Our Church


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

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

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

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

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


Deacons

John Dryden
John Dryden Jr.
Kent Klier
Adam Wolf
Brad Tarr

Sermons


Videos


Activities


Weekly Schedule


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

December Schedule


Sunday Dec 2nd
Small Groups - 5:00 PM
Monday Dec 10th
Missions - 5:00 PM
C.E. - 5:00 PM
Trustees - 7:00 PM
Tuesday Dec 11th
Deacons - 6:00 PM
Wednesday Dec 19th
Christmas Dinner - 6:30 PM
Friday Dec 14th
Foodbaskets - 9 AM & 5 PM
Saturday Dec 15th
JCMA Foodbaskets - 9-12
Tuesday Dec 25th
Merry Christmas

Pastor Steve Willis


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

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

Megan graduated from Judson University, Elgin, IL in December of 2007, and received her ThM from Edinburgh University (Scotland) in August of 2008. She married Casey Robbins in February of 2014 and they 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.


Commentary


December 1st, 2018

The joy of Christmas is here - of course, it never should have left. We speak of needing the "Spirit of Christmas" all the time, and we should. Still, this man-made holiday celebrating a God-made event is a good time to stop and reflect about God's precious gift to us. As most of you know, and for those who don't I may be popping your bubble here, December 25 is not actually the dav Christ was born. It is a date set by the early church to mark the birth of the Savior and counter the influences of paganism celebrated in festivals that were held at this time of year.

A funny thing is that we still need to counter the influences of paganism yet today. These influences take the form of commercialism and hedonism more than simply worshiping another formless, faceless deity. However, they are just as insidious and prevalent. In reality, contemporary paganism is probably more dangerous than the kind of paganism the Church was working against at the time when the date fr Christmas was determined. That paganism was easily recognized as just that - a worship system that was opposed to God and tried to direct attention to other things. While the contemporary "isms" may not be classified as an organized system of worship, the force behind them is just as bent on deflecting attention away from God to other things.

Don't allow these influences to rob you of the joy of Christmas. The joy of Christmas comes from the celebration of God's marvelous Gift to the world through His Son, not the emphasis we see in society on sales, gifts, money and everything that goes along with this. We may have set the date for Christmas, but the core of the celebration is the work of God, not the work of man.

Yes, indeed, the joy of Christmas and will never leave as we focus on the Gift that brings joy. The angel Gabriel told Mary, "He will be a joy and delight to you and many will rejoice because of his birth." (Luke 1:14) Let his birth be the cause of your rejoicing.

Pastor Steve Willis

Invitation


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

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

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

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


Devotionals


Wednesday December 19, 2018

Some time ago, I came across the following article while doing some reading for another devotional. Harry Reasoner was a TV newsperson who was respected highly by peers and listeners. In 1971 he gave the following commentary:

"Christmas is such a unique idea that most non-Christians accept it, and I think sometimes envy it. Christmas is such a unique story that, in reality, it leaves you only three ways of accepting it. One is cynically -- as a time to make money or endorse the making of it. Another is graciously -- the appropriate attitude for non-Christians who wish their fellow citizens all the joys to which their beliefs entitle them. The third is reverently. If this is the anniversary of the appearance of the Lord of the universe in the form of a helpless babe, it is a very important day. It's a startling idea of course. My guess is that the whole story -- that a virgin was selected by God to bear His Son as a way of showing his love and concern for man -- in spite of all the lip service given to it, is not an idea that has been popular with theologians. It's a somewhat illogical idea, and theologians like logic almost as much as they like God. It's so revolutionary a thought that it probably could only come from a God that is beyond logic and beyond theology.

"It has a magnificent appeal. Almost nobody has seen God, and almost nobody has any real idea of what He is like. The truth is that among men the idea of seeing God suddenly and standing in a very bright light is not necessarily a completely comforting and appealing idea. But everyone has seen babies and most people like them. If God wanted to be loved as well as feared, He moved correctly. If He wanted to know His people as well as rule them, He moved correctly, for a baby growing up learns all about people. And if God wanted to be intimately a part of man He moved correctly here, too, for the experience of birth and family-hood is our most intimate and precious experience.

"So it comes beyond logic. It is either all falsehood or it is the truest thing in the world. It is the story of the great innocence of God, the baby. God in the person of man has such a dramatic shock toward the heart, that if it is not true, for Christians nothing is true.

"So even if you have not got your shopping all done and you are swamped with the commercialism and the frenzy, be at peace. The story stands."

Indeed the story stands regardless of anything else. We would do well to remember this as we celebrate Jesus this Christmas season. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 18, 2018

I imagine almost everyone has a memory of Christmas Eve as a child; squeezing your eyes shut, trying with all your might to go to sleep. You wanted the day to come so quickly, but you just had to wait. The day would be here when it was time to be here, and you just had to wait.

Waiting is hard. I would imagine anyone reading this article today can think of a time when you had to wait for something you really wanted. Maybe it was waiting for your first child (or grandchild). Perhaps it was wishing your phone would ring bringing you news about a job you for which you had applied. It could be that you were waiting for a relative or a friend to change his or her mind and accept your apology so that a damaged relationship can move along the road to a resolution. It might be that you were waiting for some spiritual breakthrough. Or you might just simply be waiting for an answer to come to a question you have that is begging to be resolved. Whatever the case, waiting is a part of our life.

Waiting is part of the experience of Christ coming into the world. An anxious nation had waited for years for a Messiah to appear to bring about their salvation. This period of waiting was meant to build up their faith, as waiting usually is.

Advent is about faith and waiting. Psalm 27:14 tells us, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. We are reminded of how we are waiting now for the return of our Salvation. Use this time to build your faith and focus on God's promise to us of his provision that will come in his time. This is what God wants us to do.

Hebrews 11:6 says, "Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him." Our waiting builds our faith, and when we develop stronger faith, we are able to please God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 16, 2018
Can you imagine a child sitting by a Christmas tree and not opening his or her gifts? I can't see that scene actually playing out in reality very often. Wait, actually, it does.

As followers of Christ, we do it too frequently. We have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit who has gifted us for the purpose of service, yet we often fail to unwrap those gifts. We fail to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives the way he wants, so we under-utilize the gift we have been given to help us reach our full potential of service for Christ. In I Corinthians 12:7 we read, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."

Gifts of the Spirit are given not only for the benefit of the person to whom they are given, but "for the common good." Spiritual gifts are given to each believer so that, when exercised, others may find themselves strengthened from what is derived. When we fail to open our gifts and use them, we not only deprive ourselves, we deprive others. Gifts are given to individuals, but they are intended for the good of the entire body of Christ. Don't hold back the joy and fulfillment others can receive when you open your gift!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 15, 2018

When I was a kid I loved to watch "The Lone Ranger." I would imagine most of you are familiar with this program, even though you may not be old enough to remember it on TV. It was first a serial on the radio (now that was before my time) and later on the television. The Lone Ranger was conceived in a radio station in Detroit. I have always thought that odd, given that the main character is a Texas Ranger. Texas - Detroit, oh, yeah, the connection is obvious (yeah, right). Anyway, a familiar line from the show, and I imagine it would have been on the radio show as well, was "Who was that masked man?" This was a question usually asked at the end of the show by the grateful beneficiaries of the Lone Ranger's particular skills.

Mary seemed to have the same sort of moment on the night that Christ was born. After the visit from the shepherds, the Scripture tells us "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19) She may not have asked, "Who were those masked men?", because they weren't masked, and their identity as shepherds was evident, but she probably did ask, "Why were the shepherds our first visitors?" Now that is a really good question.

Determining the identity of the Lone Ranger could be answered easily, but determining all the reasons why the Lord chose to have shepherds be the first visitors to the scene of the birth is a different matter. There are some good thoughts as to why - the revelation to the shepherds would have shamed the religious leaders; the visit would be a confirmation to Mary and Joseph; the revelation would bring joy to the shepherds; and it would bring glory to God. There is irony in the story of the Lone Ranger in that good guys don't normally wear masks, so folks had to get beyond this to appreciate him the way they should. The visit of the shepherds was indeed ironic in that it certainly was not what people would expect. That is God's way, though, isn t it? He doesn't do things the expected way, He does things his way.

We need to appreciate this and remember that God is God. Doing so helps us appreciate so much more His ways in our lives. Instead of asking "Who was that masked man?", we should say, "Thank God that we have been visited!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 14, 2018

Most of you know the story behind the beautiful Charismas carol, Silent Night. I know I have written about this before. Because of a broken church organ, Franz Gruber needed to compose some music for guitar to accompany a poem that had been written by Josef Mohr. After reading the poem, Gruber came up with the music, and a wonderful Christmas song was born.

Something I've never really thought about with regard to this story is the pursuit of an alternative when the original plan was not going to work. Silent Night is a melodic presentation of the coming of the Son of God into the world. When we hear and sing this song, we can be reminded not only of this, but we can also be reminded of what we can do when circumstances arise that cause us to change our original plans. Basically, we have Silent Night because of a broken organ. What is your response when your "organ breaks?"

God is good at helping us when we need an alternative. He is the master of turning bad circumstances into good things. Think about what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." He said this in response to their fears about their treatment of him, and what happened in his life. Joseph faced his "broken organ" with faith, courage, and creativity. As a result, good things happened. As you sing Silent Night this year, remember this.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 13, 2018

Well, we are in the season where "you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I'm telling you why." Now, (spoiler alert) we know the individual that is actually referenced in this song (that would be Santa Claus) really does not have the magical powers of observation of all people at all times, let alone all children. But that does not mean there isn't someone who does. As a matter of fact, it is the omniscience of God that was the idea behind assigning this ability to Santa. Santa can't do this, but God can.

Since God can actually do this, why do we live as if he can't? Why do we think we are actually able to get away with hidden behaviors, hidden sins? At times, we live as if we are clueless. We are like the referees in a commercial for State Farm. The commercial features Aaron Rodgers talking to a referee after a game about a particular call. A flashback reveals that on a certain play, none of the referees actually saw what happened, so they huddled. The umpire told one ref to scratch his head as if he was thinking, another to wave his arms as if indicating a lack of possession, and another to take off his cap. The result was they were going to say the receiver didn't catch the ball. At this point, someone from the crowd yells, "Hey, your mike is on." Seventy thousand people in the stands heard every word the umpire said. Yikes.

Well, folks, your mike is on. Remember that the next time you think you are doing something and getting away with it. Hebrews 4:13 tells us, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Santa doesn't see everything, but God does. Can't make it any easier to see why we should watch how we live.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 12, 2018

My Mom's parents owned a small farm not far from where I grew up. We had a few cattle to take care of, and a barn of course. I spent a great deal of time on that little farm and in the barn. I have vivid memories of the sights and smells that you encountered when you first entered the barn. I remember thinking, especially around this time of year, "And Christ was born here?" Obviously, not literally right there, but in similar surroundings, whether his birthplace was a cave serving as a stable, a structure used for animals, or part of a house that was a shelter for animals.

Christ was born where the animals were kept, and then laid in the feeding trough. The scripture tells us the reason for this, "And she brought forth her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in the manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7) Not only was Christ born in a place where animals stayed, he was born there because there was no room for him where people lived. Doesn't that sound oddly ironic?

It describes a reality that still exists today. For many people, there is no room for Christ in their lives. Even those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ at times can live in a way that we are saying, "I have no room for you right now."

Don't let this be the case in your life. Make sure you make room for Jesus. Why was he born in such rude surroundings? One reason is that it shows he is not afraid to go where he will encounter filth. He is not affected himself, but he is not afraid to go where the dirt is found in order to clean up the junk and bring Life. Jesus said "I am come that they might have life." (John 10:10) I am glad that he wasn't afraid to come to the barn.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 11, 2018

As it is with many people, one of my favorite Christmas movies is "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Jimmy portrays George Bailey, a man who had aspirations beyond the confines of the little town in which he was raised, but never made the jump to something better. Circumstances lead him to an act of desperation, but an "angel" intervenes and shows him that his life was indeed significant, in spite of his opinion to the contrary. I've commented on this before, but let me be a bit more general.

If a movie was to be made about your life, what would be the central focus? Would your faith in Christ be a predominant theme, or just a secondary plot line in the film? If a Hollywood director would start asking questions of your family, friends, co-workers, and other folks, what would they say about your focus in life? Would your faith in Christ be a main topic of interest?

In his play "As You Like It," Shakespeare wrote, "All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players." That is true to some extent, but we need to be doing more than acting when it comes to how we are living our lives. We should not be acting when it comes to our faith in Christ. And we need to let a genuine display of our love for him come through in every facet of our experience. We should not be so much concerned about how others view us, or how important we are considered in the eyes of others, as we are concerned about how Christ is being reflected in our daily walk.

Paul wrote, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him." (Philippians 3:7 - 9)

What would a movie of your life reveal? What would be the central focus? "Quiet on the set. . .action!" You're on!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 10, 2018

I like to take pictures, but I have never really been a good photographer. One needs a good eye to compose a shot. Sometimes a great picture sort of comes on the spur of the moment, but really artistic portraits require the ability to look at details and decide what should be in the picture and what shouldn't.

I remember reading a story about a person in a photography class who wanted to use her little girl as the focus for a picture as part of a class assignment. She went to a hillside and saw an apple tree that was resplendent in full bloom. Thinking this would make a good backdrop, she took a picture with her little girl standing in front of the tree. When she showed the finished work to her instructor, he said, "The picture certainly is lovely, but do you see how your eye is drawn toward the tree and away from your intended focus, your little girl? You need to choose one subject and leave the other out."

We sometimes have the same trouble in our spiritual lives. We allow so many other things to draw our attention away from the One who should have our primary focus: our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jobs, hobbies, organizations and other things take up our time and command our thoughts. These may be necessary inclusions in our lives, but we need to put them in proper perspective. We need to make sure Christ is at the center of our picture, not the edge, or even cropped out altogether.

Even now, at Christmas time, we can allow other things to draw our gaze elsewhere. Don't do that! Follow the advice of Hebrews 12:2, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Keep Christ at the center of your life. Keep Christ at the center of your celebration. We often sing a song that speaks to the issue of Christ as our focus:

In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song

This Cornerstone, this solid ground Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

In Christ alone, who took on flesh Fullness of God in helpless Babe

This gift of love and righteousness, Scorned by the ones He came to save.

Don't scorn the "helpless Babe," direct your focus on Him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 09, 2018

I don't know if you remember the story about the recovery of Floyd Landis' lost bike, but it is rather intriguing. The bike was lost when it was blown off the vehicle transporting it to a race in which Landis was entered. This was before the Tour de France incident where he failed a post-race drug test and had to forfeit his win. A search for the bike was organized immediately after the loss, but the effort was in vain.

Four years after the loss of the bike, it turned up at a yard sale. How did that happen? Well, at first it wasn't recognized that the bike had any value. It was purchased at the sale for five dollars. After the purchase, the buyer cleaned the bike and then realized it was an expensive racing model. Further investigation led to the discovery that the original owner was Floyd Landis. This was confirmed along with the value of the bike: $8000. This was quite a difference from the purchase price at the yard sale. The bike had been found in the mud along the side of the road and put in the yard sale.

Are there times when you feel as if you have lost your value? Do you feel that your gifts and abilities have sort of been lost in the shuffle? Do you feel as if you have been lost along the side of the road and your real value is not being recognized? That can happen to us. We can feel as if we have been misplaced and are unsure of our value and our ability to contribute.

Rest assured that you have not been lost to God. God is aware of your value and is aware of your capabilities. God knows all about you and won't leave you in the mud by the side of the road. Psalm 139:1 says, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me." God does know us. We are more to him than some nameless extra in a big movie scene. He knows our value and wants to use us. He will use us when we place our lives in his hands and let him be the one who determines our worth. We are more than a "diamond in the rough," or even a "bike in the grass" to him. God knows your name and you are worth a great deal to him. If you weren't, why did he allow his Son to die for you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 08, 2018

Dr. Mark Bailey writes: "There is a cemetery in London called Bunhill Fields. A number of famous people are buried there--John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress; Isaac Watts, the great hymnwriter; and Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. Opposite the graveyard is the chapel of John Wesley and a monument erected to him. On the same property is John Wesley's house, where on March 2, 1791, Wesley, lifting a feeble arm in as show of triumph, opened his eyes and exclaimed for the very last time, upon his deathbed, these words: 'The best of all is this: God is with us.' God has promised to be with us in life, death, and for all eternity."

This is a point of emphasis at this time of year. We are celebrating the fact that God came to be with us. This is even reflected in one of his names. Matthew writes, "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means 'God with us')." (Matthew 1:23) This statement of God's promise found in the opening chapter of Matthew is echoed in the declaration of Jesus in the closing words of the book, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (28:20) When Christ came into the world, he came for us. Let's make sure we live for him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday December 07, 2018

Most of you know the story behind the beautiful Christmas carol, Silent Night. Because of a broken church organ, Franz Gruber needed to compose some music for guitar to accompany a poem that had been written by Josef Mohr. A traveling band of musicians were in need of some music for their show. After reading the poem, Gruber came up with the music, and a wonderful Christmas song was born.

Something I've never really thought about with regard to this story is the pursuit of an alternative when the original plan was not going to work. Silent Night is a melodic presentation of the coming of the Son of God into the world. When we hear and sing this song, we can be reminded not only of this, but we can also be reminded of what we can do when circumstances arise that cause us to change our original plans. Basically, we have Silent Night because of a broken organ. What is your response when your "organ breaks?"

God is good at helping us when we need an alternative. He is the master of turning bad circumstances into good things. Think about what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." He said this in response to their fears about their treatment of him, and what happened in his life. Joseph faced his "broken organ" with faith, courage, and creativity. As a result, good things happened. As you sing Silent Night this year, remember this lesson.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday December 06, 2018

Our Christmas tree has been up for a couple of weeks now. My morning ritual includes hitting the button that turns on the lights. As I do this each day, I am reminded of a comment that Scherry made one year about the tree. She said, You know, without the lights on, I really don't like the looks of our Christmas tree this year. Having the lights on makes all the difference." I thought to myself, "Well said." Having the lights on does make all the difference, and not just when it comes to the Christmas tree standing in our front room. Light makes all the difference in so many situations, including our souls.

Without the light of Christ within us, we are totally different beings. We are lost, confused, and heading the wrong way. However, when we allow Christ to come into our lives, He is the Light that transforms us, changes us, and takes our lives in a different direction.

At this time of year, we are celebrating the entrance of the Light into the world. There are many passages that proclaim Christ as the Light that came into the world to change our lives. Matthew 4:16 says, "The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." John 1:9 describes Christ as "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world." In John 8:12, Christ said of himself, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

Light does indeed make a difference. Whether you like your Christmas tree without the lights on or off is of no real consequence. However, how you feel about your life without the Light of Christ in it is of great consequence. Allow Christ into your life and put on the Light!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday December 05, 2018

Folks who don't believe in God have a lot of reasons for their skepticism. However, when you condense all of these reasons, a common thread may be found. Folks do not believe in God because God doesn't match who they think God should be. So many times I have heard, "If there is a God, then why do bad things happen?" and similar questions. Raising the questions provides justification for denying God's reality. Woody Allen said, "If only God would give me a sign, like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank." The intent of this remark may have been humorous, but it reflects a serious issue - a denial of God for who he is and our position before him.

As believers, we often fall into a different sort of trap. We tend to put God in a box. We must realize that God is who he is - he is not what we think he should be. When we make the mistake of trying to "think for God" and making plans for him, instead of letting him make plans for us, we can get into some real trouble. When we focus on what we think God is not doing, we miss what he is doing.

There were a group of people in Christ's day that did just that. Even after the Pharisees witnessed Christ's provision of food for thousands using what was intended just for one, they doubted God's presence. They asked, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat. (John 6:30-31). Isn't that ironic?

God does not exist because people believe in him, nor does he exist to fulfill believer's plans. "I am who I am" he declared to Moses (Exodus 3:14). We are so much better off when we remember who God is and that he is more than just a cosmic genie in a bottle who exists only to supply our whims. Focus on God, not what you think God should be doing. Then you won't miss a thing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday December 04, 2018

In a game this past Sunday night, New York Giant's running back Saquon Barkley executed a move that seems to be appearing more often in football - jumping over a defender on the way to the end zone for a touchdown. Well, Barkley didn't score, but It still was a rather remarkable display of athleticism. And I have seen video of other players who did score after such a move. Their tenacity and determination paid off in a remarkable way.

We often face obstacles in our path as we traverse though life impediments to our reaching our desired goal. Sometimes we are able to handle those obstacles with just a little effort. However, often there are things that we couldn't overcome in spite of having a "running start." When these obstacles block our path, we need to turn our thoughts towards God who is able to help us overcome the difficulties and continue along our way.

Isaiah 43:2 tells us that God will help us when we encounter barriers in our lives, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

What barriers are in your path that you need to hurdle? God will be there to help you go over them, through them, or around them. He wants good things for you, and he will help you attain those good things.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday December 03, 2018

Travelers Insurance used to air a commercial where a variety of exotic animals are sort of frolicking around a stream. In the background, a song is being sung that goes, "Well we get along, yeah we really do." When a meerkat dives off the head of a giraffe and ends up floating on the back of an alligator, I just about come unhinged. Of course, the flowers growing out of a musk ox's horns are also another interesting touch. Having the right insurance is supposed to produce these results, according to the commercial. Hmmm. . .I don't think so.

What can bring about these results is having the right mindset produced by following the true Savior. Focusing on Christ brings a spirit of unity in our lives here and now, and helps develop the characteristics of the coming Kingdom here and now.

Isaiah describes the coming kingdom in 11:6-8 of his prophecy, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest." Isn't that something to look forward to? Indeed it is!

This is something to look forward to and also something we should pursue now. By focusing on Christ, we can tame our "inner wolf" in order to promote unity and cooperation with others. "Well we get along, yeah we really do" is more than just a concept for a commercial, it is a challenge for us. I think it would be so neat to dive off the head of giraffe, don't you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday December 02, 2018

Basketball season is in full swing at all levels. When the topic of basketball comes up, I cannot help but think about "The Wizard of Westwood," John Wooden. Most of you probably recognize this name. He was one of the greatest college basketball coaches the United States has ever had. Many would say he was the greatest coach of all time regardless of the sport.

Over the course of a 29-year college coaching career (2 at Indiana State, 27 at UCLA), Wooden never had a losing record. At UCLA, he won 10 NCAA championships, including 7 in a row. He went to the Final Four 17 times. From 1971 to 1974, his teams won 88 games in a row. To put another twist to his greatness, in the 27 years he coached UCLA, they won 10 national championships. In the 43 years since his retirement, they have played for the national championship twice, winning only once.

Wooden's Christianity was evident in the life he lived. He made no apologies for being a Christian, although he let his life do the talking more than his mouth. Wooden once said, "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are." This is certainly a powerful statement by a person who lived this statement continually.

We need to let our lives do most of the talking about what kind of people we are. Of course, this presupposes that you are living the sort of life that says something. Wooden wanted his life to do the talking and he prayed, "Oh, Lord, make me beautiful within."

James had something to say about this when he spoke of the relationship between faith and works. We read in James 2:18, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." How much is your faith talking? How eloquent is your life? John Wooden serves as an example of a person who let his life do most of the talking. What is your life saying?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday December 01, 2018

Have you ever had something you really wanted to show off? New car? Nice boat? New house? Well, we really shouldn't be arrogant about what we have. However, I can think of one circumstance where we want to be a show-off. As followers of Christ, we have something we should want to show off continually - what Christ can do for those who follow him.

Solomon's wealth and wisdom attracted a great deal of attention. The Queen of Sheba came to find out about his wisdom. After spending some time with Solomon, she said, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness (I Kings 10:6-9)." Solomon brought attention to God through his "showing off."

Showing off our spiritual blessings to bring attention to God is a good thing. Go ahead - be a show-off. Just make sure you are showing off for the right reason.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 30, 2018

"What goes up, must come down." We are all familiar with this maxim, and we know it is true because of the law of gravity. Gravity is the force that pulls everything towards the earth. Without this force, we would all go flying off the planet. Well, then, how is it that we can get things to fly? There is another law - the law of aerodynamics - that allows us, birds, all flying objects or animals, to overcome the law of gravity, escape its effect, and fly.

This is true in our spiritual lives as well. The law of sin holds us down. It has us in its grip and will keep us "earth bound" for all time unless something happens. We need a higher law to be put in place. This is exactly what Christ did when he died on the cross for us. Through what Christ has done for us, we are able to overcome the law of sin and break free of its effects. We need not remain "earth bound," but can soar like eagles when we have placed out hope in Christ.

I hope you are allowing the higher power of the grace of Christ to overcome the law of sin in your life. We read the words of Paul in Romans 8:2, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." I hope you are trusting in a higher law!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 29, 2018

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a well-known pastor from the 19th century, commented that we should begin each new day with this thought, "Let your thoughts be psalms, your prayers incense, and your breath praise." That sounds like a good way to start each day. Let's look at what Spurgeon was saying.

"Let your thoughts be psalms." I encourage people to make a habit of reading the psalms. The book of Psalms is a commentary on life. In the psalms we see expressions of joy, of sadness, of grief, of anger, and many other characteristics of life experiences. We see expressions of frustration, of elation, of dedication. Reading and meditating upon the psalms helps us gain perspective on what we are facing.

"Let your prayers be incense." In the Jewish tabernacle, and later in the temple, incense was burned continuously as a perpetual symbol of prayers being lifted up to God (Exodus 30:7-10). It was a special type of incense, it was offered continually, and the aroma of the incense would fill the holy place with a tangible reminder of prayers being offered to God. We read the words of David in Psalm 141:2, "May my prayer be set before you like incense." Daily prayer should be an exercise of followers of Christ.

"Let your breath be praise." The final statement of the book of Psalms is "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD (Psalm 150:6)." We shouldn't wait for Sunday to give praise to God. Just as our prayers go up continually, so should our praise be offered continually. David said in I Chronicles 16:25, "For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise." We should develop an attitude of praise.

This sounds to me as a good way to get our day started. We know it would please the Lord, and it would help us keep in mind just why we are here.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 28, 2018

Fast food has raised quite a bit of controversy over the past few years. There is a great degree of debate over nutritional value and many contend that fast food is devaluing meal time. I do know a segment of the earth's inhabitants that won't have anything to do with fast food - cows. Those of you who are familiar with the digestive system of a cow know they have a stomach with four compartments. They are ruminants, which mean they can bring things back up for further chewing to help them digest things that other animals might not be able to digest. This is referred to as "chewing the cud." Cows really get all that is possible out of what they eat. No fast food for them! A stomach full of food will last a long time and provide a lot of nutrition for a cow.

We need this approach when it comes to our treatment of God's Word. This is the idea the psalmist had in mind when he wrote, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word (Psalm 119:115-116)." Eight times he uses the word meditate in Psalm 119. The concept of meditation on God's Word is similar to what a cow does when she eats. You take the time in the process to get all that can be derived from the meal.

Don't take the "fast food" approach to the Scripture. Take time with what God has for you so that you can receive the maximum benefit of interaction with God s Word!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 27, 2018

We often make relationships harder than they need to be. The reason is we don't apply the principle of love. We don't apply the type of love that Paul describes in I Corinthians 13:4-7 where he writes, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Paul starts out by making a couple of positive statements about love. Love means patience and kindness. He follows this by making several statements about what love is not. Then he concludes strongly by saying what always characterizes love.

Take some time and go over all of these statements about love. Make some notes about them and then simply take some time to think about them. Are you allowing these characteristics to define your love? When you do this, it enhances your relationship with others. It will help with your relationship with your spouse, with other family members, and with other members of the family of God.

When you let selfless love dominate in your relationships, you will find them enriched and encouraged. This is the kind of love demonstrated by our Father, and the kind of love we want to have. Don't make things hard - develop selfless love.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 26, 2018

We are entering a Holiday season that is usually a joyful time; however, there are some folks who face circumstances that make this a difficult time of the year. Those who have lost jobs or have medical problems that have left them in a tight spot or are simply struggling because of other reasons may find that the expectations of this time of year simply exacerbate their plight.

We need to help those who are struggling at all times, but be especially sensitive to their needs now. Do you know someone who is having a problem making ends meet or simply has great needs? What can you do to help? What efforts are being made in your community to provide for those who will benefit from a hand up during this season (and at other times of the year as well}?

We often think of Job as a model of perseverance, but he was also a model of charity. Listen to his words in Job 29:12-13, "because I rescued the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to assist him. The man who was dying blessed me; I made the widow's heart sing." He writes in Job 31:16-17 & 22, "If I have denied the desires of the poor or let the eyes of the widow grow weary, if I have kept my bread to myself, not sharing it with the fatherless--then let my arm fall from the shoulder, let it be broken off at the joint." Pretty strong words, aren't they? Job realized the importance of helping those who find themselves in life situations where they cannot help themselves. Follow Job's example - be a charitable person!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 25, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 24, 2018

A poor European family had saved for years for tickets to America. The father brought bread and cheese for them to eat on the passage. After some time, his young son said, "Father, I cannot eat just bread and cheese any longer!" His father gave him some money for some ice cream. After awhile, the son returned. "Did you enjoy your ice cream?" his father asked. "Yes," said the boy, "and also the steak, potatoes, and vegetables." "How did you afford all that?" asked the dad. "We get food with the price of the ticket," said the son.

I have heard a number of variations of this story, but all with the same point. As Christians, we often fail to take advantage of the provisions we have at our disposal. Paul encourages his readers: "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." (Colossians 2:6-10)

Don't overlook what Christ has for you in your Christian walk! Call upon him and depend upon him as you develop in your faith and strengthen your resolve. You have the ticket, bought for you by your Savior, and you don't have to live on just bread and cheese!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 23, 2018

As you leave the Indianapolis Airport, there is a final exit that is marked "Return to Terminal." This is one final chance to return to go back to another area, such as the parking garage, or perhaps go and retrieve something you forgot, or do something you need to do before you go on your way. Many airports are designed in this way. It is almost as if you are being told, "you have once last opportunity to do what needs to be done."

God gives us such an opportunity as well. He is patient with us and wants to give us every chance possible to do what needs to be done in order that we might have a relationship with him. The possibility of taking the "Return to Terminal" exit is always there as long as we are living. He wants us to receive his Son, and he gives us plenty of time to make that choice.

Peter writes about the patience of God in II Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." Peter wrote this in response to those who were critical of the teaching about God's return and were saying, "Well, where is he?" He has not set the final days in motion yet because he wants to keep that "Return to Terminal" option available as long as possible. Don't push his patience - make sure you accept the free gift that he has for you. He is "not wanting (you) to perish!" Follow him today!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 22, 2018

On September 16,1620, 102 people on a ship called the Mayflower departed the land that was their home to proceed westward to a land that was unknown to any of them and would become their new home. A sister ship, the Speedwell, encountered problems not long after the departure and had to return. The journey of 2,750 miles would take 66 days and be fraught with many problems. However, they were determined to reach this new land where they hoped they would be able to continue their lives free from the persecution they had experienced in their homeland because of their faith.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for them? Actually, you probably can't. I know I certainly have no concept of what they must have been feeling, what thoughts they must have had, and the concerns that were theirs as they embarked on an unknown vessel across an unknown ocean to an unknown land. Courage was certainly not in short supply. Faith was not in short supply. Determination was not in short supply. It is a gross understatement to say they were a group of people who were not afraid to take risks.

Having the willingness to take risks and to step out courageously to do something new and different is a good thing. We need a sense of the pioneer at times to bring about change and to reach out boldly to see good things happen. Paul is a biblical example of a person with the spirit of a pioneer - willing to step out, to take risks, and to go where others feared to venture. What fueled his spirit? He gives us a clue in Philippians 3:10, "I want to know Christ yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."

The desire to know more about Christ and to do more for Christ often requires a little bit of the pioneer spirit. Use the example of Paul and of the Pilgrims as role models for developing a desire to reach out in new ways for new results. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 21, 2018

The African impala is a deer-like animal that has the ability to "leap tall buildings in a single bound." Actually, the impala is able to leap a barrier almost 10 feet tall, and is able to leap a distance of 30 feet. Yet, zoos are able to contain these creatures with fences that are a little over a yard high. How? These fences are taller than the impala, and that means he cannot see where he is jumping. The impala will not jump where it can't see where his feet will land. On the one hand, you certainly can't blame the impala. However, when the impala has that ability, you would think it would take a chance every now and then.

We can be compared to the impala. We have the ability to attempt great things for God, but often don't because we cannot see where we will land. Now, there is a lot to be said about prudence. Yet, we are people of faith and there are times when we need to step out on faith. There are times when we need to act like Abraham. God may not be calling us to leave our home so that we can become the first person of a great nation, but there are other boundaries that need to be leaped that are within the realm of possibility. Is God calling you to a new ministry? Is he calling you to consider taking a new position in your church? Is he calling you to make a special gift?

Abraham "when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8) There are times when we need to move out, even when we don't know exactly where we are going. Following God in faith is part of our life, and sometimes a leap of faith, when we can't see where we are going to land, is the right path. As William Carey said, "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 20, 2018

Ron Fourchier is a Dutch virologist who developed a strain of H5N1, or the virus that causes bird flu, that was much more virulent than the original. The original was bad enough, so why develop something worse? Well, the Dutch government thought the same thing and prevented him from releasing his findings to "Science" magazine for publication. Why release a formula that could be used to develop a weapon of mass destruction? His claim was that he was trying to show how viruses mutate naturally; however, in the process he developed something that could wipe out a lot of people in a limited amount of time.

Sometimes too much knowledge is not a good thing. That was what got us in the mess we are in in the first place. Prompted by Satan, Adam and Eve went after more knowledge. The result of this is not good. We need to avoid things that can cause us difficulty if we know about them. We need to pursue good thoughts and manifest good intentions. We cannot avoid all knowledge of evil but we can avoid knowledge of all evil. Watch what you pursue with your thoughts.

Paul wrote, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8) Think on the good and beauty found in God's creation and avoid that which is bad.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 19, 2018

Where do you see Jesus? A little girl was visiting an art museum with her father. They came upon a large metallic sculpture with a ball that seemed to droop over two outstretched appendages. "What do you see?" the father asked. "I see Jesus!" was the excited reply of the six-year-old.

Jesus is indeed present with us and is everywhere we go. Peering into a flaming furnace, Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire? Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."(Daniel 3:24-25) Most likely, this was an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. Just before being stoned, Stephen looked up and exclaimed, "Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56)

Jesus is always present so we can see him anywhere. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to "fix our eyes" on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). When we do, he will not be hard to see, as he has promised to always be with us. Where have you seen him today?

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 18, 2018

Disappointment in ourselves can sometimes overwhelm us and bring about a feeling of despair. The disappointment could be brought about for many reasons. A moral failure can cause us to not feel good about ourselves. Maybe we have made a bad decision in our business and are trying to cope with the consequences. Perhaps we haven't handled a dispute with someone very well. Experiencing a financial setback or making an unwise financial move can make us unhappy with ourselves.

If this is a struggle you have, focus on the provision of Christ, and surrender yourself anew to his control. Take steps to deal with the steps of your failure and lean upon his grace to bolster your spirit. We need to trust him to show us the way forward.

David gives this advice in Psalm 25:1-3, "In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame." Trusting in God is always a good idea, especially when we are struggling with "self-inflicted" wounds.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 17, 2018

There is nothing wrong with being a hard worker. As a matter of fact, the Scripture commends those who are diligent and energetic. Paul spoke of his hard work in I Corinthians 4:12, "We work hard for the Lord." We should indeed work hard, but we must understand the concept of balance as well.

When I lived in Dallas in the early 80's, I worked for an office systems installation firm. I remember looking at my paycheck once and seeing that I had worked 95 hours in one pay period. Considering that a week only contains 168 hours, I could pretty well see where I was most of that week. This was not all that uncommon. If I had continued in that profession, I would possibly have ended up like the person Solomon describes in Ecclesiastes 4:8, "There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth."

Work hard, but use common sense and develop a Biblical perspective. Jennifer Schuldt wrote, "True success in life includes serving God, befriending others, and preserving lasting relationships. When work crowds out these aspects of life, we need to 'be wise enough to know when to quit.'" (Proverbs 23:4) Not quit altogether, obviously, just be smart with our time. Sometimes the table is not the only thing from which we need to push away. Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 16, 2018

One of the greatest intellects of the 20th century was Albert Einstein. However, in spite of his great intellect, he failed to accept the most important reality that exists. A letter written by Einstein that brought three million dollars at an auction reflects his views about God and faith and demonstrates his skepticism. Einstein wrote, "For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions . . .(God is) nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

Paul writes that being "earthly wise" can be a stumbling block to accepting the truth: "Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become 'fools' so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God s sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'." (I Corinthians 3:18-19)

Einstein would have benefitted from not being so smart in some areas. Having someone paying three million dollars for one of your letters means little if you do not have the intelligence to accept the priceless gift offered by God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 15, 2018

Have you ever had an experience that wasn t very funny at the time when it actually happened, but later provided a story that brought about a laugh or two? I have had a couple of those, and one involved a bus we used to have at our church. Please allow me to elaborate.

As I was driving the bus from a repair shop to the church, the door covering the battery compartment on the bus fell off. I did not notice this until I arrived at the church and saw the door was missing. I got in my car and traced the path back to the garage. Just before I got all the way there, I saw the door lying in the street. To add insult to injury, the door had been run over by a vehicle, actually maybe more than one vehicle. It was damaged beyond repair. However, between a local welding shop and a body shop, a new door was fabricated, painted, and installed. And it looked and worked better than the old door. The lock on the new door actually worked. All that was needed was the expertise of the professionals and the necessary price.

Sound familiar? This is what can happen to us. We have fallen off our hinges and been run over by a car. We are beyond repair. However, in the hands of the right Professional and his Son who has already paid the price, we can be made new. Through the operation of the Holy Spirit, we will be better than the original.

In Titus 3:4-7, Paul tells us what takes place: "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." What a way for a story to end!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 14, 2018

Most of us have had the experience of feeling overwhelmed. This sensation could be brought on by financial pressure, a hectic work schedule, having too many things to do and not enough time to do them, having a deadline looming on the horizon, getting some difficult medical news, or a combination of any of these "stressors." All of these circumstances and many others can lead us to the brink where we simply throw our hands in the air and wonder what in the world we can do.

Moses could identify with you if you are in this quandary. In Numbers 11:14, we read his cry to the Lord, "I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me." He had run up against too much burden and too little Moses. God's response came immediately, "Bring me seventy of Israel s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone." (Vss. 16-17)

When we face burdens that overwhelm us, enlist the help of God. Then, enlist the help of others. God is always there for us, and he has put people in our lives to help us when we are struggling. Don't try to face your burden alone - let others in to help carry the load.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 13, 2018

There are times in our Christian experience when we feel that we are on top of the mountain. There are times when we experience great spiritual exhilaration and joy and a sense of the presence of God that is hard to describe. We wish we could stay there. We wish we could stay where we are above struggle and stifle and pain.

This is not a unique occurrence. Peter, James, and John had such an experience. "After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. . .Peter said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'. . . As they were coming down the mountain."

They could not stay on the mountain. Christ led them down to the challenges and opportunities of the daily life of faith. We can be grateful when we have such soaring times of closeness to God. Yet our lives are lived in the daily pains and pleasures of this world. We should pray for the Father to help us use our encounters with him as a source of strength and encouragement as we live our daily lives. We appreciate the times on the mountain, but our lives are lived in the valley.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 12, 2018

Isaac Watts was a prolific writer of hymns. If you are unfamiliar with Watts' life or the songs he has provided for us, look him up sometime. "Joy to the World", "Alas and Did My Savior Bleed", "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", and "O God Our Help in Ages Past" are just a few of the hymns he penned. Watts was a prolific writer and theologian, but apparently his appearance was somewhat unattractive. Canadian minister John Gladstone wrote that Watts fell in love with a young woman and proposed marriage to her. Her reply was rather cruel, "Mr. Watts, if only I could say that I admire the (jewelry box) as much as I admire the jewel it contains."

Gladstone used this to draw an analogy between the "jewelry box" (church) and the "jewel" (Christ) it contains. Are we allowing the "jewel" to be seen in what we are doing? Is the love of Christ evident in our presentation of his message? We need to make sure that our behavior and our appearance does not obstruct the view of the message we are to proclaim.

Paul writes about being "winsome" in order to "win some." We read in I Corinthians 9:22, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might (win) some." We should make every effort to make our jewelry box match the jewel in contains. Our lives should reflect the glory of Christ that others may see what he has for them.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 11, 2018

Today is Veteran's Day. Since today is Sunday, the holiday will be observed tomorrow. But that doesn t change today s date and the fact that this is the day that originally commemorated the end of World War I and was known as Armistice Day. The Treaty of Versailles ended the Great War and was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November in 1918. This year, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War.

The Great War was supposed to be the war to end all wars; Many naively felt that there would never be another conflict of this nature and that on the signing of this treaty war would never be experienced again. Sadly, they were wrong. There are no living veterans of this great conflict and war still rages.

Someday, war will cease. God has promised a day of his intervention when "He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire." (Psalm 46:9) Isaiah describes that time: "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4) Until that time we need continue to place our trust in the Sovereign God who controls all things. He knows when this final treaty will be ratified. It will not be so much of a treaty as a mandate.

Let us pay tribute to those whose lives have been profoundly affected by their participation in conflicts, or simply even their participation in forces that exist because of the presence of conflict. Let us pray for the time when all conflict will end.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 10, 2018

The Israelites were finally leaving Egypt. Four hundred years earlier, their patriarch Jacob had entered Egypt along with his family. They were now leaving as a nation over a million strong. God saw to it that they were not going to leave empty-handed for all the work they had supplied over the 400 years they had been there. He directed the people to seek compensation from the Egyptians: "The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians." (Exodus 12:35-36)

God provided for their future by giving them good things. However, it was not long before they abused the gift they were given. We read in Exodus 32 how they took the gold and jewelry that God had provided and they made a golden calf which they worshipped. How sad.

We need to be careful that we are not guilty of the same thing. "Wait a minute," you say, "I don't have a golden calf sitting around my house." This is no doubt true, but we need to be careful that we don't abuse the good things God has given us and use them for us rather than for the sake of God.

God does give us good things, and we are often guilty of misuse of the blessings he gives us. He gives us good things so that we might bless others and glorify him, but often we use our abundance for our own pleasure. Make sure that you use what God has given you wisely and in accordance with his desire. You do not need a golden calf!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 09, 2018

The DVR is a piece of electronic equipment about which I feel the way I do about a number of other pieces of modern technology. When introduced to these gadgets, I wondered about their usefulness. Then as I become more familiar with the techo wonder, I wondered how I got along without it. This may be an exaggeration, but it is fairly accurate when I am speaking of things like smart phones and whatnot. Anyway, the DVR is something that used to spark questions of usefulness within me, then when we obtained this technology, we have used it quite a bit.

One function of the DVR is setting it to record a series on television. Within the settings there is a feature that allows the operator to prioritize the various series in order to avoid conflicts that may jeopardize the recording of favored shows. The creator of the DVR recognized the need for prioritization.

We need to have the same recognition with other issues in life. There are many things in our lives we need to prioritize more so than television shows. We need to spend time reflecting on what is important and get priorities in order.

Christ had a great deal to say about priorities. He tells his followers, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) He reminds them of the need to not worry when he says, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat." (Luke 12:22) He talks of the ultimate priority when he says, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12:34) Set your priority list correctly in your life. And remember this is much more important than the priority list in your DVR.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 08, 2018

We who follow Christ must do so by faith. It is a step-by-step process that requires us to rely on him even when, actually especially when, we cannot see what lies ahead. When I think of our journey of faith, I often think of Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight that took place in May of 1927. In order to have enough fuel for the flight, the wings were modified to hold more. The retooling meant that Lindbergh was unable to see forward in "The Spirit of St. Louis." He had to "fly blind" and depend upon his instruments. Through trusting his gauges, he was able to navigate safely the flight path from New York to Paris.

As we move through life, we need to trust Christ in order to navigate safely the path we need to follow. There are so many times we will not be able to see the way clearly and there are times when we encounter obstacles. Therefore, we need to trust blindly in Christ - we must have faith. This is the essence of our relationship with Christ. This is the nature of the Christian life.

Hebrews 11:1 tells us "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." We read in II Corinthians 5:7, "For we live by faith, not by sight." If we truly live by faith, we are not actually "flying blind." We have the best eyes in the universe looking out for our way. Trust them.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday November 07, 2018

I imagine you have heard the old adage "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link." Studies in recent years have shown that the sinking of the Titanic is a demonstration of the truth of this statement. Apparently, in a cost-cutting measure, the rivets used to hold the hull together were not good. Rivets made of iron were used in place of steel rivets. This would account for the hull ripping apart like a zipper when the Titanic ran into the infamous iceberg. Stronger rivets would have withstood the force of the impact. It seemed that so much attention and money had been used for the fancy fixtures of the ship that inferior products were used elsewhere. In other words, more attention was given to items that would make the ship look "pretty" than items that would help make the ship float.

We can be guilty of this in our lives. We focus on what makes us look good rather than what helps to keep us together. We spend a great deal of time and money on activities and items to improve our physical appearance, but we fail to involve ourselves in efforts to improve our spiritual life.

Paul told Timothy, "Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (I Timothy 4:8) Taking care of our bodies and improving our outward appearance is not a bad idea. We should take care of ourselves; however, make sure you are taking care of your soul as well through efforts to enhance your godliness. If you need any reasons why this is important, remember the Titanic!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday November 06, 2018

Do you ever watch Jeopardy? This TV game show started in 1964 as a daytime offering. In the 70's, a nighttime syndicated version was produced. Art Fleming was the host of these productions. Then, in 1984 the show reemerged with Alex Trebek as the host. It stills runs nightly and is incredibly popular.

One of the features of the show is "Final Jeopardy" where a final high-stakes answer is given for which a question must be formulated to determine a winner. As opposed to the rest of the show, the question must be written down instead of given orally. One little set reconfiguration that takes place is dividers are inserted between the contestants to prevent one from seeing what the other is writing. Even among the intellectual, refined, individuals that are usually the participants in Jeopardy, the temptation to cheat must be addressed.

Temptation is part of our lives and temptation affects everyone's life. The desire to do things we know we shouldn't must always be acknowledged. Christ spoke of this in the prayer he gave his apostles that we repeat each Sunday in our worship "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." (Matthew 6:13) Paul talks further about the issue of temptation when he writes, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (I Corinthians 10:13) Christ's statement affirms the existence of temptation and Paul gives information on how to deal with temptation.

We should never downplay the existence and the problem of temptation. Take steps to avoid temptation. When tempted, pray for God's strength and look for the way of deliverance that God promises. Temptation is inevitable, but yielding is not. Take care to deal with temptation.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday November 05, 2018

R. G. LeTourneau was a Christian businessman and inventor. He is best known for the earth-moving equipment he developed. Seventy percent of the excavating and engineering equipment used by the United States during World War II was designed and built by his company. He founded the LeTourneau Technical Institute in 1946 to help people returning from WWII.

By the time of his death, he held over 300 patents for his productions. One of his machines was simply known as "Model G." When asked what the "G" stood for, a salesman replied, "It must stand for gossip because it moves a lot of dirt and it moves it fast."

The Bible has quite a bit to say about gossip. Proverbs 16:28 says, "A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." Proverbs 20:19 says, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so, avoid anyone who talks too much." Proverbs 26:20 says, "Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down."

A meaning of the word that is translated gossip in the Old Testament is "whispering that is damaging." Indeed, we need to avoid gossip so that feelings will not be hurt, slander will be avoided, and reputations will not be damaged. There is nothing good about gossip, and folks who choose to participate in this practice are simply "Model G's" - dirt movers.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday November 04, 2018

Did you set your clocks back last night, or did you wake up to some confusion when you realized you were operating on the wrong time because you forgot to set your clocks back? I have always felt ambivalent towards this time change in the fall when we go back to "actual" time. On the one hand, we get an extra hour of sleep. Well, some of us do. However, we also lose an hour of daylight at the end of the day. I know I just need to adjust to this, but I miss the daylight! Most of us do.

By the way, did you know that Benjamin Franklin is responsible for street lights? To help pedestrians walk by his house safely after dark, he put a lantern on the sidewalk outside his Philadelphia residence. Soon, others began to emulate this activity. This practice led to the development of the street lights that we take for granted today.

The world is a dark place when the sun goes down and a dark place spiritually. As followers of Christ, we need to put out a lantern so that others can find their way to the Light of Christ's love. Franklin could not drive back all the darkness with his single lantern, but it did light the area where he was. When others joined this effort, a great difference was made. So it is with our spiritual light. When we work together as followers of Christ and allow our lights to shine, we can see tremendous victory over the darkness of the world. Christ tells us to "let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) We need to let our light shine so that others may find the safety of God's life!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday November 03, 2018

It has begun - stores are full of Christmas items, television ads for Christmas are abundant, and there are decorations appearing all over the place. Of course, the Hallmark Channel is cranking out Christmas movies one after the other.

Most of this "hype" is to remind folks they better get going to purchase those absolutely necessary items for others We are being reminded constantly that Christmas is just around the corner and we need to break out the Visa card quickly! Black Friday is only three weeks away!

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

What was set as a day of church observance has become a staple for commercial survival. The day has evolved into a time for economic gain and, in some cases, economic survival. The dependence of business on Christmas for profitability is unreal. We really need to remember that Christ came into the world to be the Savior of souls, not the savior of sales. Keep that in mind as you progress through this Christmas season.

I do not have a problem that we have set aside a time to celebrate. I do not have a problem with the exchange of gifts during our celebration. But we need to keep our celebrations in perspective. As I just said, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10) not to seek and to save to avoid a bust. Celebrate Christ as we approach Christmas!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday November 02, 2018

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

God takes great care in his work in our character. He is involved in every step of our development. Paul tells us "For we are God s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) He writes, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6) God is interested in creating Steinways, not toy pianos. The ultimate price was paid - the death of his Son - so that the work may begin in us.

If he was willing to pay such a great price in order to start the work in us, he will not cut corners when it comes to developing our character and our faith. He will take his time and produce something marvelous. The next time we are tempted to shirk our duty for Him, remember the great lengths he has gone to for us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday November 01, 2018

Have you ever had someone do something for you or give something to you that you didn't deserve? I only taught one year of high school but at the end of the year, I was made an honorary graduate of the school. I felt undeserving of that honor, but appreciated what was done for me.

As marvelous as that honor was, I am the recipient of something else that makes my honorary diploma pale in comparison. I am the recipient of the grace of God. And while I did not feel deserving of the recognition of being declared an honorary graduate, I certainly am not deserving of being declared a recipient of God's grace. For one thing, the action by the school district was on account of actions on my part they felt were worthy of recognition. I could never, ever, do anything that would be worthy of God's grace. I am not trying to be humble here, this is a statement of fact. We don t deserve to receive God s grace.

God's Word shows us why we are not worthy of God's grace. Isaiah 64:6 says, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." In spite of our sin, though, God displays his grace to us. Ephesians 2:4-6 tells us, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." We should never forget that we don't deserve what God is willing to do for us. That is why it is called "grace." Give thanks for God's grace, and don't take it for granted!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 31, 2018

Paul Boese, a Kansas businessman and writer, wrote, Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future." This is a look at forgiveness from a viewpoint that does not have anything to do with Scriptural mandate, yet it reflects a principle involving forgiveness that is so true. I know many of my articles have to do with the forgiveness, but that is because forgiveness is a concept that is at the very heart of our relationship with the Lord. Were it not for the fact that God is willing to put our past in perspective when we come to him seeking forgiveness, our future would be very small. Actually, we would not have a future. In light of this, we should never take for granted the importance of forgiveness, both the forgiveness we have experienced and the need to forgive when a circumstance brings the need to forgive into our daily walk.

The first time the word "forgive" occurs in most English translations is in Genesis 50 where the brothers of Joseph put words in the mouth of their dead father in order to appease the anger they fear Joseph will have towards them now that their father is dead. They come to Joseph and say, "Your father left these instructions before he died: 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." (Genesis 50:16-17) They knew their future rested in the forgiveness of Joseph and they were willing to risk one more scheme to obtain that forgiveness.

We do not have to come up with schemes to receive the forgiveness of God, and neither should others have to concoct some sort of scheme to obtain our forgiveness. We should grant forgiveness freely because we know our future has been secured through the forgiveness we have obtained. Enlarge others' future by putting away the past!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 30, 2018

Randall Atcheson is the son of a Southern Baptist minister who was raised in Alabama. To say he is an accomplished pianist is an egregious understatement. He started studying piano at 6, entered Samford University School of Music at 12, studied at Juilliard, becoming the first person allowed to pursue a degree in both piano performance and organ performance.

At a pre-concert in New York City, after navigating the difficult piano compositions of Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt, he concluded by playing a hymn written by Elisha Hoffman: "What have I to dread, what have I to fear, leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, leaning on the everlasting arms." While the compositions by the masters may have been more musically intricate, they did not offer the security of the hymn by Hoffman.

The theme of this song is firmly based in scriptural reality. "There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you." (Deuteronomy 33:26)

We do a lot of things with our arms - help neighbors with projects, carry babies, give directions, give hugs, and so much more. However, the arms of God provide protection and assurance that our arms are unable to deliver. We are safe and secure in his arms, protected from our enemy and, at times, from ourselves! What a comfort to know we are in the arms of God. Whatever challenge or hardship we face, there is security and peace in God's embrace.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 29, 2018

Michael Hutcher was a Virginia state champion wrestler who lost a wrestling tournament because of pizza. Hutcher wolfed down two pieces of pizza after winning a match at a meet. Usually wrestlers are pretty hungry after a competition. They don't eat before a match as it could cause them to be sick during the strenuous workout. In addition, often they have eaten only sparingly in the time leading up to the match in order to make weight.

The problem with Hutcher eating when he did was that he was not finished wrestling. Unknown to him, he still had another match. Eating the pizza caused him to have indigestion during his final match and he lost for just the fifth time in his career. Two little pieces of pizza brought about his loss.

Hebrews reminds us that it only takes a little bit of sin to cause a lot of problems. Hebrews 12:1 tells us, "let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." When we allow sin in, even what we think are "little sins", we become encumbered and unable to live for God as we should. It really doesn't take much, so we must be vigilant. Hutcher would never have eaten that pizza if he knew the consequences. We know the consequences when we fail. Be vigilant and avoid behavior that would keep us from victory!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 28, 2018

Have you ever heard of the Twisted Sisters? No, not "Twisted Sister", the 80's rock group featuring Dee Snider. I am talking about a group of six ladies who live in Rock Island, Illinois. They went to high school together, graduating more than 40 years ago, and adopted "Twisted Sisters" as a nickname for their group.

Since their graduation, they have remained very close. They stood up for each other at marriages and been there for each other during pregnancies. They have attended graduations, parties, ball games, and many other functions featuring their children, and now their grandchildren. They vacation with families and go on day trips together. They have provided comfort and help when parents, siblings, and other family members have died. They have supported each other through all of life's transitions. This is what friends do.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about friendship and gives a number of examples of friendship. The scripture even says that someone who is friendless is to be pitied: "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:10) Abraham is called the friend of God in II Chronicles 20:7. Moses would speak face to face with God "as a man speaks with his friend." (Exodus 33:11)

The friendship of Jonathan and David is the stuff of legend. David would have been hard pressed to endure the abuse of Saul were it not for the support of his friend, Jonathan, Saul's own son! Christ spoke a great deal about friends, and called his followers his friends (John 15:15) Indeed, having friends is something to be desired and a friend is something we should be.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 27, 2018

Can you feel it? "Feel what?" you may ask. "Can you feel the change that is coming?" In this statement I am referring to the change we literally can feel as we are experiencing, at least in fits and starts, cooler weather. We can feel the change in a tangible way, but there are also feelings involved that are not based on that which is tangible. The cooler weather evokes feelings within us of an emotional nature. We sense the change not only based on experiential evidence, but we sense a change within us that is an emotional response to what is taking place.

We must never forget that we are emotional beings. Often in our worship we downplay and speak against the emotional component of our relationship with God because we want to focus on the facts rather than the feelings. We want to emphasize the rational over the emotional. Now, what we believe about God should be based on facts. We should not use our feelings to develop thoughts about the character of God or about what is important in our response to God. However, we need to realize that God has created us as emotional beings and we need to allow our "feelings" to be part of our response to Him in our worship.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4 tells us, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." David didn't seem to have a problem with emotions and displaying his emotion. He wrote about his feelings and we see him displaying his feelings in observable ways. II Samuel 6:14 tells us about his display of joy at the return of the ark, "Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might'"

You may not be into dancing, and that is just fine; however, don't downplay the place of emotions in our worship of God. God made us as emotional beings, and that is an important part of who we are and how we should respond to him. Let your joy show!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 26, 2018

It is so easy to get an improper perspective of reality in our troublesome world. The problems and concerns that we have in our personal lives along with the struggles on the world's scene can cause anxiety and fear in our lives. If we focus on all the things that are going wrong and all the bad that we see, we can become insecure and worried. When we allow this to happen, our worry undermines our confidence and brings stress and strain. This is why we need to focus on the certainly of God's promises instead of the presence of the world's problems.

Isaiah 40 addresses this issue. Here God reminds the readers that "the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust." (15) God asks us, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in." (vss. 21-22).

We need a proper perspective on struggles that are personal and problems that are global. Don't make mountains out of molehills, especially when you claim to trust in God who is able to level tall mountains and smooth rough paths. Our hope is in the Lord, and trusting him brings peace. He tells us, "They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not grow weary; they shall walk and not faint." (vs. 31) Live like you believe that nothing is bigger than the God that you serve!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 25, 2018

Sigmund Freud wrote, "At a time when great nations are declaring that they expect to find their salvation solely from a steadfast adherence to Christian piety, the upheaval in Russia . . . seems to promise a better future." So, what did the "upheaval in Russia" bring? This upheaval brought a revolution that led to a plethora of bodies, inhumane treatment of enemies of the state, the Cold War, and economic ruin to millions. And this is the "promise of a better future?" I think Freud's psychoanalysis of the Russian Revolution was a bit off.

There is a promise of a better future, and it involves the message of Christianity. Freud was mistaken when it came to his prognostication. The scripture paints an accurate picture of what will take place, and none of the Bible's prophecies are any greater than those involving the Messiah.

Isaiah 53 tells the story of a Savior who is willing to endure great shame and pain on behalf of the people he loves so that they may live with him forever. Isaiah 53:5-6 says, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

This was written 700 years before Christ came into the world. He brings the certainty of a better future for those who follow him. The same Jesus who came into the world to give his life will return to bring peace to the world. This is the better future that is promised - and it has nothing to do with Freud.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 24, 2018

I get a kick out of the proliferation of warnings on products because of the fear of law suits. On a coffee cup, "Warning: Content is extremely hot." On a plastic bag, "Warning: Possibility of asphyxiation." On a Batman costume, "Warning: Cape does not enable wearer to fly." Really - this was a warning. Sometimes the prevalence of warnings has a negative effect on us - we begin to ignore them because they are everywhere. That is not a good idea. The warnings are there for a reason.

So it is with the Bible. The Bible has many warnings for our lives. We are warned not to "grieve the Holy Spirit." (Ephesians 4:30) We are told to "abstain from every form of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22) We are told not to judge others self-righteously (Matthew 7:1-5) Don t take these warnings for granted and don't allow yourself not to take them seriously. God has given them to us for a reason - don't lose sight of their importance because of their prevalence.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 23, 2018

Something good to keep in mind is that God does not need any of us. When we fail to do as we should or do things that we shouldn't, his work will go on undiminished. We should not labor under the mistaken assumption that we are indispensable when it comes to God's ministry. He wants to use us, and that is why he invests a great deal of time in us, but ultimately, he does not need us.

When he calls us for a ministry, it is for our benefit. If we are unwilling, he can call on someone else to fulfill his plan. We are the one who misses out, not God. Everything God calls us to do is for our benefit. The purpose of our service is so that we might grow and receive blessings. When we fail, God does not miss out, we do.

Moses was reluctant to do what God was asking of him. However, don't misunderstand God's intentions in his interchange with Moses found in Exodus 3 and 4. The "back and forth" that took place in these verses does not show us God's desperation and his great "need" for Moses. His determination was not to let Moses miss what became a great privilege for Moses - leading a people who became a great nation. God told Moses, "I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do." (Exodus 4:15)

When he calls us for his work that is what he will do. He wants to bless us, but he does not need us. That is what makes his desire to use us all the more special. Don t lose this perspective!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 22, 2018

Often I have heard someone say, "If I could only be able to see God I would follow him more closely. If he would speak to me, I would have more faith." Well, I beg to differ with that. In the scripture we have examples of folks who had these experiences and still went away from him. The classic example of this is the behavior of the Israelites.

The Israelites had both a visible manifestation of the presence of God and they heard God's voice. They were led by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. Exodus 13:21 tells us, "By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night." When they completed the construction of the tabernacle, the cloud moved over the tabernacle to show them God's presence was with them: "On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire." (Numbers 9:15-16) They also heard God's voice, "As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him." (Exodus 19:19)

After all this, one would think that they would be obedient and follow God faithfully. However, if one would think this, one would be wrong. You need to read Exodus 32. The people's response to their witness of God's presence was to have Aaron build a golden calf so they could have something to worship. As you can see, being able to see and hear God does not translate necessarily into being faithful to God. Being faithful is dependent upon our conscious decision to obey. As Christ said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:29)

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 21, 2018

I have so many ways of reminding myself of appointments, things to do, places to be, and other items that it is not funny. I have the old standard date book, I have my calendar on my cell phone, I have a monthly calendar, and I use email reminders - both company-generated and emails I send to myself. Still I forget things.

God knows about our forgetfulness and that is why he has reminders for us. This is why he gave us the visible signs of our communion with him through baptism and the Lord s Table This is why we need regular times of worship, regular times of fellowship, and regular times of study and prayer. Through these times we are reminded of God's faithfulness and his love for us. We are reminded of his provision and his care for us. Don't avoid these times that help us to remember him.

God wants us to "remember, therefore, what (we) have received and heard." (Revelation 3:3) Remembering God's promises is always a good thing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 20, 2018

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

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

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

These temporary, intense struggles are meant to bring about a great glory in us so that we can bring glory to God. This is exchanging tough times for good results. We might call this the "school of hard knocks" in keeping with the educational theme that was introduced earlier. We may not have chosen these events, but they are there, and they bring about "praise, glory, and honor" that, in a very real sense, will last for an eternity. This is an example of a short-term investment bringing long-term benefits. Paul wrote, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (I Corinthiians 4:17-18)

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 19, 2018

Ron Fourchier is a Dutch virologist who developed a strain of H5N1, or the virus that causes bird flu, that was much more virulent than the original. The original was bad enough, so why develop something worse? Well, the Dutch government thought the same thing and prevented him from releasing his findings to "Science" magazine for publication. Why release a formula that could be used to develop a weapon of mass destruction? His claim was that he was trying to show how viruses mutate naturally; however, in the process he developed something that could wipe out a lot of people in a limited amount of time.

Sometimes too much knowledge is not a good thing. That was what got us in the mess we are in in the first place. Prompted by Satan, Adam and Eve went after more knowledge. The result of this is not good. We need to avoid things that can cause us difficulty if we know about them. We need to pursue good thoughts and manifest good intentions. We cannot avoid all knowledge of evil but we can avoid knowledge of all evil. Watch what you pursue with your thoughts.

Paul wrote, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8) Think on the good and beauty found in God's creation and avoid that which is bad.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 18, 2018

So many people wanted so many things of Jesus. There were times when he answered their requests. There were times when he walked away. Now, the reasons why he responded differently were sometimes unclear. Jesus knew that at times the best answer is no.

That is something we need to come to grips with as well. There are times when the best answer to someone's request is no. This may be because we are so overbooked that one more responsibility will put us over the edge. This may be because the request is unreasonable. This may be because saying yes is not in the person's best interest. This may be because we simply cannot do what is being asked of us. We need to pray for discernment and wisdom and know that at times, no is the best answer.

Psalm 32:8 says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." Pray for the help of God to direct you to know when the best answer is no.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 17, 2018

One of the things I have always struggled with is patience. I am glad that God does not have this issue. God is patient and long-suffering and we should be glad about that. II Peter 3:9 tells us, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." The way he dealt with the Egyptians demonstrates that he is patient with even the most rebellious.

God gave Pharaoh every chance to do the right thing. Remember the plagues? You can read about them in Exodus 11. He started out with an unpleasant but fairly harmless plague of frogs; then each subsequent plague increased in intensity before the slaying of the first born finally changed Pharaoh s mind.

Be grateful for God's patience. And don t do things intentionally to try God s patience. We can be rebellious, and we need to be aware of God's determination before we enter into conflict with him. He is patient, but you will not prevail. It may be wise to abandon the fight before the conflict escalates. Even God's patience will ultimately wear thin.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 16, 2018

I don't know if you have ever heard of "firewalkers" - not "firecrackers" but firewalkers". A firewalker is one who risks serious injury by walking over a bed of hot coals. This practice dates back as far as 1200 B.C. In some cultures, it is a rite of passage experience or a part of a religious ceremony to demonstrate faith. Today, some motivational seminars or training exercises use firewalking as a confidence booster or a team building exercise. What a way to develop some camaraderie!

A great deal of camaraderie did exist between a trio of firewalkers presented in Daniel 3. Here, however, the firewalking experience was not exactly a volunteer exercise in team-building or to boost their confidence. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had given the command that "Whoever does not fall down and worship (the golden image) will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. (3:6)

For Hananiah, Meshiel, and Azariah (better known as Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego), three young Hebrew captives, this command led to a firewalking experience that demonstrated their faith. They ignored the threat and refused to bow down before the image, an act that would indeed have compromised their stand for God. As a result, they were thrown into a furnace with a temperature so high that those who tossed them in were killed. (3:22) The result was a lesson in who is actually boss when God preserved their lives, and even came to walk in the fire with them.

God may not always prevent us from "firewalking" experiences, but he will indeed preserve us through such experiences. He tells us in Isaiah 43:2, "When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Perhaps the three Hebrews had this in mind as they were in the flames. It is indeed a good verse to remember when we face the crucible of life at times. Remember that God will help us when we have to walk through fire.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 15, 2018

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

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

Facing protracted difficulties is not easy. When we do, we need to bring our complaints to God and give them to him. God interacts with his children and will help bring us to a place where we come back to certainties: He loves us in spite of what we experience. God will not leave us alone and will help see us though the conflict. David had a problem and sometimes so do we, but there is not problem we have to face alone.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 14, 2018

We often watch shows where folks take houses that are in poor condition, renovate them, and either sell them, known as "flipping," or perhaps they are working for families that are looking for a new place to live and want to go with a "fixer-upper." Drama is produced on these shows as inevitably the renovation costs a good deal more than what was anticipated. Nonetheless, when the job is finished the houses look absolutely marvelous and are usually sold for top dollar, or presented to the owners who are flabbergasted by the transformation.

God is able to do this for an individual. He is able to take a life that is broken down and wrecked and do an incredible job of renovation. God can do great things with a "fixer-upper." As Bill Gaither wrote, "Something beautiful, something good. All my confusion, he understood. All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life."

II Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!" When God does flips, he never flops!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 13, 2018

A song that was popular in the early 70's was "Don't Rock the Boat" by the Hues Corporation. This song featured a very catchy pre-disco dance beat and lyrics that sort of stuck with you because of their being based on the well-known saying "don't rock the boat." Usually when one uses this epithet it means to not do something that is going to cause anger, or change something, or perhaps try to make someone see a different point of view. In most cases, "don't rock the boat" is good advice. However, there are situations where the boat needs to be rocked.

When it comes to our proclamation of the message of Christ, we should not worry about "rocking the boat." I am not advocating abrasive methods of communication when it comes to presenting our belief, but I am saying that we should not be quiet because of the fear of challenging someone. The message of Christ will be met with resistance. This has always been the case. According to church tradition, all but one of the apostles met with a violent end. Most of us will not be faced with such opposition, but we can expect a reaction if we make our faith known. Christ said to expect this.

In Matthew 5:11-12, we read Christ's words, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." We shouldn't go looking for trouble, but we need to understand that trouble may come if we are faithfully proclaiming the message of Christ. This is one circumstance in which we need to "rock the boat."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 12, 2018

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

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

Success in life does not depend on what we own, our accomplishments, or our status. We achieve true success when we live to please God. Make sure you are correctly defining success.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 11, 2018

Populus tremuloides is the most widely distributed tree in North America. You can find this tree from Canada to central Mexico. Commonly known as the Quaking Aspen, this tree is defined by the characteristic "quaking" of the leaves. The leaves of the tree are disturbed by even the slightest of breezes so that even when other trees give no indication of wind, the aspen will look to be bothered as indicated by the fluttering leaves.

There are other "quaking aspens" that are widely distributed. These are the folks that are bothered by the slightest of disturbances. Theirs is a life of turbulence because even the most inconsequential concerns create a great response. Where others are able to go with the flow and adapt to changing circumstances, "quaking aspens" find it hard to cope.

Are you in this boat? Do you feel like your life is full of turbulence while those around you appear to be grounded and secure? The scriptures remind us that genuine steadying calm can be found in the presence of God. When we focus on his resources, we can experience peace because of the confidence he gives us.

Paul wrote, "Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all." (II Thessalonians 3:16) This is what the Lord will do for those who trust in him. The promise to those who follow God is this, "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever." (Psalm 125:1) Even though we may feel like the Quaking Aspen, we are as solid as Mount Zion if we fix our eyes on our immoveable God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 10, 2018

There are many sins we tend to overlook in ourselves but really blast others when they commit the sin. One of these is grumbling. Grumbling is something we can do ourselves and we don't think anything about it. But let us catch someone else grumbling, and we can be very quick to condemn their negative attitude. Why is that? This is one of the quirks of human nature, and is one of the things we need to work to avoid.

Christ warned against worrying more about the splinter in another's eye when we have a plank in our own (read Matthew 7). Coming down on someone else for being a "complainer" even as we are doing the same thing is certainly one example of this.

God takes grumbling very seriously. Listen to the words of Psalm 106:24-27, "Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD. So he swore to them with uplifted hand that he would make them fall in the desert, make their descendants fall among the nations and scatter them throughout the lands." That is a pretty stern warning against grumbling, isn't it?

God wanted to bless his people, but they didn't believe him, and instead of receiving his bounty, they endured wandering and death in the desert. They could have experienced the pleasures of the land of Promise, but missed out because they preferred to focus on the negatives and gripe.

Avoid this trap in your life. Don't fall into a spirit of negativity and spend your time grumbling. Focus on God's provision and not other's faults. Don't impoverish yourself when God wants to give you his best.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 08, 2018

Are you a student of history? Some folks enjoy history, and some folks do not. We need to remember how important history is. If for no other reason, it is important to learn from mistakes. In "The Life of Reason," George Santayana wrote, "those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it". We learn not only from history in general but our own history as well.

So, how good are you are remembering history? You do not need to go very far into the scriptures to find examples of people who were not very good at this. For example, consider the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed their city because of the debauchery of their lifestyles. They would have known about the flood, but that didn't keep them from living such lives of depravity that God completely destroyed the cities (Genesis 18 and 19). Their ungodliness was so rampant that God told Abraham if 10 righteous people could be found, he would spare the city. Well, you know the history, at least, you should know the history.

Learn from your history, and from the history of others. There is blessing for those who choose to remember history and there are consequences for those who don't. Psalm 103:17-18 reminds us, "But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children s children with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts." Be a student of history!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 07, 2018

A parable is told about a conference that was held among the rivers of the world. The purpose was to determine the most important river in the world. The Nile argued that since it was the longest river, it was the most important. The Amazon said that its width made it the most important. The Danube said that since it most likely was the busiest river in all of Europe, then it should be considered the most important. However, when the decision came in, a little river that no one had ever heard of was judged the most important. All this river did was overflow its banks each spring and make the land fertile so that the people could raise crops to feed their families.

We can be important to others when we allow the blessings we have to overflow so others can be blessed. When God blesses you abundantly, he does so in order for you to be a blessing to others. You may not be the most visible or the most vocal person, but that doesn't determine importance. You are important when you let God flow through you to help and encourage others. As we have experienced the grace of God, we should let grace overflow to others.

Paul writes in II Corinthians 4:15, "All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." Let your life overflow for the benefit of others!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 06, 2018

A while back Direct TV had an ad campaign based on the old adage "one thing leads to another." In the ads, a series of video images were accompanied by this voiceover: "When you have cable and your cable messes up, you throw things. When you throw things, people think you have anger issues. When people think you have anger issues, your schedule opens up. When your schedule opens up, you grow a scraggly beard. When you grow a scraggly beard, you start taking in stray animals. When you start taking in stray animals, you take in more stray animals. Stop taking in stray animals. Switch to Direct TV."

I thought those commercials were hilarious. However, there is also a serious principle involved in this ad campaign. One bad decision can lead to another bad decision. This is why we need to strive to make good decisions and live wisely. If you take care to start out with the right premise, it will go well with you the rest of the journey.

Psalm 111:10 says it this way, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." Stop taking in stray animals. Make sure you begin with God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 05, 2018

Which comes first - the heart or the head? Does our thinking transform our heart, or does the heart transform our thinking? According to Paul, spiritually speaking, the condition of the heart influences the working of the mind. He writes to the Ephesians, "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts." (4:17-18)

Allow the love of God to work on your heart. A humble heart, transformed by the Spirit of God, is what is necessary in order for us to think clearly. Letting God transform your heart is what is necessary for you to align with God.

Letting God transform your life allows you to put your mind at work with him to bring the message of transformation to others. Follow God with your heart and he will help you get your head straight!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 06, 2018

A while back Direct TV had an ad campaign based on the old adage "one thing leads to another." In the ads, a series of video images were accompanied by this voiceover: "When you have cable and your cable messes up, you throw things. When you throw things, people think you have anger issues. When people think you have anger issues, your schedule opens up. When your schedule opens up, you grow a scraggly beard. When you grow a scraggly beard, you start taking in stray animals. When you start taking in stray animals, you take in more stray animals. Stop taking in stray animals. Switch to Direct TV."

I thought those commercials were hilarious. However, there is also a serious principle involved in this ad campaign. One bad decision can lead to another bad decision. This is why we need to strive to make good decisions and live wisely. If you take care to start out with the right premise, it will go well with you the rest of the journey.

Psalm 111:10 says it this way, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." Stop taking in stray animals. Make sure you begin with God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 05, 2018

Which comes first - the heart or the head? Does our thinking transform our heart, or does the heart transform our thinking? According to Paul, spiritually speaking, the condition of the heart influences the working of the mind. He writes to the Ephesians, "So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts." (4:17-18)

Allow the love of God to work on your heart. A humble heart, transformed by the Spirit of God, is what is necessary in order for us to think clearly. Letting God transform your heart is what is necessary for you to align with God.

Letting God transform your life allows you to put your mind at work with him to bring the message of transformation to others. Follow God with your heart and he will help you get your head straight!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 04, 2018

Researchers at the University of Virginia found that people often have difficulty determining the slope of a hill, especially when they are tired and are carrying a load. Most folks rated a 5-degree slope at 20 degrees and a 10-degree slope at 30 degrees. The hill just looked steeper to them than it really was.

This can happen in our everyday lives as well. When we are tired and worn down, problems can look bigger than they really are. Little issues that in reality are not all the difficult can appear to be insurmountable obstacles in our path. This is why we need the encouragement of God's word, and the help of a tireless God.

Isaiah 40:28-29 says, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."

When we face hills that look really steep, remember that God will help us, and remember that they are not as difficult as they look. With the sustaining power of God, you will reach the top.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 02, 2018

Perhaps you have heard of Charles Colson. People of my generation remember Colson as part of the Watergate scandal. Colson was an advisor for President Richard Nixon and was one of the "inner circle" that committed illegal activities as part of the Watergate scenario. These events led to the resignation of Nixon and jail time for others.

During the investigation, Colson became a follower of Christ after reading C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity." His conversion was met with skepticism and even criticism; however, the passage of time and his continued work in Christian circles along with books he published demonstrated the validity of his conversion. He became a staunch advocate for prisoners as well as an eloquent apologist for the Christian world view. During the waning days of the 20th century, he was one of the most recognized faces in the Christian ministry.

Colson's life demonstrated the principle of redemption. His ministry demonstrated what God can do with someone who yields their life to Him. He would say, in the words of John Newton, "I once was lost, but now I am found." That is the marvel of God's grace. No matter who we were, we can be changed by grace. What made Colson's ministry so powerful is that he never forgot who he once was and that he was only who he was in the present because of God's grace.

Don't ever forget that it is not our efforts that have brought us to where we are, but that we have been "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:24).

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 01, 2018

1968 was a rather tumultuous year in the history of the United States. 1968 was the year for demonstrations and assassinations. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were both killed in 1968. The War in Vietnam was at its zenith, with over a half-million troops from the United States involved in combat. This was the year of the capture of the Pueblo, the Tet Offensive, and demonstrations and violence at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. For those of us who remember these events, it is hard to believe they took place 50 years ago.

In the midst of all the chaos, a Roman Catholic priest wrote a song that has become a very popular chorus among followers of Christ. Peter Scholtes wrote the song, then recorded his congregation singing the song along with others. The song became immensely popular almost overnight after the release of the LP recording. The popularity of the song can be attributed to the message, and the reminder of the identity of Christians - "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love."

Walk Through the Bible writes: "The mark of a Christian should be love. In Matthew 22, we read that the two greatest commandments are love for God and love for our neighbor. In John 13:35, Jesus says, 'By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.' In John 17:21, Jesus says if Christians have unity (based on love), the world will believe that Christ was sent from God. When our badge is love, the world is convinced that we are genuine disciples of Jesus, rather than hypocrites."

1968 was certainly a good time to be reminded of this. But, then, 2018 is also a good time to be reminded that "our badge is love." Others need to know what we know - it is the love of Christ that brings peace in the midst of tumult.

Pastor Steve Willis