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

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

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

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

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


Our Staff

Pastor
Dr. Steve Willis

Deacons

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

My Favorite Bible Verse

Dr. Steve Willis

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

Sam & Karen White

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

 

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

Pastor Steve Willis

Friday June 23, 2017

We use a lot of olive oil in our home as we use it almost exclusively in our cooking. We enjoy the taste, and it is supposed to be better for you. Olive oil is still an important commodity in our world today, but in ancient times it was really important. Someone once wrote that the Roman empire ran on olive oil - cooking, heat, light, medicine and many other uses. The oil came from southern Spain in clay pots. Once the oil was consumed, the pots were discarded.

On the bank of the Tiber River in Rome there is a "mountain" called Monte Testaccio that is made from the fragments of millions of discarded pots. The Romans used what was valuable and discarded the pots that were of little value.

Paul wrote about this reality in the Christian life: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (II Corinthians 4:7) Paul was reminded his readers that what is important about our lives is not the temporal, fading, frail external body, but the internal being. Our greatest treasure is the inner working of Christ within us.

There is a great premium placed on our bodies in our society today. And I am not saying we should neglect the care of the body, or view the body as bad while the good part of us is inside. What I am saying is that we should focus on developing the inner being and our bond with Christ. We need to live so that others can see the glory of Christ in us. We should reveal our inner treasure by radiating outwardly Christ s love..

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 22, 2017

Three months ago today my fractured femur was surgically repaired. Fractured is one way to describe the damage. After viewing the x-ray, my wife Scherry said, "It looks like a peeled banana". Anyway, surgery was successful and after six weeks of rest and more weeks of rehab, I am on my feet with the aid of a walker and progressing well.

Back at the start of my rehab, I remember one of my therapists telling me that the healing would be enhanced when I could put weight on the leg. The bone would respond to the "stress" and do whatever bones do to harden and heal. There is even a name associated with this phenomenon Wolff's Law. According to this principle, bone will adapt and harden in proportion to the stress that is put upon it. So, finally being able to put weight on my leg enhances the healing of the bone, and also allows me to get associated muscles involved to become stronger.

Putting stress on the muscles through appropriate exercise makes them stronger. This, of course, is the principle behind "working out" or "pumping iron" or "making hay" or whatever. Gaining strength requires an application of resistance, or stress. The application of resistance helps in the healing process of broken bones.

As we face stress in life, learning how to deal with stress and working through the stress can bring about strength. None of us live stress-free lives, so learning how to manage stress is helpful and can also promote healing. Put stress events in perspective. Try to break them down, control what you can, and what you can't, put aside until resolution is possible. Above all, remember that God is there, he is with you, he knows what is taking place, he is working in you in the circumstances. He wants to build strength in you, he wants to build you up and not break you down.

God wants to strengthen your character and often allows and uses events that bring resistance in your life to do so. I Peter 1:7 tells us, "These [events] have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." James 1:2-4 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." I hope you never have an opportunity to apply Wolff's Law, but applying God's Law is something that is helpful for all of us.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 21, 2017

On November 19, 1863, a group of dignitaries gathered in a field near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. President Abraham Lincoln was among those who gathered to dedicate that field as a cemetery for the bodies of all those who were slain in the recently completed Battle of Gettysburg. The noted orator, Edward Everett, delivered an address that lasted for almost two hours. President Lincoln's remarks took a little more than two minutes. However, it is Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" that has endured and is still well-known today, almost 153 years after first being spoken. Why is this the case?

Lincoln's speech included words that brought comfort, encouragement, and closure. His words brought healing to a nation fractured by the effects of war that was raging between people who had been part of one country just two years before the ceremony. It was not the quantity of the words, but the character of the words that brought these effects.

That is the way with words. Most often is not the number of words spoken that is important, but the nature of the words that are used. Consider the Lord's prayer - although brief it conveys much about the Lord's power, his provision, and his promises to us.

As we minister to others, remember that verbosity is not necessary. A few words that meet the need can be helpful and welcome. Proverbs 16:24 tell us, "Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body." Use words wisely!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 20, 2017

I hope all you dads out there had a nice Father's Day. I enjoyed the day immensely. I started with a marvelous buffet breakfast prepared by some of the ladies at church. Now, we do the same for the ladies on Mother's Day, but they sure turned it up a notch for us - omelets, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, fruit, juice, milk, and coffee. We enjoyed a great program afterwards, and I even won the Father's Day Olympics. We had a great time of worship that morning as we spent time with our Heavenly Father.

Afterwards, Scherry and I drove to Terre Haute to pick up some things, and to eat. She wanted to treat me to a Father's Day dinner. "Where do you want to go?" she asked. I picked out some places - I had three in mind. Before we got to Terre Haute, I discovered that my first choice was closed. When we got there, we found that the next two were absolutely jammed. We decided to get what we needed and try later. That did not improve the situation at all, so we went to a fourth option that was not on my list.

Now, this scenario could have led to disappointment, but let me give you some reasons why everything came up roses even though we did not eat at any of the places I had chosen. First, waiting until later was better for my hunger (remember breakfast?). Secondly, we got fried green tomatoes for an appetizer (not available at the other places) and were they good battered lightly, fried to perfection, topped with feta cheese, and drizzled with a sauce that just made my mouth do cartwheels. Finally, I had the best prime rib I have ever had in my life - an option not available at my desired locations. So, circumstances that might at first look to be disappointing led to a delightful experience.

This is something that can happen in our lives we face scenarios that spell disappointment in big letters, but because of the need to detour, we have experiences that although are not what we expected, are even better. I know it is cliché, but the old adage, "when one door closes, another opens," is often true. Now, we aren't guaranteed that this will be the case, but if you find yourself faced with detours, look for positive alternatives. Be patient, be willing to make adjustments, be ready for experiences that you weren t looking to have, and, above all, trust God to lead you in the right direction. You may even find what you attain to be better than that for which you sought.

Many of you may be facing situations that have a little more gravity than the choice of a restaurant, but remember that God is going with you. Struggles that lead us to alternative circumstances can bring about superior results. Isaiah 22:22 tells us, "When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them." Trust God for open doors when it seems what you have chosen is closed. Paulo Coelho wrote, Don t give up - it's usually the last key on the ring that opens the door.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 19, 2017

I have always found it hard not to stop for folks I see stranded on the road, so I do if it is safe to do so. I have been stranded myself on a couple of occasions, and I know it is great when others stop to help as they can. I also know what it is to be stranded and have no one stop.

Years ago I stopped for an accident on a country road in Ohio. There were three people in the car - two were outside the car with some minor injuries. The car had slid over a bank and was basically lying on its side, and one person was still in the car. He was unconscious, and we couldn't tell how badly he was hurt. Cell phones were only in works of science fiction at that time, so I drove to the nearest house to call for help. Soon, an ambulance was there along with law enforcement personnel. The young man who had been knocked out regained consciousness and would be o.k. - he did spend a couple of days in the hospital. They were appreciative that I stopped, and thankful they were not injured seriously. One said, "I don't know what we would have done if you hadn't stopped."

I know in our world, you need to be cautious doing things like this, but there are other ways where we can be helpful to those who are in need that do not involve stopping along a highway. What about a neighbor who is hurting because they just lost a loved one? What about a friend who just lost a job? How about someone who needs help with their kids because they need to take care of some things? And what about someone you know who needs to hear about the love of God?

There are a lot of ways to be a "Good Samaritan". I have always loved that story. Even as a kid I could never understand the actions of the priest and the Levite. I love the words of Christ at the conclusion, "'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:36-37) Let's go and do likewise.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 18, 2017

It is Father s Day and I want to tell you some things about which I am happy. I am really happy to have had the father that I did. I ve written before how I am glad Glenn Willis survived WWII so that he could have a chance to marry Mom and be my Dad. I know there are a lot of great fathers out there, but I am glad Dad was mine.

I am also happy that Dad was the kind of father that he was. I could write a lot of things here, but let me allow the scripture to make a comment. We read in Colossians 3:21, Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. That is exactly what Dad did for me. He didn t have unrealistic demands, he disciplined with restraint, he encouraged through his presence, he sacrificed of himself to do things for his sons, and the list goes on and on. He did not do anything that would cause be to become discouraged. Well, he did tell me that if he ever caught me with a cigarette it wouldn t go well with me. This was one area where he didn t exactly lead by example, but eventually he did give up the smokes.

No one s perfect, but Dad was certainly perfect enough in my eyes. He didn t let me get away with anything, but he certainly didn t do things to make me discouraged, or to exasperate me, as Ephesians puts it. This November will be the 25th anniversary of his death, and I still miss him. No, I don t grieve for him, that I worked through long ago, but I still miss him.

A final thing I am happy about is the example Dad gave to me to follow when it came to being a Father myself. I am a different person than Dad. We are very different in so many ways when it comes to our personalities; however, one area where I have always tried to emulate my Dad was in being a father to my kids in the way in which he was a father to me. I always felt that if I could be one-half the father to my girls that my Dad was to his sons, I would knock it out of the park. I don t know if I did that exactly, but I have two beautiful adult girls whom I idolize and I think they kind of have a good feeling about their dad.

Now, I get the privilege of copying Dad again when it comes to my grandkids. My girls were young when Dad died, but they do remember him well and we talk about things they remember about him. I got to see a different side in Dad when the girls were born. It would take me too long to totally explain this, but suffice it to say this was a really neat thing. Yep, I am happy this Father s Day because of the wonderful Dad that I had, and the blessing God gave me by allowing me be a Dad. Happy Father s Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 17, 2017

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
Friday June 16, 2017

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
Thursday June 15, 2017

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

Our lives require ongoing attention. God is at work in us to do what is necessary to make us what he wants us to be. He will continue to work within us, shaping and re-shaping, producing his likeness in our lives. We need to cooperate in this process by obeying him, trusting him, and allowing him to perform his maintenance in our lives.

Paul writes, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:8) God is building within you in a positive way. He will never do anything to bring you harm. He wants to shape you into a person that reflects his character for his glory. Let him continue the construction.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 14, 2017

On March 18, 1845, John Chapman was visiting his friend, William Worth. He ate some bread, drank some milk, then laid down on the floor of Worth's cabin, went to sleep and never woke up. At 70 years of age, Johnny Appleseed had planted his last apple tree.

During his younger years, Johnny collected apple seeds from the cider presses of western Pennsylvania. He then traveled westward, planting hundreds of seeds for trees that would provide apples for thousands of people. He was a little odd to look at - usually barefoot, dressed in whatever he had to wear and using a mush pan for a hat. However, he had a heart for God and heart for others. This led him to be at peace with God and with others, including Native Americans who usually did not know what to make of this oddly dressed, odd acting white man.

Planting his apple seeds wherever he went, he called the apple blossom a "living sermon from God," and often quoted the Sermon on the Mount. During the War of 1812, he got news that the British were inciting an attack by Indians on settlers in what is now Mt. Vernon, Ohio, so he ran the 30 miles from Mansfield to warn them.

Poet William Henry Venable wrote about Johnny:

Remember Johnny Appleseed -

all ye who love the apple -

He served his kind by word and deed -

In God's grand greenwood chapel.

What kind of seeds are you planting? This is an important consideration for us. Paul speaks about planting in a couple of places. He refers to his own planting in I Corinthians 3:6-9, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." He also encourages us to plant the right seed. In Galatians 6:7 Paul tells us, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."

Johnny Appleseed sowed the right seed both with his apples and with his life. You might not sow any apple seeds, but make sure you are sowing the right kind of seed with your life!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 13, 2017

Most of us have had the experience of being a bit apprehensive about a new experience that was in front of us. Starting a new job, going to a new school, or moving to a new city are just some of the situations that can bring us a bit of anxiety, even fear. We aren't sure quite what to expect. The fear of the unknown can sometimes be a little overwhelming, and perhaps even lead us to change our minds about something even before we have tried the new experience.

I remember my first experience at summer camp. I was 10, I think, and was headed to 4-H camp. I was pretty excited about this at first, but as the time approached, I became a little apprehensive. That apprehension turned into downright terror when my folks took me to camp and then left. I had no idea what to expect or what was going on, and Mom and Dad weren t going to be there.

Are you a little afraid because you have some uncharted waters lying ahead of you? Is there an untried path just ahead you aren't too sure about? Remember the words of the Lord to Joshua as he was taking over the leadership of God's people as they were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land. God said to Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. . .Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:5-6; 9)."

Whatever that unknown experience lying ahead of you might be, face it with the courage that is yours because of the promise that is yours. God is with you and will not let you down. Maybe you haven't been there before, but God has. Follow his lead!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 13, 2017

Most of us have had the experience of being a bit apprehensive about a new experience that was in front of us. Starting a new job, going to a new school, or moving to a new city are just some of the situations that can bring us a bit of anxiety, even fear. We aren't sure quite what to expect. The fear of the unknown can sometimes be a little overwhelming, and perhaps even lead us to change our minds about something even before we have tried the new experience.

I remember my first experience at summer camp. I was 10, I think, and was headed to 4-H camp. I was pretty excited about this at first, but as the time approached, I became a little apprehensive. That apprehension turned into downright terror when my folks took me to camp and then left. I had no idea what to expect or what was going on, and Mom and Dad weren t going to be there.

Are you a little afraid because you have some uncharted waters lying ahead of you? Is there an untried path just ahead you aren't too sure about? Remember the words of the Lord to Joshua as he was taking over the leadership of God's people as they were on the verge of entering into the Promised Land. God said to Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. . .Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:5-6; 9)."

Whatever that unknown experience lying ahead of you might be, face it with the courage that is yours because of the promise that is yours. God is with you and will not let you down. Maybe you haven't been there before, but God has. Follow his lead!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 12, 2017

I am a real control freak. Actually I don't have to be "in charge" of events and situations all the time. I just like to do what I can to make sure things are going to turn out the way they should. I sometimes struggle "turning over the reigns" of projects to others. I really like to keep my hand involved in plans.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be. You can't control all things at all times. There are going to be many times when circumstances are out of your control. I knew this before I slipped and fell and broke my femur, but it has really become a real thing in my experience over the past several weeks. There are instances where you simply have no power or authority over what is taking place in your life. You can't govern all happenings. You can't "fix" all problems.

There are situations that need to be left in the hands of God. There are times we must relinquish ownership of things, including the problems and struggles we face, and acknowledge the ownership of God. The scriptures tell us that all things belong to God. This includes our lives, even the struggles in our lives. Psalm 24:1 tells us "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." We need to live as if we believe this.

God has invested heavily in our lives. He created us, and he created a way for us to be able to live with him forever. So, don't try to be a control freak with God. Remember whose you are and let him be in charge.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 11, 2017

Yesterday the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown for Thoroughbreds was run. The winner yesterday at the race that is run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, was Tapwrit. The United States Triple Crown for Thoroughbreds includes the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. To win all three races is quite a feat, but this year there was to be no Triple Crown champion as the Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming, was defeated by Cloud Computing at the Preakness. Neither Always Dreaming or Cloud Computing competed at Belmont.

Only 12 horses have won all three races in the 100-plus year history of the series. The last horse to do so was American Pharoah in 2015. He was the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Perhaps the greatest horse to ever win the Triple Crown, and arguably the greatest thoroughbred ever, was Secretariat.

Secretariat's golden year was 1973 when he won 9 races including the Triple Crown. He won the Belmont by an astounding 31 lengths and in a time that is still a world record for a 1.5 mile race. What was it about Secretariat that made him such a great champion? Upon his death at 19 in 1989, an answer to this question was discovered. His heart was found to be 2.5 times larger than the normal thoroughbred's heart a heart of a champion in the literal sense of the phrase.

We need to have a big heart. I would imagine that you know what I mean by this not a literally over-sized organ in our chest, but an over-sized desire to do what we should in our service to God and in our service to others. We need a big heart when it comes to our generosity, our efforts to help others, and in our endeavors to be useful to God.

Proverbs 23:26 tells us that the Lord desires our heart, "Give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways." God wants our heart so he can make it his. He wants to enlarge our hearts. I hope you have a big heart.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 10, 2017

According to recent studies there has been a dramatic decline in honeybees over the past few years. At first glance, this might appear to be just mildly problematic, especially if you don't care all that much for honey (although I really can't relate to that). However, when you learn that almost one-third of all the vegetables you eat depend upon help from the honeybees during the pollination process, you realize how serious this problem is. California almond farmers bring in truckloads of bee hives from all over the country to insure pollination of their trees. Bees are our friends.

Researchers are at a loss to explain why bees are "dropping dead." Everything from pesticides to global warming to cell phones have been blamed, but no certain cause has been discovered. I find it quite fascinating that we are so dependent upon those little creatures that "buzz" around, flitting from flower to flower tirelessly, doing what bees have done for thousands of years.

There is a great interdependency in God's creation. That is the way he has it designed, and is an important reason for us to be good stewards of what he has given us. The interdependency in nature is mirrored by the interdependency in other areas in life. This is the way God has it designed.

John Donne wrote in Meditation XVII, "No man is an island, entire of itself." This is so true of humankind in general, and certainly true in the Church. God intended for us to be interdependent, to be connected to each other for encouragement, support, strength, and assistance.

We need to remember how vital our presence is within the lives of others and within our churches. We need to remember the role others have in our lives. We depend upon the honeybee for more than just honey. We depend upon others for more than just an occasional "How are you doing?"

The writer of Hebrews tells us to "encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today" (3:13) and to "encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (10:25). We really do need each other. This is how God made us so that we don't have to "go it alone." "Bee" there for others, and be glad that others will "bee" there for you! (Sorry about that - couldn't help myself)

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 09, 2017

Sometimes people can just rub you the wrong way. Maybe they are critical of you when you are trying to do your best to get a job accomplished. Maybe they are overly demanding and have unrealistic expectations. There are just some individuals you just can't seem to please. How do you respond to these folks? One way to respond is to realize there are many different personalities and give thanks for the variety we encounter in life. Learn to appreciate and even show graciousness to those who seem destined to bring your grief.

Paul spoke of folks with whom he had struggles and were unappreciative of his ministry. He refers to some of his critics in II Corinthians 10:10, "For some say, 'His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.'" Paul continued to minister to these folks as best he could. Paul understood the wisdom in Abraham Lincoln's words long before Lincoln was around, "You can please some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all the time."

When you encounter folks that just don't seem to appreciate you, focus on those who do. Ask God for wisdom and help to show love to those who irritate you. I know this isn't an easy thing to do, and I am not so naïve as to think this way of thinking appeals to all, but God can and will supply grace for us to do things that are difficult.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 08, 2017

On September 28, 1928, Alexander Fleming walked into his laboratory at St. Mary's Hospital in London, England, and made an interesting discovery. Some of his Staphylococcus cultures had been contaminated by a mold, later identified as Penicillium notatum. Fleming noted that in the contaminated cultures, no staph bacteria would grow around the mold. In fact, the bacteria was killed by the penicillium mold.

This accidental discovery led to the development of the antibiotic Penicillin. The significance of this chance development cannot be overstated. It is impossible to determine how many lives have been saved by penicillin and other antibiotics that have been created since the time of that contaminated Petri dish.

This fascinating real event shows how accidental events can bring about good things. However, we certainly shouldn't depend on accidents to make things happen in our lives that need to happen in our lives. We need to be pro-active in developing our character, our impact on others, and our contributions to our world. This is true in our lives in general and certainly in our spiritual lives. Fleming made his best-known discovery by accident, but the elements involved in this discovery were present because of his work and effort.

Don't depend upon accidents to bring good things to your life and to those in your life. Don't depend upon accidents when it comes to developing your spiritual life and your relationship with God. Events such as what happened in 1928 do take place and that is great. Just continue to be intentional when it comes to your maturity. Psalm 119:2 tells us, "Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart." This verse focuses upon intentions, not accidents. We should do the same.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 07, 2017
Early followers of Christ used the pelican as a symbol of Christianity. You may wonder how it is that this odd-looking bird came to be used in this way. There is an ancient legend, going back before the time of Christ, that speaks of the sacrificial nature of the pelican. According to the legend, in times when food was scarce, a mother pelican would wound herself by striking her breast with her beak and feed her young with her own blood. This legend is found in Christian literature as early as the second century AD. Many writers used this legend when speaking of the sacrifice of Christ.

While the story of the pelican may be a legend, we know the sacrifice of Christ is real. Hebrews 9:14 tells us, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" Christ gave himself, sacrificed himself, for us. But, to what end? So that we may receive life and serve God. We, in turn, need to be sacrificial in our lives because we owe our lives to Christ.

Through the years many have given the complete sacrifice of their lives for the sake of Christ. Many still give their lives for Christ's sake. We may not be called upon to sacrifice in this way, but we should be willing to give because of what we have received. Paul reflects this sacrificial attitude in Acts 20:24, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

Live sacrificially to serve God and to serve others. Consider the legend of the pelican, but, more importantly, consider the reality of Christ. His sacrifice provides life for us and gives an example of how we should live for him and for others.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 06, 2017

I remember reading an account written by a person who attended a conference at a church that had a shuttle service in the parking lot because of the size. To help folks remember where their cars were parked, the church had painted words on the lampposts rather than numbers. They used biblical terms such as "love," "faithfulness," "kindness," and "patience." The writer of the story said these terms proved to be helpful in more than one way - they reminded the attendees what sort of characteristics they should display as they struggled with the crowd exiting the parking lot. This was done to prevent tempers from flaring, angry words being spoken, and impatience demonstrated.

It is amazing how quickly one can lose the love for others in a crowded parking lot. There are many circumstances that may cause us to lose our love for others, display impatience, and act less than kind. We need to be on guard for this, and go against the grain when we are tempted to put our anger on stage. We talk about loving each other, but how quickly that love can disappear when someone takes our seat or cuts us off or some other activity that raises our blood pressure.

As followers of Christ, we need to exercise self-control in order to avoid offending someone else with our behavior when things get tense. We need to allow what we say to affect how we live at all times and especially at those moments in life when we find ourselves becoming angry.

Proverbs 16:32 tells us, "Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city." Proverbs 25:28 continues, "Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control." Self-control is actually the last fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:23. Don't lose our love in a parking lot, or on a road, or in a check-out line, or wherever! Let love and patience reign in every circumstance in your life!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 05, 2017

Do you remember the TV commercial advertising Bridgestone tires where a driver approaching a bridge swerves to miss a beaver that is dragging a tree limb across the road? The beaver waves appreciatively as the driver continues across the bridge. In the next scene, the driver is approaching the same bridge sometime later, only this time he is doing so in a tremendous storm. Just before he gets to the bridge, a tree falls across the road causing him to stop. This is a good thing, as the bridge has been washed away by a flash flood. But why did the tree fall at just the right time? Well, the beaver had cut the tree down to protect his benefactor.

Now, I know this is sort of a goofy presentation, but I think it is a great illustration of the timeless concept presented by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12) This has come to be known as "The Golden Rule," and as with so many other important truths, our familiarity with this teaching often diminishes the significance for us.

We need to make sure this does not happen. We need to treat others well - with kindness, care, and love. We should do good things for others. Now, we shouldn't do good things with the expectation of being "repaid," we simply need to do good things for others and treat others well.

The funny thing about that quirky commercial is the story is presented in such a way as to make you realize the driver really didn't expect anything back from the kindness he demonstrated when he swerved. Well, actually, the point was to show the superiority of the kind of tires the driver had. However, he is truly surprised when he sees what, or rather who, saved his life. We need to be givers, not expecting anything back. We need to be kind, even when we are not treated kindly in return (another principle Christ teaches elsewhere in the Sermon).

So, whether you swerve to save the life of a hapless creature, or decide to help someone with a task they can't accomplish on their own, do so gladly and freely, with no expectations of a return. Just don't be too surprised if you do find a tree in your path sometime.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 04, 2017

I have always been a big fan of astronomy; but I have not spent enough time practicing astronomy to learn all the constellations and where they are. I did take a college course in astronomy, but even after that, I didn't keep up well with what I learned. I can find the North Star, the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Orion, and the planets when they are visible, but I certainly don't brag about my efforts. I find it fascinating that some of the constellations are mentioned in the scripture, "He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south." (Job 9:9)

Gazing at the night sky is an awe-inspiring thing to do. All those points of light are far-away stars that are actually huge, even though they appear small. Yet even as small as they appear, they are brilliant against the inky blackness of the night sky. These night stars serve to illuminate, to inform, and to inspire. They provide illumination in the darkness of the night. They inform as travelers have used them for centuries as guides. They inspire as looking at them brings about a sense of wonder and awe.

These characteristics should also be found in the life of the follower of Christ. We are to be like stars. Paul writes, "Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life." (Philippians 2:15) We are to illuminate by providing light to a darkened world as we reflect the glory of Christ. We are to inform as we serve as guides to those who are lost. We are to inspire as we serve Christ.

Our lives should be examples of how one should live to please the Lord. How bright is your star shining? Do your best to make sure you are shining like stars in the sky.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 03, 2017

Pablo Casals of Spain was the preeminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and perhaps the greatest cellist of all time. His father, a church organist and choirmaster, gave him instruction in music at an early age. He taught him the piano, violin, and organ. Pablo and his older brother were required to stand behind the piano and identify what note was being played, what chord was being played, or what scale was being played.

At four, he could play the piano; at six he was proficient on the violin. Later, he turned to the cello. At the age of 95, he was asked why he still practiced the cello six hours a day. He said, "Because I think I am making progress."

We need this type of attitude with regard to making progress in our Christian lives. We should never feel as if we have "made it." Our desire should be to continue to learn and to grow, to continue to make progress regardless of how far along the journey we have come. )

Paul wrote, "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:12). As followers of Christ, we should never think we have reached some self-defined pinnacle of success. Along with Paul and along with Casals, we need to keep practicing because we think we are "making progress."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 02, 2017

Sometimes trying to explain to someone else what you mean is frustrating. There are times when communication just seems to break down and we experience difficulty in describing to someone else what we are thinking or how to do something or how to find something.

Christ was having that experience with a group of people who really didn't like what they were hearing. They did not understand at all what he was saying. Their reaction was hostile and revealed their underlying attitude towards him. He said to them, "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say." (John 8:43) In essence, they simply did not want to hear what he had to say. As believers, we can hear what Christ is saying to us; however, we need to be careful that we don't fall into the trap of not hearing simply because we don't like what we are hearing.

As we read God's Word, we often encounter principles and precepts that inform us of needed changes in our lives. Because we don't want to make those changes, we allow for a communication breakdown and ignore what we are hearing. I don't know how much this frustrates Christ, but I do know it isn't a good idea.

My family has complained about my hearing problem for years. Even before my daughters left home, they complained about my seeming inability to hear. . I would always say, Well, I m a little hard of hearing because of the rock music I used to play and listen to. No, Dad, you aren t hard of hearing, you have selective hearing. You hear what you want to hear.

We can be like this with the Lord, can t we? But we shouldn't be. Work on your hearing when it comes to Christ's words. They are important and we really need to hear what he has to say!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 01, 2017

Worry is an interesting thing. It is something that most of us do at one time or another and there are those who tend to worry more than others. How many of the things that you worry about actually happen? How many things happen that you hadn't worried about? We often worry about things we think will be a reality, and then something else happens that was not even on our radar. Don Herold said, "If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd have fewer imaginary ones."

I read a story recently of a World War II paratrooper who had survived more than 50 missions only to break four ribs in a fall upon his return home after the war was over. He worried about his missions, but then something happened about which he had never even given a thought - he tripped on a rug! Worry cannot change circumstances which are happening, nor can it prevent circumstances from taking place.

Christ said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life (Matthew 6:25-27)?"

Christ wants to take care of our needs (read the rest of Matthew 6). Temper your worry with the reality that God is in control. As someone once said, "We need to do what we can do and then let God step in when we can't."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 31, 2017

"Always read the fine print" is advice we know and understand. Many of us have been "zapped" in some way because we failed to notice a disclaimer in a piece of advertising or perhaps in a contract that was not really in plain sight. I mean, the statement was there all right, it was just printed with a much smaller typeface and maybe even placed in a position in the form or on the screen that was not readily apparent.

I remember a TV ad from a restaurant chain saying they are going to give away free breakfast sandwiches. Wow! That's great! Just don't fail to notice the little sentence at the bottom of the screen "with the purchase of a breakfast sandwich at regular price." This is still a nice offer, but the sandwich is not exactly free.

Aren't you happy that God doesn't use fine print? Whenever he makes a statement about something or gives a promise, there isn't any disclaimer. We read in Psalm 18:30, "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him." Everything you need to know is laid out right there before you. Of course, you still need to read it! It's just you don't have to worry about needing to pull out the magnifying glass to make sure you have read it all!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 30, 2017

The other day Scherry and I were traveling along a road outside of the town where we live. Up ahead in the field that was alongside the road, I could see a sizeable cloud of dust. As we got closer, I could see that the cause of the cloud was a tractor pulling a planter. I was impressed by the size - not of the equipment, that is a common thing here - but of the dust cloud. Saying we have received a great deal of rain in recent weeks is a bit of an understatement. I was amazed that the ground had dried out that much is such a short period of time making the large dust cloud possible.

The effects of the absence of moisture were evident. It doesn t take dirt long to dry out, it doesn't take long for us to dry out physically if we don t have moisture, and it doesn t take long for us to dry out spiritually in the absence of a good drink of spiritual refreshment. Many of us may be walking around in "dust clouds" because we are not replenishing ourselves correctly.

God warns against this, "They have turned away from me, the spring of living water. And they have dug their own wells, which are broken wells that cannot hold water." (Jeremiah 2:13) We need to make sure we are doing what we should to maintain a good relationship with our Father. We can easily experience a "dust bowl" in our spiritual lives if we don t hydrate regularly. In our physical experience, dry mouth, a thick tongue, headache, and weakness are the results of dehydration. If we experience spiritual dehydration, the effects can be bitterness, worry, guilt, and fear. Make sure you are doing what you should to stay hydrated so you can avoid these problems and present a positive picture of Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 29, 2017

Today is Memorial Day. Among the many discussions regarding the origins of this day is the name of John A. Logan, He was the commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a post-Civil War organization. On May 5, 1868, he issued a proclamation establishing May 30 as a day of "strewing flowers on the graves of those who lost their lives during the recent conflict." This date was chosen as it was not a date of any of the battles of the Civil War.

The city fathers of Ironton, Ohio, were on the ball with their observance of this first Memorial Day, or "Decoration Day", as they planned a parade for that date. Ironton has had a Memorial Day Parade every year since. I grew up a few miles from Ironton and attended that parade annually as I was growing up. I have marched in the parade and driven vehicles in the parade. Ironton has the distinction of having the oldest continuously-running Memorial Day Parade in the nation. Now that is something to boast about!

Sometimes we need to be careful about boasting. Boasting can get us in trouble in some circumstances, or at least put us in a negative light. I find it hard to be around someone who likes to boast about themselves. It is one thing to project confidence but persistent bragging about oneself is off-putting.

There is someone about whom we would do well to boast. Paul told his readers, "God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'" (I Corinthians 1:28 & 31)

Folks in Ironton do have a reason to boast when it comes to the Memorial Day parade. As Dizzy Dean said, "It's not bragging if you can back it up." Followers of Christ have an even better reason to boast when it comes to the Savior. I think what Dean said would apply here as well. In addition, let's not forget to brag about those we wish to honor today - the men and women who paid the ultimate price in the defense of principles we hold hear. We need to brag about them. We owe them a great deal.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 28, 2017

Two acquaintances were talking about the benefits of church attendance. One said, "I don't see the point - I never recall what the pastor said in his sermon." The other asked, "Do you recall what you had for dinner a week ago today?" "No," replied the first. "But you ate and you did derive benefit from the meal, didn't you?" The first man said, "Yes, I did."

Sometimes details of meals, and many other experiences, escape us as most of us do not possess encyclopedic memory. However, we cannot deny the benefits we derive from our experiences, especially our meals. So, to use the idea that we "can t remember" to justify our non-attendance of church functions simply is incorrect. Each encounter we have with God's Word leaves us with benefits. These encounters may come in a variety of ways, and certainly our worship time is one. In addition, there are any other aspects of worship that benefit us and give us the opportunity to reflect on God's person and character with other believers.

This is the prime goal of worship. When we gather with other believers, we are able to participate in an experience of showing God our love for him in a way that we really cannot accomplish on our own. We receive from him "nourishment" though his Word and other means that is unique to that experience.

Psalm 119:33-35 says, "Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight." Each encounter we have with God through reading, teaching, music, praise, and preaching brings lasting benefits and feeds our soul. Be careful when you say, "I don t remember," you may have received more than you think!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 27, 2017

There is a memorable line uttered by Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in the 1973 film "Magnum Force." In commenting about another of the film's characters, he says "A man's got to know his limitations." A seemingly innocuous statement that is actually fraught with wisdom.

We need to know our limitations. We need to know our weaknesses - those areas of our life that can cause us grief physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We need to know the situations we should avoid that could lead us to into trouble. A common denominator found in all of the situations in scripture where we see someone failing ethically, morally, or spiritually is failure on the part of the person to see the danger of the circumstance and take steps to avoid the danger. God told Cain, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7)."

What should we do when we find ourselves in situation that tests our limitations? Well, Paul offers good advice to Timothy that we can emulate, "flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (I Timothy 6:11)." Joseph is an example of a person who followed this advice hundreds of years before it was offered. He "knew his limitations" when his master's wife tried to seduce him, and he simply ran (read Genesis 39).

Know your limitations, and then where you are faced with a circumstance where those limits are tested, take action. Even "Dirty Harry" knew this was good advice!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 26, 2017

Yesterday I learned something about ballroom dancing. I was watching the NFL channel and, much to my chagrin, a dancing tutorial broke out. The guest being interviewed was Rashad Jennings, running back with the New York Giants and the recent winner of "Dancing with the Stars." He was there along with his professional dance partner, Emma Slater. He gave his take on why so many former NFL stars have won DWTS competitions, how conditioned he was because of the intensity of the workouts, and all he had learned about dancing. "You just don t go out there and move around, you need to learn how to do things right. In my first session with Emma, she told me to 'set the frame.' I had no idea what she was talking about."

In actuality, I didn't either, so I looked up this "set the frame" thing. I found out it is an integral part of dancing, particularly ballroom dancing. According to Wikipedia, "A frame is a stable structural combination of both bodies maintained through the dancers' arms and/or legs, and allows the leader to transmit body movement to the follower, and for the follower to suggest ideas to the leader." This needs to happen for the dance to take place, look good, and go well. I thought to myself as I was conducting this ad hoc research, "This sounds like something we should do in our relationship with God."

If we "set the frame" correctly, then we are putting ourselves in the proper position to be led by God, to be sensitive to the suggestions God gives us, and for all to go well because we are responding properly to his leadership. Amazing what you learn when you tune in to a show thinking you are going to get some information about football, isn't it?.

How have you done with "setting the frame" with God? We should say to God, "Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day." (Psalm 25:4-5) I really don't know what God thinks about ballroom dancing, but I do know he wants us to follow his lead. Make sure you set the frame.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 25, 2017

As is usual for this time of year, schools are dismissing for summer vacation. Graduations are taking place and students are walking through their schools for the final time. When I see this taking place, my thoughts turn towards our position as "older folks" to help the younger generations learn what they need to know. We should seek God s assistance in the process of preparing our children for life.

One of the most compelling stories in all of scripture is that of Hannah and her son, Samuel. Hannah was childless and prayed fervently not only for a child, but specifically asked for a son (I Samuel 1:9-11). She told the Lord that if he would give her a son, she would offer him to the Lord. She prayed, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head (I Samuel 1:11)." God honored her request, and Hannah kept her promise. When the child was old enough, she brought him to the house of God. She brought him there not just for consecration, but to present him to the Lord for good.

We need to leave our children in the hands of the Lord. We must do all we can to give them a strong spiritual and moral foundation so that when the call to follow other paths weighs heavily upon them, they can make the right choice. We need to teach them well so that the lessons other factions may try to put in their lives will fall upon deaf ears. Television, internet, peers, culture, all speak loudly. When these voices are speaking the wrong things, our children need to have the ability to make good decisions. This comes from their family and their family at church. We need to teach them well.

We "give" our children to the Lord through our prayer for them, our modeling spiritual behavior before them, and our teaching them to follow Christ. Give them to God so they will know the way of truth.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 24, 2017

Have you ever had super glue or oil-based paint on your fingers? Substances like these just don't come off easily. Washing with soap and water has little effect - the stuff just keeps right on sticking. It won t come off, unless you use the right material to remove it. What you need is some sort of solvent. Use of the correct solvent will remove the problem of the super glue or the paint.

Sometimes we seem to run into burdens that we just can't seem to remove. I don't know why we often have this tendency, but we seem to hang on to things that we need to turn over to God. We seem to hang on to sins, cares, and concerns that need to be placed in God's hands for removal. The joy and reality of the Christian life is that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us so much that he wants to remove the things from our lives that tend to bog us down, keep us depressed, and interfere in our relationship with Him and with others.

Persistent, consistent, and intentional prayer can help us place these burdens in God's capable hands. Doing a little exercise such as writing about the burden or problem, then burning, shredding, or simply throwing away the paper, can be helpful as it allows us visualize the action of turning the issue over to God.

We sing a little chorus at church that says, "I cast all my cares upon you; I lay all of my burdens down at your feet. And anytime I don't know what to do, I just cast all my cares upon you." This is something we can do; something we need to do. Those burdens that seem to want to "stick around" can be removed if we do the right thing by giving them to God. Psalm 55:22 tells us to "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you." Give God your burden and that can take care of the problem of the paint.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 23, 2017

Some time ago I had a rather embarrassing moment at church. Before I broke my leg, I made tea and lemonade each Wednesday for our fellowship dinners at church. One particular evening, folks arrived, got their food, and sat down to eat as usual. Soon, one said, "Steve, this unsweetened tea is sweetened, and the sweetened tea is REALLY sweet." I thought, "That can't be - I made this tea as I always do." I tried the tea, and just as I had been told, the unsweetened was sweet and the sweetened tea was somewhere in the area of maple syrup. How in the world did this happen? Many suggested, "Well, you just got the containers mixed up." I knew I hadn't done that as I "check twice and pour once," but what else could it be? This explanation still did not explain how all the tea was sweetened.

The dinner continued and we warned folks about the mix up. I was ready to chalk up the event as another incident brought on by my increasing forgetfulness, then someone checked the tea bags. "Hey, did you know these tea bags are pre-sweetened?" No, I certainly didn't, or I would not have used them for the unsweetened tea. This little revelation certainly solved the mystery and helped me to feel a bit better about my forgetfulness; however, it did not absolve the fact that I hadn't checked the label on the new tea bags before I used them.

Checking labels is a good thing. Because of our health issues, my wife and I have gotten better about this, except for this tea incident. This is also a good thing to remember when it comes to other things we are putting on our inside. What are we reading? What are we viewing? To what do we listen? How is our conversation? What kind of stories are we sharing? Are we talking in a way that we shouldn't - listening and sharing some things we might call "off-color?" Do we like to listen to and share those things that amount to nothing more than gossip?

Proverbs 23:7 tells us, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. 'Eat and drink!' he says to you'" What are we putting on our inside? I know you have heard the old saying, "It's what's on the inside that counts." This is true - and we need to be careful about what we are putting in.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 22, 2017

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. Often we get this turned around.

Jesus met several people like this when he was on earth, and one incident led him to tell a story to illustrate the problem. 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 spoke about a 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 identifying your greatest fear.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 21, 2017
There is a video on YouTube that if you have not seen, you are in the minority. It has received more than 47 million views. The scene is a bustling mall food court at Christmas time. Suddenly the background music changes to an organ playing the "Hallelujah Chorus." Then, one young lady stands and begins to sing. She is joined by another, then two more, and soon many others join in singing. A local opera company had "planted" many of their singers for this event, but as the song progresses, they are joined by almost the entire crowd singing this great anthem together. You really need to watch this to appreciate it. At the end, almost everyone in the food court is involved, and a great chorus of applause breaks out at the conclusion. What an interesting and special event to have break into an otherwise routine day!

This reminds me of what God does at times in our lives. He breaks in to bring his glory into what we might consider ordinary events. This is what we need to be doing in our world - bringing the glory of God into our normal, ordinary circumstances to reflect his person to others. We need to bring a portrayal of Christlikeness into all situations in our lives. This shows our appreciation to God for this wonderful love and it shows to others the marvel of being a follower of Christ.

Psalm 96:3 tells us that we are to "Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." Don't just wait for "special" times to do this - do this in every ordinary event in your lives so that others may see him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 20, 2017

This is my last installment in my "mentor" series. I conclude this run by writing about another person who had a profound impact upon me as I was growing up. Bill Morgan was my high school football coach and also my teacher for Problems in American Democracy, a class I had my senior year in high school. Teachers can be mentors, and I had several teachers that left a strong impression on me in a positive way. Coach Morgan did this, and what I learned from him had a significant effect on how I live my life even now, so he is the person in my educational background that stands out in a unique way.

Coach Morgan instilled within me the confidence to step outside myself and do things that I didn't think I might be able to do. I know that is the reason I returned to football after sitting out my sophomore year for a number of reasons. I came back to football because I love the game, but I also had a strong desire to be under Coach Morgan's tutelage. I don't know if you would call it the "Pied Piper" effect, but I just wanted to have the opportunity to have him as a coach again.

I know for most of you football is just a game, and in one sense it is. From this "game" I learned a great deal about life. I learned the importance of individual responsibility - that is, how you live and what you do can have a profound effect on others. I Corinthians 12:18, "God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be." I learned about unity - how that a number of individuals who unite for a common purpose and work together can accomplish a great deal more than disjointed efforts. "f they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body." (I Corinthians 12:19-20) I learned about how to remain determined and strong in spite of hardships and having the "odds against you." "Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience." (Colossians 1:11) I learned about how to inspire others to keep moving forward despite efforts to keep you back. "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." (I Thessalonians 5:11)

Coach Morgoan was instrumental in inculcating all of these lessons, and many others, within me. Football is indeed a game, but as with many other endeavors, it can be great vehicle of instruction if you have the right person doing the driving. I did back then and I still do now think that Coach Morgan was a great driver.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 19, 2017

Youth leaders, either in church or organizations, are often mentors. Such was the case in my experience. I can list a number of people who would be in this category for me both through church and other organizations such as Scouting and 4-H. Among those I could list, there is one person who stands out prominently - Bill Haney. Bill Haney was the teacher of the High School class at my church. He became the teacher the year I moved to the high school class. At that time, the guys and the gals were separated, so he had a room full of rather energetic young men that he had volunteered to teach. I suppose he knew what he was getting into; all I can say is whether he did or whether he didn't, I am glad he took the class.

Bill taught us, and taught us well. He instilled in me a desire to know more about what God was saying through His Word. We spent time with him not only during the period allotted at church, but he would have us come to his home for more study. I don't remember how many weeks it took us, but the first time I went through the book of Revelation was in Bill Haney's living room. I didn t fully appreciate all he did in this regard until I got older and became a youth leader as well. Through what he said and through what he did, Bill communicated his desire for us to be shaped into people who loved God and appreciated His Word. He was there for church camps, youth nights at church, ball games, and so many other activities.

Bill was not a full-time worker in the church - he had a job at a steel mill across the river from where he lived. This didn't keep him from devoting time to us in all the ways I just mentioned. I know we didn't, or at least I didn't, fully appreciate this when I was a kid, but as I reflect on how I was affected because of Bill's presence in my life during those years, I certainly do now. I am glad Bill, along with his dear wife Rita, were willing to devote their time to work with us time they could have been doing other things. They chose to spend that time with us. That was 45 years ago, and they are still at it. I think their lives give flesh to the verse, "Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." Because of Bill Haney's commitment to building the lives of others, I think a number of people, myself included, can say our plans have been established.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 18, 2017

Besides my grandpa, another person who had a prominent place as a mentor to me during my early ministry was Rev. Jennings Deeds. Jennings was my pastor from the time I was born until just before I moved to Texas in 1979. Forty-six years ago when I told my church about my desire to enter the ministry, Jennings was there to support me and offer thoughts on what was ahead of me.

Jennings had already spent a good bit of time with me on a number of projects. He had worked with me to help me obtain the God and Country Award in Boy Scouts. Jennings took risks with me, including getting me into the pulpit soon after my ministry announcement (like one week). He helped me in many areas and gave me opportunities to either sink or swim when it came to the development of my gifts.

I always hope Jennings knew how much he was appreciated - I took the time to thank him on a number of occasions - but I hope he truly understood how much I felt indebted to him for his time and patience with me. Jennings went to be with the Lord many years ago. The last time I was with him was in a hospital room with him in a coma. As I stood by his bed, I was glad that I had taken the time to tell him how much he meant to me and how grateful I was for his involvement in my life.

Do you have folks in your life who have served as mentors to you in some regard? Do you have folks who have taken risks to allow you to develop your ministry skills and help you grow spiritually? Family members, pastors, teachers, youth leaders, and friends are all examples of folks who perhaps have helped shape your life in Christ. Make sure you take the time to thank them and let them know how you feel about what they have done for you. We need to express to people what Paul did to the Philippians, "I thank my God every time I remember you." (Philippians 1:3) Don t hesitate to express your thanks.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 17, 2017

Any list of mentors I would formulate would have to include my Uncle John, my mother s brother. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be as tall as he was (6' 5"). That didn't happen. I wanted to be able to play basketball like John. That didn't happen either. My youngest brother got the basketball genes. During the 50's. John played college ball with future NBA Hall of Famer Hal Greer at Marshall College (now Marshall University).

John taught me how to shoot a gun, how to shoot a basketball, how to run wiring, how to make fried green tomatoes, and so many other things. He taught me how to drive a stick shift. Now, Dad had attempted this, but, well, things just didn t work out as hoped. John had me driving the tractor when I was about 10 or 11, and at age 12, he threw me (well, not literally) behind the wheel of my Dad's pickup truck and said, "We need someone to drive the truck when we put up hay. I am going to teach you how to drive with the clutch, and you are not going to drop off a single bale of hay." John worked with me, and I drove that day. I didn't lose a single bale.

All of these experiences with my Uncle John not only taught me how to do the various activities, these experiences taught me how to teach. My undergraduate degree was in education I majored in Biology and English but when I think about what I learned about the teaching process, I have to include my experience with my Uncle John as a great influence in how I teach others. Helping others learn is important; helping others learn how to share what they learn is equally as important.

Let me relate an incident that underscores this thought. Remember that John taught me how to drive a standard shift. Not long after Scherry and I were married, John appeared at our back door. He looked a bit exasperated. John pointed to the car in the driveway where my cousin, his 16-year-old daughter, was sitting behind the wheel. He looked at me and said, "Teach her to drive." "John," I replied, "You were the one who taught me to drive." "I know," he said, "But I can't teach her." He had just bought her a car with a stick shift, and things were going pretty rough. To make a long story short, I got in the car with Nichole, took her out on the road and, using the same technique my uncle had used with me years earlier, taught her how to drive a standard shift flawlessly. No need to go into great detail here - just use this as an example of how teaching others what we have been taught is an important thing.

Jesus said, "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:40) My uncle was one of my mentors. I learned a lot of skills and lessons from him, not the least of which was how to be a mentor myself.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 16, 2017

This is day three of my "Mentors Series." My grandparents on my Mom's side, John and Angie Mayfield, were definitely important mentors for me. Unfortunately, I didn't get to know Dad's folks very well. My Grandpa James died before I was born and my Grandma Alice died when I was 13.

I spent a great deal of time with my Papaw and Mamaw Mayfield. Mamaw took care of us when Mom taught. Papaw had retired from the railroad and was a minister. I learned a great deal of theology at my grandparents' kitchen table. They both were "instructors" of my early education, but let me tell you about my grandpa. Once again, I'll just write a couple of things about him as writing a book would not be a stretch.

From Papaw I learned that you can spend time in worship of God just about anywhere you are. Papaw could turn building a barbed wire fence into a religious experience. I know that because he also taught me how to build a barbed wire fence. He never stopped talking about his love for the Lord and how much Christ meant to him.

Please don't take this the wrong way, and I know this may sound odd, but are you familiar with the movie "Forrest Gump?" Do you remember how the story unfolds with Forrest sitting on a bench and relating his tale to anyone who came by? Oh, that made me think of my Papaw. I told you his would sound strange. Now my grandpa was not Forrest Gump, but I have a mental picture of him sitting on a park bench sharing about how much he loved Jesus with anyone who happens to sit next to him. I hope I have this same love for the Lord. Papaw was certainly an embodiment of what Christ said was the greatest commandment, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." (Luke 10:27)

From my Papaw, I also learned about forgiveness. I ve written about his before, so this may sound familiar to some of you. When I was 6, I broke the antenna off my Papaw s 1954 Ford. Well, the radio didn't work - why did he need the antenna? So, what did he do? He made me a fishing pole. I actually used that pole to catch my first fish. I still have that pole in my office. Papaw's actions towards me were the embodiment of Paul's words, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)

Papaw was a mentor to me as I began my ministry. He was my first hermeneutics instructor. He guided me through the process of developing a sermon. I delivered my first sermon 46 years ago - a message based on Matthew 9:37-38. That would not have happened without the careful guidance of my wonderful mentor - Papaw Mayfield. Throughout my ministerial career, I have hoped to be at least partially as compassionate, courageous, and committed as he. That would be a good thing.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 15, 2017

I was glad Dad survived so he could be my mentor. I am writing about folks who were my mentors and, of course, my Dad was a major one for me. Now, a bit of clarification regarding my initial statement. Along with three of his brothers, Dad served in World War II and had he not survived, he could not have been a mentor for me. Of course, if Dad had not survived, there would have not been a me, at least not the me that I am. This is too much of a cosmic thought to dwell on so let me get more to the point.

Dad was in some pretty rough action in the Pacific Theater. He fought at Eniwetok, Saipan, Guadalcanal, Okinawa, and other places. But he came home, married Mom, and had three sons for whom he was a significant mentor. Dad was not an intentional mentor, that is, he really never made it his place to purposefully design teaching experiences. He taught by example through how he lived and through what he expected of us.

As with Mom, I could write volumes on what I learned from Dad, but I need to keep this brief. There are two things I would like to say. First, Dad let us know that we were important to him. I didn't think about this much when I was young, but as I grew older and looked back, there were so many experiences that played out the way they did because my Dad took the route to put his boys first. Like the time he skipped an important union meeting to make sure I got to basketball practice. My brothers and I had a groups that sang in churches and other places. Dad rarely missed a performance.

God does this for us as well. He lets us know we are important to him. There are many scriptures that bear this out, but one that comes to mind is Matthew 10:31, "Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Of course, Christ's death on the cross also says a great deal about how much God thinks of us.

Secondly, I learned from Dad the value of integrity. Dad was a plain-spoken individual. He didn't say things to bring harm or to berate, he just spoke the truth. This was part of who he was, and he was known for this. And this was a lesson that was impressed upon me as I observed Dad and his interactions with others.

Integrity is a characteristic that is held in high esteem by God. It is a characteristic that should be held in high esteem by us but often it isn't. In Proverbs 6:16 - 19, we read of seven "detestable things" that the Lord hates. Three of these seven are directly related to the issue of integrity - "a lying tongue," "a heart that devises wicked schemes," and "a false witness who pours out lies." It can be argued that integrity is involved is some of the other "detestable things." Dad was definitely on base with God in this area. Well, he was on base with God period, but for the sake of my emphasis, he was certainly in agreement with God on the issue of integrity. Dad did not lie and did not appreciate those who did. God tells us that is the way we should be. I want to be that way to please my Heavenly Father, and to follow in the footsteps of my Dad.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 14, 2017

My mother was a really good mentor for me. Many of you can say the same thing about your moms. Now, I had a number of mentors, and I am going to spend a few days talking about them, but since this is Mother s Day, I want to talk about my mom.

I cannot begin to write about all I learned from Mom, so I will limit my presentation to one thing. This is what I will do in my subsequent articles about other mentors I have had. But let me talk about my Mom. Resiliency among so many other lessons I learned from her, this is one that I think stands out. I ve written about this before, so forgive my redundancy, but I think it bears repeating.

Mom loved life and talked constantly about how she considered her life as blessed. Her viewpoint did not come about because she felt she had avoided struggles and events that are usually looked upon as downers. She couldn t say that. As with most folks, Mom had her share of setbacks. She lost four siblings by the time she was seven years of age. She was raised during the Depression years. At the age of 13, she survived a bout with typhoid fever. World War II delayed her education plans and she went to work in a plant that made artillery shells. She had her share of surgeries including knee and hip replacement, and an open-heart surgery when she was stabbed in the heart by one of the wires on her pacemaker. About two and one-half years before her death, she fell and broke her leg. This required surgery. And there were the universal situations of life loss of her parents and Dad s death as well as other health issues. Last but not least, she survived raising three sons. Her saying remained through this, I am so blessed.

This is the fifth Mother s Day since Mom s death, and I still miss her, but I am glad for where she is. She is where she needs to be. And what she taught me through her life and through her teaching is still with me. She taught me how to keep going forward when things happen to set you back. Yep, Mom was an excellent mentor.

The statements about mothers found in Proverbs 31:28-31 certainly apply to her, Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Happy Mother s Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 13, 2017

One of the things we learn in life, or should learn in life, is how to handle disappointment. Lindsey Jacobellis can certainly tell you about disappointment. Lindsey was one of the top women's snowboarders in the world. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, she was 50 yards ahead of her nearest competitor in the race for the gold medal in a snowboard event. On the last jump, she attempted a maneuver common in snowboarding but crashed, losing out on any hope of a medal. And then, history repeated itself as Lindsey went off the course in a later snowcross event and was disqualified.

In the interview after the race she said, "'I feel OK, though,' Jacobellis said. 'Sometimes you can t control the things you want to.' This is a true statement, and something important for us to remember as we face life's disappointments. If you say you haven't faced a time of disappointment, well, just hang around for a little while. It will happen.

What should you do when disappointment comes? First, acknowledge what happened and why it happened. If it was something you couldn't control, make a mental note. Don't push it away. Secondly, take a step back and get your breath. You don't want to make a major decision when you are wrestling with a disappointment. Thirdly, consult and talk with close friends and family about what happened. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, allow God's grace to bring peace to your heart. God does care for us, and he is there for us when we struggle with any issue. This certainly includes disappointments.

Isaiah 49:23 tells us, "Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." We will face disappointments in life. God will help us when we are struggling with disappointment. We can rest assured we will never be disappointed with God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 12, 2017

Filters are good things. Water filters make the water we drink safer. Oil filters keep the oil in an engine in better condition to do what oil should do. Gas filters take out things that would make an engine underperform.

Sometimes we need filters on our mouths as well. Have you ever met someone who doesn't seem to have a filter? Of course, before we go looking at others in this regard, we might want to see if our filter is in good working order. We need to watch what we say. We need to avoid inappropriate remarks, hurtful comments, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and saying more than should be said.

Paul encourages us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) but we should do it correctly. Examine your heart and your motives before you apply this principle. Job had some friends who lacked filters. They said more than they needed to say and most of what they said was poor advice. They started out pretty well by just sitting with Job in silence, but when they opened up they missed the mark with what they say. God rebukes them for this - "After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.'" (Job 42:7)

Before you give advice, examine your motives and your heart and think about what you have to say. Before you make comments on others' actions or circumstances, use your brain. When I did my student teaching, my supervising instructor had a sign on the wall in front of the room that read "Be sure brain is engaged before mouth is set in motion." This is great advice. Make sure your filter is working properly!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 11, 2017

Who do you want to please? As children, we usually want to please our parents, later our teachers, coaches, and others who work with us. As adults, we usually want to please our spouses, our bosses, perhaps co-workers. Sometimes this can be a problem when we go overboard and become people pleasers. It is good to be concerned about the well-being of others and want to help - but going overboard can be self-destructive. There needs to be balance.

For followers of Christ, there is another aspect of the idea of people pleasing that can be a problem. When we become infatuated with the idea of wanting to please other people more that we want to please God, we are living incorrectly. We want to do good for our employers and be of help to others, but when these become our primary desire over against our desire to please God, our focus is off. Paul writes, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

Our goal should be to live in such a way as to make sure our Father is pleased with our lives. If we find ourselves more concerned about the opinions of people rather than God's idea about us, we are walking the wrong road. Just as we can t serve money and God (Luke 16:13), neither can we strive to please people more than God. Live to please God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 10, 2017

The proliferation of shows on TV about flipping is interesting. Now I am not talking about gymnastics exhibitions, I am talking about the shows where folks take houses that are in poor condition, renovate them, and sell them. Some of these shows are set up with the identity of the owner already known and the house purchased is a "fixer upper" that is renovated for that owner.

Drama is produced on the shows when the renovation costs a good deal more than what was anticipated, or unexpected problems are uncovered during the demolition phase, or the deadline for completion begins to loom. One show features a competition of sorts between a renovator working on the folks current home to try to get them to stay there and a realtor who tries to entice the family into buying a new home,

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 does this for us. Not with our houses, of course, but with our lives. 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
Tuesday May 09, 2017

Each summer the children of our church adopt a special missions emphasis and bring in offerings for this. Last night at our Missions meeting we made some final plans to get this kicked off for this coming summer. I won t divulge our emphasis for this year as we need to inform our kids about the details. Last year, our recipient was Operation Smile. Since the kids reached their goal of $1500, actually doubled this, I lost my hair. Literally. But I digress. Let me tell you a little about Operation Smile.

Operation Smile is one of the many mission organizations that fund surgeries for children born with cleft palates. This condition makes it difficult for the little one to eat, and obviously affects speech development. As the child grows, social problems are often encountered. In Third World countries cleft palate is especially prevalent because of insufficient care during prenatal development. The corrective surgery is a simple procedure, relatively speaking, but the lack of resources often puts surgery out of reach. So, Operation Smile helps families in developing countries solve one of the problems they face when a child is born with this condition. They help children to have a good smile.

Do you have a good smile? A good smile is important for more reasons than aesthetics. Smiling is something we need to practice on a regular basis. There are so many benefits from smiling. Smiling is contagious. When one smiles, others tend to smile along with them. Smiling lowers stress and anxiety. Smiling releases endorphins that promote a sense of well-being and contentment. Smiling strengthens your immune system. There are many other benefits of smiling, not the least of which is that you simply look better when you smile.

Often we experience circumstances that make it difficult to smile. Working on our mood and our inner self through a variety of means including focusing on the development of a smile can help us face those problems in realistic, positive ways.

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 08, 2017

Last fall we attended my nephew's Senior Night in basketball. As we were leaving, I was backing our van out of a rather tight place. Of course, it was dark, so I had to be even more cautious. We had our oldest daughter and her two children with us. Scherry started giving me some instructions and "helping" me to negotiate the close quarters. I started to respond to her instructions, nicely of course, but before I could say anything, our 4-year-old granddaughter, Madelyn, spoke up and said, 'Don't worry, Grandma, Papaw's got this.' Where my wife was expressing some concern, one might say even doubt, my granddaughter had faith that I could take care of things.

There are times in our experience when we may begin to "doubt the driver." When this happens, what we need to realize is that "God has got this." There is no place that is too tight for God, too dark for God, nothing that is too difficult for God. My granddaughter did not have a clue how I was going to get us out of where we were, she was just confident I could. We need that type of faith when it comes to letting God work in our lives and help us through the issues we face.

Jesus presented the idea that we should have an open, honest, and humble faith in God. Christ used the innocence of a child to illustrate the faith we should have. In Luke 18:17, Christ says, "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Why can we have faith like this? Listen to the words of Matthew 7:11, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Follow the example of a child and follow God in faith. God's got this.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 07, 2017

The French have a saying, "chacun a son gout." Roughly translated this means "to each his own." This was what I thought of when I heard about a new fashion wave that has hit the market. Nordstrom's is selling "filthy fashion" - denim jeans that have been "modified," so to speak, to make the wearer appear to have been involved in dirty work, or some sort of rough endeavor. Quite interesting. Of course, there is the requisite matching denim jacket. The jeans sell for a paltry $425. I have no idea about the jacket. Now, I don't wish to offend anyone, as there may be those of you who have these in your wardrobe. Let me repeat the saying of the French found in my opening statement, "chacun a son gout."

There is no problem if you want to wear clothes that make you look like you have been doing something that you really haven't been doing, unless you are wearing them in an attempt to actually deceive. We need to beware of "filthy fashion" - doing things, saying things, yes, even wearing things, to make others think we are something that we are not. We should not be deceitful in our business practices, our relationships, or in any area of our lives.

In his epic poem "Marmion," Sir Walter Scott wrote, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive." Psalms 52:2 says, "You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor." Proverbs 12:20 tells us, "Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy." We may take the attitude "chacun a son gout" about filthy fashion, but we cannot have this view when it comes to how we interact with others. Deceit should have no place in our wardrobe

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 06, 2017

Every now and then I will hear a contractor on an HGTV show say upon the completion of a job, "That will last for an eternity." Often this statement is made when the TV contractor is repairing damage brought on by earlier construction that was inferior and "not up to code." I get a kick out of the attitude of the TV folks, "Hey, we do it right! which is as it should be. And I also smile at the statement "last for an eternity." Do they realize how long that is? More than likely we won't be able to prove or disprove their statement, as the construction certainly should last beyond our lifetime.

If you think about it, we could prove or disprove the statement because, unlike the construction, we will indeed last for an eternity. This is a hard idea to conceptualize, but it does not matter if we can conceptualize it or not; we will indeed last for eternity. We are eternal beings, and the crucial part of this concept is to realize that we have the ability now to choose where we will be for an eternity.

David was being more than poetic when he wrote, "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:6) He was being a realist - he knew that is what he would be able to do because of the gracious provision of God. David expressed the hope that he would enjoy the construction of God's house throughout all eternity.

Keith Green wrote, "Nothing lasts forever, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus." Nothing will last forever except us. Christ promised in John 14 a dwelling for us that will last forever. Paul said that when this earthly tent fails "we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." (II Corinthians 5:1) Now this is construction that truly is eternal. We have the assurance of being able to enjoy this construction through following the Savior. Belief in him brings us the gift of eternal life. We can truly say about what Christ is preparing That will last for an eternity.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 05, 2017

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated as a holiday in Mexico and by many in the United States. Perhaps you use this day as a time for some celebrating. But just what is being celebrated? Many assume this is Mexico s Independence Day. This is not the case. Today is the anniversary of the Mexican Army s defeat of invading French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This victory was not only good for Mexico, but also the United States as the French wanted not only to conquer Mexico but to find a means of supplying the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Had they succeeded, well, our world today may have been quite different.

Let me get back to an earlier statement I made that many assume Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico s independence from European domination. As stated earlier, this assumption is incorrect. This highlights the dangers of assumptions. Assuming the incorrect reason for today s celebration may not be a big thing, but in other areas incorrect assumptions can cause problems.

Now, we make assumptions every day that are more or less necessary as a part of life. Most of us don t seek engineering specs on a bridge before we drive over the bridge. We assume the bridge will hold. However, erroneous assumptions can be problematic. Assumptions can cause missed opportunities. Assumptions can lead to misunderstandings. Assumptions can lead to errors in actions or judgments. We need to be careful about our assumptions so that we are not led into struggles with others based on faulty thinking. We need to pray for discernment and watch our assumptions. Proverbs 18:2 says, A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Be careful to gain understanding and watch your assumptions. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 04, 2017

Recently I read an article that said, "With few exceptions, the major highways in Michigan follow ancient trails that were blazed by Native Americans hundreds of years ago." Imagine that - modern roads following the paths that were determined so many years ago.

Successive generations will follow the paths that we are blazing now. What kind of routes are we choosing? Which way are we directing those who will follow our lead? We see this principle in the scripture. Proverbs 4:18 tells us, "The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."

Are we making paths that are "like the morning sun" and will be easy to follow? Our children, both physical and spiritual, will be following the paths we create. We need to make sure that we are cutting a righteous, wise, and clear trail. We want to make the kind of trail that will someday turn into a highway. What kind of path are you cutting?

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 03, 2017

Do you remember the t-shirts (and other objects as well) that read, "Virginia is for lovers?" Of course, you could substitute the name of any state. I just remember seeing these first in Virginia almost 50 years ago. That is putting a positive spin on the emotion of love.

Recently I came across a t-shirt that expressed a rather different idea. It read "Love is for losers." Quite a difference between the attitudes towards love expressed in these two sentiments. I think I prefer the former over the latter, and I hope you do as well.

Someone who would wear a t-shirt emblazoned with "Love is for losers" no doubt is someone who has been affected negatively by a relationship where love was expressed. Expressing love is not without its risks. People we love can hurt us, disappoint us, even leave us. You can experience loss from love, but that doesn't mean we should not love.

Paul is very explicit in how love should be expressed. He speaks of love that is expressed selflessly - not looking for anything in return, and has the best interests of those who are loved in mind. Scripture speaks better for itself here - listen to what it says about love, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (vss. 4 - 7)

We know this is the kind of love we are loved with by God. This is the kind of love we as believers should show towards others. This is the kind of love we should demonstrate in our relationships. Expressing and receiving this love would eliminate the "Love is for losers" mindset. According to Paul, this is love that "never fails." (vs. 8)

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 02, 2017

A little boy was wondering why he had to be thankful for things he didn't like. "Why do I have to thank God for asparagus? I don't like asparagus." If it was a hamburger or spaghetti, that would be fine, but why asparagus?

We often face the same dilemma in our adult lives. There are many things we experience that we find it hard to give thanks. Yet Paul writes, "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God s will for you in Christ Jesus." (I Thessalonians 5:18) Greg Simas writes, "Giving thanks in all circumstances is the most reliable indication of my spiritual health." God gives nothing but give good gifts. Sometimes we may be confused by what we receive through our experiences, but we need to trust God.

There are reasons why we face struggles and why we face pain - they are not mistakes, and they are not meant to tear down but to build up. As we trust in God, this will become apparent. The best way we can show that our trust in God is to follow the admonition of Paul and give thanks - even for asparagus.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 01, 2017

Today is May Day. That is about an obvious a statement as I will ever make, isn't it? In ancient Celtic cultures, this was a spring holiday. It is still observed in a historical way in British culture yet today. The newness of life and a return to more enjoyable conditions was what was celebrated in ancient festivals.

I am sure that you are also familiar with the term "mayday" which sounds like May Day but has an altogether different meaning. This former term is a universal distress signal that was developed well over a century ago by sea travelers. The origin of this expression may (no pun intended) have its roots in the French word "m'aider" which means "help me." The pronunciation of "m'aider" is similar to "mayday".

Throughout the Psalms, we find several "maydays". Several times the writers of the Psalms, including David, spoke of incidents where God had intervened and offered prayers calling out for help in a present circumstance. David wrote a psalm for the dedication of the then-future temple that included this statement, "Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me." (Psalm 30:2) Other statements of God's help can be found in Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in the time of trouble", and Psalm 121:1, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from?"

God is indeed a source of help for us. However, it seems we abuse his help in a couple of ways. We either ignore his help when it is offered for some unknown reason, or we simply view God as "genie in a bottle" and only call on him when we need help. Either abuse is reflective of a dysfunctional relationship with God. We do indeed covet his help, but we should look to experience his help because we are walking consistently with him, not just following him in fits and starts. Don't use God as simply a person to be there only in times of trouble. God is more than just a cosmic mayday responder.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 30, 2017

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
Saturday April 29, 2017

One of the many tasks I am unable to perform just now because of my recent surgery is taking out the trash. I am always happy to do this little chore as I want to eliminate the unwanted, unneeded, and undesirable as quickly as possible. From my chair I watch as the trash truck comes by, picks up our dumpster with the mechanical arm, and hauls away the refuse we did not want. It is always a nice feeling to see that stuff leave. Unfortunately, this is not a "one and done" instance. By next week, we will have the container filled again and have it out to be picked up and eliminated.

This needs to take place in our spiritual lives as well. We accumulate the unwanted, the unneeded, and the undesirable in our inner selves much in the way we produce these in our physical lives. We need to do regular "trash patrol" in our inner selves as well. There are impure thoughts that need to be disposed of, inappropriate fantasies that are dumpster worthy, and out-of-line feelings of anger or other emotions that should just be dealt with and put away.

These sins are that for which Christ died. When we turn these over to the Savior, we experience a feeling of satisfaction as we know we have done the right thing and have done what should be in order for us to continue to experience the fellowship with our Savior as we should. I John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Make sure you take out the trash on a regular basis.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 28, 2017

The 2017 National Football League Draft is underway. I know that doesn t mean a great deal to many of you, but I follow the draft some. I m not a true draft nerd, but I like to follow the mock drafts leading up to the real thing. Last night was the first round of the real draft and there were a number of surprises as teams traded up or down to get players they wanted.

I follow a few teams, mainly the Dallas Cowboys. I don t know why I still follow them I was always more of a Tom Landry fan (their first head coach) and he has been gone for a long time, but I still follow them. When I lived in Dallas, I had a chance to meet him and that was a neat thing. Anyway, back to the draft. I imagine you sort of understand the principle of the draft. Teams select players based on the player s position and abilities. There are pre-draft meetings where the players are evaluated. Teams like to see how fast they are, how high they can jump, and how strong they are besides how well they play their position. Then on draft night, the teams select who they think is the best fit for them based upon how well the athlete has performed.

Let me tell you right now, I am glad God doesn t use the draft process. I could never run fast enough, jump high enough, or be strong enough to qualify. I am glad God doesn t select people based on their time in the 40 yard dash. Right now I cannot walk, let along run. I have to hop around on a walker and certainly can t jump. And forget any strength or endurance drills. No, God will take me just as I am when I come to him through faith in his Son.

The Bible tells us that God is no respecter of persons. (Acts 10:34) Joel 2:32 tells us, And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. God will not turn away anyone who comes to him in faith. Everyone who comes to him through faith in his Son is on God s draft board. It does not matter to God whether you had 16 sacks and 25 tackles for loss or ran for 2,000 yards or threw for 85 touchdowns. When you come to God, he takes you as you are and puts you in his family because you have accepted his Gift. Don t worry about draft order with God he doesn t have one.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 27, 2017

"I'm too blessed to complain." Now, isn't that an intriguing perspective? I remember reading this unique statement somewhere, and it left an impression. Usually we are so busy focusing on the rotten stuff that takes place in our lives that we forget to look at the things for which we should give thanks. We need to concentrate on developing an attitude of gratefulness (you probably thought I was going to say "attitude of gratitude there", didn't you?), but our tendency is to pile on with the negatives.

My mother used to say frequently, I am so blessed. As she said this, she was sitting in her chair to which she was pretty much confined for the last two and a half years of her life. Regardless of what she was currently facing, she continued to count her blessings.

We should realize that for all the junk we face, there are many good experiences that need to be appreciated. Instead of lamenting what doesn't go our way, we need to focus on the gifts God has given to us. Psalm 107:8 tells us, "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind." We should think about our gifts rather than our "lacks." Even when we experience the lows of life, we should focus on what we receive from on high. We are certainly "too blessed to complain."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 26, 2017

Years ago I helped one of my daughters construct a model of the solar system for a project in her science class. The model was not all that elaborate, but it was good, and it was to scale with our solar system. The project took a little bit of time and care on our part to complete. We didn't just go out to the garage and whip it out in an hour or two. We worked on it over several days.

I didn't think too much about this until just recently as I read an article written on the "fly by" of Pluto by New Horizons and the images that were sent back to earth. One thing that hit me was the time we spent putting things together on a model cannot be compared to the brief amount of time it took God to bring our solar system into existence and put it where it is in the universe. Another thing I thought about was, "Where is that model now?" I remember seeing part of it in the garage years ago, but it has all disappeared. However, the creation of God continues, sustained by the presence of Christ.

Colossians 1:16 & 17 tells us, "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." The sustaining power of Christ holds our universe together and will continue to do so. All we can do is make flimsy imitations of our wonderful world and all that surrounds it. And remember, the one who sustains the universe is the one that sustains you. Isn't that something?

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 25, 2017

Major League Baseball is in full swing and the Cincinnati Reds got off to a better start than many thought they would. They have slipped some, but are winning games. I have maintained my loyalty to the Reds even though I have not lived in Ohio for almost 39 years. I maintain that this is one reason I have been in my church for almost 34 years. Most folks here are either Cardinal fans or Cub fans so I can sort of remain neutral, even though the Reds are in the same division.

In 2015 the All Star game was played in Cincinnati. Todd Frazier, the third baseman for the Reds at the time and the only member of the Reds who was voted to play in the game that year, won the Home Run Derby. When Frazier hit the home run that won the contest, the ballpark when wild. Of course, this was as it should have been. They were cheering for their hometown (at the time) guy.

Thinking of this brings to mind an incident where things weren't as they should be. Jesus had just finished being tested in the wilderness of Judea. He returned to his native Galilee, to his hometown of Nazareth. Luke 3:16 tells us, " He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read." He read from Isaiah and then told them that what they heard had been fulfilled that day. After some positive response, the interaction began to get testy when they started hearing some things from Jesus they didn't like. Tensions escalated, culminating with this scene, "All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way." (vss. 28-30)

Is that any way to treat a hometown boy who has done nothing but good? Not hardly - Christ certainly didn't get the "Todd Frazier" treatment that day. Of course, he rarely did. He endured a great deal of abuse and concluded with the cross. All of this for you and for me. Don't ever forget what Christ endured on your behalf - mistreatment beyond belief - even from folks in his home town.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 24, 2017

Four years ago today, my granddaughter was born. She was beautiful when she was born and she is beautiful now. We had a very tense time during her birth as our daughter developed a problem that led to an emergency c-section. Thankfully, all went well and we have a rambunctious four-year-old. As you recall, I wrote about her brother just four days ago that is all that separates their birthdays.

As is the case in most homes, our little grandson thinks the sun rises and sets in his big sister. We are enjoying this as you never know how long this might last, but right now it is so neat watching those two interact. Madelyn can get her little brother cackling just by looking at him the right way. He is old enough now to want to try to mimic her. If she shakes her head back and forth rapidly, he has to do it. If she jumps up and down, he has to try to do it (while clinging to the couch or his mom or something right now). Madelyn gets a big kick out of having someone who wants to imitate what she is doing (yep we better enjoy this while it lasts).

The scripture has a few things to say to us about living in a way that others can imitate us. Those of us who have been followers of Christ for a while should live in a way that others who are new to the faith might learn from how we live. We may have an issue with this, but, hey, I didn t set this model up, Christ did. We should be imitators of Christ as John wrote, The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (I John 2:6) Paul carries this idea of imitation further when he writes, Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. (I Corinthians 11:1) He wrote to Titus, Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity. (2:7) Cullen is learning a few things about life by watching his four-year-old sister. She is happy that he does so.

What can others learn as they watch your life? What are you teaching them to do? We need to live in a way that others can learn good things from us. And we should be happy that they do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 23, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 22, 2017

Frank Sinatra made a lot of money with his recording of "My Way" in 1969. After almost four decades of recording music, he found his signature song. The song was written specifically for him by Paul Anka upon Sinatra's revelation to Anka that "he was quitting the business." The song tells the story of a man who is nearing death and proudly proclaims he had lived his life "his way." It truly is a testimony to self-will and in one sense is inspiring, but in another sense, is a little dangerous. We need to be determined, decisive and directional in our lives, but we should never totally depend upon our own resources. If we leave God out of the planning, we are in for big trouble. We need to follow the advice of Proverbs 16:9. "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Christ was very creative in how he taught his disciples the importance of going his way and not their own. Peter declared he would never forsake Christ. To this, Christ responded, "Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" (John 13:38) Christ allowed Peter the taste of failure in order to demonstrate the need to go Christ s way rather than follow his own thinking. Christ was telling Peter, "I want you to do it my way." Christ reminded Peter of this after the resurrection when Peter had returned to fishing - read John 21. You probably know how this played out Peter became a leader in the early church and was very effective in the ministry of Christ.

When I am tempted to do things "my way," I remind myself of these biblical incidents. Self-reliance and self-motivation are admirable and desirable traits, but they must be tempered with an understanding of our dependence upon Christ's leadership. What made for a great song is not always the best advice for our lives. We need to remember to live our lives "His Way."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 21, 2017

When I was in college a professor made a mistake posting the final grade I received in his class. I went to speak with him about the mistake, and was assured that all would be taken of. However, when I checked after a period of time, the grade had not been changed. I went to speak to the professor and was assured all would be well. To make a long story short, it took a couple of more trips to the professor and a trip to the dean of the college before action was taken to alleviate the situation. I remember the dean's comments, "Well, don't be too hard on the professor. He is a good teacher, but he sometimes isn't all that dependable." Ouch. And I found out later that the dean was a good friend of the professor. He was also honest.

Do people say that about you? One of the most important characteristics we should manifest as believers is faithfulness. People need to know they can depend on us. We should be faithful in our lives before others and before God. We should show our heavenly Father that we are someone on whom he can depend.

Paul lists faithfulness as one of the fruits of the spirit that needs to be cultivated (Galatians 5:22). He also writes in I Corinthians 4:2, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." Christ spoke of the need for faithfulness on many occasions, one being his parable of the faithful servants in Luke 12:35 - 46.

Be faithful! Show that you are a person upon whom others depend! I have not forgotten that professor. Can you guess why? Is this how you would like to be remembered?

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 20, 2017

Today is my little grandson s first birthday. I can hardly believe it has been an entire year since we met Cullen James for the first time at that hospital in southern Ohio. Man, what a day! He was so beautiful even his big sister thought so! Funny thing he is still beautiful but, guess what? He doesn t really look much like he did a year ago. He is a good bit bigger, can eat solid food, is almost walking, and really interacts with you when you talk to him. Let me say again, though, he is still beautiful.

Of course, the differences in how he looks and what he does from a year ago is as it should be. If, after a year, he had not grown, had not developed in his motor skills, and had not changed in his appearance, my kids would have been doing some investigating to see what was going on. His growth and development are changes that should have taken place.

Even as growth and change are normal in our physical lives, there should be growth and development in our spiritual lives. When there isn t, it is an indication of problems that need to be investigated and changes made. Paul discusses this issue in I Corinthians, Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. (3:1-2)

Why do we have this problem? Are we afraid we won t be beautiful anymore or something? Our focus should be our growth in God leave the beauty part up to him. We should be concerned that we are progressing the way we should. Even as there is evidence we are growing physically, there should be changes evident in our spiritual lives that show our movement towards maturity. Are they there?

By the way, my one-year-old grandson is still beautiful. Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 19, 2017

The headlines read, "Errant Golf Shot Saves Man's Life." How could taking a golf ball off the side of your head save your life? Well, when Chris Logan went to the hospital to get checked out after being hit in the head by an errant shot from the driver of PGA tour professional Sean O'Hair, doctors found more than what they expected. Actually, Logan was not seriously injured by the golf ball that hit him in the right temple, but he could be killed by what was found lurking in his neck - a malignant thyroid tumor. The tumor was removed within weeks after being discovered and, one year later, Logan is doing well. The only problem now for Logan is taking a ribbing from fellow caddies who kid him about being struck down by what he had spent countless hours trying to avoid.

Being hit in the head by a golf ball is not good, but having one's life saved as a result of that "accident" is really good. I know some of you reading this could add your story about how an accident or a bad event led to a beneficial discovery. I know personally at least three individuals with stories similar to Logan's. We need to try to keep these incidents in mind when we experience bad situations. I realize not every bad experience may have this type of "silver lining," but many do. Sometimes the positive that can come out of a negative occurrence might not be so obvious. In addition, what we can learn or how we can benefit from a bad circumstance may not be evident right away. We need to keep this in mind when we are going through a difficult time. Try to hold on the perspective that what we are experiencing is going to lead to a positive outcome.

Despite all the advice otherwise, Job held on to this belief through his ordeal. He continued to exercise faith in God and kept in mind that the outcome of his trial was in God's hands. He said, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job19:25-27)

When faced with a difficult trial, continue to trust God for the outcome and realize what you are experiencing can lead to a greater good, even if that greater good is not readily apparent. A golf ball to the head was not a good thing, but Chris Logan certainly was glad he was "beaned."

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 18, 2017

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

In an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond," Debra confronts Raymond about his lack of desire to do something worthwhile. One of her statements is, "You said the church carnival really wasn't your thing because you didn't think the Lord wanted you to try to fleece other people for money." Her complaint is that he really didn't want to do anything.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 17, 2017

Many years ago Habbakuk asked a question that still sounds so relevant for today, How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, Violence! but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds (1:2-3). Have you ever asked this question of God? Why does it seem that he tolerates wrongdoing why doesn t he do something about the evils that exist in the world? From our perspective, this seems like a logical question.

What we need to do is to back up from this question and put our understanding of God in perspective. For one thing, we really don t know how much God is actually restraining evil. We sometimes have the mistaken notion that the world is really as evil as it could be. That is really not accurate. As bad as the world is, it would be so much worse without the restraining power of the Holy Spirit.

Another aspect we need to remember is that God will deal with evil all that evil has done will be undone by our just God. In the last chapter of Habakkuk, God s intervention is assured He will right all that is wrong. He is not incapable, unwilling or impotent to do this, he is just operating according to his sovereign timetable, which is best. Habakkuk comes to the place where he affirms his trust in God regardless of whether something is going to happen or not, although he knows it will. He says in 3:17-18, Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

We can be joyful because we know that the judge of all the earth will do right. It only seems like evil is winning but that is not the case. God cannot be defeated or frustrated. He will set things right.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 16, 2017

Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ one of the most debated incidents in history. Many have written against it because, well, how can someone who is dead come back to life? I can understand their skepticism. Now, I didn t say I agree with their skepticism, I said I can understand it. We are talking about an impossible thing here, aren t we? How can a dead person come to life? From a human standpoint it is indeed an impossible thing, but we know that God is good at making the impossible possible. No less an authority than Gabriel proclaimed to the mother of Jesus, For with God nothing shall be impossible, (Luke 1:37)

On April 5, AD 33, the impossible took place. Christ rose from the dead, bringing hope for all who follow him (I Corinthians 15:21). He lives today to intercede for his followers (Romans 8:34). Many skeptics have written to disprove this reality. And what is interesting is that a number of scholars who set out to disprove the Resurrection have changed their minds because of their findings.

Frank Morison ( Who Moved the Stone? ), Josh McDowell ( Evidence that Demands a Verdict ), and Lee Strobel ( The Case for Christ ) are all people who started out to show the impossibility of the Resurrection and ended up believing the possible. I understand that Strobel s book has been made into a movie that was recently released. Now, this isn t an ad for the movie as I have not seen it, but I have read the book and it is a good read. Strobel, a former legal writer for the Chicago Tribune chronicles his experience of accepting the impossible as possible, and makes a great case for the reality of Christ.

I must confess, I did not need any convincing when it comes to the Resurrection. But for those who do the Bible stands as the statement of what happened, and Strobel and others offer good commentary on the reality of Scripture. I hope you express celebration, and not cynicism, when it comes to the reality of the Resurrection. It happened because of the existence of God who is good at making what seems to be impossible possible.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 15, 2017

Today is the interim day in the Resurrection Story. Yesterday was the day of his death, tomorrow will be the day he is raised to life. Have you ever wondered why the duration of three days was chosen for Christ's work of redemption to be accomplished? This is an interesting question, but one for which there seems to be no definitive answer.

There are no references in the Old Testament that can be taken as direct statements about the three days in the tomb, but there are a number of allusions that can be related to this event. In a story closely tied to Christ s crucifixion, Abraham and Isaac arrived at the mountain where Abraham was to have sacrificed Isaac, but was spared from this through God's provision of a ram, on the third day (Genesis 22:4). Hosea 6:2 tells us, on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Then, of course, Christ used the story of Jonah s three-day stay in a fish to describe his yet-future experience, For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40) All of these are simply statements of, not reasons for, the three days.

Although our discussions about the reasons for three days may not yield any results, the REASON for the three days is abundantly clear we had a problem we could not handle on our own. Christ took care of the problem of our sinfulness by giving his life, being buried in a tomb, and then breaking out of the tomb. Paul wrote, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (I Corinthians 15:3-4)

I know God chose this time period for more reasons that to just supply a name for a good Christian band, but he didn t reveal the reasoning to us. What he did reveal was a marvelous plan for our redemption that was accomplished in a three-day period about 2,000 years ago. I am grateful for that.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 14, 2017

Are there things you use in your life, perhaps at home, at work, or at other times, that you really don't have a clear understanding as to how they work? I am sure that if you thought for just a few moments, you could come up with quite a list. For one thing, I am not sure exactly how the color printer that is attached to this computer works. I mean, I put text, pictures and graphics on a project that is on the screen, hit the print control, and out pops a printed project with all the right colors where they should be, text where it should be, and so forth. Now, I understand fundamentally that ink is sprayed on the page in just the right amounts and colors to produce the project, but exactly how does the printer know all the right information? That I don t understand. However, this doesn t keep me from using the printer for things I need to produce!

Many folks don t follow the Lord because they say they don t understand how what the Bible says could be true. They don t understand the miracles, the Resurrection, or Christ s teachings about heaven and hell. And they use their inability to understand as a barrier to following Christ.

I don t mean to sound too simplistic here, but I do think there is a simple answer - there are many things we don t understand and yet our lack of understanding does not hinder the benefit we receive from what we don t understand. Case in point: the illustration I used above. Ecclesiastes 11:5 tells us, As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. God s Word tells us there are many things about God we do not, and actually cannot, understand. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."

Don t let your inability to understand all you think you need to understand about the Lord stand as a barrier between you and the Lord. There are many things in life we don t fully understand. There are many times we put our trust in things we don t fully understand. So, what is keeping you from fully trusting God?

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 13, 2017

Lemon cake with raspberries - doesn't that sound delicious? Some of you may be saying, "Well, I don't know about that. How can lemon and raspberries taste good together?" To those who may be skeptical about this delectable dessert, I would say, "Don't knock it until you try it." Even though there is a great difference in the tastes of lemons and raspberries on their own, when you put them together in the right amounts and add other key ingredients, they make for pleasure for the taste buds.

I cannot help but think of the church when I think of this. The church is made of different people from different backgrounds. When you put those people together with the proper ingredients that God supplies of love, compassion, and forgiveness, there can be some wonderful results. God is what makes the church work through the power of redemption and the cohesive ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Christ prayed for this unity before he left the world, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." (John 17:20-21) God is good at combining what doesn't seem to really go together. Let's cooperate with him in the effort.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 12, 2017

A newspaper ad for a new model of Jaguar stated, "Once again envy will be standard equipment." It may not be wrong to own a Jaguar, but if my neighbor has one and I am overly envious of him, this is a problem. According to the apostle Paul, envy is a problem of the highest order. (Galatians 5:19-21) Envy motivated Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery (Acts 7); Envy fueled the fires of those who wanted to destroy Christ (Mark 15); Envy led Paul's opponents in Thessalonica to incite a riot (Acts 17).

Envy left unchecked can lead to actions that are negative in intent and destructive in nature. We need to recognize envy in our lives and remove it from our hearts. Ecclesiastes 4:4 tells us, "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

Don't let envy be standard equipment in your life. Don t chase the wind. Control this attitude that can lead to bad consequences.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 11, 2017

Many years ago I drove by a grain elevator with a friend who was visiting from another country. There had been an abundant harvest that year, and the elevator was having to pile up the excess grain on the ground and cover it as best they could with large tarps. My friend asked me what was going on, and when I told him, he said, "Oh, I wish I could have that in my country."

We do live in a country of abundance and often what we simply view as normal with regard to what we have and what we possess would be thought of as great wealth in other areas of the world. We who have been entrusted with so much, even though we may not consider it a great abundance, should be willing to share what we have with those who don't have.

Paul told Timothy what he should tell the people at Ephesus, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share." (I Timothy 6:17-18)

We need to be willing to share. Those who have an abundance have been given a great responsibility. Handling riches requires great wisdom. Share what you have with those who don't have.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 10, 2017

Oh, wow, did I ever have a great time yesterday morning as I was able to be with my church family and celebrate the goodness of God. I know this may sound funny coming from a pastor, but I really didn t know how much I actually missed being with them until I was back with them. There is so much we miss from personal contact with others when we are not with them. I know that is why the writer to the Hebrews said, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I don t care how electronically advanced we are, there is no substitute for personal, face-to-face contact. We can do so much electronically I even attend meetings now via my cell phone, but this is still no replacement for being with others and talking "the way God intended for us to do."

However advanced you may become in the world of technology, don't ever use these advancements as reasons for not being with others when it comes to celebrating our Savior in worship. Actually, don't use anything else as an excuse for joining with others on a regular basis for a "live" experience. God is "live" and "in concert", and we need to celebrate Him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 09, 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 08, 2017

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. A desire for praise detracts from the spirit of service. We should do things for the Lord.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday April 07, 2017

I have been watching the opening round of The Masters on TV. I got back from the doctor today and I would watch some of the coverage. By the way, got a good report from the doctor, which is always nice. Anyway, I really like the game of golf. I miss playing golf haven t been able to play for a while. I was never very good, but it was always fun. I also have always enjoyed watching the pros play. I knew I would never be able to be quite on their level, but it is always fun watching them pull of great shots. In addition, when you watch them, you get some pointers to help you play better.

That is the way it is in most endeavors. If you want to become better at something, you spend time with others who are good at what you would like to do so you can learn the craft, or the trade, or the technique, or whatever. This is true in golf, and is also true in just about every endeavor in life.

You teachers out there did you just walk into a classroom and start teaching? How about those of you who work on cars? Would you want hire someone to build a house for you who says, You know, I haven t done this before but I have always wanted to build a house. I can just learn as I go. One of the greatest things my surgeon said to me a couple weeks ago before he worked on my leg was, I have done this many times before = I have learned the technique from the best and I ve done it myself.

When we want to learn to do something, we spend time with others who have done it before so we can get the skill ourselves. We usually agree that this is what we should do and how it is done. We need to agree that this is also true in our spiritual development. The smartest thing we can do is to make sure we put ourselves in places where we can learn from others who have spent time growing in their faith.

Paul spoke of this principle when he wrote, You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. (II Timothy 2:2) Watching those who are good at golf and trying to learn from them is a great thing. Watching others who can help me be more like Christ is also a great thing. Hebrews 6:12 tells us, We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. This is a good way to please The Master.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday April 06, 2017

I have always found it so interesting to see whom Jesus used as role models. He used a "sinful woman" to demonstrate how we should love (Luke 7:47). When he wanted to show what faith should look like, he said about the faith of a pagan soldier, a centurion, " Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." (Matthew 8:10) I would imagine this rattled a few cages. Children were used as examples of trust (Luke 7:47). So, whom did he use when he wanted to demonstrate true generosity? A destitute woman, of course!

Mark 12:41-44 gives us the story, "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything all she had to live on.

Here Christ tells us what true sacrifice and true generosity is. True sacrifice is when you give to the point where you are dependent upon God for other necessities in your life. Not many of us have been to that point. Sheridan Voysey wrote "True sacrifice leaves us vulnerable, with our arms outstretched to God." This is the spirit in which we should give.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday April 05, 2017

I read an article not long ago about a supposed sighting of a three-foot-long shark in the Tennessee River in Alabama. While the veracity of this particular incident is in doubt, it is possible for a shark to be found in freshwater. Bull sharks have the ability to live in both freshwater and saltwater, and one was indeed found in Lake Michigan several years ago. Still, these incidents are few and far between.

Don't you wish crisis events were few and far between? It seems hardships and difficult experiences are abundant in our lives. We wish they were as rare as freshwater shark sightings, or maybe didn't even occur at all, but they do. This is why Peter wrote, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (I Peter 4:12-13) Peter writes that we should not be surprised at hardships, that they are not strange events, and that we should rejoice as we participate in the hardships. All of these concepts are somewhat difficult to understand, but they are what should take place as we are confronted with circumstances that bring difficulty into our lives.

A bull shark in the Tennessee River may be a rare occurrence, but it is not an impossible occurrence. Difficulties in our lives are neither rare nor impossible, so they should not be surprising. They are part of our experience. Learn to trust God through these times and don't deny their reality.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday April 04, 2017

Do you like where you live? I mean, do you like the house in which you live? Some folks are just fine with where they live. Other folks are not satisfied with where they live - they want something better, something bigger, something flashier. If you ve lived where you lived for a while, you have probably done some redecorating, maybe even some remodeling. We also need to do repairs on our homes from time to time.

In the book of Exodus, God gave instructions to the Israelites for the tabernacle - the place where he would dwell. This tabernacle was made of the finest materials, it was made in a specific way. God s intention was to show his people that he wanted to dwell among them. He told the people in Exodus 25:9, Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

God wanted a house, not because he needed a house, but because he wanted to show all the people he wanted to be with them. And he always seemed to be happy with his house - it never wore out, despite all the travel and use. The problem was, the people did not always show God that they were happy he was there. That is a shame. In spite of this, God still showed that he wanted to be among them.

God still wants to live with us - but now he wants to live in us. For those of us who know him, we know that he lives within us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 6:19 tells us, What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?

Do you suppose he ever gets tired or dissatisfied of where he lives? Do you suppose he is always happy with where he lives? I hope we make him feel welcome and always live in a way that shows we want him there. Make sure God likes where he lives!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday April 03, 2017

Because of my injury, I am unable to put any weight at all on my right leg. This is the way it will be for at least the next 6 weeks. There needs to be a time of healing because I pretty well did a number on myself when I fell 2 weeks ago. I even made that statement to my doctor after my diagnosis. I did a number on myself this time, didn t I? The doctor said, Yes, you have. So, what can I do? How in the world can I get around?

Well, you learn to compensate, and you learn to let other parts of your body take over for the injured limb. I have learned to use a walker and hop , keeping weight off my broken leg by using my arms and being very careful. Of course, long distances will require a wheel chair, but I still have to get in and out of the chair, I still have to get up and down from my chair and the bed. So, other parts of me help out.

This is not so different from other experiences in life, which has also come into play in my circumstance. I have had to depend on the help of my wife, Scherry, and others who have graciously stepped in and provided a shoulder to lean on figuratively and literally.

I have been so blessed by those who have been willing to step in and help. I am grateful that I can use other parts of me to compensate for that part of me that is not working well right now. When help is needed, we need to be willing to step up and step in to provide that help. This is true in general, and is certainly true in the church, whether we are speaking of a physical need, or someone in need of spiritual help. I need help from other parts of me to facilitate activities, provide protection, and allow for healing.

Paul speaks of this when he writes, Carry one another s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2) What are you doing to help others out, whether it be a need for physical assistance, or some spiritual intervention? Sometimes folks find themselves not able to bear the weight what are you doing to help carry the burden? Reaching out fulfills the law of Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday April 02, 2017

I am sure you have heard of the horrific crash in Concan, Texas, that claimed the lives of 13 folks from the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels. A driver of a pick-up truck was texting while driving and ran head-on into a church bus carrying some senior adults returning from a church retreat. The driver was operating the truck erratically because of the distraction and had even been reported by a motorist who was following him. The report came too late for the occupants of the church bus. These terrible consequences took place all because of a distraction.

Distractions can lead to devastating consequences in many situations. The problem of cell phone distractions has been recognized and addressed on a number of levels. This is a real problem that should be confronted.

Distractions occur at other levels as well. Many are distracted from following the truth of Christ because of the voices that call their attention to other areas. Many of us who follow Christ can find ourselves distracted if we fail to focus on what is important. These distractions can come from within ourselves when we focus too much on us. They come from without through many sources.

On the one hand, we may find it difficult to compare the consequences with the tragedy in Texas, yet when we are speaking of our spiritual lives we know we are speaking of things with eternal consequence. Don t let the wrong things distract you. Paul wrote, I am saying this for your benefit, not to place a limitation on you, but so that without distraction you may give notable and constant service to the Lord. (I Corinthians 7:35) Don t drive while distracted, and don t follow Christ while distracted.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday April 01, 2017

Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China, scrawled this note as he neared the end of his life: "I am so weak that I cannot work; I cannot read my Bible; I cannot even pray. I can only lie still in God's arms like a child, and trust." When it comes to our relationship with the Lord, we need to remember that childlike faith is what we need. As a child, I don't remember worrying about too many things, except for maybe the amount of chocolate milk that was in the frig. I trusted that my folks would take care of me. Actually, I really don't remember having a conscious thought about trusting my folks, I just did. That is the essence of childlike faith, which is what we should have.

Christ said, "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 18:2-4)

We need to learn to trust. Actually, we know how to trust, we just need to get back to that level of trust we had as kids when it comes to our relationship with Christ. Faith like a child is what we need to have. It takes the worries away!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 31, 2017

I have spoken with a few folks who travel quite bit about how they get discount fares. One way to do this is to be willing to fly "standby". This means that when you choose your destination, you have to wait to see if there will be space available on the flight. Your baggage is set aside and marked "status pending." You have to wait until other passengers board to see if you have a ride or not. There is no guarantee.

Many are playing this sort of scenario with regard to their entrance into heaven. I hope you aren't one of them. You can have a guaranteed reservation if you will only follow God's way. I fail to see the issue with making this a done deal simply by accepting God's way - trust in Christ as your Savior. Doing so means there is no standby, there is no wondering. Some may say, "But how can you know?" You can know because Christ has given his life and has given his word.

John wrote, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (I John 5:13) We do not need to be on standby. As a matter of fact, with God there is no such thing as standby. You either have a reservation or you don't. Which is it with you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 30, 2017

We need more than "bumper sticker" Christianity. It may be popular to have bumper stickers on our cars that reflect Christian messages, or to have a "fish" symbol emblazoned on our license plate that shows our belief in Christ, but let's make sure that our actions and our conduct match our symbols. An article I read recently was written by person who related how he had been flashed a vulgar gesture by a person driving a car with a "Smile! Jesus loves you!" sticker. He had inadvertently cut off the driver in traffic and was given the sign of the driver's displeasure. Which spoke louder about the person's character - the sticker or the sign?

I am not against the use of symbols to portray our faith; let's just make sure that our actions back up our logos and our words. Our character should govern our actions and responses. If you truly wish to make your convictions known, live your convictions. In answering critics to his behavior, Paul wrote, "Was I fickle when I intended to do this? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both 'Yes, yes' and 'No, no'?" (II Corinthians 1:17) Paul wrote this to show how important it is for our actions to match our words.

Our actions should match any visible indications of our stand with Christ. If they don't, then our attempts to demonstrate the importance of Christ are in vain.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 29, 2017

Karl Barth was exiled to Switzerland during World War II. Upon his return to the University of Bonn when the war was over, he began his first lecture with the words, "I believe in God." This is a basic, but powerful, affirmation. These are the first words of the Apostle's Creed. As believers, it is an affirmation that is assumed, however we need to make sure we add clout to this affirmation.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 28, 2017

All of our lives we have had to be ready for something. As kids we prepare for meals by washing our hands, prepare for bed by brushing our teeth, and prepare for school by getting homework done and laying our clothes. As adults, we prepare for work, meetings, appointments, arrival of guests, and many other things. Scherry and I just returned from a visit with family in Ohio. Knowing this was approaching, we prepared to leave. Then, as the time for our visit to end was drawing closer, we prepared for our return. Much of our lives is spent preparing for something that is going to happen.

As followers of Christ, we need to spend time preparing for his return. John writes, "we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (I John 3:2-3) One of the most important things we can do as followers of Christ is to prepare for his coming. Doing so has a purifying effect on our lives as we concentrate on him and his provision and what our lives should reflect as we think of our relationship with him. As we think about the possibility of his return, let us examine our lives and prepare for this event. Preparing for coming events is part of our everyday lifestyle. Don't you think we should be preparing for what will be the most important event to ever take place? Prepare well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 27, 2017

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 to working 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
Sunday March 26, 2017

Everyone likes to be complimented every now and then, providing the compliment is genuine. Being genuinely complimentary of others is a good thing. Being a "schmoozer" isn't. However, receiving a genuine compliment about one's appearance or one's activity is an uplifting thing. It makes you feel good; it makes your feel appreciated; and it can certainly help if received at a time when you have experienced someone who has been somewhat less than complimentary about something. So, don't be reticent to give deserved compliments - you probably will help to make someone's day!

We should strive to be worthy of receiving compliments from God. God does give compliments when they are due. Christ speaks of receiving compliments in the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. He talks about the faithful servant receiving a compliment from his master in verse 23, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" The parable is meant as an encouragement for those of us who serve God to live in such a way in order that we may hear these complimentary words from our Father.

Are you good at giving others deserved compliments? Don't be stingy with your compliments when those compliments are deserved. Are you living in such a way so as to be deserving of God's compliments? God is not stingy about giving credit where credit is due. Strive to live to deserve God's compliments!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 25, 2017

I have always been fascinated by the story of Christ's baptism. There are so many wonderful aspects to this story. Luke records the presence of all three persons of the Trinity at the time of the baptism: "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" (Luke 3:21-22) Can you imagine being present at that baptism? Can you imagine what must have gone through the mind of John as he performed the baptism?

Of all the aspects of the baptism, one that catches me is the "passing the torch" theme. John said himself that the one who would follow him would be greater than he. He told his listeners he wasn't even worthy to loose Christ's sandals. The baptism almost said, "I now relinquish my ministry to Jesus. He is now in charge." Then Christ took up the ministry and did what he came to do.

I think we should look at our baptism from this perspective. We should view our baptism as an act of "passing the torch." Christ intended for us to "take over" the ministry he began. The question is: How are we doing? Are we doing what we need to do to continue the ministry of Christ? When Christ was preparing to depart, he told his disciples, "You shall be my witnesses." (Acts 1:8) That responsibility has been passed down to us. We may be 2000 years removed from the command, but it is just as binding on us as it was for those first century followers. How are we doing?

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 24, 2017

Ah, the good old days of seminary. I remember the start of each semester looking at the syllabi, wondering how in the world I would ever be able to cover all the assignments. Learning Greek, memorizing Hebrew vocabulary, writing papers, reading hundreds of pages, all while working forty to fifty hours a week was daunting and at times overwhelming. I learned early on in my seminary experience that what helps to make the impossible possible is to break down big tasks into small tasks. Someone once said, "It doesn't matter how big the rock is, just keep pounding. Sooner or later it's gonna bust."

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 23, 2017

We have many questions about heaven - what will it be like? What will we do? What will we see and hear? Randy Alcorn in his book "Heaven" attempts to answer some of these questions and does a good job with remaining true to scriptural insight. Of course, we really will not know what it will be like until we experience heaven for ourselves.

Revelation 22 gives us some insight into what we will do. According to 22:3, we will serve the Lord in heaven, "The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him." We don't know in what capacity, or exactly where, but we will be involved in service to our King. It may be on some distant star, but it seems our ability to travel will not be limited as it is now. Revelation 22:4 says something about what we will see, "They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads." We will be able to see Christ and others, and we will know others and be known (read I Corinthians 13:12). There will be no strangers there. Finally, Revelation 22:5 says that we will reign with him forever. We will be involved in the decision making process in some way, and in the governing of the order that exists.

We don't know exactly how all this will be or how it all will work out, but it sounds like we will be busy! And we do know that whatever will be involved, we will enjoy what we do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednsday March 22, 2017

It has been said that there are three things people need to truly be happy - something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. When we apply these with a biblical perspective, we see how true this can be.

As believers, we certainly have something to do. There are always ways we can serve Christ and serve others. We have been given gifts to serve God and others and we should never forget the need of spreading the Word of God to others. We need to be telling others of God's great love. Besides, knowing what we should be doing and not doing it is a sin. "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." (James 4:17) As believers, we do have others to love, and are loved by others. We have our family, and God wants us to promote and strengthen our family relationships. We should love God, and we are certainly loved by God. I John 4:19 tells us that "We love because he first loved us." As believers, we certainly have something to look forward to. I John 3:2 tells us, "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Yes, I would say that we do have all we need to make us truly happy.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 21, 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 20, 2017

Everyone likes to be complimented every now and then, providing the compliment is genuine. Being genuinely complimentary of others is a good thing. Being a "schmoozer" isn't. However, receiving a genuine compliment about one's appearance or one's activity is an uplifting thing. It makes you feel good; it makes you feel appreciated; and it can certainly help if received at a time when you have experienced someone who has been somewhat less than complimentary about something. So, don't be reticent to give deserved compliments - you probably will help to make someone's day!

We should strive to be worthy of receiving compliments from God. God does give compliments when they are due. Christ speaks of receiving compliments in the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. He talks about the faithful servant receiving a compliment from his master in verse 23, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" The parable is meant as an encouragement for those of us who serve God to live in such a way in order that we may hear these complimentary words from our Father.

Are you good at giving others deserved compliments? Don't be stingy with your compliments when those compliments are deserved. Are you living in such a way so as to be deserving of God's compliments? God is not stingy about giving credit where credit is due. Strive to live to deserve God's compliments!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 19, 2017

Armand-Jean du Plessis, known better as Cardinal Richelieu, was the power behind the throne of King Louis XIII. He was a skilled political strategist that helped France become a major power in Europe. Some may consider him ruthless, he was nonetheless a powerful figure that did much good as well. According to some historians, one thing he did very well was express himself.

Richelieu could be quite gracious in his speech and had a way with words that allowed him to sound warm and accepting even when conveying bad news. According to one account, an individual sought a position from Richelieu knowing full well he would be told "no" simply to hear Richelieu's eloquent and gracious denial.

Something we need to consider is not just what we say but how we say it. It is possible to sound angry even when we are not. Our voice inflection can convey messages we really don't mean, but are communicated nonetheless because of how we speak.

Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." We need to not only watch what we say, but how we say things. We may not be like Richelieu and cause people to want to hear us even when we are telling them "NO!", but we can still be gracious with our words.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 18, 2017

In II Corinthians 7, Paul defines his relationship with the Corinthians by calling them "dear friends" and telling them, "I am glad I can have complete confidence in you." (vs. 16) What is ironic about this is to remember how confrontational he was with them in his first epistle, especially when it came to a rebuke for a sexual sin among them that was being ignored. What made the difference is that the Corinthians confronted the wrongdoing, repentance followed, and the Corinthians forgave the person. This led to reinstatement in in the church and a reinforcement of God's desire. The person prospered and the church thrived.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 17, 2017

Are you wearing green today? If not, you are in danger of getting pinched. I am not sure where that custom entered into the things done on St. Patrick's Day, but it sits on the shelf all year, just waiting to be renewed on this day. It ranks right up there with turning the Chicago River green, or eating corned beef and cabbage, or drinking something green. I have heard that the "pinch" originated in America in the 1700's. Wearing green supposedly makes you invisible to leprechauns, who have a penchant for pinching people (pardon the pun). The pinch is supposed to remind people of this.

In the midst of doing whatever you are doing today to acknowledge all things green, don't forget the life of the person who got this day started. James Martin states that we most definitely need to remember the St. Patrick behind St. Patrick's Day. Martin writes, "Certainly a man worthy knowing about. For the Christian, Patrick poses an important question: would you be willing to serve a place where you had known heartache? And how much is the Gospel worth to you? For everyone, he offers a challenge: can you forgive the people who have wronged you? Could you even love them?"

These are pretty heavy ideals for a day usually marked with some lighter activity. St. Patrick manifested many godly traits in his life: forgiveness, love, patience, determination, singleness of purpose, and, above all else, a devotion to the Gospel. Sometimes it may not be easy to manifest these characteristics because of the difficulties we face on account of others. Perhaps we struggle with folks who make it difficult to display love, forgiveness, and patience. Go green when this is the case. Somehow Patrick found the strength to return to his captors and show them what they had not shown him. This was not easy, but Patrick understood, as should we, that the life to which Christ has called us has difficulties at times. Christ tells us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Pinch yourself today even if you are wearing green. Let this pinch remind you to focus on the character traits you should display as a follower of Christ, even if you have a struggle with your display. Follow the example of Patrick and, more importantly, follow the example of Christ. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 16, 2017

I was checking the weather on my computer yesterday and found this message on the weather site, Clouds are clearing today in Newton. Enjoy the sunshine! That is a great statement, isn t it? In fits and starts, the gray days of winter are giving over to the sunshine of spring. Yesterday was still pretty cold here, but the sunshine was great. Forecasters call the number of gray days a region can expect during the winter season "the gloom index." Some folks even experience seasonal affective disorder because of the gloomy days. What can we do when we experience a gloom index?

Consider the experiences of Paul and Silas in Philippi. You can read about this in Acts 16. They were roughed up when they healed a girl of a spirit that allowed her to see the future (vss.16-19); they were hauled before a court (vs. 20-21); they were stripped and beaten (vs. 22); they were thrown into prison and had their feet put in stocks (vss. 23-24). Any of these experiences could cause a significant "gloom index."; however, Paul and Silas didn't let these things put them "under the weather." After all of this, they sang!

Acts 16:25 25 tells us, "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them." They were able to rise above their circumstances and change their environment. They were able to do this because when the times were gloomy, they looked at the sunshine beyond the gloom. They knew that the clouds covering the sun were only temporary - the sun was still there, and it would indeed reappear. And their actions had an effect on others who were in jail with them.

We can rise above our circumstances and overcome the gloom by remembering the presence of the Son. He is still there for us even though his presence may be obscured by the clouds of our circumstances. Rely on his presence, focus on his provision, remember his promise, "Never will I will leave you, never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). As you focus on God s love and God s presence, you can overcome "the gloom index."

In 1944, Hale Reeves wrote: As along life s way you go, clouds may hide the light of day. Have no fear for child you know. Love will roll the clouds away. God is watching over all, and he hears each time we pray. So lift your voice in happy song, love will roll the clouds away. Love will roll the clouds away. Turn the darkness into day. I m so glad I now can say. Love will roll the clouds away.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 15, 2017

I really dislike stale vegetables - you know what I mean, vegetables that have been around a little too long and have lost their crispness, their flavor, and their freshness. Limp lettuce, celery, or carrots are just not good. They don't look good, taste good, or smell good. They have lost many of the characteristics that distinguish them as vegetables.

Unfortunately, this can happen in our spiritual lives. We can lose our crispness, our flavor, our freshness. We can lose many of the characteristics that distinguish us as Christians. When we allow bitterness, selfishness, or impatience to take over, or if we became critical of others, we obscure that which sets us apart as followers of Christ. Stale vegetables have little appeal. Stale Christians have little appeal as well.

We need to display the "fruits of the Spirit" in order to be appealing "vegetables." Paul speaks of these in Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." As we focus on the fruit of the spirit, we find we can retain our freshness and appeal. In this way, we show the attractiveness of following Christ.

Shed your staleness - retain your appeal! We want to be fresh and appear fresh to show the fruit that comes from following Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 14, 2017

What kind of an impact are you making on your world? Now, I don't mean on the world at large, but your world, your "sphere of influence." Not many of us have the opportunity to do something that affects the world at large, but sometimes folks do. Take Billy Sunday, for example.

Billy Sunday was a professional baseball player in the 19th century, playing for the Chicago White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. He was converted after hearing some Gospel singers in Chicago and attending services at a local mission. He preached his first sermon on February 17, 1889. Following this, he began to preach to larger and larger crowds throughout his 46-year ministry. He made a great impact through the changed lives of others.

Another area where he made a great impact was in the use of radio, which was a fledgling industry during his ministry. His energetic application of this new technology was so flamboyant that the Federal Communications Commission was created in response. Today, the FCC still controls the airwaves in the United States. That is certainly making an impact.

We may not have the opportunity to make such an impact that a federal agency is created in response to our efforts, but we still can make a difference in the lives of people where we are. What can you do? Look around who needs some help because they are struggling financially? Who needs help fixing up a house? Is there someone that needs help with childcare? Is there someone who needs a listening ear? Who is it that needs to hear the message of God's grace?

Ask God for ideas and thoughts to help you make an impact for him. You have an opportunity to touch peoples' lives in strong ways. Making the most of these opportunities is up to you. Paul was aware of how his life could impact others and so he said, "even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (I Corinthians 10:31-11:1)." Set a good example with your life and in this way make a positive impact on those around you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 13, 2017

A period of insanity is now being conducted by the National Football League. This is the Free Agent Signing period when good sense seems to leave the minds of adult people and money rules the day. A player in the NFL can become a free agent when he has completed his contractual obligation to the team for which he currently plays and wishes to "test the market" to see if there are other teams who may pay him more money for his services than the one for which he currently participates. This is true of all major sport leagues. The amount of money in some contracts rivals many countries GNP. I am sure these players develop a bit of swagger as they watch teams compete for their services.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 12, 2017

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
Saturday March 11, 2017

In The Imitation of Christ , Thomas a Kempis wrote, "The further the soul is from the noise of the world, the closer it may be to its Creator, for God, with his holy angels, will draw close to a person who seeks solitude, and silence. It is better to remain alone and to care for your soul than to neglect yourself and work miracles."

As I read about getting away from the "noise of the world," I wondered what a Kempis would think about the noise level of our current society (he died in 1471). Yet, the words he wrote are just as true today. We need to make "alone" time with God. There is no good reason to not do this. I have written before on the example of Christ in this regard. Luke 5:16 tells us, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. We also have the example of Paul. In Galatians 1:15-16 we read, "But when God, who set me apart from my mother s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia."

We need time with God. We need time with God alone. Through intentional withdrawal into silence and solitude we process and assimilate what God is doing in our lives. Richard Foster writes, "Solitude is both a 'vacation with God' and a 'furnace of transformation.'" Make time to be alone with God. The vacation will be transforming.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 10, 2017

One of the characteristics of our current society is our mounting personal debt. One source said the average debt per family in the United States is $210,000. That is a lot of money. I am not an economist, but you really don't need to be to know that too much debt is going to be a big problem. We really need to use God's wisdom and use our heads when it comes to debt.

Christ said, "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42) From this statement, I understand that debt is not inherently bad. There are times when debt is justified. However, reason needs to be applied when it comes to the amount of debt one acquires. A basic fact is that you cannot spend more than you have, You need to keep your wits about you when you are making financial decisions. Seek out good advice in money matters. Keep your "want" list under control. Seek God's guidance in managing your money. Remember that "the borrower is servant to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7)

Paul provides a good statement about our finances that we should keep in mind: "Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another," (Romans 13:7-8) If we let our greatest debt be our love for others, then we will find ourselves in pretty good shape fiscally and otherwise.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 09, 2017

When our youngest daughter, Megan, was living in Scotland, we went to visit. It was a marvelous trip. While we were there we rented a car in Edinburgh and drove to the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland. As you know, driving in Great Britain is different from driving here as everything is opposite. You drive on the left side of the road, the steering wheel in the car is on the right, you shift with your left hand. What this requires is constant thought. You need to think about things that, for the most part, have become "second nature" in your usual experience. You have to look at things from a different perspective; you need to look at the driving experience from the point of view of the British people.

Looking at things from a different perspective often has positive benefits. Of course, when it comes to my example above, looking at things from a different perspective is absolutely crucial. If you try to drive the way you have always driven, you can cause big problems.

Looking at things from a different point of view can be a vital exercise in conflict resolution. If you are having a disagreement with someone over some issue, take some time to give the issue some thought from the point of view of the other person. To put it simply, put yourself "in their shoes." We sometimes resist doing this, stubbornly holding on to our ideas and thoughts while refusing to consider alternatives. In many instances, this can be as problematic as if we were to refuse to drive differently in Britain than we do here. It may be just as dangerous as well.

Are you having a disagreement with someone? Have you tried to look at the issue from their point of view? Doing so can help you go a long way towards resolving the conflict. Try driving "on the wrong side of the road." This may actually be the right thing to do.

Settling disputes is a good thing to do. Proverbs 18:19 speaks of the harm conflicts can cause, "An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel." Do what you can to open the gates by giving some thought to the other side.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 08, 2017

Often we mistreat others because we have been mistreated by someone else. We turn our anger on someone as a means of venting the anger we feel as a result of being the object of another person's wrath. One writer, using the analogy from the film "Pay It Forward", calls this paying pain forward. This is not a good behavior, and we need to learn to deal with these issues in more profitable ways.

Jonathan did. On more than one occasion, he found himself at the object of his father's anger. His father would often ignore him and not be aware of what was taking place in his life (read I Samuel 14:2-4). On one occasion, Saul was ready to put Jonathan to death for tasting some honey. "Saul said, 'May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you do not die, Jonathan.'" (I Samuel 14:44) Even though he was the object of his father's misguided wrath and mistreatment, Jonathan chose not to pay this forward to others. We see this evident in his friendship with his father's self-chosen enemy, David. Instead, Jonathan chose to rely on God and trust him for the outcome of a very difficult circumstance. He declared, "Nothing can hinder the Lord." (I Samuel 14:8)

Let's follow this example and choose not to take out on others what we have experienced ourselves. Avoid the "kick the cat" syndrome, and put into God's hands our feelings and our future. Paying pain forward does nothing for anybody, including you. Put your pain in the hands of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday March 07, 2017

Light can do two things. Light can expose problems by illuminating areas that need attention. A flashlight is an invaluable tool to workers in a variety of jobs. Cracks in housing walls that may remain undetected, frayed cables, worn insulators - there are a myriad of examples where light is beneficial by bringing attention to things that need repaired or replaced.

Light also can be used to enhance appearances to make things look better. The magic of the right lighting can make something that is not so attractive rather appealing. In other words, light can be used to cover up problems.

For many of us, this is what we actually want in our relationship with Christ. We want Christ to act as a light to cover up our problems rather than allow him to be the Light that exposes our problem and restores us. We want just enough Christ to make us feel fine, but we don't really want him to be in charge of our lives.

A relationship with Christ does not work that way. Christ came as the Light of the World to expose the problem and offer a solution; he did not come to provide special effects to make us look good and feel better. John writes, "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." (1:9-12) Let Christ be the true Light in your life, not just light up your life. That he will not do.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday March 06, 2017

All of us have character flaws and imperfections. Most of us readily admit our shortcomings and want to do what we can to improve in these areas. Some folks just don't get the fact that they aren't perfect. Don't you just love to be around these people? Well, that's another line of thought I'll pursue sometime. Back to our character flaws and imperfections. How many times have you said, "I need to be more patient," or "I need to be a better listener," or "I need to be less irritable?" If you haven't said this, you may need to do some introspection. If you have, you know there are areas in your life on which you need to focus. And that is really the point and the positive aspect of struggling with some of our imperfections. When we do, we acknowledge our weakness and our need for help. Those flaws in our character can actually help make us more dependent on God as we rely on him for assistance in dealing with these issues.

Paul acknowledged this and tells us, "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh. . .three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" Paul concludes, "For when I am weak, then I am strong (II Corinthians 12:7-10)."

Paul knew there were areas in his life he would like to see changed. He understood the purpose of these issues, and chose to use them as reminder to him of his dependence upon God. We can stew and fret about some our "problem areas," or we can acknowledge their existence, turn them over to God, and allow him to use these weak areas to build our character and strengthen us. I have always loved God's response to Paul with regard to Paul's struggle, "My grace is sufficient for you." Indeed God's grace is sufficient for us - let his grace take charge in your life and watch his power overcome your weakness.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday March 05, 2017

Jean-Paul Sartre died in 1980. During his life, Sartre was an avowed atheist. His humanistic writings and teachings permeated 20th century thought in a way that should not be underestimated. Yet, when he came to the end of his life, he expressed thoughts that demonstrated he was less than enamored with his life and his hope, or to be more precise, his lack of hope. Concerning humanism Sartre, in his final interview before his death said, "I hated in humanism the certain way man has of admiring himself." Arnold Jacob Wolf commenting on Sartre's statement said, "Sartre found humanity less than admirable." Sartre said, ""hope is necessarily disappointed."

Hope is indeed disappointed when there is no foundation for hope. Even Sartre agreed with this. However, for those of us who trust in the Lord, we know we have a foundation for hope. Isaiah 40:31 reminds us, "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Sartre's final interview gives the impression of a disappointed, perhaps even disillusioned man. However, it does not have to be like this. Having a hope in something that is real and is powerful fends off disappointment and disillusionment. Paul tells us in Romans 5:5, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

We are all going to go "the way of all flesh." The question is when we do, have we followed the path that brings hope, or are we hopeless before the specter of death that has come to claim us?

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday March 04, 2017

In 1996, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 Bobby Unser and a friend, Robert Gayton, almost lost their lives after their snowmobiles broke down in a blizzard in Colorado. The incident became infamous because Unser and Gayton were later charged with improper usage of a motor vehicle on wilderness land, a federal charge. This led to a protracted effort to reform the rules of enforcement of such laws.

Their experience in the blizzard was harrowing, to say the least, as they had to spend one night in a snow cave and finally found a barn where they could call for help. Commenting later on the experience, Unser said, "We had to do everything right" in their struggle to survive against the elements. One wrong decision could have led to their deaths.

We face a struggle against hostile elements in our spiritual lives. Some come from within - our impure thoughts, selfish desires, and wrong motives bring problems if we don't get control of those issues through the power of God. There are forces from without that can cause hard times for us. Media influences, acquaintances who don't support our lifestyle, and problems in life are all examples of the elements that can cause bad times for us and influence us to make wrong decisions.

We need to depend on Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit each step of the way to prevent us from getting trapped in a blizzard. Colossians 3:17 tells us, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." This is the information we need to help us make good decisions.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday March 03, 2017

I am sure you have heard the familiar adage "what goes around comes around." This refers to the idea that a person's actions, whether good or bad, will often have consequences for that person. Lee Atwater, a former Republican National Party Chairman and chief strategist for George H. W. Bush's successful presidential bid in 1988, found this out the hard way.

In 1980, while devising campaign strategy for a congressional candidate in South Carolina, Atwater learned that the opposing candidate had once been treated for depression with electro-shock therapy. He published this information and did a great deal of damage to the image of the candidate. When the candidate tried to contact him, he rebuffed his attempt by saying that he had no intention of communicating with a man who had been "hooked up to a jumper cable."

Ten years later, Atwater was himself "hooked up." Afflicted with cancer, he was attached to IV's, monitors, and other machines. Not long before he died, he wrote a letter of apology to the man who had been on the receiving end of his cruel statements, asking to be forgiven for his thoughtless tactics. His ruthless methods and heartless words now were haunting him as he hovered close to death.

This reminds us of how we must be careful with our actions and our words. Statements made today or actions pursued today in the "heat of the moment" can cause us pain at some point down the road. Think carefully before you use those choice words or inflammatory actions against someone else. Your words and/or your actions could come back upon you. Proverbs 26:27 tells us, "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them." Indeed, "what goes around comes around."

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday March 02, 2017

A pastor was asking for prayer requests at a service of the church. After a request was made, the pastor would say, "Lord, in your mercy", to which the congregation would respond "Lord, hear our prayer." A 4-year-old boy became more increasingly more intense in his response with each request until finally he shouted out, "Lord, hear our prayer!"

The little boy probably expressed what many in the church were feeling, and what many of us feel at times. We want to shout out at God, "Lord, hear our prayer!"

Now, we know we don't need to shout at God for him to hear us. At least, I hope you know that you don't actually need to shout at God. God hears our prayers not because we are loud or we deserve to be heard, but because Christ has opened up our way to be heard by God by offering his life on our behalf. Hebrews 4:14 & 16 tells us, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God. . .Let us then approach God s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. We offer our prayers in confidence knowing God hears us and will respond.

Our prayers are statements of praise, expressions of hope, and often pleas for intervention at times when we experience circumstances that bring anguish and duress. David called out to God at a time of great stress and pain, and he expressed his faith in God's answer, "The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer." (Psalm 6:9) We know this to be true, so we can pray with great confidence. We know that God hears our prayers, and we don't have to shout at him!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday March 01, 2017

God's timing is always perfect. Usually when we say this, we are referring to an incident or a situation where we have experienced God moving in our lives in a unique way for our benefit. However, it could also describe a circumstance where you are the benefactor rather than the beneficiary. Consider a situation where you learn of someone's financial need "by chance." Perhaps you have received this information for a reason. Sometimes a phone call to a colleague, friend, or family member can turn out to be God's sovereign timing when you learn through the call about a problem they are facing. As you hear about the circumstance, you may learn you have the means to help with the problem, or maybe they just need a willing listener.

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis

My Favorite Bible Verse

Connie McCall

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

Pauline Phillips

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

Lois Strole

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

Week Of June 18th, 2017

7:00 AM
Sun. Jun 18th
Father's Day Breakfast
6:30 PM
Wed. Jun 21st
Bible Study

Happy Birthday

Lynn Davidson
Mon. Jun 19th
Josiah Lowery
Tue. Jun 20th
Tony Peacher
Wed. Jun 21st
Landen Clark - Olivia Zumbahlen
Fri. Jun 23rd

Happy Anniversary

Chad & melinda Barthelme
Tue. Jun 20th
Lawrence & Connie Quick
Wed. Jun 21st
Rein & Karen Schmidt
Fri. Jun 23rd
Larry & Barbara Mulvey
Sat. Jun 24th

Coming Events

Fish Fry w/the Regan's
Jul 15 - 6 PM
Popcorn & A Movie
Jul 23 - 6 PM
Sing For Missions
Jul 30 - 6 pm
Summer Fiesta
Aug 11 & 12

June Ministry Schedule

Assisting in Worship
Brad Tarr
4th
John Dryden Jr.
11th
John Dryden Sr.
18th
Eric Schmidt
25th
Eric Schmidt
Communion

Ushers
Dave Thompson
Adam Wolf
Brad Davidson
Dylan Davidson

Special Music
 
4th
 
11th
 
18th
 
25th
Kent Klier
Song Leader

Instrumentalists
Jolyn Bigard
Piano
Cheryl Earnest
Organ

Nursery Workers
Michelle Fulton
4th
Scherry Willis
11th
Terry Milliman
18th
Mike Phillips
25th

Greeters
Jay & Debbie Hart
4th
Curt & Gail Ann Collins
11th
Steve & Sophie Kidwell
18th
David Stankus Family
25th

Jr. Church
Steve, Rachel, Bob, Jayne
4th
Ross, Jennifer, Ross, Lynn
11th
Poodie, Mark, Jerod, Brooke
18th
Tyler, Jacey, Jason, Michelle
25th

Connie McCall - Brook Wolf
Hostesses

My Favorite Bible Verse

Beverly Brackett

Finally, brothers, 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

Madonna Klier

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

Deloris Staley

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

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

Scherry Willis

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

Richard Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Steve Willis - Pastor

My Favorite Bible Verse

Lawrence Klier

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

Scherry Willis

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

Richard Lewis

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

June 1, 2017

June was always one of my favorite months when I was growing up. June meant I was out of school. June meant outside stuff. June meant camping. June meant swimming. June meant baseball. There were all sorts of things that I liked about June.

Now, what about January? What was wrong with January? Well January meant school. January meant cold. January meant inside (well, for the most part). I didn't like January.

I like June and disliked January because in Jume I could do what I wanted to do and be involved in activities I thought were fun. January was not that way - there were a few things, like sledding, but it just wasn't June. Having favorite months is all well and good. There is little harm in this. Sometimes, however, we have this "favorites" thing going with respect to how we feel about God. We have our "favorite" God. That is, when things are going well, we like God and really think about what We need to do to please him. But when things are going the way we wish and We aren't getting what we want, we aren't very happy with him.

We need to watch this little attitude. Our focus needs to be on him, and we need to let him do What he wants to do in our lives when he wants and in the way he wants. Folks have struggled with this for hundreds of years. Habakkuk complained, "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?" (Habakkuk 1:2) He wasn't happy with God because he thought God was not paying attention to the needs of the people.

But after some interaction with God, and hearing from him on what was going to happen, Habakkuk proclaimed, "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights." (3:19) Folks, God does indeed have a June experience for us. We just need to be patient and trust in him. Don't have a "favorite" thing going with God - with him it is all good.

Pastor Steve Willis

My Favorite Bible Verse

Gloria Bradley

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

Ruth Spraggins

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

Carolyn Woods

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