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

Dr. Steve Willis


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

My Favorite Bible Verse

Dr. Steve Willis

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

Sam & Karen White

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


Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10
Friday October 19, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 17, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 15, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 14, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 13, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 12, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 08, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday October 07, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday October 06, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday October 05, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 04, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday October 01, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 30, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 29, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 28, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 27, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 26, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 25, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 24, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 23, 2018

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 22, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 19, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday September 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 12, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 11, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 10, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 09, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 08, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday September 07, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday September 05, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday September 04, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday September 03, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

As we continue in our work, we can be reminded of God s continual work in us. Paul tells us that God won't stop this work in our lives until we are brought to the place where God wants us to be. Philippians 1:6 tells us, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday September 02, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday September 01, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 31, 2018

A sixth-grade Sunday school teacher brought a pan of brownies to her class. She gave each child a slip of paper marked with an expense of some sort or something else like "job", "hobby", "social organization", or an activity. Then, she picked up the pan of brownies and began calling out what was written on the pieces of paper. As the students brought their slips up one by one, the pieces of paper were redeemed with a brownie. Finally, the last brownie disappeared.

One boy in the class still held his unredeemed slip. "God!" called the teacher. The student brought his slip forward. "God" was written on it. He hoped the teacher had one more brownie hidden somewhere. Instead, the teacher used a knife and scraped the crumbs from the bottom of the pan into the little boy's napkin. Most of the other kids thought he got a pretty raw deal.

The teacher said, "The brownies represent your lives. If you don't give God his share right away, He probably won't get anything except maybe the crumbs." The students learned an important lesson that day, a lesson many of us adults have yet to learn.

God should have the first right to everything we have. Exodus tells us, "Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God." (Exodus 23:19) We often struggle with priorities in our lives. Where does God fit? We need to remember this "crummy Sunday School lesson." We should always remember who should come first in our lives! This is the best way for us to give thanks to God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 30, 2018

In 1971 a Canadian group called "The Five Man Electrical Band" released a song entitled "Signs." In the U.S., the song made it to #3 on Billboard s Top 40. The song spoke of signs that notified people of restrictions. One verse spoke of a sign restricting people from applying for a job based on their appearance and another verse spoke of a warning to trespassers in a given area.

The reality in life is that there are areas where access is restricted and there are circumstances that dictate certain dress and appearance. We find signs everywhere that say "Employees Only", "No Trespassing", "Restricted Access," or "Admittance Only with Ticket". None of us like to be told we are not welcome somewhere, but there are many times when this is the case.

The last verse of the 1971 song reflects a truth about where we are welcome: "And the sign said everybody is welcome to come in, kneel down, and pray." God welcomes anyone who comes to him seeking him and looking for an audience with him. There are no "Keep Out" signs with God. We are welcome when we come to him asking for his presence in our lives.

Listen to these "words of welcome" found in the scripture: " Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden" (Matt. 11:28). "The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37). "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink" (John 7:37). We have been granted access to God through the ministry of Christ who died for us to give us this privilege. Accepting his gift affords us a welcome in the presence of God. This is your "sign."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 29, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 28, 2018

A rancher from Texas went to England to do some consulting. He engaged an English farmer in a conversation about the size of their property. The farmer said, "My land extends for a square mile." The Texan replied, "Well, if I get in my old truck at dawn and start from one side of my ranch, I will still be on my property when the sun sets." The farmer replied, "Yes, I had a truck like that once."

I think this story relates a circumstance of differing perspective. This happens on occasion. One person views something one way, and another person views the same thing in a different way. This may or may not be a problem. In Revelation 2 - 3, John records a number of scenarios where differing perspectives was a problem. He writes to seven churches, and to each he gives a commendation; however, along with the commendations there are also condemnations. These condemnations are because the churches, although obedient and insightful in many regards, also had faults they were ignoring. For example, the church at Laodicea had that perspective that they were rich because they had accumulated a great deal of things and felt they was nothing they needed. The church said, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." (Revelation 3:17a) In reality, they were poor. God said, "But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17b)

We need to pray for correct perspective. We need to see our lives through God's eyes, not our own, so that we can have an accurate picture of our lives. Don't make a Laodicean mistake. Pray for the perspective of God and be willing to see what he sees, not what we want to see.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 27, 2018

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

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

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

,p> We need to trust our lives to the Savior who knows what is needed to deal with our brokenness and our deficiencies. Too many times we take matters into our own hands rather than allow the Lord free rein to accomplish the procedures that would enhance our lives. Sometimes the procedures are uncomfortable and hard to bear, but as with my little girl, our Lord knows what is needed to make us whole and bring us restoration. Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." As the Great Physician, he knows exactly what we need. Put your life in his hands, he will take good care of you. Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 26, 2018

We all face rejection at one time or another. How do we handle this? Something that can help is to remember the biblical examples of those who experienced rejection. Joseph was rejected by his brothers. Paul refers to being rejected on many occasions by a number of his associates. Christ himself, of course, was rejected. Isaiah prophecies about the rejection of Christ, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3)

We should not be surprised when we face rejection. We should realize it will occur. We may be rejected for standing up for our Christian principles or we may be rejected on a personal level for some reason. We even may be rejected by those whom we trust most. What is important is how we respond when we face rejection.

Joseph gives us a role model to follow. In the wake of rejection, he remained faithful. He did not compromise his position. He remained true to himself and to God. He did not let the negative effects of his circumstance prevent him from pursuing his goal. When the circumstance was there, he forgave those who rejected him.

Kent Crockett tells the story of a young salesman who became discouraged because he had been rejected by so many customers he approached. He asked a more experienced salesman for some advice.

"Why is it that every time I make a call on someone I get rejected?"

"I just don't understand that," answered the older salesman. "I've been hit on the head, called dirty names, and thrown out the door, but I've never been rejected."

Rejection isn't what happens to us but how we interpret what happens to us. We all experience rejection, we cannot avoid it. The important question is not the fact of rejection or why we are rejected, but how we respond when we face rejection. And remember: you will never face rejection from God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 25, 2018

There are natural laws in our world that we usually don't think much about, but if we encounter a situation where we might be in danger of violating the natural law we know there will be consequences and we avoid putting the law to the test. For example, we probably don't think much about gravity, but if we are in a situation where we are in danger of violating the law of gravity, say, perhaps coming too close to the edge of cliff, we make sure we don't. God has given these natural laws, and we know they are there for our benefit and protection if we follow them. We fully understand the consequences if we don't.

God has given spiritual laws as well. Yet, there are some who choose to ignore these spiritual laws. Galatians 6:7 is one of those laws we sometimes fail to acknowledge, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."

We realize there are consequences when we ignore natural laws. We also need to realize there are consequences when we ignore God's spiritual laws. God's laws never fail. We need to obey them.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 24, 2018

I don't know about you, but nothing angers me more than to see someone throw trash out of a car. I could wax long and eloquent about the evils of this, but I don't have the space. Besides, I do have a point to make about trash.

Mart DeHaan wrote one time that there are three things you can do with trash: collect it, spread it around, or dispose of it. Many folks are collectors. They like to listen for any little tidbits of gossip they can. They relish any news they receive on what happened to someone else or what someone else has done. The problem is most folks who are collectors don't keep these things to themselves. They like to spread it around. They are like the folks who enjoy dumping trash out of cars, they want to pollute the environment. The best thing to do with trash is to dispose of it. This takes care of the mess, and it keeps the trash from offending or hurting others. I really don't understand why some folks have trouble with this concept.

James 4:11 says, "Don't speak evil of one another." When you hear something about someone, do the right thing - put it in the "litter bag," get rid of it, dispose it! This way, you will make sure it doesn't get spread around. How many of you really enjoy seeing our roadsides decorated with trash? Well, then why do we like to pollute our conversation with gossip? My mother always told me, "If you can't say anything good about someone, don't say anything at all." Don't litter with your mouth it really is a bad practice.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 23, 2018

My grandfather had a phrase he would use when he heard people complaining or arguing. He would say, "Quit your molly grubbing!" We tend to complain or argue, don't we?

When Moses was leading the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, he heard one complaint after another - "We don't have any water!", "We're going to starve!", "We can't get our disputes heard!" (see Exodus 18), even "We wish we were back in Egypt!" We can really be good at this as well. God is not really pleased with complainers. You need to read Numbers 11:1-5 to see how he dealt with some of the "rabble."

Philippians 2:14 tells us to "Do everything without complaining or arguing." We need to go against the grain of complaining and arguing. We need to do this because being a complainer really hinders our effectiveness as followers of Christ. When we give in to complaining, we are unable to experience life in the way he wants for us. Not only that, but we are unable to channel the light and love of God in the way he desires.

I would imagine God has times when he wants to say to us just what Papaw used to say, "Quit your molly grubbing." So, quit it! It is up to you to buck the trend!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 22, 2018

The scripture is full of many examples of God using a few people, or in many instances a single person, to frustrate a much greater foe. Consider Gideon's 300 (Judges 7:1-8), or Samson (Judges 15:8ff), or Shamgar (Judges 3:31). Of course, you always include David in a list such as this (I Samuel 17:4-23). With the power of God helping them, all of these people were able to accomplish mighty things even when faced with overwhelming situations.

We should never underestimate the ability of God to provide for us and to empower us to do good. Even when we feel overwhelmed by what we are facing, or some task we need to pursue, we know that God can provide for us the ability to accomplish the task. Don't shirk from what seemingly appears to be an insurmountable job - allow God to provide for you the strength needed to accomplish the task.

God can and will use you, no matter how weak we seem to feel. God spoke to Zerubbabel long ago and promised that His presence would be with him at a time when he needed strength. God said, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit (Zechariah 4:6)." The same Spirit of God who was with Zerubbabel is with you - let him be your strength!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 21, 2018

Napoleon made one of the most famous "comebacks" in history after he returned from exile on the island of Elba to once again rule France. He did so for 100 days until his defeat by General Wellington at Waterloo on June 18, 1815. After this defeat, he was exiled to the tiny island of St. Helena. During his exile, he commented to General Count de Montholon: "Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but upon what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force! But Jesus Christ founded His upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."

This is certainly an accurate assessment. When I first read this quote, I thought it was quite a statement about devotion to a leader. However, when we are speaking of Christ, what is important is not that people are willing to die for him, but that he was willing to die for people. Napoleon s comments about the love of Christ are certainly accurate. Christ's death proved his love for us.

John 15 13 tells us, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." I hope that Napoleon truly understood Christ's love and what it led him to do for us. I hope you do as well. Christ died for you because of his love for you. He wants you to follow him. He wants us to follow him not for what we can give to him - that would have been Alexander's or Napoleon s thinking - but for what he can give to us. Oh, and speaking about comebacks, Napoleon's doesn't hold a candle to Christ's.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 20, 2018

Football season is getting underway, and I just heard that Brett Favre is coming out of retirement. No, just kidding, but it wouldn't surprise me if he tried. Some of you may not know who Brett Favre is, so let me give you a little history. Favre was an NFL quarterback who was taken in the 2nd round of the 1991 NFL Draft out of the University of Southern Mississippi by the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta drafted him and then traded Brett to Green Bay. He was made the starter in the fourth game of the 1992 season, and then started every game from that time forward for Green Bay (where he won a Super Bowl), the New York Jets, and the Minnesota Vikings, a streak of 297 games. This is an NFL record that eventually came to an end because of an injury. By the time Favre finally hung up his cleats, he had passed for more than 70,000 yards on 10,000 attempts, threw more than 500 touchdowns, and was intercepted 300 times, all NFL records. He held the record for most games won for a time, but was eventually passed in this category by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Favre had a hard time with the decision to retire. He retired, then un-retired, retired, then un-retired. After all of his accomplishments over almost 20 years, why did he have trouble with the decision to retire? Favre's passion for the game made it hard for him to quit. He loved football and wanted to play football, so he had a hard time giving it up, in spite of all the pain involved.

When it comes to our desire to serve God, we need to be like Brett Favre was with football. Our desire to serve God should be so strong, we should have such passion, that we view retirement as out of the question. Of course, in our case, it is! We should have such a strong love for God that we never want to "come out of the game."

Paul talks about this desire in Philippians 3:12 - 14, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." In Psalm 42:2 we read about having a strong desire to serve God, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" How thirsty are you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 19, 2018

Anger is an interesting emotion. We are often taught that anger is wrong, and that we need to work to suppress it. Yes, anger is wrong when motivated by envy, malice, a desire to injure, or there is simply no good reason to be angry. Inappropriate anger is a sin. But there are times when anger is warranted, and there are times when a lack of anger may indicate weakness or apathy.

When we see injustice, wickedness, dishonor, or evil, anger may very well be the appropriate response. We need to apply a little wisdom here, and use some common sense to help us determine when anger is the correct response. Aristotle said, Anybody can become angry that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way that is not easy! It may not be easy, and it shouldn t be easy, but there are circumstances when anger is the right response.

Christ displayed anger. Think of his reaction when he saw the arrogance of the folks at the temple who were turning a worship experience into an opportunity for profit. We read in Matthew 21:12-13, "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. It is written,' he said to them, 'My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.'"

There are times we need to stand up show a strong response to wrong activity or attitudes. We should have a sincere desire to see God's will performed. Often anger is needed when we see things which oppose God's plan. Richard De Haan wrote, The person who's not angry at evil lacks enthusiasm for good."

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 18, 2018

Fritz Kreisler was a world famous violinist whose life spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He made thousands of dollars from his concert appearances; however he gave most of his money away. So, after his discovery of an exquisite violin for sale during one of his trips, he was unable to purchase it. He began saving the necessary funds for the violin and when he had what was needed, he returned to the shop to make the purchase. Sadly, the violin had already been sold. He got the name and address of the buyer and traveled to talk to him about buying the violin. The man was a wealthy individual who did not play, but had already placed the violin in this collection and was unwilling to sell. Kreisler was broken-hearted and asked if he could just play the instrument one more time. After his performance, the owner was moved to say, "Mr. Kreisler, after hearing you play that instrument, I know I do not have the right to keep it. The violin is yours."

As Christians we have something to share that is far more valuable than a violin. We have the priceless message of the Gospel of Christ. We no more have any business keeping this news to ourselves than the wealthy collector had to keep the violin. We need to give it away to those who need to hear what Christ has for them. Don't "collect" the Gospel for yourself - give the message away that others may know the blessing of life in Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 17, 2018

We are living in an age of choice. We have so many options for so many things - car styles, clothing styles, food choices. Do we want Mexican, Chinese, Italian, or Thai for dinner tonight? We can make our own playlists of music, choosing only the songs we like and loading them so that we have just the tunes we want to hear.

Choices are great and we are blessed to have them. The only problem with choices is when we let our riches of options affect our view of Scripture. We have the blessing of being able to be selective in many things, but we need to beware of being scripturally selective. We can't just pick and choose what parts of the Bible apply to us and what parts don't. Choosing music is one thing, following the Bible is another. All the scripture is for all of God's people. We may not like what the Scripture says in a particular place, but that does not give us the freedom to say, "That's not for me." It is intended for you, as God intends for his Word to be universally applied. Granted, there are interpretive decisions that need to be made, but we need to be careful about saying, "Well, that is for them, not for me."

Take time to develop an understanding of God's Word so you will apply it correctly. Thomas Jefferson didn't like the supernatural parts of the Bible so he wrote his own version leaving out anything miraculous. That can't be done. Psalm 119:160 tells us, "All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal." Don't apply iTunes mentality to Scriptural application. Being able to develop your own playlist is great, but don't try to develop your own Bible.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 16, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 15, 2018

I have always loved the comic strip "Peanuts." Charles Schultz was a master of communicating marvelous truths through simple scenarios played out by a loveable band of young friends. Of course, I didn't understand or appreciate this when I read this strip as a young boy, but as I grew older I saw "Peanuts" in its true form. There was a particular strip where Charlie Brown made this revealing statement, "I've developed a new philosophy. . .I only dread one day at a time."

Worry - we all know we shouldn't, but most of us struggle with this. Much has been written about it, countless sermons have been preached on the topic, books have been written on how to deal with worry, and still we find ourselves involved in the struggle. Christ's most poetic statements were about how we should not worry. He tells us, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it." (Luke 12:22-29)

We need to consider these words carefully and see if they can help us develop a different philosophy than even the venerable Charlie Brown. Listen to the words of Christ!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 14, 2018

For some reason, the words to the Harry Chapin song "Cats in the Cradle" are running around in my head this morning - "A child arrived just the other day, came into the world in the usual way." This sort of happened with my new grandson oh, haven't told you about him yet, have I? Yes, Sullivan John Robbins came into the world this morning at about 2 a.m. He was 7 lbs. 13 oz. and 19 ½" long. Casey and Megan are the parents Megan is my youngest daughter. This is her first child. Everyone is doing well.

Now, what was I saying? Oh child arrived in the usual way well, that sort of happened with Sullivan. That was what was expected. Megan's labor was progressing normally, and it looked as if he would come into the world "in the usual way," but, as often these things do, progress took a different turn. So, a c-section was warranted, and that is what took place. Of course, in and of itself, this was not all that unusual as this is the scenario in many births. The bottom line is everyone is fine, and that is important.

I am not going to elaborate a great deal of this, but let's just remember that in life we know there may be unexpected paths that crop up. Even with my daughter, what took place was not totally unexpected, and what took place was what was desired - the birth of a little boy. It helps to remember that the unexpected can and will take place at times, and being aware of this is very helpful.

This is why we need to continue to rely on the hand of God in our lives. Nothing is unexpected with him - he knows the turns our lives will take. Therefore, the helpful thing is to devote ourselves to his leadership and trust his guidance. Psalm 56:3 encourages us, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." We can do that because even though we may encounter the unexpected in our lives, God does not. So, we can trust him to be right there for us even when we zig when we thought we were going to zag. By the way, my little grandson is really cute.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 13, 2018

During a performance on October 3, 2003, Roy Horn, one-half of the Las Vegas mega-star duo "Siegfried and Roy", was mauled by one of the tigers used in their magic review. For years, this duo kept audiences on the edge of their seats with their unique blend of animal mastery and magical illusion. Although the animals in the act always seemed tame and friendly, for some reason a tiger attacked Horn. The attack ended their brilliant shows. In 2009, they made a "comeback" show of sorts, but the injuries Horn sustained prevented him from ever being the showman he once was. He retired in 2010.

No one knows for sure what prompted the attack. Many theories were put forth, including a couple by Horn himself. Horn suffered a stroke almost simultaneously with the attack. It was not determined if the stroke was caused by the attack, or Horn perhaps suffered the stroke before the attack. Horn thinks the latter, and believes his tiger was reacting to this, doing what he thought was necessary to save Horn's life. Of course, all of this is speculation. One fact that all animal trainers know stands out - you really don't "tame" a wild animal, you simply keep its behavior under control.

James uses the analogy of taming wild animals in describing the trouble we have with our tongue. He says in 3:7-8, "All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." We have a greater chance of keeping a wild beast under control than we do keeping our tongues under control.

Much training was required to get the animals to the place where they could be "performers" in Siegfried and Roy's show. Much more training is needed to keep our tongues under control. A lot of damage was done to Roy Horn by an out of control animal. A lot of damage can be done to people by an out of control tongue. Keep this in mind the next time you feel that you are losing control of your tongue. Remember it is "full of deadly poison" and needs to be closely guarded. Don't maul others with it - keep it tamed!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 12, 2018

Kit Carson was an explorer whose exploits west of the Mississippi in the years leading up to the Civil War were as famous as those of Daniel Boone's in the east. Ironically, Carson was born and spent his early years in Kentucky on land that had been purchased from Daniel Boone's heirs. The Boone and Carson families were close. Carson's exploits, like those of Daniel Boone's, are legendary. Yet for all his resourcefulness and ability, Carson's statements during a period of illness made shortly before his death on May 23, 1868, demonstrate that he knew he was dependent upon someone else.

During a trip to New York City with a group of Native American Chiefs, Carson fell ill, He writes, "I felt my head swell and my breath leaving me. Then, I woke...my face and head all wet. I was on the floor and the chief was holding my head on his arm and putting water on me. He was crying. He said, 'I thought you were dead. You called on your Lord Jesus, then shut your eyes and couldn't speak.' I did not know that I spoke...I do not know that I called on the Lord Jesus, but I might - it's only Him that can help me where I now stand..." As capable as he was, Carson knew that in death he was powerless. He knew upon whom he needed to depend in this regard - Christ alone.

As capable, skilled, and strong as we are in life, we are powerless to do anything in death. This confirms why our hope needs to be in our Risen Savior, Jesus Christ. In Revelation 1:18 Christ reminds us, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."

Kit Carson climbed many mountains in life and had many conquests to his credit, but it was only through his faith in Christ that he had the hope of conquering death. So it is with us. Many people trusted Carson with their lives as he led expeditions in life. He, in turn, knew what guide to follow for eternal life. Make sure you are following the right guide!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday August 11, 2018

Yesterday I wrote about "The Great Stone Face," or actually the rock formation that inspired this story. In reality we do not have faces that are set in stone and we can communicate so much with just facial expressions. Sadness, worry, joy, anger, contentment, fear, can all be stated well without saying a word. Our faces reflect all of these emotions and so many more as well.

We read an interesting story about a face and what it communicated in Exodus 34:29-35, "When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. . . And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD." Moses was unable to hide that he had spoken with the Lord because of his face being so radiant. In order to talk with his fellow Israelites, he would have to use a veil.

Can people tell anything about your relationship with the Lord by looking at your face? Now, I know we cannot expect the same phenomenon as Moses' experience, but our face should reflect how we feel about God. Aaron and others knew Moses had been close to God because of the radiance of Moses' face. Folks should be able to see our closeness with God by observing our lives. Are our lives radiant because of our closeness to God? Reflect the glory of God with the mirror of your life. Let your face communicate your faith!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 10, 2018

"The Old Man of the Mountain" was a rock formation in New Hampshire's Franconia Notch State Park that once attracted thousands of tourists every year and inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Great Stone Face" in 1850. Hawthorne wrote that the face was "a work of Nature in her mood of majestic playfulness." However, on May 3, 2003, the Great Stone Face collapsed.

A news release from just after the collapse stated, "The Old Man of the Mountain, the enduring symbol of the State of New Hampshire, is no more. Sometime between Friday evening and Saturday morning, the stone profile that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Franconia Notch State Park each year collapsed. On Saturday, May 3 at approximately 7:30 a.m., two Franconia Notch State Park employees noticed that the Old Man of the Mountain had collapsed. At this time, it appears as though the forehead and the nose are missing." What was once an enduring symbol that inspired pride and identity was gone. There have been efforts to try to restore "the Old Man," but it will never be the same.

This event speaks to the nature of life. We see things change, even things we thought were changeless and would continue to endure. This happens to "natural formations," and it also happens to man-made entities. Even now we are witnessing drastic changes in huge companies that are on the verge of collapse, companies that one might have thought would "endure forever."

These events remind us there is nothing that will last forever. Well, except for something that is really important. Keith Green wrote about this in his 1980 song "Grace by Which I'm Saved." He said, "And how I wish it had been explained, that as you're growing you must remember, that nothing lasts, except the grace of God, by which I stand, in Jesus."

Indeed, nothing will endure except for God and his mercy, God and his grace. God is a rock upon whom we can depend. He is a rock that will never change. Psalm 18:2 tells us, "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." God is a rock that will never "lose face." He will never change. Trust the never-changing God!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 09, 2018

I have always admired the patience of David. Now, when you think of biblical figures that are examples of patience, you usually associate that character trait with Job. David is also a good role model in this area.

He was anointed as Saul's successor when he was a young boy. God directed this action at the time he did for a number of reasons. One of those reasons was that he knew David could handle the situation. Now, I am not talking about David becoming king that would be easy. God knew that David could deal with knowing he would be king but waiting for God s timing for this to be accomplished. God knew David had the patience and the faith not to want to hurry things along.

David displayed this patience on more than one occasion. He passed up chance after chance to do away with Saul and claim the throne. We read of one such opportunity in I Samuel 24:3-7. David had a chance to kill Saul, but didn't. He said, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." David knew he needed to wait for the hand of God to direct the circumstances that would bring him to the throne.

Whenever you feel pulled to take matters into your own hands and rush things along, remember the example of David. Trust in God's timing and leave the details in his hands. Even as bad as it got under Saul, God had a purpose in keeping him as king until the time he had set for the transition. There were reasons for this, even though they were not readily apparent to David and others. David wasn't looking for the reasons. He knew it was best to trust God. We need to do the same.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 08, 2018

Bill Morgan passed away yesterday. For those of you who had the privilege of knowing Coach Morgan, you feel a sense of loss at his passing. For those of you who didn't have the opportunity to meet him in this life, you would have enjoyed the privilege. I pray for his dear wife, Sharon, and their three wonderful adult children, Darren, Denise, and Kari, as well as their families. I pray for God's comfort for them, and that the hope we have as followers of Christ will encourage them at this time. II Corinthians 5:8 reminds us that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

I am re-issuing the following post that I wrote well over a year ago as a tribute to Coach Morgan. I know he will be missed. This was 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. 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. 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. But through this "game" Coach Morgan taught me 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. "If 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 Morgan 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
Tuesday August 07, 2018

Yesterday, I spoke of the importance of writing things down. I'm going to continue in the vein just a bit in my article for today.

My mother was a rather precise person in many areas. I didn't pay much attention to this as I was growing up, but as I became an adult and observed some of her mannerisms, it occurred to me that Mom was a pretty particular person. Now, being particular didn't make her a demanding person, it is just that there were certain things she wanted done in a certain way. She would only write with black ink, always folded her towels a certain way, always wanted things placed in a certain way, as well as other practices done just so.

Some time ago, either Stephanie or Megan, and I cannot recall which, found something that made me realize Mom must have been a particular person in a number of areas for most of her life. While leafing through the family Bible, they found a note Mom had written. Mom wrote the note when she was 13 years, 1 month, and 8 days old. She said so in the note. She also spoke of some other activities that occurred at certain points in her young life, all spelled out in this precise way. I got a kick out of envisioning my mother as a young teenager, carefully writing down these important events and taking pains to spell out her age in such precise terms. I mean, how important is it to list our age down to the day?

Actually, when you give it some thought, it is pretty important. Our "now" is not a year, month, or week, it is a day - it is today. Looking at her dating in this light, we see the significance of the day. Yesterday is history, tomorrow may or may not get here, so what is important is today. James 4:13-15 tell us, "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"

With this in mind, we do need to consider the importance of today. We do need to make today count, and not count on tomorrow. I count this a lesson I learned from my mother, even she was only 13 years, 1 month, and 8 days old: Don't forget to count the days - the day is what is important!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday August 07, 2018

Yesterday, I spoke of the importance of writing things down. I'm going to continue in the vein just a bit in my article for today.

My mother was a rather precise person in many areas. I didn't pay much attention to this as I was growing up, but as I became an adult and observed some of her mannerisms, it occurred to me that Mom was a pretty particular person. Now, being particular didn't make her a demanding person, it is just that there were certain things she wanted done in a certain way. She would only write with black ink, always folded her towels a certain way, always wanted things placed in a certain way, as well as other practices done just so.

Some time ago, either Stephanie or Megan, and I cannot recall which, found something that made me realize Mom must have been a particular person in a number of areas for most of her life. While leafing through the family Bible, they found a note Mom had written. Mom wrote the note when she was 13 years, 1 month, and 8 days old. She said so in the note. She also spoke of some other activities that occurred at certain points in her young life, all spelled out in this precise way. I got a kick out of envisioning my mother as a young teenager, carefully writing down these important events and taking pains to spell out her age in such precise terms. I mean, how important is it to list our age down to the day?

Actually, when you give it some thought, it is pretty important. Our "now" is not a year, month, or week, it is a day - it is today. Looking at her dating in this light, we see the significance of the day. Yesterday is history, tomorrow may or may not get here, so what is important is today. James 4:13-15 tell us, "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'"

With this in mind, we do need to consider the importance of today. We do need to make today count, and not count on tomorrow. I count this a lesson I learned from my mother, even she was only 13 years, 1 month, and 8 days old: Don't forget to count the days - the day is what is important!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday August 06, 2018

Writing things down is always a good thing - it helps you remember what you don't want to forget, it helps you retain thoughts, and seeing ideas and thoughts in "black and white" can have benefits. When you read them, it helps you decide if the ideas need work, are good as they are, or simply help you keep on track with some goal you are pursuing. Or course in our era of PDA s, some prefer to use that tool but I still find myself to be an old-fashioned paper and pen person. As I have remarked before, despite using my calendar on my phone, I still carry a little date book in my pocket.

A helpful tip I heard about some time ago was to write down prayer requests as you hear about them, thoughts about a scripture you have just read, insights you get into a spiritual question, or questions you have that come up when you are working on something else. Review your "jottings" at the end of each day and see what insights they will bring about. You might be surprised at how spiritually beneficial this little exercise can be.

It is an interesting study to see how many times God asked his servants to "write things down." Scripture is part of this, of course, but there were other things they were encouraged to write that were not part of scripture, just things God thought was important enough to be written. For example, Proverbs 3:3 encourages us to "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."

Be sure to use writing as part of your devotional exercise. The benefits will be evident after you sort of "get in a groove" of doing this. The helpfulness will be evident. Keep that pencil sharpened!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday August 05, 2018

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 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
Saturday August 04, 2018

In the vows that I use when I perform a wedding there is a time when I have the bride and the groom pledge their love to each other "in prosperity or in adversity." The pledge to each other is to be true regardless of the circumstances. The idea is that in either extreme, their love and commitment will remain.

The extremes of either of these states can be dangerous. It can be just as harmful to experience an extreme in prosperity as it is to experience extreme adversity. This is true not just in the marriage relationship but in our lives in general. Having too little can be life-threatening, but having too much can be life-altering. A person who has too much can encounter as much difficulty as the person who does not have enough.

Agur writes in Proverbs 30:8-9, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." He asks to be kept from extremes, only wanting that which will be enough to sustain him. He is afraid that either extreme would interfere with his relationship with God.

We certainly want to be able to live in such a way that we do not have to worry how we are going to live another day, but we also should not covet more than we need. We should be satisfied with what we have and not constantly desire more, thinking that this will bring us happiness and security.

The next time you find yourself coveting what you do not have, take a moment to consider the danger you may be placing yourself in with your lack of satisfaction. Craving what we cannot have can lead us into a life of discontent and bitterness. Gratefulness for what we have demonstrates our faith and leads to a life of peace.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday August 03, 2018

Gatorade has become my drink of choice this week as I am fighting a virus. Not that I don't drink Gatorade at other times, but I am drinking more than usual because of my need. Gatorade was formulated in 1965 by three researchers at the University of Florida the Florida Gators, hence, Gatorade.

The researchers were looking for a drink to replenish electrolytes in athletes more quickly than simply drinking water. Gatorade hit the market in 1970, and I was introduced to the drink in the fall of 1970 when a teammate on my football team at Coal Grove, Dan Mowery, brought some to practice. Dan heard about it and wanted to share his discovery with us. Thanks to Dan, we became acquainted with the drink that would become the most popular sports drink in the world.

I don't remember what the coaches thought, but I remember liking it. Over the years, I have consumed a fair amount of the beverage. Gatorade claims to be better than any other thirst-quencher on the market and, according to ads, is superior to water because of the aforementioned electrolyte provision. I can't vouch for that, but I do know, when it comes to spiritual thirst, there really is only one source of relief.

Christ addresses this issue in a number of places in the Gospels. He tells us, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13 14) He says again in John 6:35, "whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

The source of the superior thirst-quencher for our physical needs may be up for debate, but when it comes to the source for our spiritual thirst, Christ has cornered the market.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday August 02, 2018

Charles Russell played basketball for the University of Alabama. He was a starter on the teams that won back-to-back Southeastern Conference championships in 1974 and 1975. A couple of years after he graduated, he gave his 1974 championship ring to a friend who needed money. The plan was for the friend to pawn the ring, and then get it back when he had the money. However, before this could happen, Russell moved to Mexico City to play basketball professionally.

Russell played in Central and South America for twenty years. By the time he returned, the ring was forgotten and he had no idea of the whereabouts of the buddy that pawned the ring. He really hadn't given it much thought, but then again, what can you do?

In March of 2014, there was a reunion of the 1974 championship team at the University of Alabama, celebrating the 40th anniversary of their SEC championship. After the festivities, Martha Wyatt approached Russell and said, "I have your ring, and I want to give it back to you." The 71-year-old Wyatt had come into possession of the ring several years before when a friend who knew of her love for University of Alabama basketball saw it at an antique store (not the same pawn shop mentioned above) and bought it for her. Wyatt built a little case for the ring and treasured it.

As long as she was in possession of the ring, Wyatt knew she probably should try to return it to the owner. However, she had no idea how to find Russell. Then came the reunion. She approached Russell about the ring, and they arranged to meet so she could give him back what was his.

This is a remarkable story of "lost and found." We read of stories such as this on occasion and marvel at the circumstances that unfold where lost objects are returned to rightful owners.

One thing we can be sure of in our lives as followers of Christ is that this scenario will not happen with us. When we place our lives in his hands, we know he will not "lose" us. He will never lose track of us and wonder where we are.

John 10:27-29 tells us, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father s hand."

There may be times when we don't live the way we should be living as his followers, but he will not lose sight of us and will do what is necessary to guide us to where we should be. We may lose track of him, but he always has his eye on us. We may have the tendency to lose things, but Christ doesn't lose those who belong to him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday August 01, 2018

David Doubilet has taken some of the most breathtaking underwater portraits you will ever see. You should check out his website sometime. Some environmental groups have felt that he should use his influence to work against the polluting of our oceans and seas through his photography. They have suggested that he should post more "ugly" scenes. His response to this is he feels it is better to show the beauty of the world that God created instead of showing evidence of man's mismanagement. He believes this is a more forceful apologetic as to why we should take care of our environment.

I think we can learn a lesson from this. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to show what is wrong with the world and talking about all the evils, that we forget we should be offering a positive picture of what God can do with a life that is fully committed to him. We sing the song "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love," yet we often fail to put this principle into practice.

Christ said in John 13:35, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Now, Christ never glossed over sin and neither should we; we simply need to deal with its effects in a positive way by providing a picture of the beauty God intends for us. Show Christ's love in your life and see what kind of impact this will have on your environment!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 31, 2018

Tonight is the night we are supposed to get a really good look at Mars as the planet will be closer to the earth than it has been for a while. The distance between Mars and the Earth will be a mere 36 million miles. Why, that's just around the corner, isn't it? Mars will appear just to the south of the constellation Capricorn and should be visible in the eastern sky just after sunset. The planet will be so close that you will not need a telescope to see it, although a telescope will certainly give you a more detailed view.

We should be able to see Mars for the next couple of months, and that is a good thing for star-gazing folks where I live. Tonight looks to be cloudy so seeing the Red Planet is probably not going to be a possibility. We will have to wait for the clouds to pass.

This phenomenon sometimes occurs in our spiritual lives, doesn't it? "Clouds" appear and obscure our view of Christ and his presence. Circumstances in life arise that seem to get in the way of our communication with him and his leadership. Sometimes these are events over which we have no control, and sometimes there are situations of our own making. What should we do when this occurs? Continue to look to Christ. Just as clouds in nature eventually move on and dissipate, clouds in our lives that keep us from clearly seeing what he has in store for us will leave as well. The important thing to do is to continue to keep our spiritual eyes trained on him.

Job 37:15 16 remind us that God is in control of the clouds as well, "Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?" Whatever seems to be blocking your view of the Lord, remember he is still in control, the clouds will some day leave, and your view will be more complete.

As I am writing this, I keep thinking of the words to an old Ronnie Hinson song "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." Yep - that will happen. Keep looking up!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 30, 2018

I remember reading a story once about a little boy named Randy. Five-year-old Randy wanted a toy stagecoach for Christmas. While shopping with Mom, he found just the one he wanted. It was about 6" long and had cool wheels and dark brown plastic horses pulling it. "Mommy, I want this one. Pleeeease!" he begged. As young children sometimes do, he threw a tantrum, insisting that he get that stagecoach for Christmas. Mom said, "We'll see," and took him home. Randy was sure he'd get what he asked for.

Christmas morning came, and he opened the package confidently. Sure enough, it was the stagecoach he had begged for. He was so pleased. But then his older brother said, "You really did a dumb thing to insist on getting that coach. Mom bought you a much bigger one, but when you begged for that little one, she exchanged it!" Suddenly the small stagecoach didn't seem so appealing.

We do the same thing with God. We beg and plead for things and beg and plead that God will do things just the way we want. Often, he may decide to do what we ask even though he has something better for us. We need to trust Him and realize that what he has in mind for us is what is best for us.

Christ tells us, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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 (Matthew 7:9-11)!"

God has great things in store for us. Sometimes we need to quit insisting on what we want and let God do for us what he knows is best.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 29, 2018

"Obsolete" is a word that seems to be used more frequently today than in the past. Technological advances come about so quickly in our day that "obsolete" is a very common word. We usually associate age with things that are obsolete, but modern advances make things obsolete that one might consider relatively new. Computers, cell phones, ipods, tablets - the list goes on and on of items that have such a short "shelf life." This phenomenon often makes one wonder if purchasing these items is really worthwhile.

When it comes to our faith, we must be glad that what Christ has done for us will never become obsolete. We will never have to worry if we have the latest in "beliefs," Christ's provision is timeless. However, there are some aspects of our current experience that one day will become obsolete. And this obsolescence will be a good thing. Sin, sorrow, sickness and death are all things that someday will go the way of bag phones. They will become obsolete.

Revelation 21:3 - 5 tells us, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"

This obsolescence cannot come about any too quickly for me - how about you? This is the promise we have because Christ's provision will never become obsolete. Be glad for that!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 28, 2018

Have you ever noticed how you can control your starts better than you can control your stops? Whether you are running, walking, riding a bike, driving a car, even riding a horse, you can usually get started at just the moment you want, but sometimes coming to a stop is a little tricky, especially if you have been traveling at a high rate of speed.

The same can be said about our behavior. Habits are easy to start, hard to stop. It is easier to control the start of a behavior than it is to control the stoppage of a behavior. This is, of course, especially important to consider if we are speaking of an undesirable behavior. Addictions would never occur if one never starts the behavior which ends up as an addiction. Stopping an addiction is difficult, painful, and, at times, life threatening.

God is pleased with our lives when we control our starts and our stops in a way that shows our love for him. God wants to help us and encourage us. We read about God s desire in Psalm 32:8, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go." Isaiah 58:11 tells us, "I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."

The Lord will guide you always. Mind your starts - don't start anything that will be difficult to stop especially if it is something that is physically, emotionally, spiritually, or relationally damaging.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 27, 2018

Information is everywhere. We can find out about just about anything we need to know at any time. What we need, though, is insight into what to do with the information we have. Proverbs is all about this. Solomon writes over and over about how one should seek wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to know what to do with what you know.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 2:1-6, "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."

Do all you can to learn all you can, especially when it comes to learning about God and your relationship with God. More importantly, ask God to give you insight as to what you should do with what you learn. Ask God for insight into how to apply the things you learn. This is the meaning of wisdom. Be wise!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 26, 2018

I used to love to ride roller coasters. Actually, I still love to ride roller coasters; however, a problem with one of my eyes led to my doctor telling me, "No more roller coasters!" There are a few more activities from which I am banned, but the one that gets me the most is no more roller coasters. Oh, well, I will just live without the ups and downs, I guess.

Don't you wish you could say that about our lives in general? Sometimes we feel like we are on an emotional roller coaster in our lives, hanging on as best we can because of what is taking place. What always helped me on roller coasters was realizing that I wasn't going to go anywhere, no matter how much I was tossed around. The straps and the bar were holding me in securely. In life, just as with the roller coaster, it helps to realize that we are being held securely, no matter how much we might be tossed around.

God has his arms around us, and he is with us even during the most violent of emotional turmoil. God gives his promise to us in Psalm 37:23-24, "If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand."

Whenever you feel like the roller coaster of life is taking you on a really rough ride, remember God's presence and his promise. As with all roller coasters, there will be a time when things will slow and come to a halt. Trust in God for that to happen.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 25, 2018

Did you hear about the man who took a baseball away from a young boy at a game at Wrigley Field this past Sunday? Video of this event went viral on social networks and most major news outlets ran the story.

Will Venable, first-base coach for the Chicago Cubs, flipped a baseball to a young fan seated in the first row of the stadium. The boy flubbed the catch and the ball rolled under his seat. An adult man seated behind him retrieved the ball and gave it triumphantly to his wife who was seated next to him. The man was excoriated for his behavior and the Cubs intervened by presenting the boy with a ball autographed by Javy Baez, the Cubs' second baseman. So, all was well, except for the beat-down being put on the "ball thief."

WHOA! WAIT A MINUTE! STOP THE PRESSES (OR WHATEVER THEY DO THESE DAYS)! An update to the story was posted on Instagram by none other than a gentleman who happened to be seated on the immediate left of the offending adult. According to the neighbor, the man had already given a ball to the young boy, had given away another ball that came his way, and then gave away a third ball that he caught after his alleged infamous theft of the boy's ball. SO - the little lad got TWO baseballs, other folks received gifts from the supposed ingrate, and the "ingrate" ended up with a ball for himself.

We certainly need to put this story in our "Don't rush to judgement" file, don't we? We should remember that "things may not be as they appear" and knowing all the facts before reaching a verdict is an important practice. We can be so quick to judge! We need to remember that there are always two sides to every story and hearing them both is a wise course of action before we jump to conclusions.

In John 7:24, we find the advice given us by Christ, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." Whether or not a situation you observe has anything to do with baseball, take care to make the right call!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 24, 2018

Many times I have told the story about a scientist who challenged God by saying, "We really don't need you - we have the capability to make a human being, so your services are no longer required." God said, "Well, let's have a contest. Let's see who can make the best man." The scientist agreed, and then started to dig up some dirt to begin the process. God said, "Oh, no you don't. Go make your own dirt!"

Of course we need God. He had no beginning, and he is the beginning of all things. He is the reason that there are things and people and places and everything else. We think the tongue-in-cheek story above is a little ridiculous, but often we live as if we believe this story. We say there is a God, but we live as if there isn't. We may go so far as to acknowledge that we need God, but our actions say we don't think we do.

I hope your life continually reflects a dependence upon God. You have no more capability to create a man or create dirt or create anything than there is a man in the moon (Notice I said "man in the moon," not "man on the moon").

We need the attitude of the author of Psalm 118. He says in verses 7 - 8: "The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." That is a wise statement - make sure you believe it!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 24, 2018

Many times I have told the story about a scientist who challenged God by saying, "We really don't need you - we have the capability to make a human being, so your services are no longer required." God said, "Well, let's have a contest. Let's see who can make the best man." The scientist agreed, and then started to dig up some dirt to begin the process. God said, "Oh, no you don't. Go make your own dirt!"

Of course we need God. He had no beginning, and he is the beginning of all things. He is the reason that there are things and people and places and everything else. We think the tongue-in-cheek story above is a little ridiculous, but often we live as if we believe this story. We say there is a God, but we live as if there isn't. We may go so far as to acknowledge that we need God, but our actions say we don't think we do.

I hope your life continually reflects a dependence upon God. You have no more capability to create a man or create dirt or create anything than there is a man in the moon (Notice I said "man in the moon," not "man on the moon").

We need the attitude of the author of Psalm 118. He says in verses 7 - 8: "The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." That is a wise statement - make sure you believe it!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 23, 2018

I will never forget the first time I saw the picture of 9-year-old Kim Phuc. She was running down a road in Viet Nam, her clothes had been burned off by a Napalm explosion. She was screaming in agony because of the burns that covered 65% of her body. Two of her brothers had been killed in the bombing, as well as other relatives. Her wounds would lead to 17 surgeries, 3 different hospitals, numerous doctors, therapy, and so much more. In 2015, she received laser treatment that removed much of the effects of the scar tissue. The 1972 photograph brought a Pulitzer Prize to the photographer, Nick Ut.

Today, Kim has two adult children and lives with her husband in Toronto. One might expect her to be bitter and resentful as a result of what happened 46 years ago; however, one would be wrong. Kim is a lady who loves and appreciates life and has formed the Kim Phuc Foundation to help children who have been displaced or otherwise affected by military conflict. She has channeled her experience in a positive way which has led to a resolution in her life and has allowed her to help countless others.

How did she do this? Well, one thing that helped her efforts was being willing to forgive those who were responsible for what happened to her. Of course, she was never able to meet all of those responsible, but she did meet one pilot who coordinated the attack which caused her awful ordeal. She forgave him.

Forgiveness is certainly important for those who need to be forgiven because of what they have done. However, something that is often overlooked is the importance of forgiveness for the person who does the forgiving. Forgiving can bring about a release that is helpful for the person who has experienced a great wrong. The release of emotions allows for closure and peace which is so important for the healing process.

This is one reason why God encourages us to be forgiving people. Christ tells us in Luke 17:3-4, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, `I repent,' forgive him." Kim Phuc learned the importance of forgiveness - so should we.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 22, 2018

What did you have, or maybe what are you going to have, for lunch today? As I think about lunch, I am reminded of a funny thing that happened on a youth retreat a few years ago. We had taken our kids to a youth conference in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

On one particular day, it was approaching the time to leave for the evening activities. I thought about the fact that the kids hadn't eaten yet. So, I thought I would order pizza, as many of the pizza shops were offering specials to the conference attendees. Well, when we all got together, some other adults in the group had the same idea, and they had ordered pizza from another pizza shop. We had at least twice as much pizza as we needed for all the youth group members. Needless to say, we didn't go hungry that night. We didn't go hungry the next day either. I don't think many of us ate pizza for a while after that trip.

Now, this experience calls for a number of comments, including some regarding communication, but I would like to focus on another thought that comes to mind. The overabundance of pizza reminds me of story about the little boy's loaves and fish found in John 6:1-14.

Christ fed a crowd of perhaps 10,000 or more with what a boy had brought for lunch - five loaves of bread and two fish. We marvel at this, and we know Christ's disciples really didn't think it would be enough at the time. Read the words of verses 8 and 9, "Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 'Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'" How far, indeed. Far enough to feed everyone and have twelve baskets left over.

This miracle goes to show what Christ can do when things are left in his hands. I have often wondered what folks were thinking as they saw the food keep coming from what was available when they started. I have often wondered what must have gone through the boy's mind. "Well, there goes my lunch!" he might have thought. Whatever he thought, he was willing to trust what he had to the hands of the Lord. Hmmm, that sounds like a pretty good principle for us. We need to do the same thing - trust what we have to the hands of the Lord. When we do, we will always seem some marvelous multiplication - and it will be a lot better than pizza!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 21, 2018

Many years ago Mike Yaconelli wrote what I think is one of the best allegorical pieces ever that relates to Christian ministry. The piece, entitled "The Little Boy Who Wanted to Fight Fires," follows the life of a young man from the time he is small and wants with all his heart to grow up to be a fireman until his adult years.

When he is a little boy, he plays like a fireman and reads firemen books. Upon his graduation from high school, he goes to the finest firefighting school in the country. There he learns all about fighting fires; however, he never extinguished an actual blaze. After completing college, he goes to Europe to study under the most famous fire-fighting instructor in the world and then returns home to fight fires. But upon his arrival, he learns of a position at a fine fire-fighting instruction school and becomes an instructor.

For the next 25 years he teaches, earning awards and accolades. Still, he never actually put out a fire himself. He died, and the following note was found in his room, "I lie here today reviewing my life. I still remember my dream, my passion to be a fireman. More than anything else I wanted to put out fires but I realized something today. I have never put out a real fire. NEVER."

We must realize that what is more important than talking a good game is actually doing something to perform in the game. The Bible has something to say about this. James 1:17 tells us, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." Pretty strong words, but then sometimes we need a strong reminder of just how important it is to do something instead of just talking something. Actions speak louder than words. This is true in our service to God and is true in our service to others. So, go put out that fire!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 20, 2018

When I was a kid, we would travel to northern Ohio two or three times a year to visit my Aunt Freda (my mother's only sister) and her family. There were a number of tourist attractions near where Freda lived. We enjoyed visiting Cedar Point, Put-In-Bay, Marblehead, and many other places.

One attraction that always held a fascination for me was a place called the Blue Hole, near Castalia. This was a pond with water that had an eerie blue green "glow." It was fed by subterranean springs which allowed it to maintain a constant level and temperature at any time of the year. Because of the presence of certain minerals, fish could not survive in the pond, and there was also the legend that the bottom could not be found (not accurate). If I remember correctly, it was these minerals that gave the water its characteristic hue.

One practice of visitors to the Blue Hole, as is the case with many fountains and other bodies of water, was to pitch a coin in the Blue Hole and make a wish. Have you ever done that? This practice is really harmless, unless you are really counting on something to happen. Mercy, I hope you aren't.

Somewhat akin to the foolishness of counting on wishes made when throwing coins into bodies of water is living our lives without plans. We really need to do some thinking about our lives, how we want to live our lives, and what we want to do with our lives. Planning is so important in so many areas - family, finances, our future. Someone once said, "When we fail to plan, we plan to fail."

One important area of planning is how we are going to live for God. What kind of impact do we wish to make? What should I do to please God? What can I do for someone else to make an impact spiritually? How can I help someone else with some need they might have?

Asking these questions helps us to make important decisions and helps us to make plans that are beneficial to ourselves and others. Don't just throw coins in a pool and make a wish. Make some plans on how to become what you should be for God and for others. Proverbs 21:5 tells us, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty." Diligent planning leads to directed service!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 19, 2018

Don't you just love it when you are having a conversation with someone and you can tell they are not hearing a word you say? I sometimes am guilty of this. I shared this with my church recently, and some folks said to me afterwards "No kidding!" I really try to work to avoid this tendency. This is something we seem to learn how to do when we are quite young. If you have children, I am sure you can give me a number of first-hand experiences that will document this behavior.

Too often we are guilty of tuning out what we don't want to hear. We did it as children, and we can do it as adults. We do this with others, we can also do this with God. We have so many ways of avoiding God when we know we should be listening.

In his book, "Christian Reflections," C.S. Lewis wrote about what we do to ignore God's voice. He says to tune God out we "Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health, and (above all) your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd."

Be aware of our tendency to utilize methods that help us ignore God. Our awareness of this will help us fend off this tendency and help us to focus on what God has for us. It also helps to realize there are times when we may be more prone to this practice of avoidance, such as times when we have done something wrong. In actuality, these are the times we need to listen more closely to God so that we can remedy the problem and right the wrong.

Jeremiah writes about this tendency, "'Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?' declares the LORD. 'Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away.'" (Jeremiah 5:21-23) These verses could very well be describing us at times. Let's do all we can to make sure they aren't.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 18, 2018

Emotional health is measured in many ways. Two of the measures are feelings of security and significance. When one feels safe in their life status and doesn't struggle with feelings of rejection and loneliness, one usually enjoys emotional stability. Knowing we are appreciated and loved by others gives us a healthy level of emotional well-being.

We can go one step further with our feelings of security and significance. There is no safer place and no other place where we will feel so loved and cared for than in the hands of God. We know we are safe in Him and we know he loves us with an indescribable love. Romans 8:38-39 tell us, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

At times we struggle with folks when we don't feel safe around them, or perhaps we don't feel significant in their eyes, but this is not the case with God. Knowing this should help us feel secure and significant. And if you need further demonstration of our significance in God's eyes, read Psalm 139. God loves us and has our best interests at heart. Knowing this helps makes all the difference in the world.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 17, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 17, 2018

From June 23 until July 10 the world held its collective breath as 11 members of a Thai youth soccer team, the "Wild Boars", along with their coach were trapped in a cave in Thailand. I doubt that I have to elaborate much on this because most of you followed this saga until the last person finally emerged from the cave. Unfortunately, this story was not without tragedy as one diver lost his life during the course of the rescue operation. Still, the ordeal could have been even more tragic were it not for a plan that was followed a closely as possible to bring about a positive conclusion.

Many compared this ordeal to that of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped from August 5, 2010 to October 10, 2010 in a copper mine in Copiapo, Chile. There are some similarities, but, obviously, there are many differences.

One difference is that, in the case of the miners, there were options for the rescue attempt. There was a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C. This referred to separate drilling options. Plan B was the one that brought success.

We usually talk of the importance of having a "Plan B." In the case of the miners, having a Plan B was a great thing. In the case of the Thai soccer team, there wasn't a Plan B. They followed the only course of action possible in the rescue procedure.

God does not have a "Plan B." He doesn't need one. Plan A is working and is going to work just fine. In the case of the rescue plans in Chile or in Thailand, success was never assured until the efforts were complete. There were countless hours of anxiety and wondering. With the plans of God, we know there will be success, so anxiety has no place. Psalm 33:11 tells us, "The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." Following God's plan will indeed bring us success.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday October 18, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday October 17, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday October 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 16, 2018

I really enjoy the game of golf. I was never very good, but it was always enjoyable to get out with others and play. Now that I have trouble with my legs, so I am unable to play anymore. I still enjoy watching golf and talking about the game. The "dimpled" ball still holds my attention.

Have you ever wondered why a golf ball is dimpled? This may not be one of the great mysteries of the universe, but just so you can say you are informed, the reason a golf ball is dimpled is so it might travel farther. An undimpled golf ball would only go about half as far as one with dimples. So, the feature of the ball that makes it look a little different is the characteristic that enhances its purpose. An apparent "flaw" is actually a positive feature.

Many of us are quick to point out physical features that we believe affect our appearance adversely. We can be so quick to point out our flaws and wish we didn't have a particular "imperfection." When we struggle with these thoughts, we need to remember the biblical statements about our existence. David writes "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." (Psalm 139:13-14) God is the one who put you together.

When you struggle with perceived "imperfections", remember that the perfect God is the one who created you the way you are. Putting your struggles in this light may bring you some perspective as to how you are to bring glory to God through what you consider to be "inglorious." Think of how your "dimples" may enhance your performance for the Lord!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 15, 2018

Near where I live there is an intersection that has the potential for being a rather dangerous place. A county-maintained blacktop that runs north-south joins a state road in the middle of a severe curve in the state road. I just drove through this intersection yesterday. Those of you who are local know this intersection - it is where the Dieterich Blacktop runs into State Route 121.

Drivers traveling north on the county road have a stop sign, but must take care when pulling onto the state road that there are no cars coming into the curve. Visibility is limited because of the topography at that junction. Because of the nature of the intersection, drivers traveling south on the state road actually have a straight shot onto the county road rather than following the curve of the state road.

As south-bound drivers on the state road approach this point of decision, it would be good for them to signal which way they wish to travel even if they intend to follow the state road. Technically, if you are staying on the state road you are not making a turn, you are actually following the curve. However, because of the nature of the intersection it would be a good idea to use your signal. This is especially true if there are north-bound vehicles either stopped at the intersection or approaching the intersection. Using your signal would be a matter of courtesy, and not actually demanded. It would simply be a good idea.

There are so many instances in life where this is the case - doing something that really isn't demanded, but just would be a good idea based on courtesy and consideration for others. It seems in our society this is a trait that is sometimes lacking. I feel it is a trait that needs to be manifested more, and certainly should be part of the way of life for a follower of Christ. We should practice consideration for others at all times and do things for others just because it would be a nice thing, not on account of a demand.

Romans 12:10 says, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Paul tells us, "No one should seek their own good, but the good of others." (I Corinthians 10:24) Take the danger out of life by putting others first!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 14, 2018

Many years ago, I had a little accident with my bass guitar. I had opened the latches on the case and was distracted before I could take out the guitar. Another person picked up the case, dropped the guitar on the hard floor, and snapped the neck. I was stunned, and there was nothing to be said or done at that point. Later, I had the guitar repaired, however, it did not play as well as it had before the accident.

This is a picture of our dilemma. Humankind was damaged by the fall and we are simply not what we were before the fall. The fall left a permanent mark on us, and we cannot overcome the effects of the fall on our own. God took care of this problem by giving a Special Gift, his Son Jesus Christ. Unlike the fate of my bass guitar, those who follow Christ will become even better than we could have ever been, fall or not. We are new creatures in Christ and we will become like Christ when he appears to take us to live with him. 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 he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

God will make us totally new, along with everything else, when we come into the eternal state. The effects of the fall will not be present in our eternal home. God says, "I am making everything new!" (Revelation 21:5) The only answer for my broken bass guitar was a new one. The only answer for us is to be made new. This is what God will do! Then, we will look, sound, and be better than we ever could before!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 13, 2018

Do you suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia? This is your new word for the day, and it is the fear of Friday the 13th. There may also be a fear of learning new words, but I have no idea what that is called.

The reasons why Friday the 13th is considered "unlucky" are not really all that clear. The actual thought of Friday the 13th being a day that needs to be avoided doesn't seem to appear until the 19th century; however, according to some historians, the roots behind this fear may go back further. Many trace the concern for the day back to the time of Christ as Christ was crucified on Friday, and Judas was the 13th person at the celebration of the Last Passover. This seems to be a bit of a stretch.

All I can say is, don't try to blame this inordinate fear on Christianity. Although it was a day of cruelty suffered by the Savior, what took place that day certainly had nothing to do with bad luck. The day of crucifixion had been planned from eternity past as a day when Christ would become the necessary sacrifice for the sin of all of humankind. Paul tells us a plan for salvation was determined since before the beginning of time, "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (II Timothy 1:9-10)

You may have a problem with Friday the 13th, but you certainly can't blame it on the message of Christ! If you are following Christ, the fact that Christ came into the world to die for your sin makes you a "lucky" person. Let me change that - you are a blessed person. Of course, salvation has nothing to do with luck at all, but everything to do with the love and grace of our wonderful Savior. And remember that there should be no fear as "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear." (I John 4:18)

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 12, 2018

I was watching a baseball game on TV the other night. At the conclusion of one inning in which the home team had scored 4 or 5 runs, the announcer said, "Well, they enjoyed a big inning." This statement reminded me that baseball is mentioned in the Bible. "What?" you say. "Yes," I reply. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beg-inning. . ." (drum roll-off, cymbal crash, chorus of boos) Sorry about that. I will try to refrain from that from now on.

Is God really interested in baseball games? Some would say he is, I really wouldn't argue one way or the other, but I do know that God is interested in our lives and in all the little details of our lives. He wants us to live for him and be good representatives of him whatever we are doing. We can and should reflect His character and His person in all of our activities, including our recreational pursuits.

Paul writes, "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." (Colossians 3:17) Someone wrote, "Fun and entertainment are gifts of God, given so that we might come closer to Him. We should remember this when we are planning our recreation and remember to thank God for such a good and perfect gift." James 1:17 tells us, "Every good and perfect gift is from above."

We can enjoy God, and we should enjoy God, in whatever we do. There are activities we should avoid because they are wrong, but I shouldn't have to belabor that point to those who know who God is and the character of God. God wants us to enjoy him, enjoy life, and reflect his character in whatever we are doing. We can do that in a number of ways. Play ball!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 11, 2018

I just returned from a visit to my kids in Ohio. That means time with grandkids. What is even better is they are now visiting me. I am not even going to ask you to forgive me for using something they did as a basis for my article. And I am not going to ask you to forgive me for using another prayer story as a basis for my comments.

My little grandson has moved to a different stage in his prayers. Instead of just bowing his head, folding his hands, saying "Pray!" and then saying "Amen!", now he bows his head, folds his hands, and then utters some unintelligible thoughts before he says, "Amen!" I would love to know what is in his mind when he speaks those words, but I don't.

As I was listening to him the other day, I was reminded of one of the incredible provisions of God on our behalf. Romans 8:26-27 tells us, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God s will." This tells us that at those times in our experience when we do not even know how to pray or for what to pray, God prays for us. The Holy Spirit (who is God) intercedes to God the Father on our behalf. He intercedes with "groanings that cannot be uttered." He communicates in a way in which we can't, and in a way that we don t understand. But God does.

When we are in the middle of something that has us so tied up in knots that we don't even know how to begin to pray, focus on the reality that God who is in you the Holy Spirit is praying for you and saying for you what needs to said. This can be a great comfort and a great encouragement as we think about this. We don't feel it, we don't hear it, and we don't have any external evidence that it is taking place, but we can rest assured that it is taking place because this is the promise of God. And we can all say, "Amen!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 10, 2018

I read a story once about some thieves in France who got away with more than $3.5 million. There was one problem: It was all in coins, none worth more than $2. That's right - coins - 17 tons of them. How in the world would they spend that? How could you buy a car or anything of value with coins? Think that would make the seller a little suspicious? They may have been rich, but they couldn't use their wealth for anything worthwhile.

Most of us would think those thieves to be a bit foolish. However, many of us are doing the same thing - we are putting too much effort into the acquisition of worldly goods and wealth while forgetting to "store up treasure in heaven," as Christ advised us to do. We read in Matthew 6:19-20, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Don't drag around that heavy treasure! It won't do you any good - it really is "useless" treasure. Make sure you are acquiring true wealth!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 09, 2018

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

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

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

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 08, 2018

Memory is a funny thing. We all struggle with remembering things. According to Karen Bolla, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, these are the things we forget the most: Names (83%); where something is (60%); telephone numbers (57%); words (53%); what was said (49%); faces (42%). and whether you've just done something (38%).

Followers of Jesus Christ often have a problem of forgetting. We forget what he has done for us. We forget the power he has for us. We try to deal with temptation in our own power. We forget what we should be doing for him. We forget our responsibility to others. We forget what our lives should be as believers in Christ.

We need to turn our lives into his hands and allow his power to guide us so that we can be solid followers of him. Don't forget to walk in the power of Christ! David wrote, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God." There are times we cannot trust our memory because we are forgetful. There are times we cannot trust our own abilities because we are unable to stand on our own. We need to trust "in the name of the Lord our God." Don't forget!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday July 07, 2018

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

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

We need to be careful that we are not guilty of the same thing. "Wait a minute," you say, "I don't have a golden calf sitting around my house." This is no doubt true, but we need to be careful that we don't abuse the good things God has given us and use them for us rather than for the sake of God. God does give us good things, and we are often guilty of misuse of the blessings he gives us. He gives us good things so that we might bless others and glorify him, but often we use our abundance for our own pleasure. Make sure that you use what God has given you wisely and in accordance with his desire. You do not need a golden calf!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday July 06, 2018

Sometimes it seems that the most difficult people to reach for Christ are members of our own families who are not followers of Christ. I find this a somewhat ironic, but very realistic circumstance. The difficulty is caused by a number of factors. We usually spend a good deal of time with our family members, and our family members usually don't have any trouble brushing off our attempts to share the message of Christ. We often feel guilty because of our inability to win those closest to us and we are perplexed by our struggle to be effective in our witness.

There are three observations I want to share regarding this that come from both my own personal experience and from what I see in God's Word. First, we need to be patient and continue to pray. We are concerned about our loved ones, but patience in a virtue helpful in so many of life's realities and certainly in this circumstance. Prayer is an important and vital key. Secondly, we must never forget it is the work of the Holy Spirit that is most important here. We are to model the Christian life before others and share verbally when we can, but the Holy Spirit is the One who draws others to Christ. Finally, remember that even Christ experienced family rejection in his earthly ministry. During his lifetime, his family thought he was a little off and "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" (Mark 4:3) His brothers tried to give him advice on how to run his ministry but "even his own brothers did not believe in him." (John 7:5) However, we learn from Acts 1:14 that his brothers became followers as they were gathered with the apostles in Jerusalem awaiting the Holy Spirit after the departure of Christ.

In my own experience, I think of two of my family members that came to faith after years of patient witness and prayer. We can't compel our family members to come to faith but we can continue to pray and love them. We need to leave the results in the hands of our loving God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday July 05, 2018

At the bottom of the Declaration of Independence is a group of signatures. These signatures reflect the willingness of these individuals to do what was necessary to establish a society based on their desire to be free from the influence of an entity that was placing unrealistic expectations on their lives. Their signatures made known their willingness to be used in whatever way necessary to make changes to their life situation. They were willing to stake their fortunes, make sacrifices, and risk losing all to bring about a new life.

Jesus had a group of people who were willing to do the same thing. They wanted to change the world by proclaiming the Good News of Christ and what he will do for those who follow him. They had come to the realization that Christ was all-important, and they wanted others to know this.

When we "sign on" to follow Christ, we are putting ourselves in a position to be used by him. Christ wants to use people to further his ministry. He has chosen to use people to bring the news of his provision to the world, but he only uses those people who are willing to be used by him. "Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (John 12:26) Are you willing to let Christ use you?

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday July 04, 2018

Today, July 4, is Independence Day. On this date in 1776 the First Continental Congress adopted the wording of the Declaration of Independence. It wasn t actually signed until about a month later, but just after the approval on this date, John Adams said: "I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." This is why we celebrate on July 4.

Today the day is celebrated as a "great anniversary Festival," but not with "solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." Usually we don't consider this day to be a "religious holiday;" but along with our cookouts and our fireworks, it would be good to take time to thank God for all the blessings we enjoy because of living where we do. There are so many in our world today who still languish under totalitarian regimes while we enjoy freedoms that are often taken for granted. Don't do that! Be mindful of the price that was paid for us to be able to enjoy life the way we do.

We should not take our spiritual freedom for granted either. Adams spoke of commemorating the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence as the Day of Deliverance. We should celebrate our spiritual Day of Deliverance. On Friday, April 14, 33 A.D., Christ died on a cross to pay the price for our spiritual deliverance. Now, I know the date I have given may not be exact, but it is close. Just as certainly as the Declaration of Independence being adopted in 1776 led to freedom for the inhabitants of the 13 colonies, Christ's death for our sins during the Passover in A.D. 33 leads to freedom for all who follow Him.

Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." John speaks of our freedom in Christ in chapter 8 of his gospel, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . .if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (vv. 32 and 36)." We are free in Christ if we commit our lives to Christ.

As you celebrate today, remember to give thanks for those whose sacrifice brought us our freedom. As you remember your freedom in Christ, use this as a time to give thanks for the sacrifice that brought you that freedom. Happy Independence Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday July 03, 2018

One of the keys of parenting is realizing that your children are different. They have different likes and dislikes, they respond differently to things, and they may require different disciplinary techniques. I have two daughters who were born two and a half years apart, yet were sometimes mistaken for twins, especially as they grew older. Despite their similarities, there were obvious differences, at least obvious to me as a parent. For one thing, they had markedly different personalities which meant they responded differently to given situations. As they were growing up, I had to keep this in mind as I dealt with them over circumstances. This was helpful and necessary for them and for me. My grandkids are following the same pathway by manifesting differences.

God is aware of this with his children. We may ask why we see God working in someone else's life in a different way than he is working in our own. We need only look as far as our own children for the answer. If we as earthly parents have the wisdom to know we should deal differently with our children, don't you think God realizes this as well?

God's knowledge of this showed up in how he dealt with Peter after Peter's denial. Christ confronted Peter on the shore of the Galilee in a unique way (see John 21). And when Peter questioned Christ about what would happen with John, Christ responded by saying, If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me (vs. 22)."

God places us in different situations for different reasons. We need to acknowledge that he knows best and does this for our best interests. We need to quit comparing ourselves with others and let God be the parent he wants to be.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday July 02, 2018

When I was younger I was called "four eyes" because of my glasses. There is a species of fish found in Central and South America called the Four Eyed Fish, Anableps anableps. It is called the Four Eyed Fish because it has two lenses in each eye - one that enables the fish to look at the world above as it swims near the surface. The other set of lens allows it to see what is going on in the water. This sounds like a useful trait.

We don't have this physical attribute, but we need to develop a "four eyed" spiritual trait. On the one hand, we need to be able to look above, to train our focus heavenward so as to be aware of God and his desire for us and what he has in store for us. Paul states in Colossians 3:1, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God."

On the other hand, we should never lose our focus on our responsibility here and now. There are needs that should be met; there are things that need to be done. Christ spoke often of heaven and our place there (read John 14:1-6), but he also spoke of the need to seek justice and help meet needs now. We find Christ's words in Matthew 5:5-6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Do your best to develop four eyes. Train yourself to look above and look below. In this way we will keep ourselves encouraged as we think of what God has for us, but also keep ourselves involved in what is going on around us. Being "four eyed" is a really good thing!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday July 01, 2018

I have always gotten a kick out of the phrase, "comfort food." Most of you are familiar with this concept - food that induces a degree of "comfort" because of the nostalgic or sentimental feeling the food produces when you enjoy it. The food is usually high in carbohydrates and is simple to prepare. Things like pot roast, beef stew, hamburgers and french fries, are considered "comfort food."

Can you really derive comfort from food? I suppose to a certain extent, you can. Of course, there is a problem when you try to derive comfort from food through overindulgence. This is a problem that can be extended to a number of other items - alcohol, drugs, money, pleasure, or power. When one tries to seek a level of comfort through overindulgence in anything it reflects a deep problem that requires a deep solution.

Paul tells us that that the source of true comfort is God and God working through us to help others. He writes, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (II Corinthians 1:3-4) God provides the comfort we need and wants to use us to bring comfort to others to help us live and thrive in a broken world. Enjoy comfort food for what it is, but when you face real struggles, let God be your source of comfort.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 30, 2018

In my article this past Wednesday, I referred to my leadership of church camps. I have had many wonderful experiences at church camp both as a camper, and as a leader. The camp to which we sent kids from our church closed a number of years ago. This was a sad thing and had an effect on our camping program. I spent a good deal of time at that camp as a leader.

The chapel at that camp was located on the south edge of property, nestled ever so slightly into a wooded area. One feature of the rustic chapel was a sign that hung up front that read, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple." (Habakkuk 2:20) Now, from a human perspective, the chapel was, as I said earlier, rustic. Does God inhabit such a building? Of course He does! When God's children were in that building, God was there! I can attest to His presence as I saw many responses of faith in that place. God used that place to touch lives, challenge followers, and change people. God is where his people are.

It is fine that we want to have nice places to spend time in worship, but we need to remember that it is not the building that brings about the worship, it is the people that bring about the worship. God inhabited the temple in the Old Testament, now he inhabits His followers. Wherever we gather we can worship God.

That marvelous little chapel at the south end of that camp was a beautiful place - not perhaps so much in its appearance, but because of the marvelous experiences of worship that took place there. Right there, in that very spot, indeed, "The Lord is in His Holy Temple."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 29, 2018

This year gardens have been tremendously productive because of the favorable growing conditions. Crops are doing well because of the consistent moisture and the moderate temperatures. Gardens and crops are reaching their full potential because of the optimal growing conditions. We are seeing what plants can do when they are provided with the right ingredients.

As followers of Christ we need to provide the right environment and the right conditions in order to make sure our "spiritual gardens" are able to grow and thrive the way they should. Peter tells us what we need to do to have an abundant harvest. We need to "make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (II Peter 1:5-8)

Make sure your garden flourishes by providing the right environment. You can't control the elements that influence the growth of your vegetables, but you can provide the right environment to enhance your faith. Let the garden of your soul reach its full potential by providing what is needed for growth.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 28, 2018

I take medicine in order to control a heart condition I have. One of the side effects of one of the medications is a metallic taste I have pretty much all the time. This is mildly annoying, but as I experience the metallic taste, I ask myself, "Which is worse, a metallic taste in your mouth or your heart beating like a runaway freight train?" I think I can live with the metallic taste. The taste also is a consistent reminder of my dependence on the medicine so I have an alert to help me take the medicine as directed.

Paul talks about a circumstance that he faced that was a perpetual reminder to him of his current state of dependence. He writes, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ s power may rest on me." (II Corinthians 12:7-9)

It sounds as if Paul had more than just a metallic taste in his mouth that served as a constant reminder of his dependence on the grace of God. The "thorn" was there to help him remember that his ability to live for God came from the hand of God. This led him to exalt in his status of weakness and put his experience in perspective. He was driven to a place where he knew he could not continue without God's help.

God often gives us reminders of our status. We need to gain perspective and appreciate them from a positive point of view. These reminders are contributors to our spiritual development. Let God use the "thorns" to shape our character!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 27, 2018

Years ago when I directed summer camps, we sang a chorus that said, "Tell me whose side are you leaning on? Leaning on the Lord s side!" An elderly gentleman named Harvey continued to attend church faithfully even after he had lost almost all of his sight and his hearing. "Harvey," a fellow church member asked, "Why do you continue to be so faithful even though you can't see or hear what is going on?" "Well," Harvey replied, "I want people to know what side I am on."

Too many times we do things just for what we can get out of the experience. This includes our involvement in the ministry of the church. We need to support our church with our attendance, our effort, our giving, and our commitment. We need to look for ways to give and not be so concerned with what we can "get."

We need Harveys - people who are there because they feel their presence pleases God and they want to give to others. When we do this, we know we are following the example of Christ and the teaching of Christ. Christ stated in Mark 10:43-45, "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." There are two operative words here: serve and give. These should be our priority - are they?

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 26, 2018

Candles are one of those items that were at one time an item of necessity but now are used optionally. Candles provide light and warmth and even though we have more effective sources of light and warmth, candles are still popular. Although candles may have more of a "decorative" function now, you still need to exercise caution when you use them. All too frequently we hear of fires that were caused by candles left unattended. Many times, the results are tragic.

As it is with candles, so it is with our lives. We need to take care of our lives and allow them to "burn" properly. We sometimes get caught up in so many things and activities we "burn the candle at both ends." Even as with a real candle, we need to exercise caution with how we allow our lives to "burn." We want to be able to burn for God, not burn up.

A candle that burns the way it should does so slowly, providing a source of light, warmth and, with most candles today, pleasing aroma. The candle enhances the atmosphere around it. If misused and allowed to ignite its surroundings, the candle becomes a destructive force, even to itself, as it will probably be destroyed in the ensuing maelstrom.

How are you allowing your life to burn for God? Be an influence on your environment, not a destructive force. Avoid useless, self-caused, stresses that cause burnout. Work to provide a consistent, productive, helpful influence. Paul refers to burning your candle wisely in II Corinthians 12:15, "So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well." Allow your lives to burn for God but be careful so that you don't burn out!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 25, 2018

What opportunity will you have to show mercy today? Jesus said that showing mercy to others is a mark of a person who has encountered God. Showing mercy to others necessitates compassion and forgiveness, the very things God has shown to us. Humility allows us to receive God's mercy and empowers us to show mercy to others. How will you pass on what you have received from Him?

Jesus showed mercy through his teaching, his miracles, his interaction with others, and in so many other ways. Matthew 5:7 records his words: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Maybe a fellow employee who made a mistake that affected a presentation you were planning needs mercy. Maybe your child who forgot his homework and needs to have you take it to school needs mercy. Maybe the person who just cut you off in traffic needs mercy. Here's a thought - maybe you could simply find someone having a bad day and show them some mercy. Nothing reflects Christ likeness better than showing mercy. Do you best to be one who is blessed because you show mercy.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 24, 2018

I have never been big on the idea of an identity crisis, that is, trying to find "who you really are". Nonetheless, there are times in our lives when we do ask questions about who we are, what we are doing in life, or what we have done.

Teenagers sometimes suffer angst as they are in a position of leaving behind the relatively carefree experience of childhood and enter into a time in their lives when they are more responsible for their own actions and their own decisions. As we enter middle age, we often wonder about choices we have made and sometimes face disappointment as we feel we haven't met all of our goals. During our senior years, end of life issues are experienced and often cause anxiety and concern. What is the answer for the struggles we face at these times, or any time for that matter? What helps is to recall and rehearse God's view of who we are.

As followers of Christ, we can remind ourselves that we are redeemed people. We should remember that "you were bought at a price." (I Corinthians 6:20) We are forgiven (Acts 10:43), reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19), new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17), God s adopted children (Gal. 4:4-7), and God s witnesses and ambassadors (Mt. 28:19-20; 2 Cor. 5:20). Best of all, we are destined to be like His Son (Rom. 8:29). As we remember and review these characteristics that are made possible through our relationship with God, our identity becomes a bit clearer.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 23, 2018

After my article about my granddaughter yesterday, I sort of felt as if I should give her little brother some ink. Cullen is talking a bit, but at 2 years old, he isn't stringing together sentences quite yet. That does not mean he is unable to communicate his desires, wishes, and intent. He is pretty much an open book, so you know what is on his mind even though he may not be able to verbalize completely his thoughts. For example, when it is time to pray, such as before a meal, he will fold his hands, bow his head, and say "Pray!" So, you do indeed get the idea what he has in mind.

I got to witness another cute display of his inner thoughts on a recent visit to my kids. We were preparing to leave for morning worship. I was standing by the door getting ready to exit to the van. In popped my grandson, looking all natty in his new outfit, hair slicked back, shoes on, and ready to move. He hopped over to me, threw his arms out, smiled radiantly, and announced, "I ready!" And, indeed he was. When he did this, I was sort of overcome with glee, joy, and amusement all at once. It was just so cute, and his exuberance and excitement were evident.

As I reflected on his actions, I wondered what sort of emotions we evoke in our Father as we prepare for worship. Do we demonstrate an exuberance that makes Him smile? Do we display excitement that brings Him joy? Do we make him feel a sense of pride in what we convey to Him? Do we look at him with a gleam in our eyes and say, "I ready!"?

I Chronicles 16:23-25 says, "Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods." When it comes to our love of God, our worship of God, and certainly our service for God, we need to look at Him with eyes that gleam with excitement and say, "I ready!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 22, 2018

I enjoy listening to my little 5-year-old granddaughter pray. There are a number of reasons for this. When she prays, her prayers are always a direct reflection of what she has on her mind. They are brief and to the point, and she doesn t use any particular formulas in her prayers or language that she would not normally use when speaking to someone else. Of course, at her age, she wouldn't think of this, as she considers prayer simply talking to God as if He is in the room with her and wants to hear what she has to say. Hmmm. Isn't that interesting?

I think you can learn a lot about prayer from a 5-year-old. Our prayer needs to be direct, although there are occasions when we need to spend some time in prayer and not worry about the length. We don't need to use any particular forms or "prayer language" when we pray; we should speak directly to the Father who wants to hear our prayers and even enjoys hearing our prayer, perhaps much in the same way that I enjoy hearing the prayer of my granddaughter.

I am not being flippant or taking anything away from prayer when I speak about it in this way. I am just reflecting some thoughts that I hope will encourage you to pray and develop a positive mindset towards your communication with God. Don't forget to pray as if God is right there in the room with you, listening to every word you say. He is.

Luke 18:1 tells us, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." This is what we need to do, and I have learned some things from a 5-year-old that encourages me to do just this.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 21, 2018

It is a well-known story that one of the greatest construction feats in the history of mankind, the construction of the Panama Canal, was almost shut down by a tiny insect. During the massive project, the enormous problems of moving a river, displacing tons of earth, and cutting down miles of jungle didn't threaten the project nearly so much as the problem of mosquitoes. With mosquitoes came disease and many deaths. The project began in 1904 and by 1906 nearly 85% of the workers had been hospitalized with yellow fever or malaria. As the death toll continued to rise, a solution was sought.

Dr. William Gorgas, also a colonel in the United States Army, led a campaign to use chemicals to kill the mosquitoes and, according to his thoughts, eliminate the disease. The role of the mosquito in spreading disease was not widely accepted at the time. In spite of critics, President Roosevelt funded the spraying project in accordance with Gorgas' idea. As we know, the effort was successful and the canal was built.

A big project was almost stymied by a little threat. That can happen to us. We need to make sure we take care of the little problems in our lives lest they cause big problems. For example, "It's just a little white lie" can lead to a big problem of destroying credibility and damaging relationships. We need to take care that we don't allow little issues into our lives that can cause great problems. This is what can take place when we dismiss what we deem a minor issue as harmless.

Hebrews 12:15 addresses one such area, "See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." The concern here is that a minor infraction, if not attended, can lead to a major problem that could "cause trouble and defile many." We need to take care of the "mosquitoes!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 20, 2018

Many of us struggle with the desire to be accepted by others. We often do strange things in order that we might gain the favor of others. We wear clothes we might not like, accept invitations we would rather decline, work long hours when we need to be home, and pay way too much for stuff we don't need all because we want to impress other folks. Too many of us are live as if we are pledging a fraternity or sorority and we do crazy things in order to join. Regrettably, we sometimes follow a crowd that influences us in the wrong way and we listen to advice from the wrong people.

Reheboam had this problem. He was asked to alleviate some of the pressure that had been put on the people by his father, King Solomon. He was told by the elders who had known his father that if he would do this "you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants." (I Kings 12:7) Instead, he rejected this advice and listened to his "friends", men his age with whom he had grown up.. He apparently was more concerned about impressing his peers than being wise. As a result, the kingdom divided.

We need to decide how we want to live. Whose acceptance do we want - God or others? Make sure you are listening to the right counselor!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 19, 2018

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 really 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 loosen 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
Monday June 18, 2018

In generations past, something that would bring a good deal of excitement to a family was the arrival of a new catalog. Be it from Sears, J.C. Penney, or Montgomery Ward, a new "wish book" was highly anticipated as the pages were filled with items one could see and hope to obtain.

I remember my great anticipation of the Christmas catalogs from Sears and Penney s . I would thumb through the toy sections, looking at various items which I thought would look great under the tree on Christmas morning. There were always so many items I hoped to see in real life.

The Bible is a book that brings great hope as well; however, the hope it brings is of a more lasting nature and of greater consequence than the items one sees in catalogs. The Bible describes man's need and God's provision. It outlines God's plan of redemption for mankind and the blessed hope that is ours when we come to God by faith.

What is contained in the pages of scripture is hope. The hope that is presented in the scripture is certainly not like the pictures in a new catalog - objects that we may or may not obtain. What is described in the Bible is a hope that is ours when we follow our Lord. Hebrews 6:18-19 describes this hope, "God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

Don't wish for things that you may not have - put your hope in God and what he tells us is ours when we follow Him. The Bible is not a book of wishful thinking; it describes a reality that is ours when we follow Christ's provision. Looking at the pages of a catalog and wishing for things we want and then don't receive brings disappointment. Reading the Bible and placing our hope in what it says will never disappoint. What God says is ours is really ours - and no one can change it!

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 17, 2018

When the Lord gave instructions on how to pray, he also gave some insights into the character of God. And when he addressed God as his Father, he gave some insight into characteristics of a father that we earthly fathers would do well to emulate. Certainly, we cannot be the kind of Father that God is in that He is perfect, but we see elements of fatherhood that we should try to model as earthly fathers.

We find this prayer in Matthew 6:9 -13, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

First, we see that a father is there for his children. Jesus said "Our Father in heaven." He knew where he was. Fathers need to be present with their children. The statement regarding God's will speaks to me of strength. Fathers should provide strength and direction for their families. Fathers need to provide, as God does, "Give us today our daily bread, Fathers need to be forgiving. Fathers should not do things to lead their children down the wrong path - "lead us not into temptation." Fathers need to provide protection, as God does.

Earthly fathers cannot be the Father; that is not the intent. However, we find many elements of fatherhood presented in Christ's prayer that we earthly fathers can exhibit in our lives. Happy Father's Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 16, 2018

An old adage tells us to "take time to smell the roses." I am always impressed by how much more I see of things when I walk by them as to when I drive by. For one thing, you can't afford to be looking around too much when you are driving. You simply don't have the time to take in all the details when you are zipping by at a high rate of speed. I can drive by a location 10 times, and then walk by it once and say, "Well, I never noticed that before."

The obvious lesson here is that sometimes we need to slow down and take in more detail. That is why we have such comments in the Bible as are found in Psalm 37:7, "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;" and Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."

A literal translation of the "be still" in 46:10 is "cease striving." In other words, slow down, observe, and listen. This is something we need to do more of - whether it be in our spiritual lives or in life in general. "Be still" and see how much more you see!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 15, 2018

God knows more about us than we do about ourselves. We admit that verbally, but sometimes how we are living demonstrates that we really don't believe it.

Psalm 139:1-4 makes this abundantly clear, "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD."

We need to make sure our lifestyles mirror our belief in this area. Whether it involves a matter of trust in God in a situation, or a matter of obedience to God, or a matter of control over an issue in our life, we need to allow our actions to match our words when it comes to acknowledging God's role in our lives. God does know all about you - live as if you believe this!

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 14, 2018

God wants us to enjoy life, and he wants to be a part of every facet of our lives. Many people are surprised to find out that this includes our work life as well. God wants us to be industrious and he wants us to be good workers. As a matter of fact, he tells us in Colossians 3:23-24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Isn't that interesting? When you work, your need to perform your tasks as "working for the Lord. . .It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Honor the Lord as best you can with everything you do including your work. If you are a business person, conduct your business nobly. If you are a teacher, teach well. If you are a farmer, farm well. If you are a factory worker, work well. If you sack groceries, do that well! Remember that as a follower of Christ, you are to do these things to please him.

Paul also gives us this encouragement in II Corinthians 5:9, "So we make it our goal to please him." Is this your goal? It should be! And it includes every part of your life, including what you do for a living! So work well!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 13, 2018

Recently I read of a lady who keeps a "Heaven file." It is a file where she has clippings, pictures, letters, and other mementos from friends and family members who have died. She does not do this because she is overcome with grief; she does this as a perpetual reminder of the assurance she has of seeing these people again. Her file is a tangible expression of hope - not hope for something that might take place but hope in something that will take place.

In I Thessalonians 4, Paul tells the Thessalonians they can have a "Heaven File": "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (vss. 13 - 18)

I am happy that this is something we can do, and my Heaven file is becoming more populated. Last night, I lost a dear friend as Cosie Cook went home to be with God. Cosie is the wife of Steve Cook. Many of you know these dear folks. Cosie battled a number of illnesses for a number of years; her most recent struggle was with leukemia. I have known Steve all of my life and became acquainted with Cosie when she and Steve started dating in high school. It is hard for me to believe that I am actually writing that she has joined my "Heaven file."

I pray for my friend, Steve, and his family, and look forward to the day when my Heaven file can be put in File 13 because I am now experiencing the reality of Heaven. We have that assurance because of the promise of God to His followers. I am glad for the hope of a "Heaven File!"

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 12, 2018

My mother always told me "you get what you pay for." Mom always knew you should go for quality when you make purchases, although she never paid full price for anything. She didn't go for cheaper, bargain products. She just waited on sales to buy what she knew to be quality products at a reduced price.

I failed to heed this advice on a number of occasions, but one particular incident that comes to mind involved grass seed. I needed some grass seed so I bought some. I got some generic, cheaper seed. Grass seed is grass seed, right? Well, I "paid" for my mistake. The seed didn't germinate, even though conditions were great. So, I went back and got the good stuff. My lawn still might not be the envy of the neighborhood, but I have grass where I once had bare spots!

Sometimes we are like this when it comes to our lives as followers of Christ. We like to search for "bargains;" we cut corners; we don't spend the time we should doing what we know is important to help us grow in the faith. God gave us his Best when he sent His Son to die so that we might have life. Through faith in Him we receive the gift of eternal life that is free for us, but at times we fail in what we offer to Him as thanks for His gift to us.

Time, effort, discipline, and more are helpful when it comes to our growth in Christ. We need quality "seed," not some bargain basement product. We need to give our best effort when it comes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Colossians 3:23 tells us, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. . ." Give Him your best!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 11, 2018

As I am writing this article, we have a pretty good storm taking place outside. It stormed a bit last night, and another cropped up early this morning. I have written before that I am not all that fond of storms; however, storms do have a unique way of demonstrating the power of God.

The writer of Psalm 97 uses the imagery of a storm to give a picture of God's character and his righteous rule. "Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne." (Psalm 97:2) The clouds and darkness remind us that we cannot see God's full glory. Remember the request of Moses in Exodus 33, "Show me your glory." The only way God could do this was to hide Moses in a cave so as God passed by Moses would not be exposed to God's entire presence. To do so would bring death to Moses.

The author of the Psalm speaks of the lightning of God that flashes and reveals what the world is like. The psalmist writes, "His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles." (Psalm 97:4) God s justice will reveal the evil of the world. No one can hide from God. God's glory is revealed in the heavens, according to verse 6.

Yes, God is in the storm and reveals much of who he is and what he does. The next time you hear the thunder roll and see the lightning flash, remember what you know of God because of the imagery of the storm.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 10, 2018

I once read a story about a beautiful place in England called Mill Pond. A variety of waterfowl frequent the pond including geese, ducks, and swans. Because of this, there are many visitors who come to enjoy the peaceful surroundings and catch a glimpse of the beautiful birds. However, some power lines that were close to one side of the pond posed a problem, especially for the swans. They would fail to see the power lines on their descent to the pond and come in contact with the high voltage wires and die instantly. To solve this problem, the power company installed red flags on the lines. Since the installation, not one swan was killed.

We often encounter "red flags" in our lives. Ignoring these red flags can place us in peril. The book of Proverbs gives us a variety of red flags. There are warnings against a number of behaviors and a number of circumstances that are put up as "red flags." Proverbs 13 alone warns against dishonesty, laziness, the love of riches, and ignoring God's Word. The writer gives this advice, "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm." (Proverbs 13:20)

If the birds ignored the red flags that were installed for their safety, they would suffer the consequence. If we choose to ignore red flags in our lives, there will be adverse consequences. Don't ignore the flags - they are there for a reason!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 09, 2018

Quite some time ago, I helped my brother Kevin clean out a drainage trap next to his garage. He brought out a brand-new shop vacuum that he had received as a Father's Day present. I commented on the appearance of the vacuum and noted that it should help speed up our process. Theoretically, this was true, but in reality, we experienced the opposite. The vacuum simply didn't perform the way it should. It had suction, but it was very weak.

We checked the filter, cleaned out the hose, and did all that we could think of to make it function properly. Nothing we did improved the machine's performance. After several procedures, we made an enlightening discovery - the vacuum hose was installed backwards. This made for loose fittings that decreased the suction. There was no suction because the hose was placed in the wrong direction.

This often occurs in our relationship with God. We get things "backwards" and have things flow the wrong direction. Instead of allowing insight and guidance to flow from God to us, we try to give God insight and guidance. This is even crazier than trying to get a vacuum to work with the hose installed backwards.

God warned Job about getting things backwards. In Job 38:2-3, we find God asking Job, "Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me." This is the way it should be, but Job sort of had things backwards. This could be blamed on all the misinformation he had received from his friends, but the responsibility was his to get things in the right perspective. When it comes to our communication and our interaction with God, let's make sure we have the hose installed in the right direction.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 08, 2018

Joseph Dixon worked for years on a design for a pencil that was inspired by watching the boats in his native Marblehead, England. His first efforts were brought about during the War of 1812, but it was the Civil War that engendered great popularity for his creation.

Dixon did not invent the pencil, but he developed a means of mass production of the pencil. He created a planing device that cranked out 132 pencils in an hour. By and large, the pencil he produced remains unchanged to this day with the exception of the addition of an eraser. The eraser was a very beneficial addition, as most of us do tend to make mistakes. With an eraser, a correction can be made, and one may continue with the task at hand.

Each day, we inscribe words and deeds in the pages of our lives. Mistakes are made as we go about our tasks and pursue various activities. Mistakes may be simply a matter of carelessness, or we may do bad things and pursue acts that reflect bad judgment. When we err, we have an opportunity to correct the errors through seeking the forgiveness of God. John writes in his first letter that we may obtain the forgiveness of God by confession our wrongdoing to God and asking for his pardon - "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) The provision of God's "eraser" is a product of God's grace. What a wonderful allowance God provides for us so our mistakes can be erased.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday June 07, 2018

Many restaurants now offer some incentives for you to take an online survey to rate your experience at the restaurant. They usually offer some sort of free item you can redeem at your next visit if you take the survey. They do this because their existence depends upon customer satisfaction and they want to have a way to check up on how they are doing. They depend upon good experiences of their customers to bolster their reputation. Companies that offer services know that shoddy products and poor service can damage their name, and they do not want to see this happen.

I find it amazing that God has placed his reputation in our hands. He chooses to work through us, and this means that how we serve will reflect directly on our Father. Sometimes the behavior of God's people has a detrimental effect on God's name. Ezekiel 36:20-21 gives an example of this, "And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my Holy Name, for it was said of them, 'These are the Lord's people, and yet they had to leave his land.' I had concern for my Holy Name, which they profaned among the nations where they had gone." Isn't that a shame?

Make sure your behavior enhances God's name. As followers of the Lord we bear the name of Christ. Is our behavior bringing honor to his name or dragging it through the mud? We should want our behavior to reflect beneficially on the name of our Savior. God puts his reputation on us!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday June 06, 2018

We often labor under the mistaken assumption that if we live good, clean lives, nothing bad will ever happen to us. We often believe this so strongly that we are surprised, sometimes even angry, when we get hit with a bad circumstance when we don't feel we have done anything wrong. We feel that living a good life should be rewarded with a worry-free existence.

Well, I guess my first question is: where in the world did you get that idea? I really don't mean to be so direct, but there is no biblical or experiential evidence that leads to this conclusion. This is an assumption we have that has its basis in our sense of justice, but it is a mistaken assumption.

You don't have to go far in the scripture to find a biblical example that counters this thought. Joseph was a person who did just about everything right. You really don't find too much "negative press" about Joseph, yet every time you see him doing a good thing, he gets slammed. Report his dreams without editing? Boom - he gets sold into slavery. Flee from Potiphar's wife? Bam - he gets put into jail. So, what did he do? He focused on what was important. He realized that "the Lord was with him." (Genesis 39:21) Regardless of what he went through, what he experienced, he knew that God was with him and he needed to continue to trust in Him.

When it seems everything turns out wrong even when you are doing things right, it does not mean that you are a bad person. It does not mean that God is out to get you or has rejected you. It means you are living in a fallen world where things often don't go the way that would seem right. When this takes place, focus on the presence of God and his leadership. God will set things right. He did it for Joseph and he will do it for you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday June 05, 2018

Mark Twain said, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." There are times when we need to speak up and be heard. There are times when we need to let our opinion be known. There are times when we need to take a stand for an important issue; however, there are times when we need to hold our tongue because saying something would be the wrong thing to do. This is especially true when we are angry and frustrated.

We need to avoid critical statements aimed at hurting others. We need to avoid careless comments that reflect bad judgment and unclear thinking. Twain put it well, and his comments reflect biblical principles. Proverbs 17:28 says, "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues."

There is a time to speak up and be heard. There is a time to keep silent. The wise make the distinction. Make every effort to be wise in order not to speak foolishly. Speech is a powerful tool that has the power to build up and the power to tear down. Work on being a good builder.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday June 04, 2018

Paul wrote much about Christ and spoke about Christ but didn't quote him often. As a matter of fact, there are only two occasions where we find that Paul quoted directly what Christ said. One incident is when he corrects the problems the Corinthians had in celebrating the Lord's Table. Paul quoted Christ: "'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. (I Corinthians 11:23-25)

The other quotation of Christ by Paul is found in Acts 20:35: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." What is interesting is this statement of Christ is not found in the Gospels. Christ spoke much about giving and one's attitude towards giving, but this statement is not found. Because of Paul s remarks, there is no doubt that Christ said it, but it is not recorded in any of the Gospels.

I find it interesting that one of only two places where Paul actually uses the words of Christ has to do with giving. What makes this even more compelling is to realize the context of Paul's statements. These are his final words to the Ephesian elders just before he leaves them to go to Jerusalem and an uncertain future. Before he leaves, he chooses to mention the beauty of giving, and to emphasize this, he uses words of Christ.

There are so many benefits in giving. You aren't aware of that? Well, then perhaps you need to think about giving for a bit. Giving is one of the most blessed activities in which we can participate. This comes directly from Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday June 03, 2018

Isn't it amazing how much we let money control our lives? Whether we have money, or don't have money, it seems to occupy a prominent place in our existence. With the state of the economy, money certainly has a prevalent spot in media circles. This only serves to enhance its position in our thinking. Money is necessary, but we really need to get a grip on it, rather than let it get a grip on us.

Paul wrote to Timothy about this. He said, "But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1Timothy 6:9-10 NLT) He makes a point here about money mastery instead of being mastered by money.

Whether you have money or whether you don't, keep it in perspective. Don't allow it to be THE focal point of your life, or you will wake up one day wondering what has happened with your life and where it went. Take steps to be good stewards with what you have; learn to be content with what you have (or what you don't have) and you will find a much more joyful and peaceful existence. God wants your focus, so don't allow money, whether it is money woes or "Money! Whoa!", to block your view.

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday June 02, 2018

I have been telling my family for some time now that it seems my hearing is getting worse. How else can you explain my ability to be setting right next to someone and not hear what they are saying to me? However, my family maintains that I have just developed "selective hearing." In other words, it is not that I don't hear what is being said to me, but I am so preoccupied with something else I don't fully process what is being said, so I don't "hear." What I should do is simply pay more attention to those wanting to communicate with me - it's an amazing thing called listening.

We need to listen to our family, our friends, our associates, our co-workers, and others who want to communicate with us. Listening involves focusing our attention on those who are speaking to us and not letting distractions keep us from hearing what they are saying. Not being heard is a frustrating experience. Listen to the words of a frustrated speaker, "If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom. Hear now my argument; listen to the plea of my lips (Job 13:5-6)." This is the complaint of Job to his "friends" who really were not paying attention to what he was saying.

Work on your listening skills and avoid "selective hearing." Relationships are strengthened by good communication, and being a good listener is a key to good communication.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday June 01, 2018

What is your first response to correction to kick back at someone, or to think? Proverbs has much to say about this matter. God corrects us out of love (Proverbs 3:12). The wise accept this correction (Proverbs 15:5), mockers resent it (Proverbs 15:12), and pride stops us from hearing it (Proverbs 13:10), but if we accept it we grow wise (Proverbs 15:31-32).

Proverbs 6:23 tells us, "Correction and instruction are the way to life." Usually we struggle with correction. We don't like to be told we are wrong and we don't like others pointing out our faults. Having someone do this with a mean spirit is one thing, but correction done with our best interest in mind is actually something we should desire.

In my mind, the greatest example of correction in the Scripture is found in John 21. Christ's interaction with Peter after the resurrection provides a model of restorative confrontation. Peter understood the message and apparently took it to heart. His behavior in the early chapters of Acts demonstrates the effect Christ's correction had on him.

Someone once wrote, "When your first response to correction is to kick back rather than think, you're missing the opportunity for God to give you a big heart and a big life." Peter must have done a lot of thinking. So, should we.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 31, 2018

I read a story told by Lloyd John Ogilvie, former chaplain of the United States Senate. He was dining with a friend of his in Washington, D.C. A lady recognized Dr. Ogilvie's companion, walked up behind him, then slapped him on the back so hard that he spilled his coffee. She then proceeded to throw her fur boa around her neck, slapping Dr. Ogilvie in the face with it in the process. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said. Dr. Ogilvie's friend called her by name and said, "Don't be sorry, be different!"

This is good advice for us as well. We do make mistakes for which we need to ask forgiveness. The best way to demonstrate that we are truly sorry for what we have done is to not only seek forgiveness verbally, but to show our sorrow through our actions by determining to be different.

This is really what God is looking for. He isn't interested in a quick "I'm sorry" when we really aren't interested in changing our behavior. We read the words of Samuel in I Samuel 15:22, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." For us, to obey is better than an "I'm sorry." If we are truly sorry for what we have done wrong, we will show this through a change in behavior. Read I Corinthians 5:1-8 and II Corinthians 7:8-11 for a good biblical illustration of this principle.

Our sorrow for our wrongs is best expressed by what we do more than what we say. In the words of Dr. Ogilvie's dinner companion, "Don't be sorry, be different."

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 30, 2018

A team of Australian scientists were doing a study on the development of galaxies. An unexpected by-product of their research was an estimate of the number of stars in the known universe. According to their calculations, there are 70 sextillion stars in what we know of the universe in which we live. That is 70 followed by 22 zeros. Here is what this number looks like: 700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Yeesh. That is a lot of stars. Isn't this incredible? One team member said, "Finding the number of stars is not really the research we were doing, but it was a nice result to play around with."

We may not know the exact number of stars, but God does. When you roll this thought around in your mind for a bit, you come to the realization as to why we need to praise God.

Psalm 147:1 & 4 tell us, "How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name." So, God not only knows the number of the stars, but he knows the name of each star. As Bill Gaither sang, "We have a great big wonderful God." Isn't that the truth?

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 29, 2018

Many of us have experienced an adrenaline rush to some extent. This is when we get a shot of adrenaline in response to a situation that causes a "fight or flight" response. It may be some sort of fright, it may be some sort of emergency situation, it may be in response to a perceived threat, or some other situation.

The most extreme example of this I have ever witnessed was in my youngest brother, Phil. This incident happened when we were kids about 8, 10 and 12 years of age. My brother Kevin was playing on what was left of a large tree that had been felled in the front yard of my grandparents' home. As he played on top of the log, it suddenly fell off the stump on which it had been resting, rolled over, and pinned my brother beneath it. Phil sprang into action and rolled the large log off of Kevin. Kevin was scared and shaken up, but unharmed.

What was strange about this incident was, when we calmed down, we all tried to move the log again. We couldn't budge it one inch, let alone move it the way Phil had done all by himself just a few minutes earlier.

There are times when we need a "spiritual adrenaline rush" to help us accomplish some task the Lord has given us. We need to remember that God will always provide the strength to move the logs that need to be moved. Moses proclaims in Exodus 15:2, "The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him."

Do you have a log that needs to be moved? God can provide the strength to help meet that need. When you need "spiritual adrenaline," God will provide it.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 28, 2018

I have visited Arlington Cemetery twice in my life. Spending time at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a moving experience. The inscription on the tomb reads, "Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God." As I spent time there and thought about the meaning of that memorial, I am overpowered by the reality of someone dying in battle and never being identified. Of course, technological developments have allowed this to be less of a possibility.

I know I can't truly appreciate the anguish of a family receiving the news that a loved one is missing in action and then never knowing of their demise. As we celebrate this Memorial Day, we need to pause to give thanks to all who sacrificed to serve our country.

There are many times in life when we may feel forgotten or alone. Asaph wrote, "Will the Lord reject forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful?" (Psalm 77:7,9) Circumstances led Asaph to feel alone and "unknown." However, there is an answer to this. Asaph wrote, "Then I thought, 'To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord.'" Asaph remembered what God had done in the past, and rehearsing God's faithfulness helped him to realize that God was still present with him now.

Christ's words also bring assurance that we are never forgotten nor alone, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So, don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31) We are never unknown to God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 27, 2018

I get a kick out of those commercials that feature two guys wearing waders who are waist-deep in a cranberry bog. From that vantage point, they extol the benefits of cranberry consumption, particularly Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice.

Did you know that the way to test the ripeness of a cranberry is the bounce test? Good, ripe cranberries will bounce. This is how they are sorted after they are harvested. Ripe cranberries will bounce over a barrier of 8 to 10 inches. Those that aren't ripe are left behind for a while to ripen, and some never pass the test. So, if you want to know if your cranberries are ripe, play basketball with them!

We face a "bounce" test as well. The strength of one's faith can be measured by how well you bounce back after a fall. We are prone to failure, and we will make mistakes. The depth of our faith helps us prove our "maturity" as followers of Christ when we recover after we have experienced failure.

Christ knew that Peter was heading for a fall. He warned him - we read in Matthew 26:34, "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.'" Peter fell just as the Lord predicted. Christ told him that he would pray for him so his faith would not fail. Later, along with the encouragement of the Lord, Peter rose above his fall to new heights of service for his Savior.

We can rise above our failures to new heights of service for our Savior if we allow Christ to protect and strengthen our faith. When you experience a spiritual setback, don't use it as an excuse to not go forward. Let Christ motivate you to new avenues of service. He is not ready to give up - don't be ready to give up either - "bounce" back!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 26, 2018

It used to be that if you were in an office, a business, or some other public location, you needed to "dial 9" in order to gain an outside line. That may still be the case at some locations, but modern systems have pretty well done away with this necessity. The reason you needed to dial 9 to gain an outside line is that office systems typically are set up to give priority to in-house communications. Therefore, you need to dial 9 to access a higher level of communication that enables you to make an outside call.

Often we feel as if our prayers are not reaching the "higher level of communication" needed to make it outside. Someone once suggested that if you are experiencing this, you should "dial 9," as in following David's example found in Psalm 9.

In his prayer, we see David 1) Rehearsing all of God's deeds (v. 1); 2) Expressing thanksgiving (v. 1); 3) Praising God for who He is v. 2); 4) Remembering God's protection (vv. 3 - 5); 5) Acknowledging God's protection and authority (vv. 6 - 8); 6) Proclaiming God's faithfulness (v. 10); 7) Celebrating his victories (11 - 17); and 8) Enjoying God's presence (18).

Keeping these things in mind can help us get into a mindset of listening to God and help to focus our prayers on Him. When we do that, we are able to access a higher level of communication and get the outside line we need.

When you are struggling with your prayer, dial Psalm 9! "I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High (1 - 2)."

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 25, 2018

We sing the hymn "The Love of God" upon occasion at our church. This hymn is not as well-known as others, but I don't think any song ever written more eloquently expresses God's great love for us. Written by Frederick Lehman in the early 20th century, it is based on a German hymn that was composed in the 11th century.

One stanza proclaims, "Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God above Would drain the ocean dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole Though stretched from sky to sky."

As I read these words, my mind is drawn to the writing of Paul found in Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

In both the hymn and the scripture, I sense the struggle of the author in his attempt to adequately describe God's great love for us. With Paul it seems as if, even with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing about God's great love proved to be an enormous task. How can you adequately reflect God's great love through the limits of our earthly means? As Lehman points out, attempting to do so would drain an ocean of ink.

God demonstrates his love for us in many ways, none more powerful than his expression of love to us through his Son. As authors have found out over the years, God's love leaves us speechless.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 24, 2018

Sir Alexander Mackenzie was a Scottish explorer who completed the first east to west transcontinental crossing of the North American continent north of Mexico. His expedition predated the Lewis and Clark effort by ten years. He was trying to find a "Northwest passage," a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1798, a journey along a river ended in frustration when the river he was following emptied into the Arctic Ocean. Although this river was eventually named the Mackenzie River, Mackenzie actually called it the "Disappointment River" because of his experience.

Many folks are floating along in life on "Disappointment River" because the path they have followed in life did not take them to where they wanted to be. And if you are not following Christ, I guarantee that you are on the "River of Disappointment." Jesus told his disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Don't follow "Disappointment River," follow Christ.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 23, 2018

Do you have a favorite recipe? I have several, but one I have used on many occasions is a recipe I got from Campbell's years ago for Chicken Fettuccini. I have shared it with a few people. I love sharing recipes with others, but what drives me nuts is when I hear that a recipe I have shared didn't work well because the person got too creative with the instructions. Why do that? The recipe is the way it is for a reason. I can't help it when the recipe doesn't work because of substitutions and changes.

This is probably the way God feels when we try to get creative with what he has told us to do. Peter gives us a recipe for spiritual success in II Peter 1: "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love." (vss. 3 - 7)

This is a great recipe for godly living. When we follow the recipe, we will see great gains spiritually. If we choose to be creative, we will experience negative results. Follow God's recipe!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 22, 2018

Do you remember Gatorade's "Be Like Mike" commercials? They were done when Michael Jordan was at the zenith of his career and were based upon the premise that everyone wanted to "be like Mike" enough that they would buy Gatorade because Michael Jordan drank Gatorade. The campaign was successful, solidifying Gatorade as the power drink king.

The "Be Like Mike" idea spread to other venues, and for a time it seemed that everyone wanted to "be like Mike," especially on the basketball court. As great a player as Jordan was, do you realize how boring basketball would be if there were only Michael Jordan's playing the game? There would be no Abdul-Jabbar skyhooks, no Magic Johnson no-look through-the-legs passes, no Larry Bird fade-away jumpers, and no Dr. J. All these players, and many others, have made significant contributions to basketball and have helped to make it the exciting sport that it is. Now, I know I am dating myself using these examples you can insert some contemporary names if you want.

The principle of diversity is true in many areas in life and is true in the church. We often say, "Oh, if only I could be more like him or more like her." What's wrong with being more like you? As a matter of fact, we need more "you's" and not "him or hers."

There are differences in all of us, and that is the beauty of the church that s the beauty of life! We are different people with different gifts. And just as the variety of skills make for more exciting basketball, so the variety of gifts make for a more compelling church.

We need to work together, but we need to exercise our separate gifts while working together. There is one Giver of gifts, the Holy Spirit, but Romans 12:6 tells us, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." Use your different gift for the glory of God and to build up the church! Let Mike (or Lebron or Stephen or whoever) do what he does, and you do what you need to do!

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 21, 2018

Many years ago, we lived in Dallas and I worked for an office systems installation firm. During my years there, I worked both in the field and in the office. The company received and delivered conventional furniture, but our specialty was the installation of moveable wall work stations.

One of the biggest manufacturers of this type of work station is Herman Miller. I personally liked to work on Herman Miller because the design just made sense to me, and I felt the system was easier to work with than other similar products. Hearing about a comment made by Max Dupree, CEO of Herman Miller, I think I understand why they have a superior product. When asked what the most difficult thing he personally had to work on was, he replied, "Intercepting entropy."

What is entropy? It is what happens when you don't take care of business. Or, to put it more technically, it is "a lack of order; a gradual descent into disorder." What causes this? Not taking care of things or not being responsible to do what needs to be done is what causes entropy.

Many are flirting with entropy in their lives because they are not careful and do not take care of their responsibilities. Proverbs warns us what happens when this takes place: "I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense. I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down. Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber." (Proverbs 20:30-34, NLT)

Intercept entropy in your life. Make sure that you take care of business. It will be better for you, and it will be better for those around you.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 20, 2018

I thought I would keep with the financial theme for today's article. 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
Saturday May 19, 2018

A Princeton University study reached the conclusion that a $75,000 annual income is what is needed to keep you happy. According to the study, one's happiness decreases markedly the lower you fall beneath this benchmark.

I thought this quite interesting, but realize that I know folks, both here and in other parts of the globe, that are living contented and joyful lives on significantly less than $75,000 a year. I recall one dear lady that I met in Peru who was living on less than $1000 a year (U.S. dollars) and loved her life. And there are many whose income exceeds this "happiness benchmark" that are anything but happy.

Money "can't buy me love" (with apologies to Lennon and McCartney) nor can it truly buy happiness. One whose happiness depends on their bank account will at some point be supremely disappointed.

Paul reminds us in I Timothy 6:6 - 7 & 10, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. . .For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Avoid the mindset that your happiness depends on your cash flow. Our source of joy comes from the hand of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 18, 2018

The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, "Jesus wept." Like many others, I have always found this verse very compelling. This verse shows Christ's humanity, of course, and portrays Christ's emotional connection to us humans as well. As we think of Christ's response to the scene at the tomb of Lazarus, we see a picture of his involvement with the people he created. There is no emotional detachment here; Christ loves us and feels what we feel because he put himself in a position to experience what we experience.

Hebrews tells us the necessity for Christ's humanity: "For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people" (2:17) and "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are yet he did not sin." (4:17)

We need to thank God for his involvement in our lives, and for sending Christ to live among us, experience what we experience, know our struggles, know our pain, and then provide hope that we can be victorious over the enemies we face. Jesus wept because, as a human, he felt the loss along with the family of Lazarus. As God, he turned that loss into victory. That is what he can and will do for those who follow him.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 17, 2018

The United States Food and Drug Administration describes a household lacking the money to buy enough food to be "food insecure." According to their reckoning, there are 36 - 49 million food insecure households in the United States. This has always bothered me. I have no answers why that in a country with such an overabundance of food there are so many who go without food on a regular basis.

As followers of Christ, this is an area of ministry that we should not neglect. James encourages us: "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?'" (James 2:15-16) God wants food security for all people. We should do all we can to provide this for those around us.

What are you doing to help with this issue? Look around you - who needs your help? Look for agencies in your community that need your assistance financially or physically. Ask God to let you see the need around you and provide you with opportunities to meet the needs of others. Do what you can to help those who are "food insecure" become secure.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 16, 2018

We need to thank God for friends. A true friend is one who accepts us as we are, warts and all. A true friend is one who is willing to listen to us even if what we have to say isn't all that interesting, or if what we have to say is about an event that has left us emotionally devastated. A true friend is one who isn't looking for something in return but is someone with whom we want to share our lives. A true friend is someone we can trust with our lives.

Jonathon provides a tremendous example of friendship. There were times when David's life would have been so much more difficult without his good friend Jonathon. That is what friendships can do - provide a source of help during times when difficulties are encountered. Of course, good friendships provide so much more.

We often need helpful criticism - this comes better from a friend. Proverbs 27:6 tell us, "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." We need accountability. Proverbs 27:9 says, "Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice." We need the companionship of a friend. Proverbs 18:24 says, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

I hope you have friends like this. God intends for this to be part of our lives. Develop true friendships.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 15, 2018

During the War Between the States, Union General Daniel Butterfield became dissatisfied with simply firing three volleys at the burial of those who had died in action. One evening, he called for the brigade bugler, Private Oliver Norton, to join him in his tent as he had an idea for a song. It is generally believed that he had a revision of an old French tune called "Tattoo" in mind as he worked with Private Norton on a melody that eventually came to be known simply as "Taps."

In his memoirs, Pvt. Norton wrote that the General directed him to play their composition that evening instead of the usual call for the end of the day. The haunting tune eventually came to be used by both the Union and the Confederate armies as part of the tribute paid to dead soldiers at their burial.

While Taps usually evokes an air of melancholy as it is associated with death, the words that came to be used with the tune convey hope. They express the idea that death will someday give way to scenes of celebration: Day is done, gone the sun, From the. hills, from the lake, from the sky; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh."

At even our lowest times in life, we know this promise to be true. God is nigh. He is right there beside us. He will make all things well if we are trusting in him.

Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This is our hope - God will turn our negatives into positives. The song "Taps" played at the end of a day bears out the promise of a new day, a new beginning. When played at the end of someone's life, the hope of new life is conveyed and is a reality for those who hope in the Lord. For the faithful, "All is well, safely rest, God is nigh."

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 14, 2018

During the War Between the States, Union General Daniel Butterfield became dissatisfied with simply firing three volleys at the burial of those who had died in action. One evening, he called for the brigade bugler, Private Oliver Norton, to join him in his tent as he had an idea for a song. It is generally believed that he had a revision of an old French tune called "Tattoo" in mind as he worked with Private Norton on a melody that eventually came to be known simply as "Taps."

In his memoirs, Pvt. Norton wrote that the General directed him to play their composition that evening instead of the usual call for the end of the day. The haunting tune eventually came to be used by both the Union and the Confederate armies as part of the tribute paid to dead soldiers at their burial.

While "Taps" usually evokes an air of melancholy as it is associated with death, the words that came to be used with the tune convey hope. They express the idea that death will someday give way to scenes of celebration: "Day is done, gone the sun, From the. hills, from the lake, from the sky; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh."

At even our lowest times in life, we know this promise to be true. God is nigh. He is right there beside us. He will make all things well if we are trusting in him.

Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This is our hope - God will turn our negatives into positives. The song "Taps" played at the end of a day bears out the promise of a new day, a new beginning. When played at the end of someone's life, the hope of new life is conveyed and is a reality for those who hope in the Lord. For the faithful, "All is well, safely rest, God is nigh."

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 13, 2018

One of the things I miss about my Mom is our daily phone conversations. I would call each evening to let her know the events of the day and find out from her how her day went. We would talk about many topics including how the University of Kentucky was doing in basketball during basketball season, or how the Cincinnati Reds were doing. She was really tickled when UK won the national championship in 2012 just a few months before she passed away. I cannot imagine what she would be saying about the Reds this year as their season has been, well, let's just say they have underperformed.

It is only natural to miss such times. It was only natural to want to talk to my Mom. I only hope that I have developed the same dependence upon conversations with my Heavenly Father. Sometimes I wonder if, for some reason, I could no longer talk to God as I can no longer talk with Mom, would I miss that as much?

Our desire to talk with God and spend time with him should be stronger that our desire to talk to anyone else in our lives. Yet we neglect our communication with him and often only call upon him when a great need arises in our lives.

As I reflect on this, I wonder what my Mom would have thought if the only time she heard from me was when I needed something from her, or there was something going on in my life I wanted to talk about? I called her everyday just to talk, even when there was nothing tremendously compelling to talk about. I just wanted to talk to her.

This should be the way it is with the Lord. Mom taught me about the importance of wanting to talk with the Father. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray continually." This is as it should be, but is it as it is? Happy Mother s Day!

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 12, 2018

Tree rings can tell quite a bit about the life of the tree. For one thing, tree rings indicate the age of the tree, but there is even more information that can be gleaned from the study of the rings. The rings can help track the amount of rain that fell in a given year, if the tree survived a fire, the effects of competition from surrounding trees, and even battles with insects. A great deal can be learned about how the tree responded to life circumstances from observing the rings.

If you had "tree rings," what would they show? Aside from age, what would the rings reveal about your response to life circumstances? What would the rings show about your response in the "dry" times? What would they show about your interaction with others?

Unlike the tree, we have the ability to determine what our rings will show about our life experiences. We should do what we can to make sure our rings tell a story of faithfulness, commitment, and obedience.

We should follow the advice of the Lord given in Deuteronomy 5:32-33: "So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days." Living this way will make for a positive tale of the rings.

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 11, 2018

A wife was silently fuming at her husband because they had almost missed an important appointment. The reason they were running late was because the husband had taken time out of the morning to meet a friend for coffee. On the drive from the appointment, the wife was accumulating some ammunition for a knock-down-drag-out with her husband when they got home.

When they arrived at their house, the wife took time to open the mail before beginning her assault. She opened a Christmas card from a couple who had known her husband since his birth. A note in the card read, "We have always admired Terry because of his patience and commitment. We remember how difficult it was for him when he was young because of his physical problems. Through dealing with these, he learned patience. He always has time for others."

What could the wife say now? Well, not much. She was able to get a portrait of her husband through the eyes of others. This was very helpful in putting her current experience with her husband in perspective.

Are you struggling with someone? Are they driving you nuts with some of their quirks and behavior? Maybe trying to get a perspective of them from another point of view - other friends, family, whoever - might be a good thing. This may help you to learn something, and perhaps gain insight as to what is behind the behaviors with which you are having trouble. Sometimes we need to pray for open eyes in our relationships with others. Asking God to "Open my eyes that I may see" (Psalm 119:18) can be helpful in many circumstances.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 10, 2018

An economics professor gave a rather unusual exam. The test included three categories of essay questions. Students were instructed to choose one question in each section. The first question in each section was the hardest and was worth 50 points. The second was less difficult and was worth 40 points, the third, the easiest, counted for 30 points.

When the papers were returned, the students who chose mostly 50-point questions received A's, those who chose 40-point questions received B's, and C's were given to those who chose the 30 pointers. The grades were assigned regardless of their answers. "I wasn't testing your knowledge this time," explained the professor, "I was testing your aim."

Often, our aim is too low. Sometimes we underestimate our potential and are short-sighted when it comes to our efforts. We need to challenge ourselves and shoot for targets that are out there a little way.

What goals do you have? What needs to be done? W. Clement Stone wrote, "Aim for the moon. Even if you miss you will land among the stars." 18th century missionary William Carey's motto was, "Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God." The apostle Paul reminds us that "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13). Make sure your aim is not too low!

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 09, 2018

King Solomon was the one that God allowed to build the temple, but Solomon wasn't the one with the idea for the temple. That would be his father, David. I find it fascinating that David was not allowed to be the one to construct a permanent place for the worship of Yahweh, in spite of the fact that David was a man after God's heart - "And when he had removed (Saul), he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave their testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will." (Acts 13:22)

I Kings 15:5 further attests to David s standing in God's eye, "For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord s commands all the days of his life except in the case of Uriah the Hittite." Yet, with regard to building the temple, God told David "You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in" (I Chronicles 17:4) rather "(Your offspring) is the one to build a house for me." (17:12)

This is often God's intent and design. He allows someone to lay a foundation, and then brings along another to do the actual building. We really need to keep this in mind. The genius of this is that it allows for the involvement of many in God's work. This in turn fosters a need for cooperation among God s people. This allows us to see God's work fulfilled and helps us avoid the "look what I did!" mentality.

In I Corinthians 3:6, we read Paul's description of this principle: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow." We need to focus on what God will do, not what we do, or even what others do. David did this, Paul did this, and this should be our attitude as well.

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 08, 2018

Though some may consider it trite, the statement "You may be the only Bible that someone else will ever read" rings true. The merit of this statement is grounded in experience and in biblical principles as well.

The story of the Ethiopian official in Acts 8 demonstrates this idea. Because of the persecution that broke out in Jerusalem, Jewish believers fled. Philip encounters a man who is struggling to understand the Scriptures. Philip asks, "Do you understand what you are reading?" The Ethiopian replied, "How can I unless someone guides me?"

This question comes from the reality of the circumstance, yet it also has a rhetorical quality to it as well. "Who should be helping others understand what is contained in Scripture?" is the question that is raised by this story. The obvious answer is the "people of the Book," that is, those who have already found their lives changed through an encounter with the Author of Scripture.

God could have used skywriting, personal visions, angels, or so many other methods to convey his message to others, but he chose to use men and women to reach other men and women. Our responsibility is evident: to demonstrate the character of Christ and proclaim His name. We need to live the Scripture so that others may see its Truth.

Pastor Steve Willis
Monday May 07, 2018

We all experience interruptions in life. These interruptions can come in the form of visitors who drop by as we were preparing to go somewhere. Sometimes it is a phone call from friend who needs to talk about something that keeps us from getting to our lawn. A broken water pipe that causes a real mess in our house is certainly a disruption in plans. Another interruption is having car trouble while on the way to an important appointment.

When these things happen, it might be helpful to remember a suggestion I once read: "Try to look at a disruption in plans with the eyes of faith to see if God might be the intruder. This way, you will allow space for the divine to enter your life." This perspective on interruptions may be a little hard to develop, but it is certainly beneficial.

God can and does use disruptions in plans to teach us or to direct us in a different direction. We need to try to develop eyes of faith so that we can appreciate what is taking place rather than being angry at what is not taking place. We need to remember the words of God recorded in Isaiah, "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" (55:8-9)

It is hard to see God in flooded carpets. But the next time your plans are disrupted consider the possibility that God is trying to break into the busyness of your life.

Pastor Steve Willis
Sunday May 06, 2018

To me, one of the more fascinating stories in the Bible is one that you rarely hear about - the story of Abraham's search for a wife for his son Isaac. You can read about this is Genesis 24. It certainly is not exactly how we discover our spouses in our society, but it is a story of God's direction, and peoples' faith, especially in the case of Rebekah who would become the wife of Isaac.

Abraham, advanced in years, sends his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. He tells him where to look and what to observe. The servant did as Abraham instructed and he came upon Rebekah and subsequently her family. When he told the family who he was and what he was doing, they agreed, but the ultimate decision was left to Rebekah.

Can you imagine what must have been going through her mind? Even in a society where such arrangements were customary, she had never seen Isaac, she had never been where he lived, she had no idea what to expect. The decision was left to her. Her response is found in Genesis 24:58: "I will go." Her family had felt this was of the Lord, and she agreed, in spite of all the unknowns. What faith!

We face many unknowns that call for faith on our part. We must always remember our faithful God is going before us, as he was going before Rebekah, to prepare the way. When he calls us to follow, what will be our response? Follow the example of Rebekah and say, "I will go."

Pastor Steve Willis
Saturday May 05, 2018

Drinking plenty of water is essential. Drinking at least 64 ounces a day promotes good heart health, digestive health, skin health, muscle health, and right on down the line. We should drink water even when we don't feel thirsty. It is just the right thing to do, yet many of us just don't do it. Why? This is a good question. Not drinking the right amount of water doesn't make good sense, but we seem to be prone to doing things that don't make good sense.

This carries on into our spiritual lives as well. Even as we need water to live, we need to drink in all we can of God and what he provides. Psalm 73: 25-26 says, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." This should be a description of our "thirst" for God. We should continue to immerse ourselves in the things of God beyond our perceived need.

Even as water is what is best to satisfy our human thirst, God is all we need to quench the thirst of our soul. Why is it that we often struggle with taking in all that we need? Even as we are prone to neglect our intake of the water we need, we are prone to neglect our intake of God. Drinking plenty of water is essential to promote physical well-being. Taking in all we can of God is essential to promote spiritual well-being. Don't neglect your intake!

Pastor Steve Willis
Friday May 04, 2018

A father wanted to read a magazine but was being interrupted by his little girl. She wanted to know what the United States looked like. Finally, he tore a sheet out of his new magazine on which was printed the map of the country. Tearing it into small pieces, he gave it to her and said, "Go into the other room and see if you can put this together."

After a few minutes, she returned and handed him the map, correctly fitted and taped. "How did you do that so quickly?" the father asked. The girl replied, "On the other side of the paper is a picture of Jesus. When I got all of Jesus back where He belonged, then the United States just came together."

This would indeed be a good thing for our country; however, this is also a good thing to remember concerning our personal lives. When we have Jesus where he belongs in our lives, then our lives will come together in the way they should. Having Christ at the center of your home, your business, your work life, your personal life, and any other area you can think of, is simply the way it should be.

In Philippians 1:21, Paul wrote, "For to me, to live is Christ." Elsewhere he wrote, "What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:8) When we have Christ where he belongs means we are where we belong.

Pastor Steve Willis
Thursday May 03, 2018

We are supposed to get more rain today. It has been a rather cold, wet spring thus far, but we probably should never take rain for granted. I remember a particular study we did once at church on Psalm 72. We were discussing the 6th verse that says, "May he be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth."

A comment made on this verse went something like this, "One thing I have found is that God's water is superior to man's water. Our son watered our tomatoes this summer while we were gone. When we returned, the tomatoes looked sick. Then, we got a rain, and they looked great!" Another person shared how their bean vines were, for all intents and purposes, dead. Some rains came, and the folks ended up canning 34 quarts of beans.

What God can provide for us is far superior to anything that we can provide for ourselves. Yet, why is it we so often try to go on our own? Why is that we want to rely on our own abilities rather than trust God with our lives? Why is it that we try to figure things out for ourselves instead of letting God take the lead in decision making? Whose rain is best, ours or God's?

Scripture teaches us what is best, and our experience confirms it. So, don't depend on your own efforts and devices; depend upon the provision of God.

Pastor Steve Willis
Wednesday May 02, 2018

Many athletes at all levels of competition have pre-game rituals or practices that they dare not deviate from lest it lead to a loss. These activities are meant to keep them focused and improve their performance. At times, these habits border on superstition.

I remember reading about one football player's habit that literally reeked. The player slept the night before games in a university T-shirt he hadn t washed in 11 years. When asked about sleeping in the dirty T-shirt, he replied: "It's got rips and stuff, but I m not going to change what I do." While this pre-game ritual and others may seem benign, fun, quirky, and harmless, superstitions can easily morph into a value system that is built on unstable foundations.

We have to beware of such behavior in our Christian lives. Often, we develop rituals and practices that we feel will ensure us favor with God and gain his attention. Sometimes we look for "just the right way to pray" or some other activity that we count on to achieve the response we want from God.

There is no "magic formula" for prayer, and there is no prescribed activity that gains us any special position or favor with God. We ought to live our lives the way we should and be obedient to his Word, but we need to be careful not to be superstitious in our spiritual lives.

Paul wrote to Timothy, "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God s work which is by faith." (I Timothy 1:3-4) Live according to spiritual principles, not superstitions!

Pastor Steve Willis
Tuesday May 01, 2018

One of the important aspects about developing good relationships is learning about other's idiosyncrasies and differences and working to accept the differences. We need to learn the beauty of not wanting to control how things get done. This is really important in marriage but is true of all relationships. Sometimes we have a tendency to try to do things for others, to "correct" other's attempts, or to exact our methods and tendencies upon others.

We are all alike in many ways, but we are also different in many ways. We may go about performing the same task by following a different path. We need to learn to not impose our will and our way on others in a non-constructive manner. Remember that others do tasks in different ways. Remember that others have different likes and different preferences. Remember that others have different outlooks and expectations. Taking into consideration these differences is vitally important in getting along with each other.

God is the one who has created and sustains our diversity. Romans 12:6 tells us, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." Remember this as you work to strengthen your relationships.

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 October 14th, 2018

5:45 PM
6:30 PM
Wed. Oct 17th
9:00 AM
Sat. Oct 20th
Prayer Time

Happy Birthday

Suzy Clark-Thorton - Rosalie Watkins - Daniel Weiler
Sun. Oct 14th
James Baltzell
Mon. Oct 15th
Mary Jean Fear - Hayden Borgic
Tue. Oct 16th
Lawrence Quick
Wed. Oct 17th
Ross Wolf
Thu. Oct 18th

Octber Ministry Schedule

Assisting in Worship
Adam Wolf
John Dryden, Jr
John Dryden, Sr
Kent Klier
Kent Klier

Brad Tarr
Gabe Fulton
Lawrence Quick
Walter Litchfield

Terry Milliman
Song Leader

Brenda Earnest
Cheryl Earnest

Nursery Workers
Kevin & Brenda Earnest
Michelle Fulton
Anthea Zumbahlen
Richard & Terry Milliman

Brad & Amy Tarr
Lawrence & Madonna Klier
Curt & Gail Ann Collins
Jason & Michelle Fulton

Jr. Church

Door Attendents
Nick Tarr
Gary Wolf
John Dryden, Sr.
John Dryden, Jr.

Terry Milliman - Amy Tarr

Cleaning Schedule
Donna Coad, Marcea Maxon

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

October 1, 2018

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed a list of 95 problems he saw with the Church on a church door in Wittenburg, Germany. By doing so, he started a movement that led to reforms in the Church as well as society. Martin Luther emphasized something we take so much for granted: the supremacy of Scripture over tradition or church dogmatics. Well, I assume we take this for granted. Sometimes I wonder what our attitude towards Scripture actually is. It is so easy to give lip service to the idea that Scripture is our supreme authority of how we should live while we do just the opposite.

If we truly believe that Scripture is supreme, we should allow it to make a difference in our lives. The psalmist wrote, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11) Martin Luther was so convinced of the supremacy and importance of Scripture that he was willing to put his life on the line in order for people to understand the place Scripture should have in their lives.

Luther translated the Scripture into German in order that people may read it for themselves. He transformed the liturgy of worship by using common language rather than Latin. He did this so that people would see the relevance of God’s Word and hear the Word preached in language they could understand. Don’t take God's Word for granted. Understand how important the Scipture is and understand the importance of allowing his Word to inform and direct our lives. The psalmist wrote of his love for God’s Word in Psalm 119:14-16, "I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word."

Don't be tricked into neglecting God's Word. Count it a treat that you have the privilege of reading and knowing God's Word for yourself. Let Scripture inform your life and direct your thoughts.

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