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.


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



Weekly Schedule

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

November Schedule

Sunday Nov 4th
Small Groups - 5:00 PM
Monday Nov 12th
Missions - 5:00 PM
C.E. - 5:00 PM
Trustees - 7:00 PM
Tuesday Nov 13th
Deacons - 6:00 PM
Wednesday Nov 14th
Thanksgiving Dinner - 5:30 PM
Thursday Nov 15th
ABW Goodie Plates - 10:00 AM
Wednesday Nov 21st
Activities Cancelled
Thursday Nov 15th
Happy Thanksgiving
Sunday Nov 25th
Hanging Of The Greens - 6:00 PM

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.


November 1st, 2018

September is the month of the most "hypocritical" holiday, October is the month that has perhaps the most controversial holiday, and November is the month with perhaps the most edible holiday. Actually, that really isn't correct. I do know that Thanksgiving has come to be associated so much with turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and all the trimmings, that we have watered down the actual meaning of the day.

As I think about edible things, I remember a story I once read about a man buying groceries for a Thanksgiving dinner. After paying for the items, he said thank you to the clerk. The clerk's response was "Don't thank me. You pay your money, you take your choice."

No thanks needed? I beg to differ. Our forefathers who planted the precious seeds they had in the soil they prepared after an arduous ocean crossing and a winter that claimed almost half of their colony certainly knew whom to thank.

Christ said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain - first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come." (Mark 4:26-29)

Yes, the Pilgrims knew whom to thank. We should know whom to thank as well. We should thank God that we don't have to wait a full day for a loaf of bread or a piece of meat. We should thank God for all the choices we have not only for food but in so many areas of our lives. We should thank God for all the things that money cannot buy, no matter how much we have of it to pay.

Please enjoy your "edible" holiday, and never forget your need to give thanks. Never forget whom you need to thank. The checker had it all wrong. We need to give thanks. Pastor Steve Willis


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!


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
Sunday September 30, 2018

An old adage says, "If your Bible is not falling apart, you will." There is a great deal of truth in this little statement. God gave us the Scriptures in order that we might know Him. The more we know the Scripture, the more we know about God and his faithfulness, protection, care, and love. Developing a deeper relationship with God provides a strong foundation for our lives that will help us through whatever we encounter along our journey.

Psalm 119:15-16 gives us a model for our Biblical activity, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."

Do not neglect the scripture. It is a source of strength and help, but we shouldn't use it like some sort of spiritual life preserver. The way our proverb above becomes true in our lives is when we spend time on a consistent basis in God's Word. Cracking it open only when we are looking for something leads to the attitude, "I can't find anything in there of any help." Don t fall apart!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 29, 2018

Are you in love with God, or just the things God provides? Most of us, if we were asked, would respond that we are in love with God. I think it would do us well to closely examine our hearts and make sure we are in truth loving God and not just going along for the ride and what we can obtain. He has promised blessings to those who follow him and most of us desire those blessings. It isn't wrong to want to be blessed by God, but we should not want those above God himself. We should want God simply because we want God.

Don't have the same problem as the rich young ruler who, when faced with the prospective of not having "stuff" decided it wasn't worth it to follow God. "Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Matthew 11:21-22) Examine yourself and ask the hard questions.

God does want good things for us, but that should not be what we want from God. Don't be a "gold digger of the divine." Follow God just because, not because of what you might get.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 28, 2018

One of the things I have done at this time of year for just about as long as I remember is check the college football rankings when they came out on Sunday. I used to have to wait until Monday and check them in newspapers; now I can check them on the internet. There are a number of polls now, but the two with the most history are the AP poll that started in 1934 and is based on the votes of sportswriters and the Coaches poll based on the votes of 62 Division 1 coaches since the 1950-51 season. The polls are subjective, of course, and are based on the performance of the teams. The subjectivity means these two polls rarely match totally.

Aren't you glad that our standing with God is not determined by some poll that is based on a subjective measure of your performance? Our relationship is based on God's loving provision of a Savior for us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Our relationship is based on our decision to accept this provision. Opinions are not considered, and God does not rate our performance to see where we rank on his scale.

Poll ratings are good to determine the position of a college football team, but have nothing to do with our position with the Lord. Christ told Nicodemus the criterion that determines our relationship with God, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." (John 3:3) Polls do not determine this. You determine this through your faith in Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 27, 2018

I came across this story about Albert Einstein in my reading. The math genius was living in Princeton, New Jersey, and teaching at Princeton University at the time. Each day, Einstein would take a train from the university to where he lived. On one occasion, a young boy was waiting for him when he arrived at the station. The boy was having trouble with some math problems and asked Dr. Einstein for help. Dr. Einstein took the boy's book, placed it on the hood of a nearby car, and helped him solve the problems. Imagine that - getting help with your math homework from the man who developed the theory of relativity.

Daily we have similar opportunities to serve. However, we often miss many opportunities because we "can't take the time to do this." We may not be given a place in history because of some great scientific discovery, but we can be remembered for the kindness we displayed when we took the time to help someone else. Not only do we mimic Dr. Einstein when we do such things, we are displaying the heart of God. Getting assistance from one of the most brilliant math minds that has ever existed is great; but the Creator of all there is and ever will be stands ready to help us at any time. Let's make sure we display this compassion for others in our lives.

Christ s statement in Matthew 7:12 should inform our thinking on helping others, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." Display this thinking in your response to others when they ask for help.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 26, 2018

I have always enjoyed Bill Keane's newspaper cartoon "The Family Circus." Since the cartoon debuted in 1960 when I was 4 years old, I have pretty much grown up with it. Except for our local once-a-week gazette, I don't have a newspaper subscription anymore so I have no idea if this cartoon still exists.

Once there was a panel that showed Billy walking into a room carrying a sweater and a shirt. He complains to Jeffy who is standing in the room, "Mommy sure has a lot of hang-ups: 'Hang up your sweater. Hang up your shirt.'"

We often think this way about God. We chafe at his "hang ups," i.e., his righteous laws for our lives. We have difficulty with obedience. We struggle to listen to what he says about how we should live our lives. I would imagine that God must find our goofiness rather amusing at times. At other times, probably not so much. When he tells us to "Be still, and know that I am God," (Psalm 46:10) he means it.

Don't draw back from God's "hang ups." They exist for a reason, and we would do well to use hangers.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 25, 2018

Denis Boyles is a writer in the UK. He once interviewed a man on a roller coaster during an attempt to set a world's record for continuous riding. However, after some trips around the track, Boyles became extremely frightened. Then the man showed him how to ride - how to use his body to lean into the movements of the coaster and allow you to feel more stable. Another bit of helpful information Boyle learned in the interview was that, statistically, he was safer riding the roller coaster than he was driving his car. This knowledge helped him overcome his fear and complete the interview.

The more we learn to trust Jesus, the more we find help to face the fears we have in life. Learning more about the Savior increases our faith and helps us with the uncertainties that pop up before us. You perhaps remember the story in Matthew 8 of the disciples' stormy boat ride. As the storm raged, Jesus lay sleeping in the boat. The men woke him and cried, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" (8:25) Christ's reply came with a gentle rebuke, "'Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?' Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm." (vs. 26) The disciples learned a great deal about the Savior that day.

How often does Christ have to say to us "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Learning more about him helps to build our trust in him and diminish our fears of life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 24, 2018

I found the following in an article in "Leadership Today": "Paul and Peter could disagree and still endorse one another in ministry because they both knew the unconditional love of Jesus. An awareness of being fully accepted by Him allowed them to speak the truth in love and challenge one another to faithfulness. A secure foundation in God's unconditional love and acceptance allows us to trust God and one another. Treating others with unconditional love helps to build trusting relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, and community members."

When you exhibit unconditional love, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of relationships. Too often we operate in relationships where we think we need to continue to work to be assured of the love of someone else. Often, we are guilty of making someone else feel as if they must continually work to gain our approval, acceptance, and affection.

This is not what God wants for our relationships be it our family or our friends. We all need to exhibit unconditional love. In I Corinthians 16:14, Paul encourages us to "Do everything in love." How will your words and actions reflect Christ's unconditional love to others today?

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 23, 2018

I have written often about prayer, but have said little about praying at a specific time. I came across a writing by Dietrich Bonhoeffer outlining the importance of morning prayer: "This order and discipline must be sought and found in the morning prayer. It will stand the test at work. Prayer offered in early morning is decisive for the day. The wasted time we are ashamed of, the temptations we succumb to, the weakness and discouragement in our work, the disorder and lack of discipline in our thinking and in our dealings with other people, all these very frequently have their cause in our neglect of morning prayer. The ordering and scheduling of our time will become more secure when it comes from prayer."

Do you take time to begin your day with prayer? Bonhoeffer tells us that often the troubles we experience are there because of our neglect of taking the time to pray about our coming day. Our Savior spent time in morning prayer. Mark 1:35 tells us, "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." A good discipline to develop would be setting aside the time for morning prayer.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 22, 2018

I once read an article that pointed out the similarities and differences in the ministries of Elisha and Elijah, two prophets from the Old Testament whose ministries are linked. It said that Elisha's ministry was not startling; it was redemptive and constructive. Elijah was a prophet of fire and judgment; Elisha was a prophet of mercy and compassion. Elijah was a man on the move; Elisha enjoyed a tranquil life at home. Elijah's miracles were destructive; Elisha's were constructive. It must have been tempting for Elisha to want to be like Elijah. But he resists it; that is not what the Lord has for Elisha. He is his own person before the Lord.

We are often tempted to be like someone else, to be dissatisfied with who we are and what we can do. Yet God made us to be what He wanted us to be. We must be content with who we are. It is so liberating, and also allows us to be so much more productive in our lives and in our ministry. When we sit and stew about what we are not, what we are cannot function. We need to accept ourselves as we are. God does.

John 22:20-22 gives us a story that demonstrates this reality: "Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, 'Lord, who is going to betray you?') When Peter saw him, he asked, 'Lord, what about him?' Jesus answered, 'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'" In other words, don't worry about what God is doing with someone else, focus on what He is doing with you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 21, 2018

Things are often different than they appear. This is true in so many ways. One scenario in which this is true is when an adverse circumstance we are facing leads to a conclusion is really good. When I was in college, we budding teachers listed three schools for our student teaching experience. I was placed in a school that wasn't on my list of choices. I wasn't too happy about this. When I spoke with the professor who oversaw the placement, he told me "I put you where I thought you could get the most experience. Look at this as a good opportunity."

Well, to make a long story short, my placement did indeed turn out to be a good opportunity, but not in the way one might expect. Yes, it was a great experience and challenged me to be a better teacher. But, it offered an even more practical outcome.

My first teaching job lasted only two weeks as circumstances arose that forced me to move on. As I was at my home wondering what I was going to do since I had no job as school had already started in most districts around my home, I received a call from a school looking for a biology teacher. "Do you have a job yet?", the caller asked. I asked how he had gotten my name, as I had not applied at that district. He replied, "We called Robert Berry at Huntington High to see if he had any recommendations for a teacher. He gave us your name." Huntington High was my "non-choice" for my student teaching experience, and Robert Berry was my supervising teacher. I got the job and had a great year. Yes, indeed, I had a good student teaching experience.

When you encounter circumstances that are taking you in a direction you had not considered, be patient. This could be a great opportunity. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" God knows what he is doing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 20, 2018

The natural curiosity of children is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, their desire to discover is a learning tool that helps them to acquire necessary skills. On the other hand, their exploration of new things can sometimes lead to dangerous circumstances.

I read about a 7-year-old in Michigan who found a half-barrel by a small lake. He found a piece of wood to use as a makeshift paddle and he made his way to the middle of the lake in the barrel. Then the barrel developed a leak and began taking on water. Thankfully, there were people who saw his plight and rescued him.

In Isaiah 43, God reminds the people of Israel that they are like immature children who have not called upon him. God tells them they were following a path of disobedience in their pursuits of what they wanted instead of seeking what he wanted for them. God tells them: "Yet you have not called on me, Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel." (vs. 22)

Following our own immature pursuits can have serious consequences. Having a natural curiosity is a good thing, but we need to temper this with God's wisdom. Call upon God for his wisdom and avoid paddling out in lakes.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 19, 2018

There are times when important people need to go unnoticed. For example, those working behind the scenes on TV broadcasts, or even at live concerts, need to go unnoticed because if their presence is visible, it would distract from the performance or the production. Yet, they are vital to the presentation. If they weren't there, the show would not go on. Technicians, "roadies", and even directors stay behind the scenes but their contributions are necessary.

Jesus said this is the way it should be when we come to the Father in prayer. He told his disciples that when they gave, prayed, or fasted, they shouldn't do it to draw attention to themselves or to please others. They need to do these things to please one person - God. Christ said, "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1)

We don't go about our spiritual disciplines as if they are performances to please or entertain others. We do these things to bring glory to God and to please him. Something within us makes us want to be recognized for our good deeds. There is no wrong in encouraging others and recognizing others, but we should not do things for the recognition. As desire for praise detracts from the spirit of service. We should do things for the Lord.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 18, 2018

The events recorded in Nehemiah 8 have always fascinated me. I encourage you to read this passage before you go any further in today's devotional. Here is a small excerpt, "So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law . . .Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up." (8:1-3, 5)

I don't know if you kept track as you read, but let me point out some interesting observations. First, as the Torah was read in the presence of the people, all the people stood. Secondly, they stood for about five hours as the Torah was read ("from daybreak till noon"). Finally, "all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law." Wow. A scripture reading that went on for more than five hours with everyone standing and LISTENING. I would imagine there are a number of activities to which we would be willing to devote five hours of our time, but would Bible reading be one of them? My, there are so many things I could say about this. However, I want to simply make one application. From this time on, the people of Israel were known as the "People of the Book." Could this description fit us?

Wouldn't that be a wonderful testimonial to be known as the "People of the Book?" Of course, this presupposes that we actually are people of the Book. This decryption would indicate that we are indeed people who love God's Word and wish to know and follow it attentively. I hope this passage could describe us. I don't know how far I could get with a five hour Bible reading outside with everyone standing, but our devotion to His Word should be as great. The question is: How great is our devotion to God's Word? Think carefully before you give an answer.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 17, 2018

Are you old enough to remember the TV show, "Queen for a Day?" This started as a radio show in 1947, then moved to television. I don t remember the radio show, but I do remember the TV show that was hosted by Jack Bailey.

Four contestants came on the show and told of their dire circumstances. Then, a winner was picked by the studio audience using an "applause-o-meter." The winner was bedecked with a crown, a red velvet robe (well, I assume it was red, we only had a black and white TV at that time), and given roses. The winner was pampered for a day, and some things were done to make the person's life circumstances a little better. The only thing was in most situations it really was only a temporary fix.

God offers us more than being "queen for a day" or "king for a day." In many things in our lives, more than just a "quick fix" is needed - and that is why we need to continue to look to a source of comfort and help that is more than just a band-aid solution.

Psalm 118:13-14 tells us, "I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." God is indeed "our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)."

God offers more than just a quick fix. He is going to be with you for the long haul. Depend on him, trust in him, and you will get more than a fake crown and a velvet robe!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 16, 2018

I read a story once about a building that was entirely destroyed by fire. What was different about this building was it had been full of ice. The building was full of "water" that could have extinguished the blaze, but it was in the wrong form.

Sometimes this can describe a church. A church may be full of people with potential for service and ministry, yet because they assume the wrong "form," they accomplish little. As one writer said, "God's chosen people are often God's 'frozen' people."

Don't allow this to be the case with you! Make sure you are "warmed up" and ready to do God's work. Christ warned against "losing our saltiness" and "hiding our light" in Matthew 5:13-16, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Make sure to let your salt out of the shaker, and don't hide your light! In this way, you will not be one of God's "frozen people."

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 11, 2018

Many of us know exactly where we were 17 years ago today when we first learned of the incredible events that took place that day. I was in my office at church when we got a call telling us to turn on our TV if we had one available. At that time, I had a little black and white portable with a five-inch screen. I only had the built-in antenna to use, but I got an image. The lack of color and the fuzziness only added to the surreal nature of the events that I saw that day. The first jet had already plummeted into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At that point, nothing was known about the aircraft. Speculations were being given, and talk was on-going about what happened. Then, as smoke billowed out of the north tower, another jet flew into the face of the south tower. When this happened, it was apparent that what was taking place was not just a random accident.

I have often wondered why it takes events such as these to remind us of the fragility of our position, our existence. That usually is the case, isn't it? Traumatic and painful events jolt us into the reality of our position in the world. We suddenly began to embrace God more closely as we realize we aren t as secure as we thought. This was one of the results in the days and weeks following the events of September 11, 2001. Church attendance increased, there was more "God talk" on public mediums, and people openly shared their fears of our vulnerability. Has this continued? Perhaps for some, but as in many cases, once things "settled down," there was a return to business as usual.

Our relationship with God should never be "business as usual." We should not wait for an event that sweeps us off our feet to realize how insecure we are. Trust God at all times and never fail to acknowledge his Lordship. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:10-11, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Don't wait for some great tragedy before you do this. Your life is fragile - handle with prayer.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 10, 2018

I am fascinated by those who take folks from one place to another over open water. Everything looks the same when all you can see is water! When you are out at sea, or on a larger body of water such as one of the Great Lakes, you need to know three things: where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. Navigators are trained to use maps, compasses, and other instruments to keep on course. Of course, in today's world, we have GPS (Global Positioning System). Still, you need to rely upon these things to make sure you get where you want to go. Those of you who have piloted larger craft in the Gulf or on the lakes, or maybe even out in the ocean know more about this than I. Those of you who fly are really "in the same boat," so to speak.

You need to know how to use and trust your navigational equipment. If you rely just on yourself, you may get a little confused. I read about a fellow who wanted to cross Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Grand Haven. He had decided to rely on his own sense of direction. Two hours after leaving Milwaukee he was greeted with the sight of a large city - you guessed it - Milwaukee! He had succeeded in sailing in a big circle!

When we are moving through life it is important to know where we are, where we want to go, and how we are going to get there. Relying upon ourselves will only produce a circular motion. What we need to do is rely upon God as our GPS. We need to allow him to chart our course. With God as our navigator, we will find that the journey will go much better. Moses proclaimed in Exodus 15:13, "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling." Let God chart your course!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 09, 2018

Rodney Dangerfield was a comedian who milked his "No respect I don t get no respect" routine for a lot of money. The routine led to movies, TV appearances, and a number of other jobs that made him well-known and well-off. The idea of getting "no respect" is something that works for a comedy routine, but I don't think it works when it comes to our relationship with God. I hope God can't use this line if he would be describing your attitude towards Him.

As Moses was finishing up his "training period" in the desert, he witnessed an incredible sight: a bush that was on fire, but was not being consumed by the fire. As he approached, God spoke to him, "'Do not come any closer, 'God said. 'Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground (Exodus 3:5).'" We read of a similar experience in Joshua when God tells Joshua, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:15). As they drew near to God, they were to show respect.

As you draw near to God, do you show respect? We do have free access to God as the veil has been torn in two (Matthew 27:51). We can approach the throne of grace with confidence because of the work of Christ (Hebrews 4:6); but we also need not to forget that God demands and deserves respect.

Proverbs 9:10 states, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." We who have experienced God's grace should never lose our awe of God. He is worthy of our praise. Don't ever lose your wonder of God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 08, 2018

Many years ago, telephone companies started burying phone lines. The advantages to this are that it removes clutter on overhead poles, reduces the number of lines we look at, and make the lines more accessible for repair. One of the disadvantages is that the lines were a little problematic in the transmission, especially when there was heavy rain. This would cause distortion and prevent the use of the phones. The interference made commutation difficult and prevented messages from getting through. I really do hope they have this problem solved in light of all the rain we are going to get today! The weather forecast on my phone is different than any I've seen before - 100% chance of precipitation all the way through tonight!

Often we have this problem in our communication with God. Interference creeps in from a variety of sources and prevents us from hearing what God has for us. We let circumstances and issues keep us from speaking to God in the way that we should. We let the interference of sin keep us from getting clear instruction from God. Sometimes it is even that we really don't want to hear what God wants to say to us.

Christ at times said, "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand." (Mark 4:9) We have ears, but we often let things keep us from hearing. Keep the lines free from disturbance. Listen to God and keep the lines of communication free from interference.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 07, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 05, 2018

Pastor and author Eugene Peterson called the process of following Christ a "long obedience in the same direction." Every resolution to begin to obey must be followed by many decisions to continue.

We are constantly faced with issues calling for a decision to be obedient to Christ or to follow our own way and disobey. At times, weariness may set in because of constant confrontation calling for us to make decisions about our stand for Christ. We may wish this not to be the case and we may wish confrontations would just go away, but they won't. We live in a world where our faith will constantly be tested.

Paul encourages us, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9) Sometimes our constant battle against the influences that seek to pull us away from an obedient life can become very testing, even overwhelming. At those times, pray for the power of the Lord to help you, continue to walk the right direction, persevere in obedience even though disobedience may be easier, and look ahead to the results that occur when you are obedient. Look forward to the harvest that obedience brings.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 04, 2018

Do you enjoy brain-teasers? I came across this one recently:

Imagine that you are a school bus driver. A red-haired student gets on the bus and begins combing her hair with a green brush. At the next stop two more students get on and say in passing that they like the color of the driver's new blue cap. As they walk to the rear of the bus, the shorter of the two shouts back, "I wouldn't let that red-head stay on the bus if I were you. Her brush clashes with your hair!" What color is the bus driver's hair? (Hint: Remember that you are the bus driver!)

Nathan confronted King David with a brain teaser about a rich man who took the lamb of a poor man to feed a visitor who stopped by. David's response was "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." (II Samuel 12:5-6) Nathan's response to David after hearing this outburst was "You are the man!" (vs. 7)

We are prone not to see our own faults, even those we might consider "major". This is why we are encouraged to examine ourselves (I Corinthians 10:28 - "Everyone ought to examine themselves.") and not be judgmental of other's faults when we don't see our own (Matthew 7:3).

Don't leave yourself out of the picture when you wish to correct wrong-doing. Don't be overly critical of others while you ignore your own weak points. As Nathan said, "You are the man!" By the way, if you still did not get the opening brain teaser, check your own hair color.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 03, 2018

I know I have said this before, but I have always thought of Labor Day as the most hypocritical of all of our holidays, or at least the most conflicted. I mean, you want to celebrate work, so what do we do? Take a day off! What is with that?

Well, that's enough ranting about the hypocrisy of the day. Work is an important activity in the plan of God. As we think about our work, here are some things to consider.

First of all, we reflect God's character in our work. God, of course, created work and worked to create. Genesis 2:2 speaks of God s work, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." God is indeed a worker, and we reflect God s character in our attitude and participation in work.

Secongly, we rejoice in God s provision in our work. Through our work we provide for our daily needs. God provides for us through our jobs. We should look at our jobs as a means of serving and pleasing God. Being able to do this is a reason to rejoice. God holds work in high regard. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

Finally, wWe remember our role in God's design through our work. Our work reminds us of our place in God's plan. Genesis 2:15 tells us, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." We work as if we are working for the Lord, because we are. When we are going about our everyday roles, we are reminded that God is working in us. He delights working in us. His work continues day in and day out.

As we continue in our work, we can be reminded of God s continual work in us. Paul tells us that God won't stop this work in our lives until we are brought to the place where God wants us to be. Philippians 1:6 tells us, "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."

Enjoy your day off, but also enjoy your work. Let it help you appreciate what God is doing in you. Happy Labor Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 01, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis