts of a Samaritan.

In her book "Kindness: Reaching Out to Others", Phyllis J. Le Peau describes an event at a Midwestern seminary. Students were given the assignment to speak on kindness. Then, the day of the sermon, the students were intentionally delayed by a "person in need" who was planted on the way to the class. One by one, the students made their way to the class, but not one of them stopped to assist the needy person. Apparently, they were too absorbed in preaching a message on kindness to actually be involved in an act of kindness.

Which would be the more powerful sermon on kindness: delivering a sermon extolling the need to show kindness or actually stopping to show kindness to someone who needed help? I hope I don't need to state the obvious here. Luke 10:33 says, "When he saw him, he had compassion." His compassion led to action. I hope it does for us as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 30, 2017

Neil Armstrong found it very hard to live a normal life after his trip to the moon. He had to move a number of times to try to establish a place to live where he and his family were not hounded by those seeking to obtain some sort of gain through Armstrong's fame. After he settled in one particular town, he was amazed to discover that his barber had collected his hair and sold a quantity of it for three thousand dollars. The opportunity to make money was more than the barber could handle. Greed got the best of him.

Proverbs 28:25 tells us about the power of greed, "The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper." Armstrong couldn't believe that a person whom he had trusted could be so motivated by greed. We should not be surprised by the power of greed, and we need to watch ourselves lest greed get the best of us. Greed can cause us to be disloyal to God and to others and to drive us to pursue actions that are not in our best interests.

The key to overcoming greed is to focus on God and his provision so that the lure of money and things are not so strong. We should exhibit a heart that is focused on God and others. This helps us to avoid the effects of greed and be motivated to pursue activities that are good and not harmful. Allowing the power of God to be in control of our lives will keep us from the temptation to sell hair.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 29, 2017

I would imagine you have heard it said, "What matters most is not how well you start, but how well you finish." Starting well can bring about a good finish, but a good start does not guarantee a good finish. Take the life of King Saul as a case in point.

When Saul is first introduced to us in scripture, we read about him, "There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish. . .He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others (I Samuel 9:1-2)." We read how Saul at one time was moved by the Spirit of God (I Samuel 10:5-7). He was anointed as the first king of Israel - quite an honor! However, things seemed to go downhill from there for Saul. From messing around with sacrifices, to failing to thwart God's enemies, to his hatred of David, we can follow his fall from the tallest and most powerful man in Israel to a person that causes God to say, "I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions (I Samuel 15:10)."

We need to watch our lives. We need to watch our attitudes. We need to watch our ways. We need to avoid getting on a slippery slide that leads us away from God and away from his guidance, comfort, love, and assurance. The story of Saul is one of the saddest in scripture.

In I Corinthians 10:12, the Apostle Paul warns us, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" On the pathway of life, you will find more ways to fail than you will to succeed - make sure you continue to look to God so you will continue to stand tall and not fall like Saul (sorry, I couldn't resist that).

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 28, 2017

Each Sunday in our morning worship, we pray the Lord's Prayer. Praying the prayer, we ask the Father to "Give us this day our daily bread." When we ask him this, we are asking for provision for the day. We are asking for guidance for the day. We are asking for illumination for the day. When Christ prayed "give us this day our daily bread," he was putting emphasis on a crucial concept in our spiritual lives - we must trust God day by day. We only know the moment in our lives. What is past is past. We don't know the reality of moments to come, or even if they will come at all. We must trust God with the events of the now, and we rely upon him to provide for the now.

In the day when Christ lived, most did now know from day to day what provision would be there for them. Work opportunities, what was available to eat, goods that were available, were usually available for that day, with no guarantees for the next. But, what else did you need? If you have what you need for today, there was no cause to worry about tomorrow, as tomorrow would bring new provisions.

When God provides for us, it is for our daily needs. We are not able to see beyond today's provision to know what will be done about tomorrow. However, when the needs of today are met, why worry about what might happen tomorrow? God has provided for today, he can provide for tomorrow as well, so leave that detail in the hands of God. This is called faith. When God provided for his people when they were wandering in Sinai, he provided their daily bread through manna. There were strict regulations about gathering more than what you needed for the day, except on the eve of the Sabbath. God ordered this circumstance to show the people he could be entrusted to provide for their "daily bread."

We need to trust God for our daily bread, and realize that tomorrow is to be left up to him. Jesus tells us, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34)." Trust God for your daily bread, leave tomorrow in God's hands.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 27, 2017

On the eastern end of River Street in Savannah, Georgia, on a bluff overlooking the Savannah River, stands the statue of Florence Martus. Florence Martus was born in 1868. When she was older she moved with her brother to a cottage on Elba Island, a small piece of land in the Savannah River near the entrance to Savannah Harbor. They were quite isolated there and to pass the time, Florence began waving a handkerchief at the ships as they would enter the harbor. At night, she would use a lantern to wave greetings to ships. Sailors on the ships would wave back.

Over the course of time, returning ships would look forward to her presence as they entered Savannah harbor. Florence never married, and she continued this practice for 44 years. It is estimated she greeted over 50,000 ships during her life. Why she continued this for so long is a mystery. She died in 1943 at the age of 75. A ship was christened in her honor, and the aforementioned statue was placed to commemorate her life.

Florence Martus simple greeting made sailors feel welcome at Savannah for years. Simple acts of hospitality, a simple friendly greeting, can do much to help us reach out to others. You might be surprised at the effect that small acts of kindness, a simple wave, a friendly smile, can have on others. They help to communicate the spirit of Christ. They help to communicate good feelings in a world where sometimes rudeness seems to be the norm rather than the exception.

Buck the trend and bring a friendly spirit to others. Fourteen times in Romans 16, Paul encourages the people at Rome to "Greet" someone. He was encouraging the people in the church at Rome to be a "greeting" people. He writes, "Greet also the church that meets at their house. . .Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus." (Romans 16:5 & 10)

Are you a greeting person? We may not have the perseverance of Florence Martus, but we should do what we can to develop the same spirit. They may not erect statues to our friendliness, but that isn't why we should be friendly to begin with. It really doesn't take a lot of effort to wave!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 26, 2017

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a frequently referenced part of William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her rival's house of Montague, that is, that he is named "Montague." The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are. This may be true in a number of circumstances, but names can still be important and influential. For example, "Sylvester and the Family Stone" just does not seem to have the same impact as "Sly and the Family Stone." And which name evokes a tougher image to you - Marion Morrison or John Wayne?

God's names are really a fascinating and informative study. The names of God found in the scripture gives us insight into his character. There are several, and we don't have the time or space to mention them all here. I encourage you to take some time and engage in a little research on God's names.

The first name for God found in the Scripture is "Elohim" used in Genesis 1:1. This name can be translated "Creator, mighty and strong." The form is plural, and lends support to the plural nature of God, that he exists as a Trinity. "El Shaddai" (Genesis 49:24) is translated "God Almighty" and refers to his supreme position over all. "Yahweh Jireh" (Genesis 22:14) is memorialized by Abraham when God provided a ram for a sacrifice in the place of his son Isaac. "El Roi" is found in Genesis 16:13 and is translated "The God who sees". This is what Haggar said of God after he provided for her and her son Ishmael following their banishment from the tents of Abraham: "So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, 'You are a God of seeing,'"

The names used of God do matter and give us a picture of the God we serve. "What's in a name?" is certainly a valid question when it comes to the names of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 25, 2017

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is a 1977 science fiction film that relates the story of how a lineman from Indiana encounters aliens and eventually is taken aboard a ship from outer space, presumably for the purpose of mutual education and interaction between species that will lead to greater understanding. I can't believe this movie is forty years old. During the lead-up to the conclusion, communication between the aliens and earth featured a five-tone musical phrase in a major scale that was played over and over. If you have seen the movie, you no doubt recall this riff. As I am writing this article, this phrase is now in my head and I hope I can get it out before I go to bed tonight.

In an interesting example of life imitating art, several years ago a group of scientists in England discovered a "singing" black hole in a system of far-away galaxies. This black hole is situated in a galaxy that is amidst a group of galaxies known as the Perseus Cluster. The tone being produced is a B-flat, 57 octaves below middle C. What is actually producing this tone is unknown.

As much as I am fascinated by this, I really don't know what to make of it, except that it brings to mind some references in scripture that speak to the idea of creation singing the praises of God. We read in Job 4, "Where were you when I laid the earth s foundation. . .while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" Now, I am not sure that I could argue this tone is an example of the morning stars singing for joy, but I do know that we who are creations of God should sing his praises as often and as joyfully as we can.

You may be familiar with the praise song "God of Wonders." The words of this song describe the awe and wonder we should feel whether we are looking at the sun during the day or the stars in the night sky - "Lord of all creation, Of the water, earth and sky, The Heavens are Your Tabernacle, Glory to the Lord on high, God of wonders, beyond our galaxy, You are holy, holy, The universe declares Your majesty, You are holy, holy."

Psalm 19:1 tells us, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Let's join all of Creation in letting God know what we think about him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 24, 2017

Yesterday was an interesting day for us here in Newton and surrounding communities. We had quite a storm that took down trees, destroyed some buildings, damaged power lines, and wreaked general havoc. I have heard of no reports of serious injuries, and I certainly hope this remains the case. The storm hit around 4:30 or 5 a.m. I was up and heard it, especially the loud snap and subsequent thud when part of the ash tree in our back yard ended up on our deck and roof. There appears to be no serious damage, though I know there are some who cannot make the same statement.

Along with many others, we lost our power. A quick trip to the church revealed we had no power there as well. After some discussion about cancellation of services, we decided to go ahead as there was no real damage. This meant no PowerPoint, no Praise Band, we couldn't show the trailer of the movie we were going to see for "Popcorn and Movie Night", no PA system, and, of course, no air conditioning. Now, we have cancelled services before during inclement weather circumstances, and I imagine we will do so again in the future, but we didn't yesterday and it made for a rather unique worship experience.

The service was "all acoustic," No AC meant we had to open windows and doors. A rather ironic twist here is that we had just the previous week installed windows that could be opened. We used a battery lantern or two where needed. Candles were suggested but we thought we would go "high tech" as we really didn't need that much enhancement. This scenario took me back to my younger years in church when we had no AC, no projection systems, and no PA systems, although we did have electricity. I am not that old.

I have always been one who is eager to embrace new ideas and innovations, but it is good to know that when push comes to shove, we can get along just fine without them. Another thing I took away from our experience is that we may introduce change in our lives and in our worship, but God who is involved in our lives and the object of our worship does not change. That is a good thing.

Psalm 102:26-27 tells us, "They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." We learn from James 1:17 that, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." The changeless nature of God means his plans will not change, his love for you will not change, and his assurance to you will not change. Your future in God's hands is secure because God does not change.

Changing worship plans and methods is fine, but be glad that the God we worship does not change. Next week, barring another storm, we will have lights, the praise band will lead worship, PowerPoints will be used, and the AC will be on, but the God we worship will be the same One we worshiped yesterday without any of these. That's a good thing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 23, 2017

Every day people all over the world share a number of universal experiences. One such experience is making choices. We have choices all throughout our lives. The situation involving a choice may be as mundane as selecting what we want to have for lunch or be a more life-altering option such as an offer for a new job. We need to learn to choose wisely, and followers of Christ need to make choices that reflect the character of Christ.

We need to make choices that reflect our commitment to Christ. We should choose with our relationship with Christ in mind. Also we must choose inclusively. As we make decisions, we must realize our choices will have ramifications for others. Choices are not made in a vacuum and others are affected by how we choose. Often we must choose quickly. This is especially true when we are speaking of our spiritual lives and making a decision that has to do with our spirituality.

Joshua encouraged his people to "choose you this day whom you will serve." (Joshua 24:15) Another good statement about making choices is found in Proverbs 16:16, "How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!"

Make good choices. Make sure your choices fall in line with Christ's example and teaching. Choose in a way that honors him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 22, 2017

C. S. Lewis was an author who wrote a number of works to encourage Christians. My favorite work of Lewis' is a tongue-in-cheek writing entitled "The Screwtape Letters." You may have read this. In it, a "senior demon" named Screwtape writes letters to his protégé, Wormwood, encouraging the young devil in his attempts to thwart the Christian experience of a specific person to whom Wormwood has been assigned.

In one particular letter, Screwtape advises Wormwood to get his subject to look at others in his church in a critical way. I know this will sound familiar to those of you who have been participating in our Wednesday study. If Wormwood can be successful in steering the subject towards a focus upon the faults of others, the subject will neglect his own weaknesses, and will start to build a sense of inappropriate pride in his own behavior. This will lead to a critical spirit, inaccurate self-understanding, and arrogance that is unhealthy.

The scripture calls for humility and grace, not pride and a critical attitude. The problem of pride is described in a number of passages. One is Proverbs 16:18-19, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud." A better way to live is described in Proverbs 22:4, "Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life." Don't follow the advice of Screwtape follow the guidance of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 21, 2017

I used to play a game with youth groups called "Train Wreck." In this game, each person is assigned a number and is seated. The person who is "it" stands in front of the group and calls out some numbers at random and then says "train wreck." On that signal, those whose numbers have been called must get up and find a new chair. The person who is "it" must also find a seat. What follows is something akin to pandemonium, but it is really fun pandemonium - people rushing around frantically trying to find what they want - a chair.

Of course, the real-life counterpart of this game - an actual train wreck - isn't really fun. Sometimes it is tragic and a real mess. I remember coming upon the scene of a train wreck one time - it was surreal seeing those huge train cars laying at strange angles. Some were on their side, some were on their top, some were almost perpendicular to the ground. The scene was quite a mess, and certainly not a game.

Sometimes our lives might feel a little like a train wreck. Everything seems askance with circumstances surrounding us at weird angles. When this happens, just take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and focus on the provision of God.

Job no doubt felt like he had been in a train wreck (although there weren't any trains in his day) when he got the news about his crops, his herds, his servants, and, of course, his family. They were gone - all gone. What was his response? We read this is Job 1:20-22, "At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.' In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."

Job was not unaffected by these events - his immediate response was tearing his clothes and cutting his hair. However, he knew that in the midst of chaos he had a great need to maintain his focus on God. This was what helped him survive the "train wreck." This is what can help us when we feel like our train has wrecked. Let God get you back on the rails - he can create order out of chaos.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 20, 2017

I have been to the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago once. The building was known as the Sears Tower then. At the time, it was the tallest building in the United States. We went to the observation floor in anticipation of a beautiful view of the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan. What we saw didn't quite meet up with our expectations as fog limited what we were able to see. In spite of the fact of our elevated position, we were unable to see more than a few feet.

Sometimes we have this problem in our spiritual lives. God has raised us up to an elevated position, but we often allow things to fog up our vision to the point where we are limited in what we see. We put our own agendas ahead of God's, we let things creep into our lives that bring barriers to seeing God's path, we fail to follow the leadership of God in our lives, or we simply disregard what we know to be true.

We need to eliminate what keeps us from seeing God's plan for our lives. We need to develop our vision by concentrating on his leadership. We need to focus on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that our vision is clear. Our prayer should be that of the psalmist, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." (Psalm 119:18)

Often we sing a praise song written by Michael W. Smith, Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see You. I want to see you! This should be our greatest desire!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 19, 2017

While on vacation recently, I watched "The Bucket List" for the second or third time. "The Bucket List" is a 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill men who go on a road trip to accomplish as many things on their wish lists as they can before they "kick the bucket." The two men meet in the hospital. One is a billionaire (Nicholson) and one is a mechanic (Freeman). Their relationship is rather tenuous at first, but a friendship develops as they pursue their goals.

I came across a list of things that we need to strongly consider putting on our spiritual bucket list. As a matter of fact, the list is entitled "Seven Things that Can Only Be Done In This Life." Here they are: 1. Love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44). 2. Walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). 3. Love God by enduring temptation (James 1:12). 4. Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13). 5. Lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20). 6. Share the good news of Christ with others (Matthew 28:19-20). 7. Exercise your spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8).

We know our time in this life is limited and we need to live realistically and wisely. We need to do what we should while we have the opportunity. This involves practical matters of life, and it also involves important matters of faith and spirituality. Jesus reminds us, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) Take care of that bucket list!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 18, 2017

I don't remember when I first studied about what materials are good conductors of electricity in school, but I do remember when I found out that a metal key is an excellent channel for an electric current. I was a big fan of the TV show "Bonanza" when I was a kid. One evening, I was pretending to be Sheriff Roy Coffee. I wanted to open up the jail cell, so I needed a place to stick the key in order to open the cell door. We had an electric stove at the time with a receptacle about the height of my shoulder. Perfect! Let's just say that opening the cell door was an electrifying experience.

As followers of Christ, we are called upon to be good conductors of the grace and blessings of God. So, how are you doing? Are you a good channel of the good things of Christ? Are you allowing his love, peace, and hope to flow through you to others? Are you being a good conductor of God's blessings to others?

Proverbs 11:25-26 tells us, "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it." What we receive from God needs to be shared with others. God blesses us so that we may have something to give. These blessings may be material or spiritual. Whatever they are, be a channel for others.

If I remember my science lessons correctly, silver is the best conductor of electricity. Polish up that silver and let the current flow!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 17, 2017

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 gradually shrink, presumably eventually to nothing, although the film ended with him still alive but very tiny. The last lines of the movie 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!"

Perhaps there are times when we 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 this 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. 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, most certainly we are not a zero.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 16, 2017

I was watching a baseball game on TV the other day when the camera fixed on a young boy attempting to open a clear plastic bag that contained cotton candy. After a great deal of effort, he was successful in his efforts. With apologies to all of you cotton candy lovers, I just wouldn't have expended the energy. I fall into the category of those who wonder why cotton candy exists.

If there was ever something that is actually nothing, cotton candy is just that. When you look at it, it looks so delightful, so delicious, so delectable. Then, when you start chomping down on that big mound of colorful fluff, that is exactly what you get - a big mound of colorful fluff and little else. Yet, it still proves to be a staple at amusement parks, fairs, and festivals. When you get it, you really don't get much. It just doesn't offer a lot in spite of its attractive appearance.

We are searching for something in life, in spite of what we might think. We have a longing within us that wants to be satisfied. There is so much "cotton candy" out there that looks good but really doesn't satisfy our hunger.

Christ speaks to this issue of spiritual hunger in the Beatitudes. In Matthew 5:6, we hear Christ saying, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." We have an inner hunger, an inner thirst, that can only be satisfied by that which Christ provides. He tells us in John 6:35, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

We have a spiritual longing, a spiritual hunger and thirst that only Christ can satisfy. Don't pursue the cotton candy of the world. Look no farther than what you see in Christ. He will take care of your needs. He will give you joy that will be more than just a sugar high. Why settle for nothing when you can have Christ?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 15, 2017

One of the summer jobs I had as I was going through college was working for the Ohio Department of Transportation as a construction inspector apprentice. This title was really more glorified than the actual job, but I was there to make money for college, not for the position. One summer I was working on a bridge replacement project on OH 93 north of Ironton. The actual inspector on the project told me he was going to be gone for a few days and would leave me in charge. Now, this wasn t actually as daunting as it sounds either, especially since other inspectors on nearby jobs were there to look in on me. It did mean that I would have the use of an official vehicle as my boss left me his truck.

This sort of went to my head. Remember, I was still just a kid. Having an official vehicle meant that I could legally make turns on the four-lane at those places that are marked "Authorized Vehicles Only." There was another construction project nearby with a barricade and a sign that read "Road Closed - no traffic." Well, I could ignore the barricade and drive up to where work was being done. I thought it was cool that I had access where others didn't (remember, I was just a kid).

In the Old Testament, we read that there was a time when direct access to God was limited. Folks who wished to approach God had to do so through a priestly system. And even the priests were limited. The priests could go daily into the Holy Place in the tabernacle and later the temple, but only certain priests and at certain times for specific reasons. In the tabernacle and later in the temple, there was a large curtain that separated the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Only once a year on the Day of Atonement could the high priest enter the Most Holy Place through the curtain to offer sacrifices. Leviticus 16:2 says, "Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die." (Leviticus 16:2)

When Christ died, that curtain was supernaturally ripped in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:38 tells us, "The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." The barrier between God and humankind was destroyed forever by the death of Christ. All who come to the Father through the gift of his Son have free access to God at any time. We do not give this much thought as this is the way it has always been for us, but our free access to the Father should not be taken for granted as the cost of our freedom was high. Hebrews 4:16 describes this wonderful privilege, "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." Now, I can go to the Father whenever I want, and I don t even have to be driving a state truck.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 14, 2017

My daughter Stephanie and her family live on a road that is often used as a "bypass" by drivers seeking a shorter, quicker route from one main traffic artery to another. This makes for some congestion for them at times, and they also use great caution when they are exiting their driveway because of the speeding vehicles. This is an inconvenience, but you can't really fault the travelers for their attempt to get to where they need to be in an efficient way. Taking a bypass is not a bad idea, unless you are doing something that is actually illegal. When you are taking a bypass that causes you to do something you shouldn't, that is not a good thing.

Sometimes we try to take a "bypass" in our walk with the Lord. In Malachi God addresses some folks who were trying to bypass God's design for their worship. God said to them, "'A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?' says the Lord Almighty. 'It is you priests who show contempt for my name. But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?' By offering defiled food on my altar. But you ask, 'How have we defiled you?' By saying that the Lord's table is contemptible.'" (Malachi 1:6-7) They were in error because they were trying to bypass God through offering sacrifices that were readily available but didn't meet God's requirements.

We don't worry about offering sacrifices in our age of grace, but we can still be just as guilty of trying to take a "bypass" in following God when we fail to live in a way that brings respect to his name. When we fail to honor him by not following his righteous design for our lives, we are guilty of taking an improper bypass. Leave the bypass for when you are running late getting to work or something let your life reflect the full route of God's design.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 13, 2017

Years ago I was watching a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers were losing big time when they called for a timeout early in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant was still playing for the Lakers and was the best player on the team at that time; however, his performance had been less than stellar for much of the game. After the timeout, Kobe went on a tear and started scoring seemingly at will. The Lakers won the game. What happened? They recorded the comments made in the Laker's huddle during that timeout. Coach Phil Jackson said to Kobe, "Kobe, you need to activate the ball more. You need to shoot the ball. You need to do some scoring."

Now, one would think Kobe would know that. He played basketball ever since he could tie his own shoelaces. Surely he knows that in order to win the game, you need to score points. As one of the leading scorers in the league at that time, he knew how to make points. So what is with this advice? Well, it worked, because Kobe started doing some scoring.

An observation I made from this is that you are never so good at something that you wouldn't benefit from some good coaching. Every now and then, you need to be reminded of what needs to be done in order to accomplish a goal you are pursuing. Coaching can be really helpful to keep one on track and focused on the task, or tasks, at hand.

God wants us to remember this as well. He is always available to provide us with the coaching we need to keep on track and remind us of what we should be doing. Even though we may have been followers of Christ for a long period of time we can benefit from good coaching. Of course, no amount of coaching will help if we aren't willing to listen. Phil Jackson must have "had Kobe's ear," because Kobe followed his advice and changed his performance.

We need to listen to God and when we do, we will change our behavior in order to enhance our performance. Proverbs 19:20-21 reminds us, "Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." When his purpose prevails, we know we will do better. Listen to your Coach!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 12, 2017

My daughters were in the band when they were in high school. I know there are many of you reading this who have been in band. Some of you have been, or still are, band parents. Being in band meant going to band competitions and parades on weekends, usually during the fall months, and on band trips. I can still picture Stephanie performing in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade and Megan leading our band as one of the drum majors when they performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I really enjoyed watching band competitions. It was something to see all of those kids in their matching uniforms, marching in cadence according to the routine that was written to coincide with the music they were playing. The closer they were to keeping together and following the routine, the higher their scores. It was great watching them perform, and really thrilling when our band received an award for their successful performance.

Keeping in step is something we are encouraged to do as followers of Christ. Galatians 5:25 encourages us, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." We keep in step with the Spirit by demonstrating spiritual attributes in our lives. We manifest compassion, care, love, and commitment. We seek to be people who are motivated by God's desire for us, instead of our desire for earthly pursuits and pleasures.

A band with all of its members in step during a performance is a pleasure to watch. Watching a band with members out of sync with the music and with each other is not so much. Let's please God with our walk. Let's keep in step with his Spirit.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 11, 2017

I was driving home to Illinois from Ohio yesterday when I encountered a mixmaster in Indianapolis. Well, at least this is what I call them. You know - one of those areas where you ve got lanes of traffic going every which way and highway stacked upon highway. This one is located at the intersection of I 465 and I 65 on the south side of Indy.

They just can't seem to get that highway right there because it is perpetually under construction. I have traveled that way for years and it seems that just as soon as they get one upgrade done to the traffic pattern, they start another one. I'm not complaining - I've written before on the necessity of road upgrades - I just find it interesting.

Anyway, when you are in the middle of that muddle, it is fascinating - cars are going a gazillion directions, changing lanes with reckless abandon, passing each other like crazy, and heading in more than one direction at the same time. Sound confusing? Yep, it is.

Now, I really don't mind the craziness. I have never been bothered driving in traffic and I like to join in the melee. This time as I was going through the "mixmaster," I had a couple of thoughts. My first thought was, "Do these people actually know where they are going?" A second thought was, "You know, this is really a picture of humankind without the guidance of Christ." I thought of Isaiah 53:5a, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way." Yes we have. And if we want to make sure we are headed in the right direction in our lives, we need to follow Christ.

Christ wants to help us with the confusion in our lives, and he wants us to follow him so that we might experience eternal life. That is why "the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:5b) The way to keep from getting in the middle of a muddle is to let Christ lead you. The way to know you have eternal life is by following the path Christ has made for you.

Mixmasters may be fun to drive through when you are heading home from vacation, or whatever, but we need to avoid the mixmaster of life by letting Christ be the Master of our lives.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 10, 2017

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the church I attended while growing up in southern Ohio. I have this opportunity every now and then, and it was a great experience being there with my two brothers along with others I knew from my younger days. I have so many great memories in that church. I was baptized there many years ago. I delivered my first message there 47 years ago. Last night was actually the anniversary of this experience.

Yesterday evening was a great time. A good friend of mine, Steve Cook, was speaking. Other good friends, Paul and Kathy Dennin, provided a couple of special songs. Paul was a member of the group, along with Steve and my brothers, with whom I used to sing. The church pastor, Jim Beals, invited us all to sing a song together. Our drums and guitars were absent, but Kathy accompanied us on the piano as we sang a song we have never performed together before, The Love of God. The evening was a marvelous time of worship of God, and for me, a great time of returning to my roots.

Returning to your roots upon occasion is a good idea. Now, I know the past can be a tricky thing. I have written about this before. We shouldn t dwell in the past because we need to experience the present and look to the future to grow as individuals, groups, organizations, and certainly churches. There are some negative experiences in our past that are better left in the past. Still, reflecting on positive experiences we have had and returning to our roots can bring good effects. There are things we experience that we do need to carry forward. Often, we need to be reminded of values and lessons that should be carried forward. We need to be reminded of times we experienced the provision of God and how he has been operative in our lives. We need to carry forward the strength we have obtained through positive past experiences and even positive additions acquired through negative circumstances. Times of reflection on our past can bring about healing, strengthening, and encouragement as well as allowing a time to re-focus if we are facing a present struggle that is causing a great deal of consternation.

Yes, the past can be a tricky thing, but returning to your roots also can be a useful tool to bring enjoyment, enlightenment, and encouragement to the present. Psalm 143:5 says, Remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. Remembrance and reflection can be a rewarding exercise if we allow this to help us walk towards what is ahead rather than stopping us in our tracks.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 09, 2017

The apostle Paul spoke many times of the wonders of heaven. He knew he had work to do here on earth, but he longed for his heavenly home. It is no wonder that he longed for heaven in the way he did as he was privileged to be given a glimpse of heaven's wonders. We read Paul's description of his experience in II Corinthians 12:2-6, "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know--God knows. And I know that this man--whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows-- was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say." Paul was keenly aware that the only reason he had this experience, and the only reason he had the hope he would be going there to stay at some future time was the amazing grace of God. "For by grace we are saved. . ." he writes in Ephesians 2:8.

Another individual who had this same awareness was John Newton. Newton wrote that among the surprises that await us in heaven will be three astonishing ones. The converted slave-dealer, who wrote the universally loved hymn "Amazing Grace," perceptively foresaw what every sinner will feel who has been redeemed by Christ's atoning sacrifice. He wrote, "If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there: First, to meet some I had not thought to see there; second, to miss some I had thought to meet there; and third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there!" Isn't that so true? Paul and Newton both understood the only reason for their presence in heaven was the Amazing Grace of God!

Don't ever lose sight of this truth. We need to be grateful for God's grace, and the hope we have because of God's grace. Paul gave us a glimpse of heaven; Newton gave us a perspective about heaven; God gives us his grace as a means of entering heaven. Give thanks to God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 08, 2017

When I travel in the summer, I encounter the same thing that all travelers face - road construction. There are times when I am forced into a single lane of traffic on an interstate that I ask myself, "Didn't they have this section barreled off just last year?" The answer to this may be in the affirmative, or it may not be, but whether right or wrong, construction is something that is ongoing and necessary. Indeed, roads that have been repaired will indeed need to be repaired again at some point. Use of the roads takes its toll, and maintenance is required.

God is at work in us to do what is necessary to make us what he wants us to be. He will continue to work within us, shaping and re-shaping, producing his likeness in our lives. We need to cooperate in this process by obeying him, trusting him, and allowing him to perform his maintenance in our lives. Paul writes, "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:8)

God is building withiin you in a positive way. He will never do anything to bring you harm. He wants to shape you into a person that reflects his character for his glory. Let him continue the construction.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 07, 2017

There is a scene in the movie "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" where Captain Jack Aubrey, played by Russell Crowe, tells his crew, "Although we are on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England." Dennis Fisher commented, "Captain Aubrey's view of citizenship is based on loyalty, not location."

As followers of Christ, this needs to be our attitude about our current place of existence and where our citizenship actually lies. The writer of Hebrews talks about the attitude of people of faith, "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (Hebrews 11:13-16)

We need to remember that though we are living on earth, our home lies elsewhere. Regardless of where we are spatially, as followers of Christ, home is somewhere else spiritually. Let's live as citizens of the land where we will be, not the land where we are.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thurday July 06, 2017

Have you ever bought a "refurbished" product? This is an item that for some reason has been sent back to the manufacturer. The product is repaired and then resold as refurbished. This can be a good deal, but of course, the item is not new. To make the item new, you would have to start from scratch.

This is what Christ does with us when we accept his gift. He does so much more than just simply "refurbish" us. Paul says he makes us new. II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" According to Paul, a new creation has come, the old has been completely removed. Isn't that marvelous? We are made new in Christ! No "refurbishing" here; nothing but new!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 05, 2017

I have always enjoyed reunions, especially family reunions, whether of the "formal" or "informal" variety. Having moved from my home area along with my wife 37 years ago, these times of getting together with family and friends have proved precious over the years. These experiences allowed us to catch up with our family and friends, or simply to just spend time with family and friends, and enjoy each other's presence. The biggest down side to these events is that they didn't last. There was always a time when goodbye had to be said, and we would return home.

One of the great things about our experience in heaven is that when the gathering has been joined, it will not ever be dismissed. That will be one of the truly marvelous things about heaven. I cannot help but think that our time in heaven will be spent with loved ones and people with whom we will share stories and share our lives.

John writes, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:7) This verse describes what takes place in this life, and is something that will continue to take place in our lives in heaven because of what Christ has done for us. I know I will enjoy that reunion.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 04, 2017

Today we celebrate liberty. We use this date as the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence that stated we no longer wanted to be ruled by England. England didn't like this, and the skirmish that had already started escalated into all-out war. The Colonists prevailed and became the United States of America. It is good we have this holiday, and I hope we use it as a time of reflection and celebration of an absolutely incredible event. That colonial uprising led to the establishment of a country that would eventually become the most powerful political force on the planet. Of course, with this position comes great responsibility. That is the way it is with liberty - we must realize liberty comes at a price and to truly enjoy liberty we must understand the responsibility that comes with that liberty.

Patrick Henry understood the significance of liberty when he said, "Give me liberty, or give me death." He knew liberty came at a price, and came with responsibility. As citizens of the United States, let us never forget this, and let us never forget this as citizens of the Kingdom of God. John 8:32 says, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Be glad for the liberty you have in Christ. Remember your freedom came with a price, and remember your responsibility in light of God's provision.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 03, 2017

Most of us look for short cuts. When we hear we can get some place more quickly by following a short cut, we use it. When we are doing some work and figure out how to do the job faster, we employ our short cut. Short cuts are used to access computer programs more expediently. We enjoy using short cuts. However, a short cut may not always be the best way.

I remember reading about a couple who decided to take a short cut and not take apart a large desk they wanted to move before attempting to move it down a narrow hallway to another room. They ended up having to replace a wall and repairing the desk because of damage caused in the attempt to employ a short cut. I recall taking a short cut on my way back from a hospital visit in a neighboring town and turning a 45 minute trip into an hour and half excursion. Indeed, a short cut may not always be the best way.

Short cuts in life are not always the best way. Many times there are lessons to be learned from the journey. We need to allow the process to continue to completion in order to glean what we need to know from the experience. In I Samuel 15, we read about Saul trying to take a short cut in his response to God's command. Samuel confronted him and said, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (15:22) As appealing as they may appear, beware of taking short cuts. Often, they are not the best way.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 02, 2017

A young mother was watching her 3-year-old toddler play with his toys. The little boy stopped playing for a bit, looked at his mother and said, "I love you, Mom." "Why do you love me?" asked Mom. Her little son replied, "Because you play cars with me." That sounds like a reasonable answer to me, and certainly an honest one.

This may be a good reason for a toddler to love his mother, but when it comes to our love for God, there needs to be a different motivation. We shouldn't love God because of what he does for us. We need to love him because he is our Father. Do we trust and love him when we see life taking difficult turns? Job wrestled with this. His wife asked, "Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9)

Job's reply revealed his character and the motivation for his relationship with God, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (vs. 10) He did struggle with what was taking place in his life and he voiced his frustration. He had to listen to the interesting advice of his friends and worked to find his footing, but he proclaimed his certainty in God's presence and provision. He declared, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;" (13:15) He knew his life was in God's hands, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God." (19:25-26)

Make sure your love for God is grounded on the right foundation. Don't love him just because he plays cars with you!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 01, 2017

Karl Barth was a German pastor, teacher, and theologian who ran afoul of Hitler during WWII. He was exiled to Switzerland for his stand. Upon his return to the University of Bonn when the war was over, he began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. As believers, it is an affirmation that is assumed, however we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 01, 2017

Karl Barth was a German pastor, teacher, and theologian who ran afoul of Hitler during WWII. He was exiled to Switzerland for his stand. Upon his return to the University of Bonn when the war was over, he began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. As believers, it is an affirmation that is assumed, however we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis

My Favorite Bible Verse

Connie McCall

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 14:6

Pauline Phillips

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33

Lois Strole

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8

Week Of Nov 19th, 2017

6:00 PM
Sun. Nov 19th
Community Service
9:00 AM
Sat. Nov 25th
Prayer Time

Happy Birthday

Todd Strole - Ty May
Sun. Nov 19th
Margaret Mitchell
Wed. Nov 22nd
Jason Hayes
Fri. Nov 24th

Happy Anniversary

Gene & Evelyn Frey
Sun. Nov 19th
Sam & Karen White
Thu. Nov 23rd

November Ministry Schedule

Assisting in Worship
John Dryden Sr.
5th
Eric Schmidt
12th
Rein Schmidt
18th
Brad Tarr
26th
Eric Schmidt
Communion

Ushers
John Dryden Jr.
Mike Phillips
Grant White
Ray Diel

Special Music
 
5th
 
12th
 
15th
 
25th
Kent Klier
Song Leader

Instrumentalists
Jeannie Chiddix
Piano
Cheryl Earnest
Organ

Nursery Workers
Becky Catt
5th
Bridgett Field
12th
Lynn Wolf
19th
Chris Klier
26th

Greeters
John Dryden Family
5th
D. Cisney/J. George
12th
Dave Stankus Family
19th
Steve & Sophie Kidwell
26th

Jr. Church
Jamie, Gloria, Ray, Debbie
5th
Bridgett, Becky, Anthea, Sarah
12th
Steve, Rachel, Bob, Jayne
19th
Ross, Jennifer, Ross, Lynn
26th

Brooke Wolf & Jennifer Meinhart
Hostesses

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 own a business in Galesburg, IL. 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.

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Scherry Willis

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

Richard Lewis

But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Luke 11:28

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!

Dr. Steve Willis - Pastor

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Scherry Willis

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

Richard Lewis

But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
Luke 11:28

November 1, 2017

November is a great time of year - of course, anytime is a great time of year. I like November because it serves as a transition in a sense. Usually by now the fall harvests are complete. The leaves are pretty much off the trees (although this year they seem to be hanging around a little longer). We are getting ready for the snow to fly and temperatures to be lower.

This time of transition can serve a great purpose. Times of transition help us to reflect on what has taken place and look forward to that which is to come. This is sort of how I feel about the month of November. I look back and see what has happened, and I look ahead to what is in front of me.

What helps with this sense of transition is that we have a holiday this month that serves that very purpose - giving one a time to look back on what has happened and a time to look ahead to what is anticipated.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let's allow this observance to be a time of taking stock of what we have received from the hand of God. Let's rehearse his involvement in our lives and spend some time thinking about what that involvement means. Let's reflect on what we have received from his hand and the paths are lives have taken because of his leadership. Psalm 143:5 describes a meaningful exercise, "I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done."

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let's look ahead at the days in front of us and consider how we might best use those days to please our Heavenly Father. Our Thanksgiving should contain a promissory flavor as well as that of reflection. What things do you Want to do for God in light of what he has done for you? Take some time to think about these things!

Psalm 69:30 says, "I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving" Let"s determine to do just that! Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Steve Willis

My Favorite Bible Verse

Gloria Bradley

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Ruth Spraggins

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Hebrews 7:25

Carolyn Woods

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
I John 5:13